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Ever wondered what you can learn on the Norwich sightseeing open top tour bus?

PUBLISHED: 17:50 16 August 2018

Bethany Wales, left, and Abigail Nicholson, with owner, David McMaster, after their bus tour with City Sightseeing Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Bethany Wales, left, and Abigail Nicholson, with owner, David McMaster, after their bus tour with City Sightseeing Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2018

Ever wondered what tourists are told when they hop on the City’s Sightseeing tour? We sent a newcomer to the city and someone who has lived here all their life to find out what you can learn about Norwich.

Bethany Wales, left, and Abigail Nicholson, enjoying a bus tour with City Sightseeing Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYBethany Wales, left, and Abigail Nicholson, enjoying a bus tour with City Sightseeing Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

THE NORWICH NEWCOMER - Abigail Nicholson

Before moving to Norwich to work for this paper, the most I knew about it were the names Delia Smith and Alan Partridge.

So even though it was raining heavily, I was really excited to find out more.

David, the driver and owner of the bus, greeted us before we went upstairs to sit down on our half-wet seats.

Bethany Wales, right, and Abigail Nicholson, after their bus tour with City Sightseeing Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYBethany Wales, right, and Abigail Nicholson, after their bus tour with City Sightseeing Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

On the bus, there are multiple speakers which will tell you about key locations and monuments and tell you where to look.

I enjoyed hearing about Norwich’s vast history, along with the story of its mustard, weaving and stagecoach businesses.

I learned that Norwich was the first city to trial six-digit postcodes in the late 60s due to having access to eight automatic mail sorting machines, that Norwich Castle used to be one of the biggest prisons in the UK before being turned into a museum and that their (or should that be our?) football club, Norwich City, has the lowest lying pitch in the UK and is more than two metres below sea level.

The tour took us up to Norwich Prison, avoiding low hanging trees on the way, where we were greeted by a beautiful view of Norwich.

Norwich Market looking colourful in the summer sun.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYNorwich Market looking colourful in the summer sun. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

After a few pictures and some chatting with the bus driver, we were on our way back to the office.

The tour was a great way of helping me find my bearings and I would definitely recommend it to people like me who have just moved here.

Visit city-sightseeing.com for more on the tour.

Mousehold Heath feature. The view over the city from Britannia Road.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYMousehold Heath feature. The view over the city from Britannia Road. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

THE NORWICH RESIDENT - Bethany Wales

I have a confession. I spent the first five years of my adult life trying to get as far away as possible from Norwich.

I was raised on stories about my Grandma’s experience making Rolos in Caleys chocolate factory, the lady on her team that never washed her hands and the time my granddad plunged Norwich into darkness when he accidently hit an electric cable whilst working as a builder on the Castle Mall.

Despite my family connection, I always thought of Norwich as pretty dull.

On returning after university, I was determined to understand why so many people rave about my home city. So when my editor suggested to my Liverpudlian colleague that she get to know the city via an open top bus tour, I convinced her to let me tag along.

My long held view of Norwich as “quaint” was very quickly proved to be false. It turns out the medieval cobblestones and endless supply of churches cover up a lesser known and way more gruesome history.

Among locals, Grapes Hill is probably best known for its traffic jams and speed cameras. But in the 19th century people would gather here to check out the exhibition of human body parts, hacked from executed criminals and displayed along the city wall as a morbid warning to others. Back then it was known affectionately as “pneumonia hill” for its reputation as being the coldest and windiest spot in the city.

Now a popular picnic and play spot for families, Chapelfield Gardens also happen to be my favourite place in the city for an ice-cream. My stomach turned a little to discover that the park is also a mass grave, the grassy islands and flower beds concealing thousands of medieval plague victims.

Luckily for my stomach, not everything on the tour was so macabre.

I’ve passed the stone angel memorial that stands at the top of Prince of Wales Road almost daily since moving back and must confess only discovered today that she was erected in memory of local soldiers killed in the Boer War. I got a twinge of nostalgia when the tour described how Norwich ladies would use it as a landmark to meet American GIs during the Second World War and imagined my late grandma stealing romantic moments behind the plinth.

WHAT WE NOW KNOW...

Norwich has the largest outdoor, open market in the UK.

There are more Saxon towers in Norfolk than in any other county in the UK.

Lady Julian’s bridge is named after the first book in the English language to be written by a woman.

Colmans Mustard built the first subsidised school for children of employees.

Maids Head Hotel is one of the oldest hotels in the UK still standing.

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