10 great ways to enjoy the snow in Norfolk winter wonderland
PUBLISHED: 09:46 28 February 2018 | UPDATED: 13:46 28 February 2018
Heavy snowfall may make you feel like slumping on the sofa with the central heating on, but if you head outdoors there's plenty to do in Norfolk's winter wonderland. Simon Parkin offers 10 ways to enjoy this snowy week and beyond.
The atrrival of some proper snow offers a great chance to get out there and do some sledging. Great fun - and cheap! Families to flock to the steeper part of the county to seek out those top places to go sledging. In Norwich the most popular place to go whizzing down the freezing slopes is at Mousehold Heath which has always been turned into a makeshift ski slope going back decades. Other great spots include Earlham Park, Jubilee Park and the grounds of the UEA. As ever take care. Select a hill that has a long flat area at the bottom for you to glide to a stop. Avoid hillsides that end near a street or parked cars. And avoid hills that end near ponds, trees, fences or other hazards. All you need is a little imagination, a sense of adventure, some warm gloves and boots, and off you go.
BUILD A SNOWMAN OR HAVE SNOWBALL FIGHT
Do you want to build a snowman? Come on, let’s go and play! As any under-10 will know that’s the lyrics from Frozen and snow for many children means on things: building a snowman, and this heavy snow is perfect. It’s simple to roll up three snowballs, one large, one medium, and one small. Stack them up with the biggest on bottom and the smallest on top for the head. Then let your creative side run wild by decorating the snowman with a face, clothing, arms, and any accessories that you want! It’s charm never gets old. Heavy snowfall also means fistfuls of ammunition for a great snowball fight. Whether it be against friends, family members – the neighbours – with powder puff snow, rather than rock hard ice balls, its great fun and will remind you just why snow is awesome. Rekindle your childlike wonder (remember that?).
The snow blanketing the Norfolk countryside has turned it into a winter wonderland if you wrap up warm to get out and about. Even some lesser sights look beautiful in its icy white covering. Pull on your walking boots and take a brisk walk past snowy landscapes. With the blizzard in full swing you’ll not want to go far, but as the snow eases off and the thraw begins you could explore some of Norfolk’s 2,400 miles of public rights of way and long-distance walks, or try a shorter circular walk. It’s easy to leave the car behind. Join one of Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s walks with the warden at Cley Marshes. More details: norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk. Norfolk Ramblers run an extensive programme of walks. More details: ramblers.org.uk/norfolk
You’ll need to wrap up warm, but it’ll be worth it for a sailing experience you’ll never forget. The Broads in the winter is a truly magical experience, offering sailors the chance to enjoy the views without the clutter of summer tourist crowds. Often, the only sound to be heard amid this unique and beautiful landscape will be the lapping of the water on your hull and the passing winter birdlife. As its name suggests, the Norwich Frostbite Sailing Club based in Thorpe St Andrew, revel hoisting sails regardless of wind, rain, snow and ice. Sailing takes place every Sunday morning and visitors are always welcome to sail or to watch – and there are plenty of opportunities to crew for a club member. Find out more on 01603 454567 or visit norwichfrostbitesailing.club
Winter is the season to visit if you’re a serious twitcher. Norfolk is famous in particular for its winter waders and migrants. With thrushes arriving from across the North Sea, and the return of wild geese and swans. At RSPB Snettisham watch tens of thousands of pink-footed geese from Iceland leave their night time roost site and head inland to feed. Holkham is also a key site for thousands of wild geese and swans. The Norfolk coast and Broads are great places for waders and wintering birds of prey, including merlin, peregrine and hen harrier, and you can see them best at dusk at places such as Titchwell Marsh or Hickling Broad. At Pensthorpe, it’s a good time to see many native species. Don’t forget to take your binoculars!
In recent years its been rare for us to get enough snow to dig out the skis and take to the slopes of…Beeston Bump? (who says Norfolk is flat). As with sledging, if you are strapping on those skis or taking to the snowboard make sure you find a suitable safe spot and bare in mind the safety of others. Alternatively head to Norfolk Snowsports in Trowse, where it doesn’t matter if it’s snowed enough or not — the artificial slopes are a perfect all year round. Founded in 1972, the club has grown over the years to become one of the largest member-run ski and snowboard clubs in the country. It provides an extensive range of lessons and sessions for all ability levels. Ski and snowboard lessons are available. For the young, and young-at-heart, snow tubing sessions are held (£10) allowing you to whizz down the slope on a giant rubber inner tube. More details at: norfolksnowsports.com
The snow isn’t all the ‘beast from the east’ has brought, there are also freezing temperatures. So when the blanket for snow begins to clear it may offer the opportunity to try outdoor skating, which has a long history of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire’s Fens. Water level and the frost frequently combine to make good skating conditions at Bury Fen, between of Earith and Bluntisham, Mere Fen, between Swavesey and Over, Welney Wash, Whittlesea Wash and at St Ives. NEVER take to iced over water without expert supervision. More details at: fenskating.co.uk
Well the weather is certainly Arctic in mature so how about a sled-ride pulled by huskies? Siberian Huskies are an ancient breed of sled dog bred by the Chukchi Indians of Siberia – friendly, highly social and intelligent, the dogs earned their keep by pulling the Chukchi people swiftly across vast tracts of inhospitable hunting grounds. Forstal Siberian Husky Rides, based at Lynford near Thetford, offers dog-pulled fun lasting an hour with teams of between six and 10 dogs. You can meet the huskies, who are family pets, and join in helping to walk the dogs after their workout or simply watch and enjoy the spectacle. You don’t actually even need snow – the company has wheeled sleds. Ironically at the moment they may actually be too much snow! To check on dates/prices, call 01842 878246 or visit huskyrides.co.uk
Blizzard conditions don’t allow you to see much but when the snow clouds are blown away cold winter weather often offers ctystal clear skies and Norfolk boasts huge stretches of countryside where the skies are unaffected by the light pollution which plagues star-gazers in other parts of the UK. On clear evenings during January and February, catch one of the sky’s most magnificent constellations – Orion. A collection of seven bright stars, Orion can be found in the southern part of the sky: look for three stars of similar brightness that sit in a straight line and form the hunter’s belt. Norwich Astronomical Society runs regular public events. More details on 01953 602624, norwich.astronomicalsociety.org.uk
After many of these winter activities, you’ll want to quickly warm up afterwards and where better to do so than in front of one of the many roaring open fires that blaze away in winter in Norfolk’s pubs? The open fire is something is everything we all love about our countryside inns in winter — along with the real ales and traditional food, of course. There are, of course, far too many to mention here, but some worth visiting include The Victoria at Holkham; Angel Inn, Larling; the Jolly Sailors, Brancaster; Nelson Head, Horsey; and Scole Inn. Find our list of the best 100 roaring fire pubs