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You can now meet Normal for Norfolk's Desmond on guided garden tours at Wiveton Hall

PUBLISHED: 14:26 15 August 2018 | UPDATED: 14:26 15 August 2018

A guided tour around Wiveton Hall with owner Desmond MacCarthy.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

A guided tour around Wiveton Hall with owner Desmond MacCarthy. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2018

I took a trip to the North Norfolk coast for a tour of Wiveton Hall gardens led by the star of the hit BBC2 documentary.

Two black bird nests gradually emerged towards us as Desmond strolled towards the meeting spot at Wiveton Hall Café.

Eventually, in his typical bumbling fashion, he arrived to meet the group for the garden tour - sporting his trademark tweed jacket and gravity-defying brows.

The 40-strong group is instructed to walk down the path and meet him in the main garden area which involved tackling a cockerel obstacle course.

Once he caught up with the group he started by asking why so many people had turned up and one Desmond fan quipped: “because you’re a legend.”

The eccentric owner of Wiveton Hall, located in the idyllic north Norfolk coast, was catapulted to legendary status when he appeared on BBC2 documentary Normal for Norfolk in 2016.

A guided tour around Wiveton Hall with owner Desmond MacCarthy.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYA guided tour around Wiveton Hall with owner Desmond MacCarthy. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The show, which was so successful it returned for a second series in 2017, followed MacCarthy and the trials and tribulations of managing his ancestral home.

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The garden tours run at various dates throughout the summer and Desmond starts by saying he doesn’t like to stick to a script to make it enjoyable for both him and the group.

The tour began in the working farm with a chorus of oinks interrupting him and he explained that they were are off to the butchers in the morning as parents covered their children’s ears.

Desmond is a TV producers dream with his distinctive look, warm nature and lack of filter - which adds to his charm.

A guided tour around Wiveton Hall with owner Desmond MacCarthy.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYA guided tour around Wiveton Hall with owner Desmond MacCarthy. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

He then moves the group onto the courtyard area with a stunning sunken garden and talks about the history of the Jacobean manor house.

Wiveton Hall was first built in the 17th century and purchased by his grandfather Captain Richard Buxton and wife Mary in 1944.

He talked about his Greek ancestry, the merchant history of Blakeney and Cley-next-the-Sea and how his grandfather’s life was probably saved in the First World War when he fell of a horse and was sent home before the Battle of Ypres.

READ MORE: Food Review: Wiveton Hall Cafe

This was followed by a tour to the front of the house where Desmond got political with the group and talked about how Brexit is bad news for everyone and how it will impact him as he relies heavily on migrant labour in his fruit farm.

One person replied ‘but it does depend on the deal’ and I was slightly disappointed that the group didn’t probe him further - I could tell Desmond was up for a debate.

A guided tour around Wiveton Hall with owner Desmond MacCarthy. Desmond meeting his fans.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYA guided tour around Wiveton Hall with owner Desmond MacCarthy. Desmond meeting his fans. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

He also discussed why he decided to do Normal for Norfolk as he wanted to show the reality of rural life that you ‘don’t get on Springwatch.’

Desmond doesn’t try to hide the fact that he shoots animals to maintain diversity at the estate and his group hunts with friends are shown on Normal for Norfolk.

But I could tell his discussion of it as a sport was making many in the group feel uncomfortable.

Finally, he took us round to the walled kitchen garden which provides an abundance of ingredients to the famous Wiveton Hall Café including a large mulberry tree and an assortment of herbs and vegetables.

A guided tour around Wiveton Hall with owner Desmond MacCarthy.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYA guided tour around Wiveton Hall with owner Desmond MacCarthy. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

He talks fondly of head gardener Mr Jarvis whilst he was growing up who would be sent to Wisley Gardens, the headquarters of the Royal Horticultural Society, near Guildford every year to learn new techniques.

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He also spoke of his late mother Chloe’s love of the garden who sadly passed away aged 102 in June and how she used to plant roses she grew from cuttings.

At the end of the tour, Normal for Norfolk fans queued up to get a selfie with Desmond including a couple who said they got married in tweed last year because of him and handed him a bow tie as a gift.

Asked about whether Normal for Norfolk will return for a third series, he said: “who knows that’s not my decision but I should get out there and encourage it.”

Wiveton Hall garden tours take place on selected dates until October 11 and start at 11pm - for full details visit the website.

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