Fourteen reasons to fall in love with Norwich

Norwich Market Picture: Nick Jager/witness24

Norwich Market Picture: Nick Jager/witness24 - Credit: Nick Jager

It's Valentine's Day on February 14 and the festival of love has to be the ideal chance to share 14 reasons to love Norwich

Norwich Cathedral Picture: Karl Keeley/iwitness24

Norwich Cathedral Picture: Karl Keeley/iwitness24 - Credit: Karl Keeley

1 It's a city of love. Jack Valentine has been leaving gifts on doorsteps for generations. St Valentine's Day is said to have once been bigger than Christmas in Norwich - and this year's Love Light Norwich festival is continuing the tradition of going large with love.

2 The people. We are a city of heroes and heroines including:

Horatio Nelson who went to school in Norwich;

The Plantation Garden, Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Plantation Garden, Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

Elizabeth Fry, the 18th century prison and social reformer who campaigned for more humane treatment of prisoners, opened a night shelter for the homeless, set up a training school for nurses, and brought up 11 children. She was born and brought up in Norwich;

Robert Kett who led 16,000 people in a rebellion against the seizing of common land in 1549. He was hanged for treason at Norwich Castle but is now celebrated as a hero of the poor and dispossessed;

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Edith Cavell the nurse executed by the Germans in 1915, who helped Allied servicemen escape German-occupied Belgium during the First World War, and is buried in Norwich;

3 The Norwich Lanes includes retail treasures ranging from the impossibly well-stocked DIY and household heaven, Thorns, to The Book Hive, and magnificent 250 year old department store Jarrold to gem-like specialist fashion, jewellery, gifts and food shops.

4 Norwich Market - it's not so much what can you buy here as what can't you buy? It's been going for almost 1,000 years on the same site and constantly, and successfully, reinvents itself for each new generation.

5 Even in the city there are gardens and greenery. Our vast parks began as a job-creation scheme for soldiers returning from the First World War and today offer green space, impressive planting schemes, sports pitches, children's play areas, pavilions, ponds, walks, runs and unlimited fresh air. For more formal gardens visit the wonderful Plantation Garden on Earlham Road, rediscovered, restored and run by volunteers, or the ancient and idyllic Bishop's Garden, in the Cathedral Close, regularly open to the public for charities and good causes.

6 The past. Norwich's venerable past is evident all around, from Viking Street names to museums packed with everything from ancient Egyptian mummies to Victorian shoes. Once it was England's second city, second-only (in size) to London. Today many think it's even better.

7 The future. From working towards ending famine to curing cancer, scientists at the Norwich Research Park are at the cutting edge of human knowledge. A colony of leafcutter ants in Norwich is at the forefront of the search to develop new antibiotics, while plant scientists are finding ways of increasing the yield, and resistance to disease, drought and pests of staple foods including wheat and root vegetables. The Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia is one of the world's leading centres studying climate change.

8 It was once said that Norwich had a pub for every day of the year... There are still many great pubs, which have been joined by cafes, restaurants, wine-bars, bistros, coffee shops, brew houses and more to offer a huge range of hospitality.

9 ...And a church for every Sunday. There are lots of "working" churches offering services on Sundays, plus cafes, toddler groups, craft groups, sport and music sessions, soup kitchens and more. Grand St Peter Mancroft, is famous for its medieval stained glass and bells, and still serves a congregation and community, alongside many more remarkable medieval city centre churches. Others have been transformed into art studios, theatres, antique shops and offices cared for by the Norwich Historic Churches Trust.

10 It's a city of literature with internationally acclaimed creative writing courses at UEA, the National Centre for Writing on King Street, and Unesco accreditation. Norwich writers who have helped put the city on the literary map include Anna Sewell who wrote Black Beauty in Old Catton, near Norwich, Philip Pullman who wrote the world-famous His Dark Materials trilogy and was born in Norwich in 1946 and Julian of Norwich whose account of her religious visions was the first book by a woman to be published in English. Thomas Browne, was a doctor, scientist, philosopher and historian as well as a writer. His statue presides over Hay Hill in the centre of Norwich and he is responsible for many words which still light up our lives. Approximate, coma, disruption, electricity, exhaustion, ferocious, gymnastic, hallucination, jocularity, mucous, precocious, pubescent, ultimate - all his.

11 Norwich is also a city of sanctuary which has welcomed strangers for centuries.

12 And a city of Premier League football, for now. On the ball city!

13 We're not afraid of laughing at ourselves. Comedy duo Karl Minns and Owen Evans unleashed The Nimmo Twins in 1996 and have been making outrageously witty word-play, hilariously well-observed characters and ridiculously brilliant sketches normal for Norfolk ever since.

14 And the Norwich 12, which make up the UK's finest collection of heritage buildings spanning the Norman, medieval, Georgian, Victorian and modern eras. Let's hear it for the architectural marvels that are: Norwich Castle, Norwich Cathedral, The Great Hospital, The Halls - St Andrew's and Blackfriars', The Guildhall, Dragon Hall, The Assembly House, St James Mill, the Cathedral of St John the Baptist, Surrey House, City Hall and The Forum.