Bed and breakfasts in North Walsham, Holt and Hindringham among 25 national finalists in AA Friendliest B&B award

A trio of cheery north Norfolk landladies is sporting even bigger grins this week after reaching the finals of a national contest to find Britain's friendliest B&B.

The three join an elite 25 from across the country, picked by Automobile Association (AA) inspectors from more than 3,000 on its list of bed and breakfast providers.

For Jenny Harmer, 46, from North Walsham, the accolade follows hard on the heels of another splash of national publicity.

Mrs Harmer and her Chimneys B&B, on Cromer Road, were recently filmed for Channel 4's Four in a Bed series.

Although she has been sworn to secrecy about what happened, the series features B&B owners staying in each other's establishments, paying what they consider to be a fair rate and commenting on their experiences. A date for the screening has not yet been released.

Mrs Harmer, 46, started her business so that she would be at home for her two children, George and Mary, and has now spent 10 years treating hundreds of guests like part of the family.

She and her builder husband Richard, 50, developed Chimneys from a two-bedroomed chalet bungalow, taking off the roof and converting the building into a seven-bedroomed house.

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Among Mrs Harmer's memories are the day when a guest, who had been in North Walsham to organise a funeral, came back some time after checking out because they had left behind �1,200 cash to pay the undertaker - which they had stuffed under a mattress.

As well as making guests feel welcome, Mrs Harmer said the secret of a successful B&B was cleanliness and good food.

She added: 'They say you can grade a place on the quality of its sausages so I'm always looking for the best - I like to support local suppliers.'

Clinching the title would be the icing on the cake for Allison Manders, 49, who is preparing to close her visitors' book after 18 years running a B&B in Holt.

She and husband Chris, 52, bought their Old Telephone Exchange home, on New Street, after moving to Norfolk from Elstree, in Hertfordshire, and converted

the 1946 building.

But the couple have now put their home up for sale for health reasons and because Mr Manders, who co-ordinates Holt and Communities First Response Group, is hoping to retire after 30 years with the British Transport Police and start his own business.

'I thoroughly enjoy running a B&B. I'm a home person - I love making my own preserves, cooking, flowers and crafts,' said Mrs Manders.

Many guests returned year after year and one woman, a visitor 'since day one' had been in tears when she learned that Mrs Manders was giving up.

Wendy Dolton's Field House B&B, at Hindringham, is also among the finalists.

Mrs Dolton returned to her home county of Norfolk and started the business in 2000 having previously run a B&B in the Lake District.

She is used to the limelight after Field House was named B&B of the Year by the English Tourist Board in 2004-2005, attracting national publicity and leading to fully-booked rooms.

'It's like home from home here - small and intimate. I like it to be like somewhere I would want to stay,' said Mrs Dolton. 'We have some guests who stay here three times a year and they have become my friends.'

The most unusual item she recalls a visitor leaving behind is a set of false teeth which she had to air mail back to their owner in the USA.

All the finalists will be treated to lunch at London's Royal Horseguards Hotel on May 15 when the winner will be announced.