7 free and peaceful places in Norwich
- Credit: Steve Adams
Even in the city at the height of summer there are still plenty of peaceful places to escape the crowds for free.
Cathedral Herb Garden
The whole of the beautiful Cathedral Close is heavenly, but its herb garden is a haven within the larger loveliness. It is planted with herbs the monks would have used for medicines, cookery and dyeing materials. Stroll through the small garden, breathing in the scent of the herbs, finding mugword, meadowsweet and sweet woodruff, lemon balm and loveage, red valerium and white horehound, angelica, tansy and oregano. The miniature hedges are planted in knot patterns to echo the cathedral's famous roof bosses.
Grapes Hill Community Garden
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A little patch of paradise tucked away just off the inner ring road has fruit trees, flowers, seats and sculptures to welcome everyone from toddlers to pensioners and from gardening gurus to beginners. The community garden, conjured from a patch of disused land, has a circular lawn fringed by vibrant beds and borders, paved sections shaded by climbers, a mini orchard with apple, pear, quince, fig and cherry trees, and a striking wooden water feature. Fittingly, for Grapes Hill, a vine clambers across a pergola.R aised beds are rented out to local people but everyone is welcome to soak up the atmosphere. The Grapes Hill Community Garden Group runs regular volunteering sessions for visitors who are inspired to help out. For free bicycle maintenance - in exchange for some weeding, call by on Wednesday August 28, 5-7pm. The Parent and Children Growing Project, Wednesdays 3.30-5.30pm, is a chance for children to play and garden (toys and tools provided). Regular volunteering sessions are on Wednesdays from 1-3pm and Sunday's from 2-4pm until mid October. The garden, just up from the junction with Dereham Road, is open daily from 9am, closing at 8pm until the end of August, and 6pm in September.
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Looping through the city, the Wensum flows beneath pretty bridges and past cobbled alleys and lanes. A footpath follows its meandering journey and the stretch between Cow Tower and St James' Mill is particularly peaceful, with tree-shaded benches overlooking the water. Across the Jarrold Bridge a poem flows alongside the river describing how "knapped flint jewels the houses," and "Water wind and willows string tides of words in a fine city." Wander further and find the Garth, the hidden medieval courtyard alongside St Andrew's Hall and Norwich University of the Arts.
Step through the gateway in a high wall, halfway up Kett's Hill, and climb to terraced gardens with panoramic views across the city. Paths lead through the wooded park to the remains of a medieval chapel, and the site where Robert Kett and his 10,000 followers camped out in 1549. There are the remains of 19th century gardens, a restored community orchard, and a beacon at a fine viewpoint over both the city's cathedrals, the castle and 18 of its medieval churches. Volunteers from the Friends of Ketts Heights have helped regenerate and care for the site and make it a welcoming place for visitors and wildlife.
Although designed for the dead, Norwich's Rosary Cemetery vibrates with life. Birds sing, insects buzz, plants surround tombs and gravestones. The Rosary Cemetery was created exactly 200 years ago - the first non-denominational burial ground in the UK. Today it is a sanctuary for wildlife as well as the deceased, and has some particularly beautiful memorials and monuments. Guided walks focus on its history, its residents resting in peace, its wildlife from bees to fungi. A special bicentenary open day will be held on October 12.
St Julian's Church
"All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well," said 14th century mystic, Julian of Norwich. She wrote of her visions of heaven from a stone cell alongside the church of St Julian, just off King Street. More than 600 years later her words speak to millions across the world and her home is still a place of peace and prayer. Revelations of Divine Love, by Julian of Norwich, became the first book written in English by a woman and its insights are astonishingly modern.
A tranquil walled garden, laid out towards the end of the 19th century, became Norfolk's first official Silent Space garden this summer. The Dutch garden, with its formal box parterre beds and gravel paths, lies alongside Earlham Hall. Its parkland sweeps down to the river and there are peaceful woodland glades, open grassland and a riverside path. But the quietest spot of all is now the pretty walled garden where visitors are asked to fall silent and soak in the atmosphere, the quiet hum of bees on flowers and the murmur of breeze through the trees.