Think of West Norfolk and the cliffs of Hunstanton, the architecture of King’s Lynn, and the regal heritage of Sandringham come to mind. But alongside these well-known and well-loved attributes, there is a plethora of village gems which make West Norfolk such a special place to visit.

Councillor Elizabeth Nockolds, deputy leader and cabinet member for Culture, Heritage and Health of the Borough Council for King’s Lynn and West Norfolk said: “West Norfolk is rich with fantastic sights, places to visit and unique events taking place across our villages. These wonderful, vibrant communities offer so much for locals and visitors and together help to make West Norfolk such a spectacular part of the world. We cannot underestimate the contribution that local people are making within their communities.”

Following feedback from West Norfolk parish councils, here are some of the village gems across West Norfolk which may be less well-known…

Northwold: Agricultural Tradition

The village of Northwold, located between the market towns of Downham Market, Swaffham and Thetford, is home to Plough Monday. Plough Monday, which will take place on 7th January 2019, was traditionally the day upon which agricultural workers resumed their labours, and it was marked by celebrations, including participants parading the tools of their trade through local settlements and demanding rewards for doing so. It was held on the first Monday following 6th January (often known as Twelfth Night).

In Northwold, Plough Monday was revived during the 1980s. The plough is processed to the church to be blessed, followed by molly dancing, Morris dancing and mummers plays. The blessing takes place at the lychgate outside the church, and the dancers and mummers then take turns to perform watched by the audience. This is followed by a torchlight procession through the village with the plough followed by dancers, musicians and the audience.

Shouldham: West Norfolk’s Only Community Pub

Shouldham is home to the CAMRA award winning King’s Arms which is West Norfolk’s only community pub.  Alongside fantastic food and drink, it  incorporates a community café during the day time Monday – Friday staffed by volunteers. The King’s Arms story bears testament to community spirit, having been driven forward by the efforts of local people, resulting in the formation of Shouldham Community Enterprises and ultimately the pub being saved. You can find out more about the pub here:

Events are also a great reason to visit Shouldham and in July an al fresco dining and music evening is held in the beautiful grounds of a historical barn. Demonstrating the village’s credentials for beer drinkers, there’s a three day summer beer festival at the end of August/beginning of September with live music on the village green. There is also the panto – ‘Oh yes there is’ –  held 8-9 December in the Village Hall. This year‘s blockbuster feature is the Wizard of Oz!   This is followed by a Weekend Winter Beer Festival at the end of January. More information can be found here: by clicking on the News and Local Groups tabs.

Snettisham: A Beach Haven for Wildlife

The beach at Snettisham is well worth a visit, especially for the wildlife which can be found here. The beach is next to RSPB Snettisham Reserve which makes it a fantastic spot for bird watching.

The coastal location provides a home for Snettisham Beach Sailing Club with members able to sail both on the sea or on the large lake adjacent to the clubhouse. The club offers a busy programme of sailing throughout the year and the club’s extension was opened by HRH Princess Anne earlier this year.

Snettisham is also a hotspot for diners with two restaurants, Old Bank and the Rose and Crown, both having won awards. and

With Christmas just around the corner, the Christmas lights in Snettisham are a must see. And, the village’s impressive church of St Mary’s  hosts a live nativity when the church is packed with animals!

Marham: Linked to the Royal Air Force

The village of Marham, 12 miles from King’s Lynn, is intrinsically linked to the Royal Air Force base of the same name. With such a close connection, the village is home to the RAF Marham Heritage Museum with its fabulous collection of objects, photographs and archive material relating to the history of RAF Marham.  It is open to all with free entry and it is open every Tuesday and Wednesday and the last Saturday of the month between 9.00am and 4.00pm.  Things to see here include a Victor Bomber ejection seat, historic uniform displays and a Tornado ejection seat. There is also a WWI Air Gunners Memorial and the curator has recently been giving a talk to mark 100 years since the end of World War I.

Walpole St Peter: Largest Parish Church in England

In Walpole St Peter you will find the largest parish church in England which counts Prince Charles as one of its patrons. In 2019, its annual Flower Festival and Fayre will be in its 58th year, running from Friday 31st May to Monday 3rd June. The theme for 2019 will be Transport through the Ages and alongside the stunning floral arrangements, there will also be a wide range of marquees and stalls, and a small steam train offering rides and a falconer with his beautiful birds of prey.

During the rest of the year, the impressive church hosts markets for Easter, Summer, Harvest and Advent.  The next one is on Saturday 1st December from 2-4:30pm and will feature a range of market stalls and refreshments.  At 4pm, there will be gathering outside to light the Christmas tree and a short session of carol singing to welcome in the Christmas season.

West Dereham: An Interesting History

West Dereham, situated four miles to the east of Downham Market is home to the Grade 1 listed Parish Church of Saint Andrew. This is recognised by many organisations, such as English Heritage as one of the most important medieval churches in the UK. The church comprises of a round tower with an octagonal belfry, nave, chancel, a Stuart font and pulpit. A Napoleonic Wars soldier’s headstone can also be found in the Churchward.

The village has an interesting history. West Dereham is generally acknowledged as the birthplace of Hubert Walter (circa 1160-1205) who became Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Richard I and Thomas Dereham, an informal Jacobite ambassador to Rome. West Dereham also has the remains of St Mary’s Abbey founded in 1188, an example of a Premonstratensian Abbey.

With such rich history, West Dereham has an active heritage group. The village also has an active village hall and bar.

South Wootton: A Village in Bloom

South Wootton, just outside King’s Lynn, this year has been awarded a Gold Award in the Anglia in Bloom Competition. Its green-fingered credentials extend to the 109 well-tended allotments along Grimston Road.

South Wootton is a great place to get outside with a three mile circular walk around the parish and the Wootton Park Recreational Area which includes a range of equipment as requested by local young people, including outdoor gym facilities. Recently, the Pond at Wootton Park achieved a Biodiversity Award at the Anglia In Bloom judging and the Chairman of the Wootton Park Association also runs a Green Gym with volunteers.

Castle Acre: A Lively Music Scene

Live music is a part of village life in Castle Acre where the village hall plays host to an eclectic range of musical events. Having recently seen a concert by a roots blues trio, Castle Acre will next be welcoming in Whirligig Ceilidh whose unique blend of traditional music from Britain and Ireland, coupled with lively modern songs, has kept Whirligig constantly in demand for Ceilidhs. The Ceilidh will  take place on 23rd November at Castle Acre Village Hall. Further details can be found here:

Wereham: Million Pound Village Hall

The village hall provides a hub in many West Norfolk villages and this is especially true in Wereham, five miles to the east of Downham Market. The efforts of the Wereham Village Hall Charity’s project team over a period of six years paid off this year when a new village hall was opened. The million pound building was made possible with significant funding from the BIG Lottery, Sport England, LEADER, WREN, other funders and community fundraising which had been carried out by local people who are now benefitting from a state of the art village hall.  The project too has brought employment to three people in the village and lots of new activities which are invaluable to Wereham and the surrounding communities.

Case study:

The success of activities and initiatives in villages is thanks in part to enthusiastic and passionate people like Victoria who is Chair of Wereham Village Hall. She said:

“I’ve been involved with the village hall since the Silver Jubilee in 2012 when I realised that we were close to losing a valuable community asset. I’m now chair of the charity behind the hall and I’m also the Project Outcomes Manager, which means I’m responsible for co-ordinating efforts to ensure we meet the outcomes of the project to improve people’s lives in our locality.

“I am very proud to be part of the Project Team, Management Committee and community that has worked together to secure this vital community asset. It has been great to see the ‘wow’ on people’s faces when they visit the facility and it’s been heart-warming to see the difference it has already made to people in our area.

“It’s great to have this facility in West Norfolk –  West Norfolk is an amazing place to live and there’s so much to do in our area!

Other good news in Wereham, the clerk of Wereham Parish Council has achieved recognition for her role. Helen Richardson, Wereham Parish Clerk was nominated for Norfolk Parish Clerk of the year!