“ Holkham Estate, home of the Coke family and the Earls of Leicester, was built between 1734 and 1764 by Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester. Location: Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk NR23 1AB. Check the website below for more information. „
Holkham Hall is a treasure trove of artistic and architechtural history, and is still fascinatingly an actual home! Not your average three bedroomed terrace here, but a magnificent hall standing on a 3,000 acre park on the North Norfolk Coast. The Hall is actually home to the descendants of Thomas Coke, the first Earl of Leicester, who built the Palladian-style mansion. Now, my opinion may be slightly biased here, but I'm honestly not on commission! The background to this story is that around three years ago, my wife and I were enrolled on a National Childbirth Trust course in the town of Swaffham, and one of the couples on the course was actually the Lord and Lady themselves! However, they didn't come across all "Posh and Beckham", and they were really lovely people, so it is for that reason that I suggest you go and visit the Hall! No, there are hundreds of other reasons, as the house is full of magnificent furnishings, paintings, art treasures and beautiful ceilings. As well as the main Hall, there is a Bygones Museum which has over 4,000 items from times past (not that I was sad enough to count them all), and boasts vintage cars, traction engines and a pump room, a pottery, gift shop as well as a lovely lake and beautifully kept parkland. Both the Hall and the Museum are open from May 27th to September 30th this year, it changes slightly each year, depending on the seasons, Sundays to Thursdays inclusive. It is also open at Easter and Summer Bank Holidays. The highlight of the year is the Holkham Country Fair, which should be being held on the July 21st and 22nd this year (2001), though due to the Foot and Mouth crisis, this may have been cancelled, I suggest you phone the Hall on: 01263 711736. The entry fee for this day is £8, with tickets for the two days for £14. If you enjoy experiencing how the other half live, and have a hat which could rival the ones on show at Ascot, then I suggest you attend the Count ry Fair. If you want simply to have a relaxing day out wandering around someone else's house and gardens, then visit the Hall during the normal opening times. Choose a guarenteed good-weather day, and take a picnic.
A few years ago on a bright spring or summer morning, we often used to drive to this part of the North Norfolk coast. Now, I am very fortunate that I live in this lovely area. ~The Beach and Pinewoods~ Holkham is situated a couple of miles from the fishing port of Wells-next-the-sea on the North Norfolk coast; to the west is the Burnhams, Brancaster and Hunstanton and to the east is Blakeney, Cley and Cromer. The beach and woods are popular with dog walkers, bird watchers and for kite flying at all times of the year. The beach is reached via Lady Annes Road and offers a car parking area; if the attendant is in his little hut it will cost you £2 per car - if not, you can park for free. Miles of soft golden sand stretching as far as the eye can see; breathtaking views of sand, sea and sky reaching out from all directions. This must be one of the most beautiful beaches in England; leading to Burnham Overy Staithe in one direction and Wells in the other. Pine trees were planted in the 19th Century to prevent sand being blown on to the agricultural land. Holkham Estate owns all the surrounding farmland and the beach is part of the Holkham National Nature Reserve, managed by English Nature. The beach has been used as the setting for several pop music videos including the group 'All Saints'. The final scenes of the film 'Shakespeare in Love' were filmed here. It has also been used for several television and magazine commercials. A bridal way gives access to the beach for horseriders. Horseboxes are often parked along Lady Annes Road, as the beach is a popular exercise area, although horses are not allowed in the dunes. A local racehorse trainer can often be spotted (if you are up early enough) exercising his racehorses in the early hours of the morning. The Household Cavalry brings their horses to East Anglia for a rest and exercises them on this beach. I regularly take my hors e on the beach and due to the sheer vastness have ridden without intrusion, deep in my own thoughts, enjoying the tranquility and beauty of my surroundings. The North Norfolk coast is a popular place to watch birds at all times of the year. Each month different species arrive whilst others migrate to far-flung corners of the earth. During the spring and summer it is the home to nesting shorebirds, such as oystercatchers, ringed plovers and little terns. Parts of the beach have been roped off to allow adult birds to raise their young without disturbance. And if you are extremely lucky you might see the Marsh Harrier, a rare bird of prey. Whilst walking through the dunes a natterjack toad, native to this area, might be spotted. Wild flowers are in abundance amongst the woods and dunes and butterflies and other wildlife can be seen. A section of the beach is also available to naturists. If any naturists are reading this - it is a long walk to this area; not so far on horseback however, although my horse has been known to turn round and bolt when confronted by naked people popping out of the dunes. There are no refreshments or toilet facilities; but you might catch the ice-cream van in summer, so it is advisable to bring a picnic if you intend to stay for any length of time. ~Holkham Hall~ After leaving the beach, walk along Lady Annes Road, cross the coast road (A149) towards the Victoria Arms Hotel and Holkham Hall. Holkham Hall, home of the Coke family and the Earls of Leicester, is an 18th Century Palladian style mansion, built by Thomas Coke, Earl of Leicester over 250 years ago; the State Rooms contain paintings by Rubens, Van Dyke and Gainsborough and fine furniture. In the 19th Century North Norfolk was an area dominated by great estates and the largest of these was based at Holkham. Nowadays, the estate still employs over 100 people some still in traditional occupations such as gam ekeepers, foresters and farmworkers. Holkham House with its park and gardens are open to the public and also the tearooms, nursery gardens, bygones collection, farming exhibition, pottery and gift shop can be visited. The 3,000 acres of woods and park are home to herds of fallow deer and a variety of small mammals and birdlife. I am fortunate that I have permission to ride my horse in these grounds. I always feel that I should be riding sidesaddle, dressed in 19th Century riding clothes, on a smart thoroughbred horse. The lake is over one and a quarter miles long and it is always a pleasant and peaceful experience riding around it and watching the ducks and other waterfowl. I ride the well-trodden paths, which lead to the Coke monument and other places of interest; jump over logs, or duck my head to avoid low hanging branches in the woods. There is a long stretch of grassland where we like to gallop; it all makes very enjoyable horse riding. And if you decide to visit the Park and see someone riding a big bay Shire horse, give me a wave ............... ~~Update 14th July 2001~~ Due to the Foot and Mouth outbreak (fortunately, there have been no cases in Norfolk) Holkham Hall and Park have been closed. However the Hall re-opened on Monday, 2nd July and will close on Sunday, 30th September 2001. The Park remains closed in order to protect the deer herds and pigs. Deer fences have been erected and only vehicles are admitted to the Park. Drivers must proceed directly to the car park, which is about 100 yards from the Hall. Sadly no walkers, cyclists (or horse riders) can gain entry to the park. Opening times~ The Park gates are open from 12 noon until 6pm. Holkham Hall, Bygones Museum, History of Farming Exhibition, Pottery Shop and Stables Restaurant are open from Sunday to Thursday inclusive. Stables Restaurant and Pottery Shop are open from 12 noon until 5.30pm. The Hall, Bygones Museum and History of Farming Exhibition are open from 1pm until 5pm. Prices~ Entrance to Hall: Adult £5, Child £2.50 Entrance to Bygones Museum: Adult £5, Child £2.50 Combined ticket: Adult £8, Child £4 History of Farming Exhibition: Free entry ~ Holkham Country Fair ~ Holkham Country Fair which is normally held every other year in the grounds of Holkham Park and was due to take place on 21st and 22nd July 2001 has been cancelled in order to protect the deer herd from F & M disease. If you have purchased a ticket, please contact the organiser and you will be re-imbursed. Janna 14th July 2001