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Unexplored spaces – experience freedom in the open air

If you’ve been in lockdown and on your quarantine couch for a while, what you’re really going to be after is fresh air and outside activities. Look no further than the East of England.

Here’s some of our favourite places to walk, cycle, sail, relax and enjoy…

Broads National Park

Broads National Park

Over 125 miles of navigable, lock-free waterways, the Broads is a fantastic place for bird and wildlife and the latest addition to the National Park family. Uniquely, it’s largely man-made, the result of medieval peat diggings, but nowadays is a paradise for walkers, cyclists and people who want to take a leisurely cruise. Hire a boat for a few days or a picnic day boat or canoe. How about stand up paddleboarding with Secret’SUP at Coltishall.

Places to visit include Fairhaven Gardens, National Trust Horsey Windpump, Woodforde’s Brewery and its delightful brewery tap The Fur & Feather, attractions BeWILDerwood and Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure and take a ride on a heritage steam train with the Bure Valley Railway.

Visit the Broads

River Waveney Valley

Beccles

You can start exploring the river at its very source at Redgrave and Lopham Fen National Nature Reserve. Not far is Thorpe Abbotts 100th Bomb Group Museum – learn more about the US servicemen in the East of England during he second world war (gen up before Apple TV releases its Tom Hanks-Steven Speilberg collaboration Masters of the Air). If you like that you’ll also enjoy the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum at Flixton.

The Friendly Invasion in Norfolk

There are lovely market towns to visit including Diss, Harleston, Beccles and Bungay and for water activities you can hire canoes at Outney Meadow, Beccles and at the Waveney River Centre, where you have to discover the ziggurat-shaped Burgh St Peter Church.

Shotley Peninsula

Orwell Bridge and Shotley Peninsula

In this expanse of land between the Rivers Orwell and Stour, there’s plenty to see and do, not least sailing or windsurfing at Alton Water. This expansive reservoir is a great spot for birdwatching, walking and cycling. There’s bike and canoe hire.

Head down to the end of the peninsula and seeing the ocean-going traffic from Felixstowe and Harwich.  Relax at National Trust Pin Mill, visit Jimmy’s Farm and stock up on deli delights at the Suffolk Food Hall while enjoying spectacular views of the Orwell Bridge.

Dunwich Heath

The wild Konik Horses at Minsmere RSPB Reserve, Dunwich Heath, Suffolk.

Explore woodland, heath and coast to your heart’s content. Highlights include Dunwich Museum, RSPB Minsmere, charming Westleton where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spent their first wedding anniversary, Blythburgh Church over which the man who should have been President of the USA was killed, the lovely seaside village of Walberswick with its row boat ferry to Southwold, and the mock-Tudor village of Thorpeness with its mere and House in the Clouds.

Dunwich Heath

Thetford Forest Park and Brecks

Pingo Trail, Brecks

If you’re after a bit of eco-friendly adventure and a chance to experience nature then High Lodge at Thetford Forest is for you. 73 square miles await with, with myriad walking and cycling trails, thrilling mountain biking courses, Segway hire, aerial ropes at Go Ape, archery and picnic areas.

In the wider Brecks visit riverside Thetford with its Dad’s Army Museum (it was filmed here), Priory ruins and huge Norman motte (climb to the top for great views), Oxburgh Hall and Grime’s Graves. Or venture out on the Pingo Trail.

Explore the Brecks and Thetford Forest

Norwich

Norwich Cathedral

If you find yourself in the city, there are still places with green space. Walk along the River Wensum, visit secret Plantation Garden, wander the  44-acre site of Norwich Cathedral or head up to Mousehold Heath for stunning sunset views. A short cycle from the centre is Whitlingham Broad, with over 280 acres of countryside to explore and home to an adventure centre, and the University of East Anglia which has a Broad set in 320 acres with a Sculpture Park commissioned by the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.

Visit Norwich

Country estates

Houghton Hall, west Norfolk

The East of England has a large number of country estates with extensive parklands to explore.

In Suffolk there’s Ickworth, a unique country home with an imposing rotunda and lovely gardens, and Kentwell Hall  in the Wool Towns area.

In West and North Norfolk, there’s a few to choose from, not least Sandringham Hall and Estate, the private residence of Her Majesty The Queen. As well as the extensive gardens there’s an interesting museum with lots of Royal heirlooms and good visitor centre. Not far away is Houghton Hall (above), with its huge collection of miniature toy soldier battlefields. It’s currently hosting an outside sculpture exhibition by Anish Kapoor.

There are two National Trust properties not to miss, Blickling Hall with its woodland trails and mausoleum pyramid, and Felbrigg Hall, which has a fabulous walled garden and parkland walks. Finally, there’s Holkham Hall (below), with its National Nature Reserve, herds of wild deer in the park, boating lake, adventure playground and museum.

Holkham Hall

Wymondham Abbey

Wymondham Abbey, south Norfolk

Norfolk and Suffolk have a rich history of ecclesiastical buildings, in particular from Norman times through to the medieval heights of wool churches, finally ending with the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII.

Nowadays our ruined abbeys and splendid churches are a great space to be quiet and contemplative, and none better than Wymondham Abbey in south Norfolk, by the river Tiffey.

Churches and cathedrals in Norfolk

Stories of Suffolk landmarks

Please, before you travel to the East of England, Know Before You Go – ensure places you want to visit are open, see if you have to pre-book. We’ve supplied click-throughs to attractions for you to check.

Guidance on planning a holiday in England