- East Anglia, inc. Norfolk Broads

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Flat. That's the word that best describes East Anglia. The level landscape imparts a sense of space and freedom, and also allows opportunities for easy walks and cycling. Much of that landscape was under water until several centuries ago; prodigious drainage projects from the Middle Ages onward have reclaimed land that was once best navigated in a flat-bottomed boat.

One of the highlights of the Fen Country is Ely, with its superb Cathedral rising on a low hump of ground above the surrounding fens. Ely is renown for its remarkable octagonal lantern tower, one of the engineering triumphs of medieval architecture.

Vying for cathedral honours in East Anglia is Norwich, where the cathedral has the unusual - for England - feature of a rounded apse behind the high altar. Look for the carvings on the bosses of the nave and in the cloister walk. Norwich Cathedral The interior is a superb example of Norman architecture, and the bishop's throne behind the high altar is the oldest in England. William the Conqueror built a castle at Norwich in 1067, using the townsfolk as forced labour, and the present stone castle was built on the same mound some 60 years later.

Norwich is the gateway to the Norfolk Broads, a National Park made up of a multitude of broad, shallow lakes lying along five major rivers. The Broads are a very popular sailing centre, and provide excellent walks along miles of seaside trails and through several nature reserves.

Moving from the delights of nature to rich architectural heritage, Cambridge is first and foremost a university town - though the inhabitants have struggled to accept the large student population in their midst down the centuries. Cambridge University was founded by students and masters fleeing an outbreak of "town and gown" violence at Oxford University in the early medieval period.

But the colleges of Cambridge do not play second fiddle to those of Oxford! Most renown of the colleges are Trinity and King's, where the Choir is one of the marvels of late Perpendicular architecture. Near Cambridge is Ickworth House, an amazing Italianate structure topped by a massive rotunda, built for the 4th Earl of Bristol in 1795. It was to house the earl's art treasures, but they were seized by Napoleon and the Earl died (and his body was shipped home from Italy in a coffin labeled "antique sculpture").

Blickling Hall is Jacobean stately home surrounded by a dry moat. The long gallery at Blickling is a reminder of the house's Tudor origins, and the gardens blend yew hedges, a parterre and topiary, large herbaceous beds, pools and fountains. At Framlingham the remains of 12th century Framlingham Castle is surrounded by a perfectly preserved curtain wall with 13 towers.

Although Cambridge can be crowded with tourists on occasion, East Anglia as a whole is largely unaffected by the onslaught of tourism. There are still pockets of rural calm, such as Dedham Vale, the valley of the river Stour around Dedham and East Bergholt so beloved of native son John Constable. Many of the scenes that Constable painted can still be appreciated today.

Norfolk Broads

The Norfolk Broads are best known as a boating centre, and rightly so. They are made up of a multitude of broad, shallow lakes lying along five major rivers. The lakes are the result of peat "harvest" during the Middle Ages. The water level rose, and flooded the peat diggings, creating lakes that are home to many rare plant and animal species, as well as a multitude of birds.

Not surprisingly, then, the Broads are blessed with several popular wildlife reserves, including an unusual floating conservation Centre at Ranworth.

A nature trail runs from the centre, and walkers can explore the local Fen vegetation and birdlife. The RSPB runs a bird reserve at Strumpshaw (near Norwich), and there is also a nature trail at Hoveton Broad.

East Anglia Tourist Information Centres

Cambridgeshire

Cambridge Tourist Information Centre
Wheeler Street, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB2 3QB. Tel: 01223 322640

Ely Tourist Information Centre
Oliver Cromwells House, 29 St. Marys Street, Ely, Cambridgeshire, CB7 4HF. Tel: 01353 662062

Huntingdon Tourist Information Centre
County Library, Princes Street, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, PE29 3PH. Tel: 01480 388588

Norfolk

Cromer Tourist Information Centre
Prince of Wales Road, Cromer, Norfolk, NR27 9HS. Tel: 01263 512497

Diss Tourist Information Centre
Meres Mouth, Mere Street, Diss, Norfolk, IP22 3AG. Tel: 01379 650523

Great Yarmouth Tourist Information Centre
Marine Parade, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, NR31 8NE. Tel: 01493 842195

King's Lynn Tourist Information Centre
The Custom House, Purfleet Quay, King's Lynn, Norfolk, PE30 1HP. Tel: 01553 763044

Norwich Tourist Information Centre
The Guildhall, Gaol Hill, Norwich, Norfolk, NR2 1NF. Tel: 01603 666071

Suffolk

Bury St Edmunds Tourist Information Centre
6 Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, IP33 1UZ. Tel: 01284 764667

Ipswich Tourist Information Centre
St Stephens Church, St Stephens Lane, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 1DP. Tel: 01473 258070

Lavenham Tourist Information Centre
Lady Street, Lavenham, Suffolk, CO10 9RA. Tel: 01787 248207

Lowestoft Tourist Information Centre
East Point Pavilion, Royal Plain, Lowestoft, Suffolk, NR33 OAP. Tel: 01502 533600

Newmarket Tourist Information Centre
Palace House, Palace Street, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 8EP. Tel: 01638 667200

Essex

Chelmsford Tourist Information Centre
County Hall, Market Road, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 1GG. Tel: 01245 283400

Clacton Tourist Information Centre
23 Pier Avenue, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, CO15 1QD. Tel: 01255 423400

Colchester Visitor Information Centre
1 Queen Street, Colchester, Essex, CO1 2PG. Tel: 01206 282920

Southend Tourist Information Centre
19 High Street, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, SS1 IJE. Tel: 01702 215120

Destination guides by kind permission of Britain Express

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