Norfolk is a big county, and it may be divided by the nature of the landscape into Broadland, Breckland and Fenland. It also falls naturally into four districts defined by the points of the compass. Norwich forms the centre of this division; towards Yarmouth is East Norfolk; towards Kings Lynn is West Norfolk, and the area towards the sea is North Norfolk. South Norfolk is the area between Norwich and the Suffolk border.
South Norfolk must be a very healthy part of the world, because here life expectancy is among the highest in the country. The cold winds that sweep down from the arctic onto North Norfolk are ameliorated by the gentle hills of South Norfolk. The extremes of heat and cold are to be found further west in the county. Here the waterways of the Broads and the wide open expanses of the Fens are replaced by arable fields, woods and hedgerows. Demeter, the goddess corn crops, has smiled on South Norfolk.
South Norfolk is well served by its transport links. From Diss railway station the capital is only an hour and a half away, which makes South Norfolk just about within commuting distance of London. From Thetford to the intellectual hub of Cambridge only takes half that time. Diss, Harleston, Loddon, Wymondham and Attleborough are the market towns of South Norfolk. Besides Diss with its mainline link, Attleborough and Wymondham are on the Breckland railway line to points west. Until 1952 Harleston also used to be served by passenger trains; it is however not that far from Diss. Loddon’s neared railway station is Haddiscoe, a rural halt on the Wherry Line to Lowestoft. It is too far to walk to the station from Loddon, so you might as well use you car to drive to Lowestoft instead. Loddon however has access to the Norfolk Broads along the river Chet. The A11 also goes through South Norfolk, providing speedy road access to both London and Cambridge as well as Stansted Airport. Otherwise the area is poorly served by roads, and the A140, the main road to Ipswich, is a disgrace.
The fact that there is no road bridge across the river Yare for twenty miles between Norwich and Great Yarmouth makes a firm border between South Norfolk and the area to the North. The county boundary defines the border to the South, which follows the river Waveney; the A11 marks the de facto boundary to the West.
Until I was married (aged 37) I lived in South Norfolk, so I know the area very well. My wife’s connections with South Norfolk go back much further, for generations in fact. She still has relatives who we have visited in Woodton. Lord Nelson’s mother came from Woodton, and he would visit his relations there as a boy. The artist Edward Seago lived in the district with a studio at Kirstead Hall, and a predecessor, John Crome, would venture into South Norfolk from Norwich to paint local scenes. Elizabeth Fry (then Elizabeth Gurney) spent many happy summers there in Bramerton as a child. Edith Cavell was born on the edge of Swardeston Common. The Hethel Thorn is reputed to be sprung from the staff of the biblical figure Joseph of Arimathea, via the Glastonbury Thorn. The Glastonbury Thorn was cut down in the Civil War, but that at Hethel is at least 700 years old. More recently Lotus cars have been manufactured in South Norfolk. In spite of its railway lines and rich history, it mostly stays in my mind as a peaceful rural corner, where the pace of life is slow.
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