Why Stephen Fry calls Norfolk home
From sea and sky views to antique bookshops and country pubs, the legendary actor and author lets us in on the secret places he most loves in the county.
How would you describe your love of Norfolk?
Norfolk is home, that’s the real truth of it. I feel at home here. The people, the placenames, the lifetime of memories. I can justify it by pointing to its beauty, the “do different” quirkiness, the ideal isolation from smug Home County cosiness, but the real truth is that it’s home. And there are few finer words than that in the whole language.
Do you have a favourite view?
The view onto Scalt Head from the stretch of coast between Brancaster and Wells is pretty hard to beat. The North Norfolk coast is rightly prized. But let’s hear it for the areas further east from Overstrand round to Waxham. By way of Happisburgh and Horsey Gap. Or take a detour inland to Horsey Mere, written about so perfectly by John Betjeman in his poem East Anglian Bathe.
The Norfolk skies get into your soul in whichever part of the county you happen to be. I have a great fondness for looking down the “iconic” (as you have to say about every well-known landmark) cobbled lanes of Norwich’s Elm Hill. It’s where I starred in my very first film. Co-written, directed and shot by my brother, a schoolfriend and me. I was 14. It was a Western. Yes, cowboys in Elm Hill. 16mm movie camera. A masterpiece.
Do you have a favourite Norfolk pub?
Norfolk does good pubs so well. I’d feel mean trying to choose between, for example, The Dabbling Duck in Gt Massingham, The Bell at Brisley or for a more gourmet experience and fabulous art, The Gunton Arms in Suffield. None of them make a diner feel self-conscious for being over or under dressed. Not the kind of places where conversation drops the moment a new party of people comes in. Good atmospheres and terrific food. Now more to be valued than ever before.
Is there a favourite shop or one that holds fond memories?
There used to be a wonderful second hand bookshop in St Benedict’s in Norwich called the Scientific Anglian. A dark and dusty warren of books, stored and stacked higgledy-piggledy and every which way. I suppose, though I was too young to consider it, the idea was a secular humanist haven in churchy Norwich, but the shop stocked every class and category of book and the prices (“1/3d” scrawled in pencil on the flyleaf) allowed me to build up a collection which now rivals that old shop, long since gone.