Let’s visit… Wymondham
The low down:
I have to admit to having quite low expectations of Wymondham, not least because of the way the locals pronounce it (‘Windham’ – I ask you, have they not been to school?). But Wymondham is a town that keeps on giving – the longer you stay, the more you find and the more you love it. And, ironically, the schools really are a selling point with Wymondham College simply exemplary. Let’s take a look around shall we? (Can you hold my jacket please, it’s nice and sunny today?)
Following the signs to the town centre will bring you to Market Place, smack bang in the hey diddle diddle – nice. The first thing you will notice is the Market Cross, a rotund beauty built in 1617 and home to the Tourist Information Centre, perfect if you are new to Wymondham.
Unlike a lot of Norfolk towns, Wymondham also has a train station (*does cartwheel) with regular links to London, Ely and Norwich, giving the town another thumbs up.
I immediately experience one issue, however – parking. Having driven around the town’s 71-space car park four times in search of a spot, I end up back on Market Place where there is free parking on either side of the street for just 30 minutes. While this is great if you just want to pop to the bank, this isn’t ideal for day trippers and I spend the best part of the day looking at my watch and moving my car. Next time, I’ll head straight to The Abbey (which is very much in town) where on-street free parking stretches to 60 minutes.
Having finally parked, I’m gasping for a morning coffee and am presented with two options: The Mad Hatters Tea Shop which, as a Journalist, I refuse to go to because of the missing apostrophe in the name (grrrr) and The Lemon Tree Café Bar which is much nicer on the inside than the exterior portrays. The breakfasts look amazing – I haven’t seen a slice of fried bread on a plate in yonks! (have they not banned it yet?). Those arriving by train should head straight to The Station Café, a real star of Wymondham with its carriage-style décor and pretty signage.
If you’re a fan of black and white, you’ll love shopping in Wymondham where higgledy-piggeldy historic buildings dominate the main thoroughfare (when Manchester band Doves sang Black and White Town, I wonder if they had been here?). There are some real independent gems to be found in between budgets stores like Savers and Iceland. If you have overindulged in fried bread, head straight to The Health Food Shop, a deli-cum-natural store hiding under a black and white canopy where herbal medicines and coffee beans can both be bought.
Next door is Reno Wine (singular), an independent wine shop selling a vast range of wines and local ales, alongside Norfolk Gin (and a Muddy Awards 2016 finalist for Best Wine Store). Join the recycling revolution and buy a £2 flip-top bottle to refill from vats in the shop – not only are you doing your bit for the environment but you will pay £5.95 for a £10 bottle. The owner, Chris, is expanding his operation to include wine tasting on train journeys (between Wymondham and Dereham) and in the grounds of The Abbey.
What Jarrolds is to Norfolk, Norfolk is to Jarrolds and Wymondham has a mini version with a fab Cook Shop; women’s fashion, meanwhile, can be found at Ratio – another black and white beauty. Off the main artery is a cobbled street with mini stores, including a traditional barber’s shop and Kett’s Books, another Muddy Awards 2016 finalist.
There are plenty of great places to eat in Wymondham, with The Green Dragon a favourite among locals and visitors (and another Muddy Awards 2016 finalist for Best Casual Dining – that’s the last one Muddy readers I promise!). A traditional 14th Century tavern that’s black and white (of course), The Green Dragon serves British classics with a twist; ingredients all locally-sourced. There’s a spacious beer garden for the summer, while an open fire makes it a festive and cosy spot come winter.
The multi-award winning Kindreds Restaurant is great for a special occasion with its fine dining menu and Chesterfield couches. Here, the wine menu is as long as the list of cocktails on offer, while diners can choose between a la carte and Evening De Jour menus (Monday to Thursday only) – salivate over dishes like trio of smoked fish, belly & fillet of Dingley Dell pork and iced peanut butter parfait.
The Boars is a little further away in the nearby village of Spooner Row but is worth the journey for its craft beers, sharing boards, Sunday roasts and classic fayre including fish and chips; burgers and ham, egg and chips, with a modern twist. The children’s menu is called ‘Little Piglets’ (too cute!) and there is a great beer garden, too.
All the restaurants listed above are great for a tipple too, but for an atmosphere that’s all together more ‘pubby’, try the handsome Cross Keys or The Heart of Wymondham, both on Market Place. Reviews are varied, but between them they boast local ales, a children’s playground, Sunday carveries, summer BBQs, Sky sport, pool, darts and discounted evening meals – sometimes, that’s just what the doctor ordered.
Don’t leave without seeing The Abbey, a short walk from the town centre. A Norfolk landmark for over 900 years, visitors can marvel at the 15th century roof timbers, the Georgian organ and the gilded alter. A host of events are run here, including classical concerts and wine tasting. Set in the Tiffey Valley, sheep graze on the unspoilt meadow while a river meanders by.
Staying a while? Wymondham Leisure Centre re-opened this year after a £3 million refurbishment – the gym has tripled in size, the pool and changing rooms have been revamped and a children’s soft play area, a café and a fancy spa offering massages and beauty treatments have been incorporated. Eat your heart out, Virgin Active.
For something altogether more creative, head to the town’s church where The Wymondham Arts Centre runs a host of events all year round, including art exhibitions and craft fairs.
There is a distinct lack of good hotels in Wymondham itself, but the nearby Park Farm Hotel in Hethersett boasts an award-winning spa (sorry forgot: winner of Best Spa in the Muddy Stilettos 2016 awards), while the Barnham Broom hotel, unsurprisingly in Barnham Broom, has not one, but two championship golf courses.
For camping and caravanning, the Cavick House Farm Caravan Site is a gorgeous spot set in beautiful countryside not far from Wymondham Abbey. Part of a working farm, pitches cost £10 per night and are open between March and October. As this is also the location of The Hen House (see ‘don’t miss’ below), guests are able to purchase fresh eggs; grass-fed, free-range Charollais lamb (lovely on the BBQ); fresh coffee, cake and souvenirs on site.
The gorgeous Hen House mentioned above is a *real* find – a series of duck egg blue sheds on a working farm in the middle of the countryside, but within walking distance of town. With outside bench seating (in duck egg blue), a shed for fresh eggs to buy, three sheds to sit in – each with bunting and colourful, comfy chairs; one with a wood burner and magazines to read – and a shed for ice-cream, the whole offering is as cute as a button. The café itself sells really decent coffee, cake and gifts, with all scones and biscuits made on site by lovely owner Annabel. New to The Hen House is a pop-up lamb shop, selling free-range succulent lamb to take home for Sunday lunch – don’t forget the mint sauce.
Avoid the traffic heading along Market Place and around the abbey by getting on your bike. The town is small enough to cycle around and you’ll work off that three course lunch too – promise me you’ll wear a helmet though?