One very special discovery we had in Norfolk was Holkham, a huge privately owned estate, that also included a local village and beach.
Holkham is the center of an agricultural estate of over 25,000 acres. The owners are ancestors of the Earl of Leicester, and the current residents strive to keep it a viable working estate. Viscount Coke, his wife Polly and their four young children (Elizabeth, Edward, Hermione, and Juno) live in the Hall and work constantly to maintain the property and its businesses.
We decided to go for the morning to explore.
We went on a particularly chilly day and were greeted by red deer at the entrance to the Deer Park. The wind was picking up, but it didn’t seem to bother them at all.
We got to the main Hall before the ticket office officially opened, so we decided to explore the grounds a bit on our own. The lake looked a bit deserted for the day. It might have had something to do with the chilly day.
Still it was lovely, although the wind whipped along the open field. There was a cricket pitch on the left for local matches, and the grounds seemed to go on forever. The estate has hosted major concerts in Britain, including Elton John and Girls Aloud.
Holkham is farmed by over 25 tenanted farmers. We saw everything from wheat, to pigs to cows. Holkham’s ancestral residents were pioneers of rotation crop farming, and they have a large exhibition on it.
The estate is still privately owned and leases almost 300 houses to people who live and work locally, as well as two inns, The Victoria and The Globe, restaurants and a caravan park. They also started, and run to this day, Holkham Linseed Paint. It is its own little economy and fascinating to see how the family supports this massive estate.
Battered by the chilly breezes, we decided to go back to The Stables Cafe and get a hot cup of latte.
The tea garden was quite empty but inside it was warmer and very inviting. We bought our tickets to tour the complete grounds and the museum. Outside the cafe, we met a friendly guide who took us around the estate in his open tram, and ended up at the walled garden. It was incredible. They had been working on restoring the 6 1/2 acres of garden that had originally been laid out in the 1700s, for over three years, and still had huge amounts of work to do.
The boiler heating system had been fixed, and My Beloved Brit was fascinated with the system of pipe works bringing hot water to the outside walls.
It also heated the Victorian glasshouses which are still being restored.
It is never-ending. There was garden room after garden room in various stages of restoration. It was interesting to see one of these great gardens going through the process of re-birth. We’ve seen so many in England where the end results were on display.
The payoff for this chilly morning was the Bygones Museum and History of Farming back at the main house. It had rooms and rooms of historic memorabilia from cooking utensils, to an old water pump. And for MBB, the favorite were the cars.
Everyone who worked at Holkham seemed so happy to be there. Our guide told us endless stories about how the family had changed the area for the better. Very refreshing to hear.
It was another memorable day, even though our toes were numb, and our fingers blue. A perfect day in Norfolk.