Connections are so important to us as human beings and we connect emotionally not only to those around us, but to the natural places we visit and spend our time; either alone or with those we love. These connections leave a mark within us all, whether we are stepping into somewhere new or returning to a place that holds deep-rooted and important memories. We probably all recognise the soul-connection that’s suddenly awakened by a memory that a place can hold, only to unlock when you re-visit. The sights and smells can transport you back, like a time machine, to another period of time, another stage of your life, another you.
We asked the Feel Good Norfolk Collective to share some of their favourite places and the beautiful responses truly demonstrate that Norfolk holds so many of these place-connections for us all. The importance of Norfolk’s natural spaces to us both individually and as a community is not only startlingly clear, but often poignant and always magical.
This blog will take you on a journey through Norfolk’s wild spaces, as told through the memories of some of the Feel Good Community, starting with Norfolk’s stunning shorelines…
Photo by Lou Kitchener, Yoga Happy (Holkham)
“My go-to spot is Holkham beach, but far from the crowds, up near Overy Staithe. I go there to recharge and reconnect with family, friends and partners. I recently also attended a peer-to-peer female therapist process group there, which involved a sharing circle and a mutual validation, followed by a swim. My favourite memory (and there are many) is running wildly into the ocean and submerging feeling so alive after mutual connectedness with women all working through their own trauma.”
“Holkham is my favourite place in the world. We would go there as a family when I was little – almost 40 years ago. I remember me and my three siblings sitting on different branches of a beautiful tree (no longer there) and being forced to wait while my dad got out his telescope for identifying birds.
It feels like my magical space where everything makes sense. The woods held me whilst I made the hardest decisions of my life. I stood at the water’s edge and sang, cried, screamed, laughed and loved. I also love that transitional space between the beach and the woods, where everything feels surreal, yet somehow bursting with energy.”
We create an emotional bond with these natural spaces because they hold us and offer us a place of safety at times when we are deeply in need. Through connecting, grounding ourselves to the earth and leaning into the peace and solitude that nature offers, we are able to listen to and observe what we truly feel and need; and release what needs to be let go.
“My dad would often take me on midnight dog walks, sometimes to woodlands where we would find hidden lakes and often to the coast at Bacton. I particularly remember us walking beneath a huge, incredibly starry sky, the sound of the waves meeting the shore and feeling very safe. Another time we sat on a bench spotting shooting stars.”
– Heather, Feel Good Norfolk
“Sheringham will always hold a special place in my heart. The wooden beach hut, my jelly shoes navigating the stony beach and stepping onto the sand and into the sea to splash with my sister and cousins as our grandmother and aunty watched on from their deck chairs, at the ready with sun cream and sandwiches.”
Not only do natural spaces take us back and connect us with a different ‘self’, perhaps highlighting what we have both lost and gained over the years, but nature provides us with a safe space for self-reflection. As we change, our lives change and the world changes around us, nature’s rhythms and resilience provides a gentle constant in which we can often find peace and solace.
Photo by Heather (Sheringham)
Photo by Vicky Bissett (Eccles-on-Sea)
“My special place is Eccles-on-Sea, as I find that the sea is brilliant at cleansing my energy and lifting away the daily overwhelm. Its rough and wild sand dunes, together with its old ‘surfing community feel’ resonates with my wild woman days. Finding myself now in and amongst the whirlwind of emotions, body breakdown, overwhelm, anxiety, brain fog and grief that has suddenly greeted me in menopause, self care is even more important.”
– Vicky Bisset, Heal My Heart
“My go-to space is the walk from Runton to Cromer beach. I camped there as a teen with my friends, shouted at the sea when the chips were down and walked across the sand in the dead of night, just listening to the waves and sitting with the foxes that had come down to the shore. I took my first green wave there surfing and now I teach and hold space there for other surfers and yogis alike. I simply love that stretch of coast; it’s where my soul-salt rises to the surface and makes me feel buoyant.”
– Tess Bickerstaff, Norwich Yoga Central
Simply walking amongst nature can be both incredibly therapeutic and a gentle form of exercise, allowing us to really notice the sights and sounds around us. Wandering woodland paths, totally enclosed by trees, can provide a particular sense of safety and deep-rooted connection to the earth. As if nature is giving us a hug from all directions. The changing colour of the leaves and the crunch of oranges and reds underfoot signifies nature’s rhythms and reminds us of the normalcy and necessity of change and transition.
“For me it’s about getting away and walking, which due to my spine, is the only movement that I can do. I love the woods near Long Stratton called Tyrrells Wood (it also has an excellent farm shop). My memories are filled with my sons running about, happily waving around sticks and finding trees to climb, followed by a stop at the shop to buy local produce.”
– Sophie Guin, The Yoga Tree & Acorn Cafe
“I love to wander through Danby Woods to Marston Marshes to reset, recharge and spend quality time with my dog and husband. The variety of wildlife and habitats so close to the city and in such a relatively small area is a real boon. The pathway and benches along the way make it really accessible, so people of all ages and abilities can enjoy it.
My favourite memories are of lockdown, as families gathered by the river with picnics, kids and dogs splashed about in the shallows and dens popped up in the woods. It reminded me of my childhood and it’s a shame it took the shops closing to reintroduce people to these simple pleasures. Other simple pleasures to be had on the Marshes are blackberry and sloe berry picking, fish spotting, cow dodging and frog spawn hunting. What’s not to love?!”
Norfolk’s pathways provide wonderful, winding networks through an array of beautiful habitats that connect and provide access between Norwich and its surrounding towns. Woodlands meld into marshes, which transition into fields, which take us along river banks and down to glistening streams.
“I love Marriott’s Way! There are so many beautiful spots along the route and it always feels like such a privilege to see otters, kingfishers, herons and deer so close to the city! I don’t drive, so being able to cycle my three kids safely into the city was so important to me when they were small. We are still discovering new places to swim, picnic, pick blackberries and watch the sun rise and set! Just this morning, I was swimming with steam rising from the water and birds calling in the day.”
“This summer I discovered Caen’s meadow in Wroxham. It’s a perfect river swimming spot, especially for kids, as you can wade out pretty far and still touch the bottom. The water is lovely and clear and there’s very few boats going past. I spent many of the hotter days this summer there with my girls, the eldest of whom has been having swimming lessons for a while and finally cracked it. She loved diving and swimming in the water. There’s also a grassy hill to play on that’s surrounded by lovely big trees.”
Photo by The Space Burston
Photo by Kerry Dolan
“If I’m short of time then I head to the UEA Broad as I live so close by. One of my favourite things about it being right on my doorstep is that I get to see the surrounding nature change throughout the seasons, each one with its own beauty.
If I have more time available to me then I head to the coast and a recent discovery was Holme Dunes. I visited on a very turbulent day weatherwise and I just loved how wild it felt! Being at the coast always grounds me and gives me a fresh perspective.”
Hidden in and amongst Norwich’s urban landscape, nestled away between roads and houses are hidden portals to nature and historical moments of times long past. You may suddenly happen upon these seemingly secret spaces and feel at once at home whilst simultaneously at awe of your new discovery. Graveyards can be exactly this, as not only do they represent a sacred and historical connection to Norfolk’s history, but when managed appropriately they are highly valuable sites for supporting the UK’s biodiversity (just like our gardens!).
“One of my favourite places in Norwich is Earlham Cemetery. I never would have thought that I could love somewhere with so many graves, but it’s hard not to enjoy being in and amongst so much history and rambling nature. There are plenty of fallen trees, brambles and hidden paths to discover, alongside the immaculate garden of remembrance. It was only two minutes away from our old house and I discovered it not long after having my first child, during a period of time when I had more opportunity and need for walking. I would feel a sense of calm come over me just by being there. During the lockdowns it was a fantastic place to have on our doorstep.”
Photo by Sophie Guin
The season is shifting from summer to autumn and all of these wild, natural spaces are transitioning around us and us along with them. We are deeply rooted in nature’s rhythms and spending time outside can help us stay connected to these natural ebbs and flows. Observing nature alongside our own physical and emotional shifts can help us stay more intune with and better meet our wellbeing needs. We are all saying goodbye to the warm evenings where light stretched before us and instead welcoming in the crisp nigh†s and clear skies, spent wrapped up in cosy cardigans.
Thank you to everybody who shared their beautiful memories. There is a deep sense of gratitude for the way in which nature supports, nourishes and holds us all as a community and for Norfolk’s mosaic of beautiful landscapes that constantly enliven our sense of wonder.
Words by Heather and Feel Good Wellbeing Businesses
Connecting people to nature.