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Review and Video of Wroxham Barns, Hoveton, Norfolk

Posted by at 10:56 on Friday 13 September 2013

This thriving, year-round complex of shops, cafés and small businesses offers a truly local, independent experience to suit all ages and tastes, discovers John Sannaee.

The barns date back 200 years.The barns date back 200 years.

The Setting
Just outside Hoveton and within easy striking distance of Hoveton & Wroxham railway station, Wroxham Barns sits amid the lush arable landscape of the Broads’ agricultural hinterland. If you arrive by train, a dedicated pathway leads across fragrant fields to the Barns for much of the route. The countryside is flat and serene, as are the ancient Barns themselves: though thriving businesses, there is an easygoing country air here, with spacious, flower-filled courtyards that seduce visitors to relax.

Watch our Greentraveller Video of Wroxham Barns

The Place
The Barns date back over two hundred years, and were a working farm until 1983, when present owner Ian Russell decided to convert them into a complex of small independent businesses showcasing the best that Norfolk and its Broads have to offer. Open seven days a week year round, from 10 to 5, this is not just a seasonal visitor attraction. Retail manager Rebecca Davidson explains that the season for tourists lasts from the February half-term right through to October, but that locals continue to come in the winter months.

Wroxham Barns itself runs the centre’s largest shop, as well as a food shop, café, and highly-reputed restaurant (daytime only); these are complemented by twelve other units ranging from DIY arts and crafts to a garden centre and a multi award winning cider shop – more on this later. Behind the Barns, the farm’s spirit has been kept alive with a small farm perfect for the little ones, where kids and kids-at-heart can coo and sigh with delight at wide-eyed lambs and clumsy piglets, learn about farming and animals, and even collect their own freshly laid eggs. The Barns even boast a mini golf course used in the British Championships, and a children’s funfair in the summer.

The Food
This Easter, Wroxham Barns opened a spacious new café with a large terrace where children can play in the sun, allowing for the already popular restaurant to expand into the rather cosy former café space. Both café and restaurant offer a wide range of foods and drinks from local and organic producers, and the restaurant has garnered much acclaim.

The popular restaurant offers la wide range of organic produceThe popular restaurant offers la wide range of organic produce

This is complimented by a dedicated food shop, stocking a huge range of produce from local producers and small national independents: nothing that you could find in the supermarket. There are local wines and an incredible range of beers from local microbreweries (Norfolk has the most microbreweries of any English county), and the food ranges from game pâtés to an intriguing range of sweet treats that includes lemon marshmallows and chocolate-coated gooseberries.

Lots of local goodies on offer in the shops. Photo: John SannaeeLots of local goodies on offer in the shops. Photo: John Sannaee

The Other Businesses
It’s hard to do justice to each and every one of Wroxham Barns’ small businesses: they have been carefully selected to be complementary, rather than competitive or repetitive. These resolutely local and independent businesses between them cover all bases – from wood turning and engraving, to award winning roses (Bill LeGrice Roses & Plant Centre) and children’s clothing (Sugar & Spice include a range of organic and charity products), as well as a lot of on-site arts and crafts. Tricia Francis’ pottery shop has been a part of Wroxham Barns since 1989, and as well as being home to her studio is her only point of sale: a resounding financial success for local arts.

Next door, Tim Foord creates a dazzling array of stained glass, including commissions, and runs workshops. Local artisans really are the centrepiece of Wroxham Barns, so it should come as no surprise that the site also offers a small, well-lit gallery showcasing a range of the finest works by local artists. If you feel inspired by all that is going on around you, Sew Creative allows you to hone your needle-and-thread skills, whilst Made By You gives children and adults alike the chance to decorate pottery and make their own Sand Art.

Tricia Frances' pottery shop has been here since 1989. Photo: John SannaeeTricia Frances' pottery shop has been here since 1989. Photo: John Sannaee

The Green
Wroxham Barns is a resolutely local place, and local means green – sourcing from the local area massively reduces its carbon footprint, whilst helping the local economy; special emphasis is put on ensuring local producers really are from Norfolk, and not just in name. The Barns work with local authorities, including the Broads, and through their farm, help to educate children about the natural world, on the importance of sustainability and local agriculture. What’s more, Wroxham Barns is also a local RSPB centre: the RSPB offers information, and runs events and workshops, from a small unit on the site.

Beyond the general ethos and integration into the life of a region that is very much tied up with the natural environment, the Wroxham Barns eco-attitude is one of reduce, re-use, and recycle. With recycling and green disposal schemes, energy reduction measures for their appliances, use of environmentally friendly products and much more, they have gained a Silver Award from the Green Tourism Business Scheme.

Children love the toy train.Children love the toy train.

How to get there by public transport
Hoveton & Wroxham station is a little under two miles away, and offers swift, regular services into Norwich (15-20 minutes, as well as to North Norfolk in the other direction), where a range of mainline services connect to the rest of the UK. If you arrive by train, head straight down the main road for a couple of minutes and then take a left along Tunstead Road. As the village gives way to farmland, a segregated footpath appears on the right, leading visitors safely on a traffic-free route through quiet fields and hedgerows to the Barns.

Free samples at the cider shop! Photo: Florence FortnamFree samples at the cider shop! Photo: Florence FortnamTop Tip
The Norfolk Cider Shop may no longer bear the name that brought it fame, but it still sells some of the country’s finest cider in three varieties: sweet, medium dry, and dry, the latter being so dry in fact that it tastes more like a crisp apple wine. Formerly known as the Apple Shop, it was forced to change its name after the opening of an Apple Store in nearby Norwich prompted a flood of phone calls from disgruntled iphone users. Above and beyond the media hype that this created, the triple CAMRA award winning Norfolk Cider Company’s produce is fresh, local, and absolutely delicious.

Verdict
Wroxham Barns proves that green and local can and does work. A thriving, varied destination, justly popular with locals and tourists a like, the Barns offer fine food, great local produce and a chance to spend your hard earned cash on something unique, and truly worth buying.

Disclosure

Blogs posts categorised as 'Reviews' have been written with the support of one or more of the following: accommodation owner, activity provider, operator, equipment supplier, tourist board, protected landscape authority or other destination-focussed authority. The reviewer retains full editorial control of the work, which has been written in the reviewer's own words based on their experience of the accommodation, activity, equipment or destination.

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