Aylsham nods to the past, the present and to the future
PUBLISHED: 10:50 13 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:02 20 February 2013
Ed Foss discovers...
A sense of tradition
Nods to the past, the present and to the future blend to give Aylsham both a practical modernity and a retention of the romantic, as Ed Foss discovers.
Stand in the centre of Market Place in Aylsham, take a panoramic glance around and savour a view virtually unchanged over the past two decades. Thats not a boast many market towns could make, certainly not the ones which have remained economically viable. As well as landmarks such as the town hall and glimpses of the post office and the parish church of St Michaels, signage for James the Barber, electrical retailer JB Postle, Barnwell the newsagent, Clarke the ironmongers and Coxford the butcher can all be seen taking pride of place along the four sides of the market place. Just a short step away in Red Lion Street too is award-winning G F White butchers, another long established feature of the town yet still very much worth a visit. These family brands have been in town for many decades between them and help to give a settled, comfortable feel to the community. Of course there has been some coming and going of shop names here, yet Aylsham has fared very well in maintaining its retail heritage. Regular market days, both of the traditional town variety and the trendier farmers markets, help bring extra bustle.
Standing sentinel over the Market Place is The Black Boys Hotel. One of a handful of Norfolk foodie businesses run by the Colchester family, this building is said to have hosted a string of worthy names including Norfolks own Lord Nelson. A favourite eating establishment with particularly large helpings of good food, both as a locals destination and somewhere people will come many miles to visit. The Plough Inn, at nearby Marsham, is well-established too but has plenty of plans to build on its good reputation in the future, and The Old Pump House in Aylsham town offers an upmarketbed and breakfast that is easy to recommend.
Open less than two years, this is a delightfully higgledy-piggledy gift shop which simply begs to be browsed. It is difficult to leave without parting with at least some of your hard-earned cash thanks to a surprisingly large range of offerings despite the fairly small size of the shop. Home and garden is the simple way to describe what is for sale, but the choice belies such a straightforward description.
Pretty things and tasty things
The Black Sheep Shop has been quite a find for people for many years. Just out of the town centre towards Blickling, it is a paradise for wool lovers. Nearby is Food Lovers, a modern delicatessen which has found a popular slot in the town, and has gone a long way to replacing the old fashioned deli Harveys on Red Lion Street. Lisa Dawsons soft furnishing studio creates contemporary and traditional made to measure pieces for the home, as well as stocking plenty of materials to help you make your own, while just next door at Concept Carpets you can find bedding and floor coverings to complete the whole look of your home. Lavenders Blue creates all sorts of lovely flower arrangements for a range of occasions.
Clarke the ironmongers
If you were to pick one store in Aylsham which deserves the moniker iconic, it must be this ironmongers at the corner of the Market Place. Not as vast as Sheringhams famous Blyth and Wright store, but equally as interesting for a poke about. Regulars will know that just because you cant immediately find what you are looking for, it doesnt mean that asking will not raise the particular item from the depths.
Church of St Michaels
Set back slightly from the Market Place, this is a magnificent building, particularly from the outside. There is plenty of interest for those who love their churches the lych gate, the memorial to Humphrey Repton and the rood screen all worth looking for. And there is also a concert series run by the Aylsham Music Society which has become increasingly popular.
Around and about
Aylsham is not just about the centre of town. There is the narrow gauge Bure Valley Railway, the auctions at Keys, off the Norwich Road, and of course, the fabulous National Trust property at Blickling Hall and its estate, ideal for walking, a couple of miles towards Holt.
As with many towns these days, there is plenty of debate about supermarkets. Aylsham has three Somerfield, Budgens and Tesco, in the Market Place, on the edge of the main shopping area on Norwich Road and further along the Norwich Road respectively. But with butchers, bakers, greengrocer, market stalls and static and visiting wet fish sellers, the town provides choice on a grand scale.