Ten great reasons to visit Fakenham, Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 16:18 22 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:54 20 February 2013

Ten great reasons to visit Fakenham, Norfolk

Ten great reasons to visit Fakenham, Norfolk

This gateway to north Norfolk is full of attractions and Ian Clarke picks some of his favourites.

Ten great reasons to visit Fakenham

This gateway to north Norfolk is full of attractions and Ian Clarke picks some of his favourites.

1 Countryside walks

Some of Fakenhams lesser-known delights are free and good exercise too! A series of walks from a mile to three miles all starting from the Market Place (right) have been designed. Take in sights like Goggs Mill, Hempton Common, the Three Block Archway and some of the most beautiful parts of the River Wensum. See www.countrysideaccess.norfolk.gov.uk

2 Racecourse

Racing at Fakenham hasnt got the longevity of the markets, but the course at Pudding Norton, on the Dereham side of the town, can still boast 104 years of history. It has a magnetism for people of all walks of life, not least the Royal Family. Monarchs including Edward VII and the current Queen have been patrons. She handed the reins to Prince Charles in 2000 and his name adorns the 1m members stand. Race days have a very special feel and crowds of up to 6,000 make their way down the tracks to the course. The next meeting is on October 23.

3 The Museum of Gas and Local History

Often referred to as Fakenhams hidden gem, it is the only surviving town gasworks in England and Wales and is sited in the towns former gasworks, which ceased production of gas from the heating of coal in 1965 following the discovery of natural gas in the North Sea. The museum throws light on the local industrial heritage and has a range of displays of lighting, heating, cooking and domestic equipment. The museum is run by volunteers. For opening times see www.fakenhamgasmuseum.com

4 Central Cinema

Of the many prominent buildings in Fakenham town centre, the imposing Central Cinema (above) takes some beating and offers a service to rival the big town multiplexes. Built in 1855 as Fakenhams Corn Hall, it was also a library and magistrates court in its earlier life but was converted into a 700-seat cinema in 1930 and became known as the Central. When it shut in the mid 70s, it then became a bingo club but reopened in 2000 as the Hollywood and earlier this year was bought by Stevens Cinemas and recently reverted to its original name.

5 Market

Say the name Fakenham and most people immediately think of its markets, which date to 1250. People flock from miles around to enjoy the unique buzz created on a Thursday with the range of stalls in the main market. This is complemented by the bustling flea market and James Beck auction on the Cattlemarket Street car park. A farmers market is held on the fourth Saturday morning of the month and the town also has a good selection of independent shops, such as clothes stores Elizabeth Darby, Get Smart, Turnaround and Fuglis.

6 Pensthorpe

The wildlife haven just the Norwich side of Fakenham has attracted national fame having been the home to the BBC Springwatch series for the last two years. Pensthorpe has so much to boast about including the largest collection of cranes in the UK, 171 recorded breeds of birds, a habitat improvement programme which is helping species from red squirrels to water voles and two stunning gardens designed by Chelsea Flower Show winners. Theres also a very impressive new restaurant.

7 Tea rooms and cafs

Whether you have had a busy morning around the market or a brisk countryside walk, Fakenham has a good choice of pleasant eateries. Qs Bistro is just off the Market Place in Quaker Lane, while the Dancing Goat in nearby Oak Street, Coffeeholics just off Bridge Street and the Tudor Tea Rooms in Norwich Street, all provide a welcome break and good quality refreshments.

8 Kick Start Fakenham

If you visit Fakenham now you will see real signs of determination to breathe new life into the town. Out of a series of bad stories such as the closure of Woolworths and the Crown Hotel, a group of enthusiastic people got together to form the Kick Start Fakenham group. They have already had several community events and initiatives to make the town brighter and the positive feeling is growing.
right: Rachel Serenty, creator of the Kick Start Fakenham Facebook Group, which is now to become a legitimate organisation to revive the town's fortunes.

9 St Peter and St Paul Church

Churches are on the decline? Dont you believe it when it comes to Fakenham parish church. As well as a busy programme of services, the church has become a real hub at the centre of the community and opens regularly for refreshments, hosts events such as art exhibitions and concerts, and has become home to probably Norfolks biggest Christmas tree festival. Last year, 20,000 people visited and 21,000 was donated to charities. This years festival runs from December 3-10.

10 Fakenham Garden Centre

The family-run business is on the verge of its silver jubilee and has become something of a destination for many visitors to the town. It prides itself on being more than a garden centre and furniture, pets and aquatics are among the ranges it sells, as well as its core operation. The coffee shop is also a popular part of the complex and there is a special feeling in the run-up to Christmas with the centres huge, seasonal displays.

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