Rural, Peaceful & Character-filled; Norfolk is that perfect pearl you’ve been looking for.
I speak from experience. As a tween I spent just under two years in Norfolk. My parents were volunteering in a Christian Retreat called Letton Hall & my brother Matt + I had joined them.
These were formative years for me and so 15 years later I was eager to bring Jenny back and introduce her to the old stomping ground & my long-lost friends and family. I also wanted to piece back together the patches of memory that I had.
Now these weren’t initially easy times for me; taking a child from his/her habitat – their school, their friends, their toys their trampoline can be a big deal. The kind of deal that can make or break a kid. (It is my opinion that moving with a child abroad will either helpfully force a child to become adaptable and outgoing or trap them in a reclusive cycle.) Such is the importance of making friends and belonging to a child. So I was initially very hesitant to go as a child thinking how would I make new friends? How would I entertain myself? Would I get my own room?
But looking back, boy am I glad that I went! Letton Hall is an old manor house built before Captain Cook landed in New Zealand (so predating New Zealand’s western history). Located on a 10 acre plot, packed with some woods, a manor house, a converted stables, numerous fields, secret rooms, a shed filled with bikes & a go-cart track. Letton Hall proved to be a tween child’s dream. It was a place of fantasy & adventure & as it turned out, friends. Located on site were two other families, the Carrolls and the Roothams who both had children around my age; Ben & Matthew. Additionally through various camps and volunteer families I met countless more including James & Phil.
So 14 years on I was eager to reconnect, though nervous because a lot has changed in that time. Again I had nothing to fear. Reconnecting with everyone was so amazing! John & Margaret our hosts (and family friends) were so generous and graciously organized a get together at Letton with all of our old friends!
We BBQ’d in the walled the garden, reminisced on old times, caught up on new times and had an explore for old times sake! During the BBQ Ben reminded me of a few favourite memories such as;
-Pretending we were underwater scientists leaving out underwater submarine laboratory seeking to dissect & study underwater plant-matter,
-Building forts out of hay bails
-Stunt bike riding around the go cart track
-Toy soldier avalanche rescue
-Collecting Action Men
–Night time wide games
-Endless games of pool (& our made up version Loop)
-Memorising all the words to the Gorillaz & Simpsons CDs
–That time that Matthew completely whipped me at Go-Carting & I lived in denial as I couldn’t handle being bet by someone younger haha.
-Dressing up as superheroes (complete with my love heart boxers) and selling pictures of ourselves for money to friends and family.
Additionally there were some unfortunate events such as playing hide and seek in the woods with Matthew accidentally crouching over a wasp nest eek! Sorry Matthew.
Other than the wasp nest they were all memories that warm the heart. Such a perfect evening, well pleased! It felt like going home.
Which in a way it was…
Now firstly you need to know that Letton is located in little town called Shipdham, which is very very small. There are thousands of little towns like this across the UK, maybe even 10s of thousands. So it was actually quite by chance that we ended up in this town for the significant period of time that we did. Now here is the crazy part; many years later Mum & Dad headed back to the UK for a visit. While they were there they decided to dig a little deeper into our family tree… Amazingly it turns out that some of our ancestors originated in Shipdham! They were paupers and headed to London to make a name for themselves before eventually boarding a ship for NZ. Crazy hey?
We really were heading home!
Now it goes without saying that if you are in the UK and looking to coordinate a camp or retreat for a group then most definitely consider Letton. Its gorgeous, its mysterious, its fun. Letton hosts both faith based & secular groups so if Christianity isn’t your thing that’s ok. You can find Letton Hall’s website here.
Alternatively Letton hall, which is run on volunteering steam, is always looking for volunteers – especially if you’re in the building maintenance or hospitality trade. Its not easy but rewarding. From our time volunteering @Letton we extended our friend & family network abroad. Many of our Letton friends came to visit us in NZ over the subsequent years which was amazing. So if you’re looking to take a sabbatical like us make sure you make contact with them; it might just be what Letton and you are looking for!