An insider's guide to the county's best kept secrets
Alby Crafts & Gardens
Tel: 01263 768663
Four acres of beautifully tended compact gardens providing a haven of tranquillity and calm, plus classy tearoom and craft studios for an enjoyable afternoon out.
Where to find it
Alby crafts isn’t the easiest of places to discover, tucked away in a tiny village on the A148 towards Cromer but satnav it and you’ll arrive through beautiful winding country lanes. The type where the trees either side meet in the middle forming an arch of sunlit leaves. The drive puts you in a good mind-set for what’s to come - peaceful gardens and a time for relaxation.
What to expect
Alby craft studios have been established for over 30 years and have been home to around 50 resident craft people over that period; the object of the owners, John and Valerie Alston, was to allow artists the opportunity to be self-employed. The studios host several talents including woodturning of unique pieces by Keverne Dewick who also runs classes. For me though, the barns are far overshadowed by the gardens themselves which are what makes this place special. Along with a stylish tearoom complete with chandeliers, it’s a perfect destination for a lazy afternoon out.
A time for contemplation
One of the reasons I fell in love with the four and a half acres of island beds and borders here is because it’s compact, accessible and concentrated. It offers a refreshing alternative to the expansive gardens resident at stately homes and larger venues where lengthy walking is required to see the main features. Here, the second you enter you’re surrounded by interesting sights: four ponds, wild meadow areas, a small wood, a stream, expanses of grass, profusions of colour, winding trails and secret corners. It’s enchanting, magical and overwhelmingly peaceful.
To say it has a good energy makes me sound slightly hippy-ish, but I felt calm and renewed in its environment. There are benches strategically placed to capture sunny picturesque views and a fallen poplar (a casualty of the 1987 hurricane) whose branches now grow straight up forming an unusual hedge. A crocodile carved from an old tree trunk greets you as you wander past a Monet bridged pond. Paint or sketch and you’ll be in your element here. In the hustle and bustle of the fast past of life most of us now live in, finding havens of tranquillity like these gardens are a welcome delight. Take a while to unwind and feel the sun on your face. A couple hours of nature and some time out really will benefit beyond you expectations and at just £2.50 for entry it’s cheaper than a massage with fresh air and real bird song thrown in.
Alby Craft studios are free to browse; entry to the gardens is £2.50. They are open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm and Mondays during August only. Coach parties are welcome by arrangements.