Norfolk is another shire of the Danelagh, and is nearly as flat as a table everywhere, except at the north corner of the Wash coast, where some chalk downs end in Hunstanton Cliffs. King's Lynn, at the mouth of the Great Ouse, is the port for this part of Norfolk.
Norfolk, like Lincoln, is a great farming county; indeed there is no English county in which the farmers are more skilful in the management of their land. One thing they are particular about is to have different crops growing in the same field in following years. Thus a field yellow with ripened corn one year might be sweet with bean blossom the next, and then be a potato or a turnip field. The reason for this is that all plants do not take the same kind of food out of the earth; what wheat will not touch, the potato will take and be thankful for. So the farmers arrange a round, or, as it is called, a rotation of crops, to follow one another in order. Sometimes a four-shift, sometimes a five-shift rotation is employed; that is, four or five different crops follow one another; and then the round begins again.
Our four kinds of corn—wheat, barley, oats, and rye—as well as beans and peas, potatoes, turnips, and carrots, are all grown in Norfolk. There are prettier crops too: fields of red clover; fields of the crocus flower, from which saffron is made; fields of the delicate blue flax flower; and other fields, gay with the bright blue, handsome flower of the chicory plant, the large roots of which are cut into squares and roasted, and then ground into chicory.
The very finest Christmas turkeys come from Norfolk, and geese just as good; while sheep and bullocks, pigs and horses, all get an excellent living in this rich shire.
Of the chief towns of the county, Wymondham and Attleborough, East Dereham, Aylesham, Diss, and Thetford, a town of fame in Saxon days, with several others, are market-towns.
Norwich is a pleasant city, built on a hill, a thing to be proud of in this shire. The city covers a good deal of ground, and there are openings planted with trees, from among which the towers of the churches rise; so that an old writer speaks of it as "Norwich (as you please), either a city in an orchard, or an orchard in a city." The keep of the ancient castle remains. The cathedral is a good specimen of Norman architecture.
The eastern counties have always been friendly to the people of the low-lying lands over the sea. These Flemings have been for centuries famous as skilful weavers, and the Conqueror brought over some of them, who settled in Norwich, to teach their art to his English subjects. Later, Edward III. invited parties of these same Flemish weavers to come to England, for the king thought it a pity that the fine wool of the English sheep, the finest anywhere, should be sent to Flanders to be made into cloth. Many of these remained in Norwich, and taught the citizens how to make cloth, and in later days crape. Still later, in Elizabeth's reign, more than 3000 of these same people came to seek a home in this city. They were Protestants, and were so persecuted by the Catholic king of Spain and the Netherlands that they had no rest in their own land. Norwich made room for them, and busy and useful inmates they proved, bringing with them this time a new manufacture, a stuff made of a mixture of silk and wool.
Norwich was at one time Norwich-by-the-Sea, and the spot where part of Yarmouth now stands was under the sea when the Conqueror came. The Yare, at the mouth of which Yarmouth, or Yare~mouth, is built, fell then into a broad estuary, another Wash perhaps, which reached inland as far as Norwich. By degrees, however, the sea and river between them formed a line of sandbanks across the mouth of this estuary. Though the river still made its way out, the tide could no longer get in; the waters were thus drained off, and what was at one time an arm of the sea is now covered with villages and busy farms.
This new land still lies very low, and the Yare widens out into a sort of lake, four miles across, before it reaches the sea. The Waveney and the Bure, which join the. Yare near Yarmouth, both flow through very-low land, and spread out into many pools.
Eastern Norfolk is full of these pools, or broads, as they are called in the county; pools often three yards deep, fringed with tall bulrushes. These pools are mostly in lonely spots, and are the haunts of water-hen and wild duck, heron and kingfisher; indeed the wild fowl and the fish have it pretty much to themselves. The rivers overflow in heavy rains, and leave the broads filled when they return to their banks.
Yarmouth is a busy, pleasant trading town, which has always had so much to do with foreign sailors that it is like a foreign town itself. It has many herring-houses, where the herrings caught off the coast are cured and made into "Yarmouth bloaters." The grand church of St. Nicholas here is the largest parish church in England.
If the sea has been turned out on the east side, it is making steady advances into Norfolk on the north. At the village of Sherringham, near Cromer, it has gained as much as fifty feet in five years; the sea has gradually undermined the cliffs, and now ships may anchor where villages once stood. Cromer is a charming watering-place, where the sun may be seen to rise and set in the sea. Admiral Lord Nelson was a native of Norfolk.