Living in Norwich: Norwich's Golden Triangle
For anyone who is considering moving to Norwich - the historical capital of Norfolk - then it can be difficult to know exactly where to begin searching for a home. Like all cities, Norwich has good areas and areas that are less desirable. However, while there are several areas in Norwich that are pleasant, attractive and fairly trouble-free, in my mind there is only one overall winner - the unofficially named Golden Triangle.
I have spent fourteen and a half years residing in this stunning city, and for all but six months I have lived blissfully in the Golden Triangle. I absolutely love this area, and have never found another part of Norwich where I would rather be. Often, as I walk about the neighbourhood streets, I think about how happy I am to live here. Recently I have found myself faced with a dilemma - stay in the Triangle where house prices are higher and you don't get as much for your money, or move elsewhere and get a better deal. But that's another story.
Even if I did move out of the Golden Triangle, I would not want to move more than a few streets away. As a friend once said to me, you have to like where you are when you open your front door. I whole-heartedly agree - after all, it's not all about bricks and mortar. The local community and the immediate surroundings make the world of difference when moving into a new home or area - it's not called Location, Location, Location for nothing.
Where is Norwich's Golden Triangle Anyway?
The boundaries of the Golden Triangle have expanded over the decades. Traditionally, the Triangle was probably the area between Ipswich Road and Newmarket Road, which does indeed form the shape of a triangle. Huge homes can be found in this region, particularly along the prestigious Newmarket Road and Lime Tree Road. Now, the Golden Triangle is generally understood to encompass the area between Newmarket Road, Colman Road and Earlham Road, with everything in-between. The streets between Earlham Road and Dereham Road are also included, especially in estate agent's descriptions.
The beating heart of the Triangle is often referred to as Unthank Road - a vibrant hub of residental properties, pubs, cafes and shops. On more than one occasion, the Triangle has been referred to as 'a village within a city'. It's a worthy statement, for there are so many facilities at hand that one could easily get by without leaving the area for quite some time.
My favourite parts of the Golden Triangle are definitely the areas around the city end of Unthank Road and Earlham Road, with most streets in-between. If you head too far away from here (such as the other side of the city ring road, for instance), then it makes walking into the city centre much less convenient and you lose a lot of the atmosphere.
A Friendly Community
Once, the Golden Triangle was about wealth and status, but it isn't anymore. For me, the area contains a really great vibe: there is a wonderful mix of interesting and friendly people and this part of Norwich contains a very high percentage of Green Party supporters, depicting a constituency that cares about the environment and is fairly liberal in its thinking. It is not particularly culturally diverse (Norwich in general is not known for this although it is slowly becoming more so) but houses a lot of university students who tend to live around this area; well-educated professionals and their families, young couples and a sprinkling of people with a rather 'bohemian' outlook on life. In fact, when I was a bar assistant in a local pub I was talking to a parent who had children at the school my son was about to begin at. He said he thought I'd love the school, and that the parents were a bunch of "middle class, claret drinking; guardian reading, hippies". Of course, that's a bit of a stereotypical assumption and not entirely true (plus, it was a joke) - but it does still kind of paint the picture.
Types of Houses and Budget
The large, elegant period properties award the area with architectural appeal; however, you can purchase or rent a home within all budgets. Walk-in terraces, hall entrance terraces, detached properties, flats and (perhaps in less abundance) semi's can all be found. While it is true that a property in the Golden Triangle may cost you around 20% more than in other parts of the city, you can still (as of late 2011) pick up a simple walk-in terrace in good condition for around £150,000. It will cost you less in other parts of the city, but it is definitely worth the extra for the great location if your budget can stretch. The Golden Triangle has properties like these in abundance, so there are usually plenty to choose from. They also vary a lot, from layout to garden size, to the existence of original features, so it is certainly worth viewing several. Flats can cost less, especially if you require fewer bedrooms - there are some great apartments to be found within converted period properties. At the other end of the scale, there are some beautiful detached properties available - on Earlham Road, Park Lane or Mill Hill, all conveniently situated for the city centre, these would cost you around £500,000, but you could buy a mansion on Newmarket Road for more than £1000,000. Less expensive detached houses can be found on Christchurch Road, Recreation Road and The Avenues, to name a few. A hall-entrance terrace will usually cost upwards of £200,000, depending on the condition and the road it is located on.
Good Schools With Excellent Ofsted
For anyone with children, then good schools are usually fairly high up on the agenda when it comes to moving. There are several good schools in the Golden Triangle area - Recreation Road Infant School is currently the most over-subscribed infant school in the whole of Norfolk. It is hard to beat and hard to get into. As a past parent of this school, I can verify that it is certainly worth the effort trying to get your child a place - children receive a wonderful start to their education, but just as important is the happy, nurturing atmosphere. If you live in the rather small catchment area, then it is fairly certain that you will be successful; however, living very much outside the catchment (even a single street away) can make this increasingly unlikely except through appeal, and even then there is no guarantee.
The draw of Recreation Road Infant School is undoubtedly its outstanding Ofsted report. However, its vast grounds with the field and adventure playground are also a draw - many parents hang out near the playground after school, chatting whilst their children play (apparently in no great hurry to get away). My son has moved up to another school, but I remember really happy afternoons, sitting on the grass in the sun chatting while all the children ran about, climbed and had fun. I always found it really easy to make friends with the other parents. Also, for those who work and require after school care, the Sunflower After School Club is superb - my son used to go every Wednesday. I always remember that if I turned up early he would tell me to go away and come back at the end.
Aside from its pleasant atmosphere, the Golden Triangle boasts an extremely convenient location. At one end, it is almost attached to the city centre itself. Other streets are further away, but if you live anywhere around the city ends of the Unthank/Earlham Road area, or even anywhere inside the ring road, you should be able to walk into the centre in reasonable time. This is ideal if you work in the city, since the roads do get busy during rush hour. I can walk into the city in around fifteen minutes at a steady pace, but there is also a frequent bus service.
Not only is the walk into the city centre short and pleasant, there are many amenities already on your doorstep. I love the Green Grocer organic supermarket, in the Earlham House Shopping Centre - it is a very successful business which stocks everything from organic fruit and veg to eco-friendly nappies. Not only that, but it has a great cafe inside, with a variety of coffees, organic, homemade cakes or full lunches.
Other businesses in the area include Purple an organic/natural, fairtrade children's and adult's clothing store; the reknowned Stafford Street Chip Shop; the Grapevine, where you can paint your own designs on ceramic; the very friendly local car garage on Belvoir Street, several hairdressers and many more.
The Best Parks
When I am older and the kids have grown up, I know without a doubt that I will be left with nostalgic memories of many-a-day spent at the local parks. Although is it not actually located within the Golden Triangle, but just outside the fringes, Eaton Park is a splendid outdoors area popular with everyone, from families to dogwalkers to teens playing sport. Not only that, but it has an excellent model boating lake laid out before a historical 1920s pavilion, now used by the Norwich Model Boating Club. In the summer, buying an icecream from the cafe at the north east quandrant pavilion (a grade II listed building) is a popular activity, especially for those with children. There are also football goals, tennis courts (for which there is a charge), and a skatepark tucked away in the farthest corner.
One of the most unusual attractions is the miniature steam and electric railway which operates every Sunday from 2pm in the spring and summer. The railtrack has been extended and you can pay to have a ride during times of operation. The trains are lovely - there are around four altogether, all run by volunteer enthusiasts from the Norwich and District Society of Model Engineers. We always wait for the steam train to come around - not that the electric ones aren't equally as attractive, but somehow the steam makes it more exciting. In fact, the miniature railway has been in operation since the 1960s, and there is little doubt that it is still as popular today.
Heigham Park is much smaller, but loved just as much, especially (but not only) by families with younger children. Here, children love the many bushes and trees that can be hidden in and climbed - a couple of the small trees have very low-lying branches, which means they can climb right to the top. In the summer, students and young couples like relaxing in the sun, families stay for hours with a picnic and the whole atmosphere is one of simple, happy, fun.
If you live in the Golden Triangle, then there are plenty of places to go out at night without heading into the centre of Norwich. In fact, I actually prefer the pubs on my own doorstep - there are many to choose from. If you like clubbing, then you will have to go further afield, but if you are just looking for a refined drink with friends, then the Golden Triangle blesses you with plenty of choice.
One of my favourite places to enjoy a drink with friends is the Workshop, on Earlham Road. Only a few years old, it is a quirky cafe-bar with a chilled-out, intimate feeling. On busy evenings, you have to get there early if you want a table - there is no standing room. Other good pubs around the popular, leafy Earlham Road include The Earlham Arms (formerly the Pickwick Public House - I spent eight fun years of my life serving the local community here); the Alexandra Tavern (a very traditional 'real' pub with local ales) the Bellevue and the Garden House. Nearer Unthank Road you can find the Mad Moose (hidden away in a residential setting); the Unthank Arms; the Mulberry and the Eaton Cottage.
As I have already said, for me the Golden Triangle is unquestionably the best place to live in Norwich. Location does matter, since we all want to be somewhere we love once we step outside our front doors. I have been here for fourteen years, and I have grown to love this area of Norwich more and more - in fact, it has grown with me as I have matured and started a family. Probably more than anything, I have found it to be a friendly and happy place, convenient for everything, with a feeling of safety. I'm not in any hurry to leave.