Our Summer Outing this year was to the Norfolk Lavender Farm at Heacham, near Hunstanton. Our coach full of members and guests left Capel at 8.30am on a warm, sunny day, and drove us along roads and lanes lined with embankments of cornflowers, poppies and ox-eye daisies, stopping at Sheringham Park for a coffee break. Here, several people went on a short stroll to see the Rhododendrons and Azaleas for which the Park is famous, and some even climbed one of the viewing platforms to see a bird’s eye view of the Park and the coastline.
After coffee we headed for Heacham and the Norfolk Lavender visitors’ centre and shop. Some of us dined in the restaurant while others sat in the various picnic areas in the gardens and ate our packed lunches. The lavender growing in the gardens around us was just coming into bloom in various shades from pale mauve to dark purple, and we were told later by our guide that there are several particular varieties bred and grown only by Norfolk Lavender.
Norfolk Lavender was founded by a man named Linn Chilvers, who originally ran a nursery garden and florist’s business in Heacham. Although he had always dreamed of growing lavender on a large scale, most of the local farmers rubbished the idea and it looked like his vision would never come to fruition. Then Linn met Francis ‘Ginger’ Dusgate of Fring Hall who thought Linns’ plan worthy of trial. In 1932 the two men went into partnership to grow and distil lavender.
The great venture started with Ginger providing 6 acres of land and Linn supplying the 13,000 plants required. The planting was done by three men and a boy in eighteen days for a total cost of £15.00. So began the long tradition of Norfolk Lavender.
Linn Chilvers’ lavenders produced oil of excellent quality and yield. In 1936 the partnership bought 2 stills which had been made in 1874, and which proved an excellent investment, being used right up until 2009.
The lavender oil the plants produce is used to make the world-renowned Norfolk Lavender products, whilst many respected herbalists, doctors and aromatherapists use Norfolk Lavender in their professions.
After lunch our guide, Lynn Sharron, boarded our coach and took us on a tour of the local villages which had a lavender connection. She told us the history of lavender production in Norfolk and pointed out items of interest in the area, including a number of buildings constructed from the local Carr Stone which comes from the famous striped cliffs on the coast at Hunstanton. She also recounted a few amusing anecdotes about some of the people involved. It was a fascinating tour.
Our day was not yet over, however. We then set off to Hunstanton where we spent an enjoyable hour walking, sitting, shopping, eating ice creams and people-watching, before descending en masse to a cosy fish and chip restaurant, Coasters, where we were expected for our evening meal.
We left Hunstanton at 6.00pm after a very full and enjoyable day!