The houses are made of gingerbread and the clock tower is straight out of Trumpton
What’s going for it? “As Kate and Wills settle into their new Norfolk home,” a recent email informed me, “all eyes are on north-west Norfolk, a hidden gem.” I have seen such PR bluster before. Any excuse. If all eyes were on this soporific corner of Norfolk, I very much doubt they would be gawping at the property market in Downham, let alone the bearer of the third in line to the throne. No matter. North-west Norfolk is a hidden gem, albeit more amethyst than diamond. Though used to royalty, with Sandringham at its bosom, it has yet to feel the touch of the UpFromLondoners. The soggy Fens dampen property prices and keep pretty little Downham – with its Trumpton-y clock tower, smashing butcher and market, and its so-called “gingerbread” cottages (made of a cakey sandstone) – affordable. The Downham Fryer is very much looking forward to welcoming Kate in the queue after pub closing. Battered saveloy recommended.
The case against Like Ely, without the cathedral: it has hustle, but needs more bustle, like many market towns not in the “right” places. The often bleak Fenlands – England’s prairies – are not everyone’s cuppa. It suffers from ballooning commuter estates on its outskirts.
Well connected? Yes. Rail: to Cambridge in 35 minutes, to Ely in 18 and to London in 90, on a good train. Drive to Norwich in just over an hour (by rail it’s a nightmare), to the seaside at Hunstanton in 45 minutes and to the A1(M) in an hour.
Schools Primaries: Hillcrest, Denver and, just outside town, Wimbotsham and Stow are all “good”, says Ofsted. Secondaries: Downham Market High is in special measures, but making “reasonable” progress.
Hang out at… One’s cup does not overrunneth. The Railway Arms, “as visited by Michael Portillo”, is heavily blessed by the Campaign for Real Ale.
Where to buy The old centre has town houses and cottages in gingerbread sandstone: Victorian and 18th-century homes cramped along the High Street, Bridge Street and Railway/Paradise Roads down to the river. Suburbans: the quarter of town bounded by London and Bexwell Roads is nicest; up the hill, Bexwell Road has some lovely, affordable and sizable period properties.
Market values Large detacheds, £300,000-£550,000. Detacheds, £150,000-£300,000. Semis, £120,000-£220,000. Terraces, £100,000-£175,000.
Bargain of the week A pretty, if small, two-bedroom Victorian terrace, right in the centre: £95,000 with William H Brown.
From the streets
Victoria Fonzo “Wonderful community spirit and annual traditions: St Winnold’s Day horse fair, the Water Festival, the St George’s Day celebrations.”
Pam Laing “Lacks the tourist charm of its illustrious cousin, Burnham Market. But visit Freddies deli: I have not tasted olives so good before or since.”
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