Celebrities' favourite Norfolk spots

If you had to choose your most cherished place in the English countryside, where would you pick? Perhaps you would choose somewhere sparked by a childhood memory, a holiday or would it be somewhere right in your own back yard?By reading through the choices made by the 97 contributors who have each written a short essay for the new Icons of England book about their favourite countryside places and people, it is clear that it does not have to be a celebrated landmark to become a special place in our hearts.

If you had to choose your most cherished place in the English countryside, where would you pick? Perhaps you would choose somewhere sparked by a childhood memory, a holiday or would it be somewhere right in your own back yard?

By reading through the choices made by the 97 contributors who have each written a short essay for the new Icons of England book about their favourite countryside places and people, it is clear that it does not have to be a celebrated landmark to become a special place in our hearts.

The author, columnist, journalist and publisher Terence Blacker has chosen to write about a narrow lane in south Norfolk.

Mr Blacker, who was born in Suffolk, pinpoints Lonely Road in Dickleburgh, near Diss, describing its “ordinary beauty as something we have taken for granted down the years”.

However, this ordinariness is under threat, he writes, thanks to plans to place three 130m wind turbines on the fields.

Unspoilt and ordinary places matter and are becoming increasingly rare, he argues, however “unexceptional” they may seem to the outsider.

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A state of impermanence is also portrayed by Nicholas Crane, the explorer, writer and cartographer who wrote and presented the BBC programmes Coast and Great British Journeys.

He grew up in Norfolk where he developed his enthusiasm for exploration, particularly on the Broads, whether canoeing on the Bure, capsizing the dinghy on Hickling Broad or rowing on Whitlingham marsh.

“This wetland moves me way beyond the reckonings of an amphibious boyhood,” he writes. “Every time I haul the mainsail I know that the wind will carry our boat into a place where water and land are in a state of precarious balance.” He fears the area cannot keep pace with the rising waters and that 25 square miles of Norfolk could be lost to the sea within a century.

For this reason, he stresses, it is important not to take anything for granted but to appreciate the here and now such as “the sound of a lonely bittern and faraway church playing a wetland duet across the starlit flats”.

Novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard's iconic location is far smaller but, to her, it is just as significant.

She was born in London but now lives in Bungay and describes how 12 years ago she was able to buy the only island on the river Waveney, which bordered her land.

“It was no tropical paradise - but it was my paradise,” she writes.

But years of work have turned this wilderness into a vibrant habitat thanks to an intensive replanting programme. Now the island is not just a haven for wildlife but has become a magic place for the author.

General Sir Richard Dannatt is also passionate about conservation, no more so than on the area of land known to most people as the “battle area”.

Stanford Training Area, north of Thetford, is not just a training ground for around 100,000 soldiers every year but three quarters is now designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

He explains the work that the military has done to restore much of the heathland and improve the wildlife habitats, many species thriving on the heath where they have struggled elsewhere.

Chat show queen Trisha Goddard does not specify a particular location in her writing, but while she talks about her love affair with woods it is clear that some of her inspiration would have come from woodland near her Norwich home.

“In the woods I am still that little girl,” she writes.

As Bill Bryson ponders in his preface, “national icons really are the things that set countries apart and yet they are almost always taken completely for granted, which means they often aren't missed until they are gone for good”.

So it is fitting that royalties from the book go to the Campaign to Protect Rural England which strives to make sure these and other iconic features are not lost forever.

Icons of England is published by Transworld and retails at �7.99.