North Norfolk is one of the prettiest and quirkiest places in Britain. I am a little biased naturally. But according to the Met Office, it is also officially the sunniest, driest and warmest spots in the UK. Just one example of the county’s retro beauty was apparent last weekend, when we spent two days and a night at a former RAF Control Tower in Walsingham, North Norfolk.
The Control Tower was built to command all the North Creake Airfield take-offs and landings during WWII and post-war it became offices, a workers’ mess room and flats, before becoming a home for the past 20 years.
Today it’s a 1930s-inspired, vegetarian bed and breakfast, run by a warm and fascinating couple Claire and Nigel, who made our vintage-inspired stay unforgetable.
Ever since I was little, I’ve been mesmorised by this evocative era, which has no doubt been triggered by many animated stories from my Dad, a wartime baby. So last summer when I discovered that this newly-opened art deco gem was located in my home county of Norfolk, well, I was pretty excited to say the least.
The Control Tower is situated in the bustling agricultural hamlet of Egmere near Walsingham, just 3 miles south of Wells-next-the-Sea, and many other beautiful spots on the North Norfolk coast. Walsingham is famed for its religious shrines in honour of the Virgin Mary and as a major pilgrimage centre. It’s also home to the Chocolate Deli (blog post coming soon).
Last Saturday morning as we rolled up the driveway, my other half spotted something rather special: We were greeted by a baby barn owl who was calmly perched on one of the outdoor bunkers in the garden. As it took flight over our heads, it felt like a good omen to mark the beginning of our weekend.
Above: the exterior has been returned to its iconic landmark modernist look.
After two years of extensive renovation, avid collecting of period furnishings and sourcing of reclaimed fittings, the restoration at The Control Tower is now complete. Well, almost. Although the main building and surroundings have been renovated to a superb standard, the couple are currently embarking on a new exciting Crowd Funding Project, which will see the extension of one of their outbuildings into child and pet-friendly accommodation.
[For more about how you can support this pretty awesome project whilst reaping some pretty amazing benefits, please see end of this post. The deadline is coming up – so please do check this out soon.]
The fixtures and fittings have been artfully chosen; we felt entirely enveloped in the era. So much so, when I went to plug in my phone charger (just for a nano second) I hesitated, did I need an adapter? We were in the 1940s all of a sudden. For those of you who remember Good Night Sweetheart, I kept imagining the character Nicholas Lindhurst played, to walk through the door at any given moment.
We stayed in The Signal Room: Large double room with en suite art deco bathroom and art deco bedroom suite including a large dressing table £120 per night. There are also two other beautifully appointed rooms to chose from.
Every room contains:
- Period furniture and beds
- Crisp fresh cotton linen, fluffy towels, natural duvets and pillows
- High quality John Lewis mattresses
- Digital radios
- Organic tea, locally roasted coffee & fresh milk
- Locally baked biscuits
- Fresh wild flowers
- Local natural toiletries made in Wells-next-the-Sea
- Hair dryers and shower caps
- Art Deco en suites with all the hot water you need
- Selected art (some for sale)
- Lots of information about things to do and see locally
- Housekeeping daily in the rooms
I loved our en-suite mint green bathroom – a complete, original, 1930s suite, in pristine condition – reclaimed from a house in Burnley:
After showing us our splendid room, Claire and Nigel invited us down to the communal lounge for some tea and ginger cake by the fire:
We nestled down for half an hour with some vintage magazines:
Our stay was perfectly timed with one of The Control Tower’s pop-up supper clubs, which are generally held once a month during the winter months. Vintage dining at its best. We invited a couple of chums from Norwich to join us and along with two other lovely guests staying that evening, the six of us enjoyed a really relaxed evening in this cosy fireside vintage room:
For £30 per head the Pop-Up Supper Club menu included:
The two bruchettas: Tomato and basil and also goat’s cheese and caramelised onion, were served with a welcome drink of homemade vintage lemonade – there was also free corkage – all served in The Control Tower’s beautiful retro kitchen:
Sadly, my poorly-lit photography doesn’t do the meal justice, but please take my word for it, this was a vegetarian feast: The piperade of roasted red peppers and onion on crusty bread was a crunchy, spicy-sweet and tangy mix; the homemade Spanish omelette was creamy, hearty and moorish, especially when mixed with the moist marinated artichokes. The vegetarian filo pastry pie had a delicious and generous filling of spinach and feta, the potato wedges with aioli were from another planet – wow – and the roasted vegetables made a sort of warm, rich and chunky chutney to complement the pie. The trio of rhubarb desserts were incredible. Fresh rhubarb with the perfect balance of sugar – the creamy rhubarb fool was a highlight. We ended the meal with award-winning sea salted caramel truffles from the nearby Chocolate Deli.
We slept like champions that night, cuddled up in our vintage-inspired room, drifting off to the sound of old classics from our bedside digital radio.
The next morning, breakfast was a traditional 1930s offering, without the meat – probably very authentic of the time, considering the availability of meat during war times – and music to our ears being from a vegetarian household.
The local free-range eggs were cooked to perfection and the wartime inspired potato and cheese fritters were incredible!
Here’s a sample of just some of the wonderful local suppliers The Control Tower use:
Whin Hill Apple Juice http://www.whinhillcider.co.uk/index.html
Walsingham Farm Shops – mushrooms, fruit, veg & biscuits http://walsinghamfarmsshop.co.uk/
Bread Source – bread (Fakenham Thursday market) http://www.bread-source.com/about-us.html
Mrs Temple’s cheese (cheese and potato cakes) http://www.holkham.co.uk/html/ourtenants_mrstemple.html
Country market stall – jams & marmalades (Fakenham Thursdays)
They also use local soap – Natural Soap Company in Wells-next-the-Sea http://www.naturalsoap.co.uk/
We want to say a big heartfelt thank you to Clare and Nigel for having us. We really enjoyed our vintage vacation with you and our chats the next day about vintage bicycles and cars.
P.S. Want to stay at The Control Tower?
The Control Tower is a remarkable place. If you’d like to stay here for a fraction of the cost whilst taking part in a Crowd Funding Project then you might want to read on.
The Control Tower is currently trying to raise £15,400. The aim is to renovate an outbuilding that already has planning permission, into luxury Bed & Breakfast accommodation. The new ‘Stirling Suite’ (named after the Short Stirling MKIII – one of the bomber types that flew from the second world war airfield for which this was the tower) will be a double room with original art deco en suite bathroom and have a sitting/breakfast area furnished with period furniture as well.
It is also an opportunity for those with pets or young children who have not yet been able to stay the chance to make it possible.
For example, there are a range of possible pledges from £25 – £925. Each of the rewards gives a much greater value offer than the amount pledged and something you couldn’t buy “off the shelf”. For a £100 pledge, you will receive a 2-night stay in the Stirling Suite for up to two people. End date is 21 March 2015 so don’t hang around!
To watch a cool video about the project and for more go to: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-control-tower-needs-you
The Control Tower – Vegetarian B&B with a generous helping of history
Bunkers Hill, Egmere, Walsingham, Norfolk NR22 6AZ
P.P.S These guys also hire out stunning classic cars for weddings. Check out these little beauties!
Contacts for Wedding Wheels-next-the-Sea
Facebook: Wedding Wheels-next-the-Sea