Some of best discoveries can be found in the city you thought you knew.
After seeing photos on my Facebook news feed of friends eating cake and drinking tea amongst exotic plants and trees I was becoming envious, I figured they must be on holiday in some tropical paradise. But oh no, after closer inspection of the Facebook posts I realise these photos were taken in Norwich. Sunny Norwich! (On the day I visited anyway).
Urban Jungle, this fascinating place was called. Deciding we must check this tropical garden centre out, myself and friends met there on a recent sunny Saturday.
Hidden away on a winding road in Costessey, I never knew this place existed.
To reach the carpark I had to drive through the entire length of Urban Jungle. It was a fairly narrow unmade track, but not too bumpy, that led straight through the garden centre. It gave a nice preview of what to expect as you passed plants, trees and pots. I also felt like I was ‘in’ somewhere. Amongst everything, right from the start. Not parked in an organised, regimental, white lined carpark in front of a sparkling entrance. This carpark was amongst the trees with no order to where you parked at all. (Which did niggle at the ‘must follow rules’ part of me slightly I must admit!)
Once parked and out of my van I did notice that there was a blue badge parking space part way down the track. It was clearly signed, I’m just unobservant! The main carpark is just as central really, and both were on unmade surfaces. I think I would feel a bit in the way using the blue badge space as it was just slightly off the unmade central track. However I could see that this space might be handy if you were purchasing some heavy plants that needed loading up.
Exploring the wilderness on wheel (or foot for some) took careful navigation. I was nervous of squashing some of the plants, as in some areas they are quite close and overhang the path. This is all part of the jungle feel though, and I wouldn’t change it. It added to the experience. If anything delicate was in my path I just got a friend to carefully move it or hold back the leaves as I drove by.
As you can see sometimes my ‘friends’ enjoyed taking the odd photo before assisting me through the foliage!
We decided to grab some lunch from Urban Jungle’s ‘Cafe Jungle’. Hidden amongst the plants there was a cafe where you could order food and drink (all gluten free), and then spread around in various areas between the trees throughout the place were tables chairs and comfy sofas to enjoy your refreshments waited to your table.
I couldn’t get to the cafe it’s self to browse and make my order as there were steps. So a friend used her handy ‘smart’ phone and took photos for me to see what was on offer on the counter and blackboards. I was also limited as to where I could sit because some areas were over a bridge with a step. There were still enough empty tables for us to choose from though. We picked a table just by the fish pond, which was nice and relaxing, surrounded by trees.
Whilst manoeuvring into position at our chosen table I did get stuck in the shingle, after a few wheel spins and a shove from my friends I managed to escape and park at the table, hoping my chair wouldn’t sink too deep while we were eating!
I ordered a strawberry and banana smoothie and sausage roll.
The smoothie arrived nicely chilled but not overly strawberry. In my opinion the food was slightly expensive for what you got. ( I’m a very small eater). I understand gluten free baking can be more costly, but I’m not quite sure why everything was gluten free. It’s brilliant to have options don’t get me wrong, but I wasn’t overly keep on the pastry. My sausage roll came with a very small leafy salad and minuscule amount of chutney.
Saying all this, the cakes looked amazing. I shall definitely be going back for another wander and next time, tea and cake!
Photo credits: Hannah Goodson, Becky Franklin, myself.