It’s been named as one of the most “up and coming” places in the country. NOAH VICKERS went to Brooke to find out the secret of its success

For locals, Brooke's charms are obvious. Its pretty meres, medieval church and sleepy cottages are a delight, and just 15 minutes' drive from the heart of Norwich.

Now, a spotlight has been shone on it for everyone to see, after a national newspaper named it as one of two ‘up and coming’ locations in the county - the other being Aldborough, in north Norfolk.

The list, produced by the Sunday Times and covering all of Britain, nominated places in each region which “have all the right ingredients to be something bigger and better than the sum of their parts, and are set to change”.

The paper called Brooke “a great little village”, and noted its cricket club among its best features.

John Friswell, greenkeeper at Brooke’s bowls club, agreed that the village was blessed with a range of sports facilities.

Mr Friswell moved into the village in 1981 with his wife and young daughter and said his family “were made really welcome” by the friendly locals.

The 74-year-old also praised Brooke’s beauty, but said the lack of a shop and medical facilities, along with the sometimes unreliable bus service, had helped push him and his wife to the neighbouring village of Poringland, which is developing at a much faster rate than Brooke.

“The bus service now is not as good as it used to be,” he said.

“A lot of people, the younger generation, have got their cars… [but] you’ve got quite a few old people who rely on the bus. Sometimes they turn up and sometimes they don’t.”

At the village’s White Lion pub, landlady Kathryn Wick, 63, said: “It’s close to the city but it’s still quiet and nobody knows [about it], and when the meres are full it looks beautiful.”

Ms Wick, who’s lived in the village since 2006, added: “The post office has gone, which is a shame.

“We’ve lost some amenities but then again, we’ve got the butchers, the hairdressers, a little cafe which seems to do quite well.

“The kids can’t afford to buy houses here basically, so what you’re getting is the old, retired people and people coming from London, selling their London house and buying here, because house prices are expensive.

“But it's nice, it’s a lovely village. Most people know most people, you always say hello. There’s just not as many kids as there used to be.”

One of the pub’s patrons, Roland Bridge, 67, agreed that the village had become more upmarket over the years: “They’ve built new, huge houses on the main road - which the people who live here can’t afford, that’s for sure.

“It’s nice and convenient - you’ve got Bungay one way and Poringland the other way."

He added that development in Poringland had “spoiled it beyond belief”, and left it “overcrowded”, with services under strain - a fate he said he was glad Brooke had so far avoided.

“I love it just the way it is, but if they’re not careful, they’ll spoil it like they have up the road.”

Another patron said the village had been known as 'up and coming' “forever”.

John Fuller, the Conservative leader of South Norfolk Council, has lived in the area for more than 30 years and serves as its ward member.

"It's on the right side of the city, the bypass, convenient to get into," he said.

"There's two pubs, a garage, no end of sports facilities, a local school.

"It's got everything that anyone could reasonably aspire to, a cricket club, even squash courts to be refurbished.

"It's the village that's got the lot really, and a huge amount of history - like the very first harvest festival was held in Brooke."

Asked how the place has changed over the years, Mr Fuller said: "It's disappointing that the bus has become more infrequent, but that's just part of the times.

"The school went through a rough patch a few years ago, but it's bounced right back now.

"What probably has changed, and it's the same in many villages, is that 20 years ago there was a very active group of people in their 50s and 60s who are now sort of falling away - the village stalwarts.

"There doesn't appear to be a new generation of village stalwarts coming through - I don't think that's unique to Brooke."

He added that the post office's closure had been "a real blow" but the village had done well to keep the number of services it still had.

"Often, you get villages that are hollowed out, but there's a wide variety of employment opportunities - not everybody has to go to Norwich to find work," he said.

And asked about the relative lack of new homes in the village, the councillor said Brooke had been able to "ride on the coat-tails" of infrastructure and investment in places like Poringland, as well as having easy access to Bungay and Harleston.

"If you can get a quick lift to Poringland, then there's a bus every 15 minutes to Norwich," he pointed out.

"Brooke is strongly independent, but does draw opportunities from other places".


While the Sunday Times said the village could be a good place to invest in for the future, Brooke also enjoys a rich heritage.

Sir Astley Cooper, who served as surgeon to King George IV, William IV and a young Queen Victoria, was born in Brooke in 1768.

In 1854, the Revd Dr William Beal, Rector of Brooke, became the first person to hold a harvest festival in Britain.

And Brooke House, which today serves as a care home, was built as the stately family home of Eric Mackintosh, son of the founder of the Mackintosh chocolate empire.