"Weird", says Stephen and he's not entirely wrong. It is a little odd to be walking in the beautiful grounds of Norfolk's Felbrigg Hall, wearing headphones and carrying an iPad for navigation. We're certainly getting a few peculiar looks from people walking their dogs.
We're taking part in Walk With Me, a 'walkscape' designed by sound artists Jeroen Strijbos and Rob van Rijswijk. The experience is primarily audial in the form of narrations, snippets of conversations, ghostly voices and musical accompaniments.
At first, the experience is quite surreal, you'll hear the beginnings of a conversation before it fades away, a strange utterance without context. Stephen might be quite right in his estimation of the experience.
And then the penny drops. In the narration, a young girl is observing a couple sitting together on a bench and suddenly in front of me I see the bench. I turn around and see the V for victory and it's akin to a reverse virtual reality experience. Rather than disappearing into my head and into technology, I'm standing in this vast outdoor space and experiencing it with all my senses.
I begin to piece together the clues, as generations of voices tell their stories. They are all interconnected in some way and all are connected to Felbrigg Hall, to its history, to actual events that took place there.
When we began our experience, the man from National Trust told us that there were up to 6 hours of narration available which meant that you could spend a whole day exploring the grounds. I can believe him. We never did find the ice house, having turned down the second part of the Victory V instead of heading west. But we did find the incredible 500-year-old hollow oak tree and many other treasures besides.
Incidentally, he also told us not to worry if we got lost or disappeared. The local Norfolk police would be able to track down the iPads and retrieve them, even if switched off. He mentioned nothing of our own rescue, of course. (And so we were introduced to the fantastic Norfolk sense of humour).
Back to the walk and we begin to see Felbrigg Hall to our left and know that we haven't strayed too far off the beaten track. Each time life's stresses begin to seep back into my conscious, I'm drawn back in to the narration, seeking more clues and spotting more landmarks. The church is up ahead, spotted with graves located just inside the church walls.
All too soon, we begin to spy signs of life and we find ourselves back at Felbrigg Hall. What a wonderful, exhilarating experience!
Walk With Me is a fantastic immersive experience and one that I would love to repeat, if only to find the clues that we missed and piece together more of this ghostly story.
The name ‘Felbrigg’ dates back to the Danish invasions at the end of the first millennium. In 1450, the estate passed out of the hands of the de Felbrigg family and into the hands of the Windham family where it remained until Admiral William Lukin inherited it in 1824.In 1863, a Norwich Corn Merchant by the name of John Ketton bought the estate for £77,238, the equivalent of £7.7m today. Born in 1906, Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer was the last squire of Felbrigg Hall. It is he who planted the Victory V in 1946 to commemorate VE day and the death of his brother Richard who was killed in Crete in 1940. Robert never married and bequeathed Felbrigg Hall to the National Trust on his death.
Directions: 2 miles from Cromer; off B1436, signposted from A148 and A140
[Important: do not trust your SatNav!]
We visited Felbrigg Hall as part of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival, one of the UK’s longest-running and largest international arts festivals featuring film, dance, contemporary music and a host of other events.
I’d like to thank Visit Norwich, Look Sideways–East and National Trust for inviting me to experience Walk With Me at Felbrigg Hall. Our visit was complimentary and as always, all views and enthusiam are my own.