Pocket Britain

A traditional Norfolk market town overlooking a small lake


Diss Mere
Parish Church
Diss is officially in Norfolk, but it's so close to the border that it used to be classed as Suffolk. The town's address may have changed once or twice, but its character hasn't. It's still a relaxed market settlement, just as it ever was. Its official charter was granted by King Richard I, almost a millennium ago.

Diss Town Sign
The regular weekly market is on Fridays, but a rotating Saturday schedule sees Diss' stalls fill up on the weekends too. Local farmers, artists and craftsmen take it in turns to show off their wares. The occasional flea market, meanwhile, stocks just about anything from just about anywhere. Keep an eye out for the fish and chip van, which has a particularly good reputation.

Diss Cornhall
Next door to the merchants' stalls is Gazes Salesrooms, which auctions off antiques and collectibles. It's worth poking your nose in to see what's up for sale that week. Many of Diss' other shops are inside one of four courtyards. These stone squares contain everything from to angling retailers to dangerously tempting confectioners. Lots of these stores are independently run and, despite the recent presence of more recognisable companies, Diss' strange layout and traditional shop fronts give the place its own, distinct character.

One of the pretty courtyards in Diss
The main marketplace is overlooked by the church of St. Mary. It's been sitting there, on its little hill, since 1290 AD. As the church stands right in the centre of town, its yard accommodates a constant stream of passing pedestrians. Similarly, the building itself welcomes casual visitors and worshippers alike, on any day of the week. By throwing open its doors so welcomingly, St. Mary's has become a familiar feature of Diss life.

St. Mary's Church in Diss
You can see old photos and drawings of the church at the nearby Diss Museum. It's housed inside The Shambles, two buildings that used to belong to butchers. Most exhibits focus on the families and businesses that shaped the local area over the years.

Diss Museum in the Marketplace
Just a few minutes walk south of the museum is a small lake called the Mere. On a map, the water looks like a blue eye, watching carefully from the very centre of town. It's such an important part of the landscape that it even gave the place its name - "Diss" resembles the Saxon word for "lake". In the past, people believed that the Mere was formed from the crater of an extinct volcano. Perhaps the story's true, as the lake bed is a long way down. England contains many larger bodies of water than this, but very few that are deeper. In the 19th century, its waters froze over with such a thick covering of ice that they started holding skating festivals on it. They even managed to hold a cricket match!

Diss Town Centre across the Mere
The Mere and its surrounding lawns are well-used by everyone from visiting tourists to resident ducks. The latter group, strangely, have been the subject of their own comedy comic strip. It's called "Mere Quacks", and it appears in the local newspaper.
The Mere's parkland is also frequented by walkers and cyclists. If you fancy a short stroll you can join them, but if you've got a bit more time to kill you can attempt part of the Boudicca Way. This 36-mile walking route runs all the way north, to Norwich. On the way, it passes through quiet woods and calm villages. It's strange that a peaceful trail like this is named after Queen Boudicca, a violent warrior who used to roam these lands with her tribe of vicious killers.
Of course, Norfolk current inhabitants are significantly less scary, and modern Diss is a relaxing place. In fact, it's part of the Cittaslow project, a scheme which promotes towns with a slower way of life. Here, you won't find fast food, fast cars - or fast anything.
Visitor Information
Diss Tourist Information Centre, Meres Mouth, Mere Street, Diss, IP22 4AG. Tel: 01379 650 523
Various car-parking can be found around the town centre.

Back ~ Top ~ Home ~ Index

Pocket Britain is optimised for use on a smartphone or tablet with internet access. All content is subject to copyright. All reasonable methods have been used to ensure information supplied is accurate at the time of publication. However, it is advisable to check information before relying on it. Privacy Policy