Friday, 18 September 2009

Norfolk

Terribly bored today so thought I'd fill in a bit more detail about our holiday etc.

We started the holiday by going up to Oxford to see the wedding of my old friends Paul and Theresa. I first met Paul through a friend when I moved to the Cowley Road area of Oxford in early 1990. He introduced me to Theresa shortly afterwards, they'd only just started seeing each other. Theresa is a lovely person and would always invite me to Sunday dinner, even though she had four kids and everything must have been a handful. I remember taking her third daughter June up to see my folks for a week in Liverpool - I have no idea what led me to agree to that - and once took her boy Brian (aged eight or nine) to London to see QPR play Leeds. This must have been 1992 - it was the year Leeds won the title. He's a big bugger now, well over 6 feet, and I had a nice chat with him at the wedding.

Also saw the other kids. June (the girl I took up to Liverpool) was always mouthy and hadn't changed. Trish and Maggie (the other two "girls" - I use the quotes because they must be around 30 now!) were there and are both gorgeous. I think they each have 2 kids, I remember Trish had her first very early on, she must have only been 17 or so. But all of them looking good, and of course there were lots of kids around so plenty of stuff going on. Alice loved it.

Because the wedding didn't start until 4 o'clock, we had some time to have a walk around Oxford beforehand. Of course it is a beautiful city, just made for walking around. In many respects I wish I'd been interested in photography during the time I lived there, there would have been many opportunities.

The Sunday, we drove on to Norfolk. The main thing I remember - apart from the gradual realisation that the car had a puncture and the uncertainty that caused - was the total absense of traffic. For the third week of August, I was surprised. Almost clockwork journey, then, cross-country first to Waitrose in Swaffham (I'd done my homework and programmed it into Tom Tom) and then on to the cottage in the village of Warham. A lovely sunny day, the cottage had been completely renovated around ten years ago (formerly two cottages knoched into one), the first thing we did after unpacking was sit in the wonderful garden and enjoy an iced drink. Jacqueline and Alice went off to explore on their bikes, while I remember falling asleep. I think I'd done most of the driving that day.

Early evening we decided to check out the nearby beaches, and drove to Brancaster Staithe. We arrived I think at around 7pm, which was ideal because most of the occupants were leaving. What a beautiful evening! After staying for an hour or so, we decided to drive over to Cromer for some fish and chips (to a place recommended by the cottage blurb), totally underestimating the distance. As it was we got to Cromer late and could not find the place, but undaunted had a distinctly average meal in another restaurant.

Clearly the tyre caused some concern, and I insisted Monday morning on finding a local tyre place to find out what was what. The nearest city was Norwich, so we headed in that direction. The first town along the way was Fakenham, and I used the wonders of my internet-enabled phone to find the postcode of a tyre place. There bagen my encounter with a lovely guy called Major Gilbert. As well as running the tyre shop (Major Tyres, no less) this guy was also an excellent wildlife photographer, with many prints on the office wall. Really top quality material, very, very impressed. The tyre became almost incidental, other than when he showed us the nail in the tyre and said the earliest he could get a replacement would be the next day.

I liked the guy so was perfectly happy to get the tyre from him. There was nothing to be done so we drove over to Norwich for the rest of the day. Nice, green city, not too dissimilar from Salisbury (at least at first glance), maybe a bit bigger.

Next day, we pretty much wrote off the morning in Fakenham. We dropped the car off and went for a walk while the tyre was sorted. Of course I had my camera with me so we got on the subject of photography again. He shoots with Nikon gear too, though he's sufficiently serious about all this that he owns the top-of-the-range professional kit, and a 600mm Nikkor lens to boot! I think after this we drove to Holt for lunch, and then visited a shire horse sanctuary. Of course they do wonderful work with the animals etc. but the centre itself was quite unremarkable, though I got a couple of excellent photographs of a sow having a mudbath! Very interesting literature there about Bernard Matthews, of course they promote the very opposite of his factory farming. I think I also got to Weybourne station to take some photographs of the steam trains on the Poppy Line.

On the basis that I had a paddle every day, I guess this day ended at the beach. Warham is very close to Wells-next-the-sea, and this was a lovely little town with an excellent beach. We visited there a couple of times.

What we did on the other days is something of a blurr now, but we did visit a couple of National Trust places, Blickling Hall (said to be the most haunted house in Britain, and the childhood home of Anne Boleyn), which was lovely, and Felbrigg House, which was closed. That'll teach us not to read the manual...

After our visit to Blickling, we cut across to the coast to see what the beaches were like on the east coast (all the beaches we'd seen thus far were on the north coast) and we came across a place called Mundesley. The weather had been very changeable that day and it was still pretty cloudy, but at the height of the season we were surprised indeed to have the beach almost to ourselves. We sat for an hour or two, and I got a beautiful photograph of a rainbow, out to sea, seeming to end at a fishing trawler.

We also visited Hunstanton, though I must say I was somewhat less enamoured. I must say that I didn't find these seaside towns particularly attractive, though as soon as you leave the coast and get into the countryside, the villages are absolutely stunning. Warham for example is an idyllic, quiet village but only a couple of miles from the beach. A perfect location.

That about took up our week, except for the wonderful morning we took a boat trip to see the seals at Blakeney Point, and to have an hour on the spit to explore the nature reserve. Of course, the seals are beautiful creatures and I now have the photographs to prove it. The nature reserve was a particularly unspoilt beach (you either get there by walking a couple of miles, or you get a boat) and was almost like being on a desert island!

I think we all agreed it would be lovely to go back. Our first visit to that part of the world will certainly not be our last. Even the trip home - M11, M25, M3, M27 which I was dreading, was uneventful and not too unpleasant (though it being bank holiday weekend there looked to be big tailbacks going the opposite way into Norfolk).

Bootiful!

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