Whilst we have been to Norfolk on the Broads, neither of us had ever been to the West & North Coast so back in March we decided that this would be our Bank Holiday weekend location. I found a newly opened site, called Sheringwood, with just 5 pitches near Sheringham. It had a great website and booking was easy and we booked a 3 night stay. We decided (Paul decided) that – so as to beat the holiday weekend rush – we should leave very early Friday morning. He wasn’t joking when he said early! The alarm went off at 3.45 and we got up and left by 0400, having packed the car and hooked up the night before.
It was a lovely drive – once you are actually up early, it is so lovely to see the sunrise and watch the world waking up. We went anti-clockwise round the M25 and stopped only for a cup of coffee (Petersfield) and a bagel and another coffee on the M11. It was a really smooth 5 hour run through and we were set up drinking our own coffee by 10.30. We fell in love with the site instantly. It was beautifully landscaped and we could even see the sea! And it was a beautiful day. We were very happy.
After a short break we were raring to go and explore and so we set off for Sheringham. The beach is sandy and there were lots of families taking advantage of the last weekend of the school holidays in the lovely sunshine. Sadly dogs were verboten so we just went for a walk along the prom, which was charming. We much admired the wind farm just off shore. Gret idea and kind of attractive too.
We drove on to Cromer to have a quick look and spotted a nice crab restaurant on the way, which we immediately planned to visit later in the weekend. We had a quick tour of Cromer by car and then carried on along the coast as far as Overstrand, where we stopped for a drink. This was to be the furthest East we went along that bit of the coast. We were a bit peckish by now, so we called in to the local Waitrose (in North Walsham) for some of our favourite bits and pieces for lunch (prawns, Quails eggs, Hummus, stuffed vine leaves etc) and returned to the van, followed by a beepy as we had been up so early.
Refreshed by our relaxing afternoon and a cuppa, we decided to have a proper look at Cromer before dinner. Cromer is very attractive and largely unspoilt, we felt. We loved the pier and sat for a while people watching. We were mightily impressed by the imposing Hotel de Paris on the seafront which, in its heyday must have been an amazing place to stay. We were very excited to see something like a flipper just off shore, imaging a seal or perhaps a dolphin. We watched avidly, and were joined by another couple, who were also intrigued by the sight. We examined Paul’s photos and then the awful truth struck us! What we had been excitedly watching was actually a drowning seabird. Horrible. It must have been caught in something. We felt very helpless and quite sad, as there was nothing that could be done.
Our nostrils were being assailed by the irresistible smell of fish and chips and we suddenly realised that we were hungry again, so we made our way back to the van, cooked and washed up and then watched a spot of television before taking to our bed for a good night’s sleep.
Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny and we had our breakfast and departed for the day. King’s Lynn was the destination for today – about an hour away on the North coast. It was a pleasant drive and we passed quite a few of the very attractive embellished village/town signs that are so common in Norfolk. We wanted to explore the old part of the town but a trip to Boots for some essentials was required, so we had a quick poke round the main drag. Verdict? The same as any other town centre – although there seemed to be a huge number of smokers. Maybe we are just hyper-sensitive these days?
We stopped for a coffee at a very pleasant cafe/restaurant in the Saturday Marketplace – No 11 Market Bistro. We’d certainly eat there if we were locals. The menu looked very appetising and we sat outside, soaking up some rays as we enjoyed our coffee. The menu looked so nice we decided to have a couple of starters which we would share. They were both delicious. Two interesting facts about King’s Lynn? Well – in the early 60s it was designated as an overflow town for London and F1 racing-driver Martin Brundle was born there. It was also one of the first towns to be bombed in WW1. By a naval zeppelin.
The old riverfront, with its narrow alleyways was very busy, so we didn’t stay too long. Instead, we drove down to the mouth of the Great Ouse and inspected the fishing fleet.
As it is such an interesting coastline, we decided to pop in to each town (mostly one way in and out , dead end roads) on the way back to Sheringham. Our route took us past Castle Rising and through the Sandringham estate. Our first “port of call” was Snettisham – lovely beach and hundreds (thousands maybe!!) of statics. Next came Heacham. Heacham probably has more statics than Snettisham, even, as can be seen from the aerial shot! It would be interesting to know how much the population rises to in summer months!
Castle Rising 1
Then came Hunstanton – a bit too “touristy” for our tastes, so we pressed on to Old Hunstanton, which was much more to our taste. But we were beginning to run out of day and were also quite hungry, so we decided to leave Wells next the Sea and other places for the next day and pressed for home – apart from a quick visit to Blakeney, where we watched the tide absolutely racing in.
We had decided on an early dinner before going back to the van and we made for the place we had spotted on the first evening. It’s called Rocky Bottoms, situated in West Runton on the cliff and is quite new. It has an amazing location, fabricated out of an old brick kiln and extended, it has great views out to sea and a very attractive outdoor dining area, complete with deckchairs (from the Southsea Deckchair company we noticed) and blankets. Lovely. We both had the Cromer Crab salad and it was delectable! We wished we had taken some photos so that you could see how pleasant it was. They also do a take-out service, which we made a mental note of for future reference.
On the way “home”, we spotted a sign for an animal sanctuary, which we resolved to visit the next day.
Sunday was a different prospect, weather wise – overcast and threatening rain. We had an unhurried breakfast and set off for Hillside, the animal sanctuary (dogs welcome). They do a vital job, providing homes for abandoned and ill treated animals. There were all sorts. Pigs, goats, rabbits, geese, horses, cattle, parrots, deer, and – of course donkeys! Yay. We spent a lovely couple of hours there and were glad we had visited.
The weather was definitely taking a turn for the worse, so we decided to pop to Rocky Bottoms, grab a take-out and save Wells and other places for another visit. We went for crab sandwiches and jolly nice they were, too. We popped to Runton beach – mainly so that Paul could visit the local army surplus shop – which sadly was a bit of a disappointment. He made up for that by having a chat with the local Coastwatch chaps – some of whom he has equipped with AIS kit, further up the coast. Coastwatch keep watch on the coast in areas where the Coastguards no longer serve. They are entirely manned by volunteers and thank goodness for them. They have reported nearly 300 incidents so far in 2015.
The beach was popular with dog walkers but the rain had set in by now and so we went home. We spent the end of the afternoon reading the papers, snoozing and browsing the internet (great free WiFi at the site). Nothing is something we so rarely do, and we thoroughly enjoyed our lazy afternoon and evening watching the box.
Bank Holiday Monday was a complete washout. Paul had to do all the myriad, outside packing up jobs in the pouring rain, but we were soon out our way home. It was to be a long and rainy journey, with some ridiculous queues at the Stansted service station, where we broke our journey. Lots of bad-tempered people tooting and looking to gain a few places in the queue. They really needed a chill pill. We arrived home – where the rain had cleared – after around 6h 30m on the road. A lovely weekend and one to repeat.
We are away again next weekend, too, catching up with more friends that we made on the Canada trip. Larks!