HEREWARD-THE-WAKE COUNTRY

HEREWARD-THE-WAKE COUNTRY

 

On our recent holiday in Scotland, we had planned to break our return journey at Blair Drummond, and at Berwick on Tweed, and at Cromer in Norfolk. However, events conspired against us. We were coming through Glen Coe, in heavy rain and with equally heavy traffic when one of our caravan tyres blew out. John was able to keep control of the outfit and there was a layby near us, but in such foul weather with poor visibility and fast and heavy traffic on a two lane road, we were obliged to drive to the layby. This proved damaging to the wheel. John was unable to remove the wheel because the layby was on a slope, so we sent for the Green Flag people. They arrived in abut 4o minutes (their service was excellent throughout.) The spare tyre (which in a caravan is stored in a very inaccessible place underneath) proved to be low in air but we pumped it up and set off gingerly to Blair Drummond where staff (and indeed fellow caravaners) were extremely helpful.) We were fortunate that we were in a centrally located site with the cities of the central belt available to us. The site proved very accommodating and helpful and we stayed there for several days while we obtained a new wheel and tyre. (I won’t bother you with the tribulations involved there.) Everyone was however extremely competent and attentive and eventually we were ready to proceed with everything in order.

By this time we had missed our slot at Berwick upon Tweed, so we obtained earlier entry to our site near Cromer, Norfolk. We generally plan when touring to leave about 9 – 10 am and arrive at our destination for the night at about 2 pm; or to drive about 200 – 250 miles. Today however we were coming from Stirling to Cromer which was far too long and we were therefore extremely tired when we rolled in to that site.

We had problems with our ‘mover’ (a boy’s toy where a remote control moves the caravan ) but again our fellow caravaners were helpful and 5 men materialised from around us and manhandled the vehicle into position; John was able to fix that problem himself but it was not welcome as yet another problem at just that point. (You have to be practical and able to fix things in order to caravan).

So it was with a slightly jaundiced eye that I viewed the map of Norfolk the next morning for our five days that we were due to spend here.

One of the many things I love about England is its extreme diversity. Even 50 miles can produce an entirely different landscape and one county is unlike every other.

Considering that Cromer is famed as a beach resort, and there are several coastal resorts here, I was not at all impressed with its beach credentials. I suppose this is a matter of expectation. As a Scot, I expect a beach resort to have a small attractive town with ancient stone houses, and a wide sandy beach heavily covered by clean white sand, with free and easy parking access. The beach to be enclosed on two sides with ranges of rocks big enough to give shelter, and a tolerable hotel or restaurant within driving distance. You will understand I’m sure that this utopia is not readily to be found in modern England. Norfolk beaches, so far as I could see, were mud with pebbles on them, featureless and without shelter.

Sherringham is a middle range resort, with many cafes, icecream parlours and bucket and spade jobs. It was amiable enough. It had a steam train and a market.

When you arrived in Cromer itself you were on the level of a high cliff with a series of ramps to get down to the ‘sand’ which was largely small pebbles. It was on a point, and big waves slapped into the walls and men were surfing on these. There was a breeze. We sat on the pier and had an ice-cream.

We went to Caisters (depressing and horrible) and Gt Yarmouth (horrible and depressing) and just fled away. But then we chanced on Horsey Windpump with its lakes, rivers and canals, plus a wind/watermill being restored, which was lovely.

We visited a lavender farm which had lovely gardens but was grossly overcrowded. I ate a scone with lavender in it and thought, after a few mouthfuls) – you could have too much of this!

We went out on a boat on the Broads (where memorably we were luckless enough to encounter the penetrating tones of the extremely observant grandmother of Mary and Tracy ) and that was relaxing for an hour (once we go out of earshot.)

Holt was an upmarket inland village with nice shops and unbelievably expensive clothes.

We visited the exquisitely beautiful l6th century Blickling Hall, all the more surprising because it’s made of bricks. Robert Adam had a hand in it, as had Capability Brown. It had been gifted to their creatures by both William the Conqueror and Henry VIII so it had certainly attracted some negative vibes. They were all naval men, able administratively, who had made the family prosperous through hard work and steadiness and judicious support of the ‘right’ (ie the winning) side. They were none of them oustandingly goodlooking but they obviously had excellent taste through all their generations. The final one was the last Deputy Vice Roy of India. I could find no reason why everything was so beautiful. On the whole, it had a peaceful history.

We also visited Sellrig Hall. Similar to Blickling but not half so beautiful and more pretentious.

There were some fine and ancient churches with their walls pierced by enormous clear glass windows. They were light and airy and were protestant for what that’s worth, as it was of the variety that is just a spitting distance from Rome. Some of the churches had round towers, and these were noticed by John who made off to examine them. He came back and reported that the round towers were much older than their attached churches and that there was a Society for the Preservation of round-towered churches and Prince Charles was its President. We figured he would be.

 

Norfolk is lovely in its way. It’s flat and water-lidded. As with any drained marsh, it is lush, full of flowers and trees, It’s not on the way to anywhere, so if you’re here you have to have business that’s to do with Norfolk. It’s still heavily agricultural; they were rushing to gather in the harvest. There is an old-fashioned air which is not unattractive, a warm bucolic accent, and loads and loads of sheep.

We did not exhaust all its possibilities; it would be nice to return.

I have one other small connection with Norfolk. One of the book groups of which I am a member was registering with the Library so that we could borrow books for longer than the time generally allowed. We decided to call ourselves West Sussex Book Group. The Librarian was one of those I remembered from school, whose main purpose was to prevent pupils from reading as far as possible. She was able smugly to inform my friend that, No, she could not register under that name, it was already taken; and no she could not borrow books until she had registered. Three times she refused us. She also declined to give us the list of names already used – Data Protection wouldn’t permit it. It appeared to me that she could refuse us in perpetuity – not to mention what a fruitless waste of my friend’s time it was. I had a burst of temper and said to my friend, We’ll sort her out. Tell her we’ll be the Hereward-the-Wake book group. Carole went back and waited patiently until the unhelpful librarian could no longer put off seeing her. “Yes,” she said with the smug air of one who can refuse as much as she chooses. Carole said quietly, I’d like to register our book group as the Hereward-the-Wake book group. The librarian was gob-smacked. “You can’t call it that.” she said. “Is some other group using that name also?” enquired Carole, pleasantly. The librarian had no option but to register us. I’ve had an affection for Hereward-the-Wake (of West Norfolk) ever since.