UKCampsite.co.uk member Tigermouse relates the tale of her camping trip in Norfolk - Days 9 and Home!
Day 9 - Sunday
My final full day, and I woke to yet another lovely morning. I lay for a while listening to the birds in the trees behind me and the breeze whispering through the leaves. Somewhere a dog barked briefly but other than that the site seemed to be still asleep. I only moved when the sun shining on the side of the van made it too warm to stay there - I put the dogs on their line outside the awning, made some breakfast, then joined the dogs outside while I ate it at leisure.
My thoughts turned to a couple who I'd become friends with twenty years ago when my son was in his teens, and who lived at Clippesby, not far from California. They were great animal lovers and lived in a cottage with a fair amount of land, they had a pony and donkey, hens, ducks, a couple of dogs and several cats. They also had a boat on the Broads and would often take us for days out on it - we had many happy days messing about on the water. Over time though, and through personal circumstances, we lost touch, and I hadn't seen them or heard from them for fifteen years. It was only in June this year, through a boating forum, that I had found out that their boat had been sold on twice but had unfortunately been lost in a fire a few years ago at a boatyard in Potter Heigham. It was thinking about all this which made me decide - while I was on my travels that day I would try to track this couple down.
By this time the site was coming to life, so I cleared away my breakfast things, took my table and chair back into the awning, then took the dogs for a walk up to Lands End and back. After a shower and a quick tidy up I put the dogs in the back of the van, topped up their water container, and hit the road - I was aiming to take photos of a couple of the places I hadn't photographed because of the dull weather earlier in the holiday. I started off at Winterton - there's a lovely row of houses there, set back from the road and looking really attractive with their painted walls and thatched roofs. I couldn't quite make my mind up if they were old houses done up or new houses made to look older, but I thought they looked nice anyway.
From there I went on to West Somerton, which is little more than a few cottages and a narrow backwater off the upper reaches of the River Thurne - one of those 'blink and you miss it' places, but nevertheless very attractive in the sunshine.
From West Somerton I drove on to Horsey - I've been to Horsey a couple of times before, in fact I was only there in June and got some good photos of Horsey Mill, but this time I was going to the beach. Now I don't know if Horsey beach is a well-kept Norfolk secret or if I've just never spoken to the right locals before, but as many times as I've been to that area of Norfolk I had never known about it until a few days previously when I was talking to a lady who was walking her dogs on the beach near the site. As soon as she said there were seals there it went down on my list of places to visit. It isn't the easiest of places to get to though - you can only drive so far then you have to park your car and walk a good mile along a track between the fields. The dunes are high, with a concrete sand-covered ramp cutting through them and leading onto the beach.
It wasn't easy walking up the slope as the sand was soft and quite deep, but as I emerged through the dunes onto the top of the beach I knew it was worth the effort. Miles of unpopulated sand backed by the dunes and broken up at the water's edge by groynes made up of large boulders. Maybe I'd just happened to pick a day when it wasn't busy, maybe people don't go because of the walk involved, or maybe it really is a 'secret' beach, but there was only a handful of people there. And maybe I shouldn't be mentioning it in this story - if everyone knows about it it won't be 'secret' any more!
The lady I'd spoken to on the beach at California had told me whereabouts the seals would be so that's where I headed for, but if I was expecting to see groups of them sunning themselves on the sand then I was destined to be disappointed as there were none at all. However, there was about half a dozen of them swimming a hundred yards or so off the beach - I stood there for ages trying to get some shots of them but it wasn't easy. Every time one came into view I clicked the shutter, only to find the seal had gone back under the water just as quickly and all I'd got was a photo of the sea. I got snouts, whiskers and the backs of heads till I struck lucky and one popped up just long enough for me to get a reasonable shot.
While I was there I noticed a little to my left a group of five people in the water wearing wetsuits and with masks and snorkels - I don't know what they were doing, but the seals didn't seem to be bothered about them and were actually swimming quite close to them. So that has now gone down on my list of things to do next year - get myself a wetsuit, go back to Horsey and swim near the seals!
Walking back along the beach with the dogs I began to feel quite peckish so I decided that rather than go any further afield I would pay a last visit to Lathams at Potter Heigham and have my final treat of coffee and cake. And that tied in nicely with my quest to track down the couple I'd been thinking about, as the turn off to Clippesby was on my way back from Potter Heigham to California. The last time I'd been to Clippesby was nearly sixteen years ago and as on previous occasions I had always been in the back of someone else's car I wasn't really sure of the route to this couple's house - I remembered that at some point we drove past the entrance to Clippesby Hall holiday site but other than that I hadn't a clue, so I thought I would just drive round the area in the hope that inspiration might strike.
There is really only one 'main' country road going through Clippesby and as I drove along I saw a sign pointing the way to Clippesby Hall so I took that turn off. A few minutes along, the lane turned to the right and the Clippesby Hall site was on the right - further down and to the left was a couple of cottages set back off the road down a private lane. I wondered if that was where I was looking for but as I drove past the end of the lane there was nothing which looked familiar. As I drove on I passed a man walking a Border Collie on a lead, though I thought nothing of it just then. Further on, and where the lane went round to the right, there was a small hamlet of new houses developed from old farm buildings - and that was where the lane ended. I could go no further, so I turned the van round in the courtyard and retraced my route. The man with the Border Collie was still walking down the lane so I decided to stop and ask him for directions - and that was when I experienced one of the biggest coincidences of my life. As I pulled up at the side of him I recognised him as being Ron, the very man I was looking for! He didn't know who I was at first as I had my glasses on for driving, but as soon as I took them off he recognised me. And the cottages set back off the lane was where he lived - things didn't look familiar to me because he had sold off some of his land, his own cottage had been extended and the gardens had been landscaped. I asked about Eileen, his wife, and he told me she had suffered a stroke eight years ago, but apart from being unable to use her left arm properly she was ok, though she didn't go out much. He said she didn't get many visitors so she would be pleased to see me if I wanted to go along to the house - and my dogs would be welcome too.
I parked my van on the front driveway and let the dogs out to play with the collie who was called Joe, and Ron took me round the back of the house to meet Eileen. I was really surprised at how much things had changed - what had at one time been little more than a small two-up two down place with a poky kitchen was now much larger, with a sizeable extension to the rear, a good-sized kitchen and even a conservatory on the back. The 'waste land' which had previously been their back garden had been landscaped and had a nice long lawn, a patio, decking, raised flowerbeds and a turntable summerhouse down at the end. The pony and donkey had long since gone to other homes - I didn't like to ask what had become of the hens and ducks! Eileen was sitting in the conservatory - having been told she'd had a stroke I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but apart from her hair being white - it was jet black when I'd last seen her - she looked just the same as all those years ago, though maybe a little frail. She knew who I was straight away though, and was really surprised to see me after all this time.
Ron made a brew and while the three dogs played together outside we sat and had a lovely chat. It was nice to see that the stroke hadn't robbed Eileen of her brainpower or her speech, and we spent a lovely couple of hours catching up on family news and reminiscing over the pets they'd had and the times they had taken us out on their boat. All too soon though it was time for me to leave, but I promised that now I've found them I will keep in touch and also call to see them again next time I stay at California.
I thought about Eileen and Ron a lot that evening - I was so pleased that I had found them again after all this time and I went to bed with a smile on my face, thinking what a lovely end it had been to a lovely holiday.
Day 10 - Monday
I couldn't really class it as a day though as I was leaving for home that morning. I woke at 6.30am, took the dogs for a walk round the site, then made my last California breakfast - there's something about telling people back home that you've had breakfast in California that makes them think you've been further afield than Norfolk! Once that was out of the way I started packing up the van. Leaving the bed made up I packed the small stuff under it and larger stuff on top - packed methodically and neatly there's plenty of room for everything. The dogs were keeping a low profile in their beds while I was busy - when I only had the awning to pack away I put them both in the back of the van out of the way, I think they knew we were going home and they didn't look very happy.
It didn't take long to take the awning down - using a claw hammer to pull out the pegs certainly saves time, and it wasn't long before it was rolled up and back in its bag. I've often wondered why things like that come down quicker than they went up!
With everything finally packed away I locked up the van and took the dogs for a final walk along the beach - it was another lovely morning and not the sort of weather which made me want to go home.
But home I had to go, as I had to be at work at 5pm, so with Sophie and Sugar safely in the back of the van I left the site at 10am. I called at the petrol station in Ormesby to get some fuel then settled down for the long drive back. I only stopped twice on the journey, the first time at the Cheerio Cafe (No tea - no pee!) and the second time at the truck stop near the M1. Apart from getting stuck behind a wagon for several miles on the A17, which slowed me down a little, my journey was relatively uneventful and I was home for 4.30pm. And what was I doing while I was at work? - thinking of the places I can go to on my next visit to California!