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Nine Days in Norfolk Part 4

UKCampsite.co.uk member Tigermouse relates the tale of her camping trip in Norfolk - Days 7 to 8

Day 7 - Friday

The third glorious morning in a row, and I decided to take myself off to Southwold and Walberswick down on the Suffolk coast. I've been to both places a couple of times previously, but being accompanied by someone else never really gave me the scope to explore as I would have liked so I thought it was time to rectify the matter. So with breakfast out of the way, the awning tidied and the dogs walked , I set out southwards. One advantage to having lived with someone who comes from down there is that I'm very familiar with many of the routes to and from various places, so avoiding most of the busy A12 I had a very pleasant drive along the quieter country roads and through some nice little villages. The only bit of the A12 I touched was a stretch of a few hundred yards which took me to the turn off to Walberswick.

The road down to Walberswick runs initially past vast fields containing hundreds of pigs and with little wooden 'piggy houses' dotted about the sandy soil, then past fields of crops bordered by high hedges, and through the village itself, finally ending in a large gravel-surfaced car park near the mouth of the river Blyth. I parked up and paid my car park fee - a reasonable 3 for all day - gave the dogs a drink, then headed off in the direction of the dunes and beach, with the dogs running free over the grass-covered shingle. Just off the river is a tidal creek spanned by a couple of wooden bridges - it's a very popular place for kids to go crabbing, and there were several of them on one of the bridges with their buckets of water, crab lines and various forms of foul-smelling bait. It's also the place where I once slipped and fell in the mud, but that's a different story!

I had never been to Walberswick beach before so I was very pleasantly surprised at how nice it is. A wide expanse of firm flat sand bordered by a shingle strip and backed by dunes and more sand. The sea was on the retreat and at one point the water was lapping the sand in ripples rather than waves - just right for taking Sophie for a swim, and as I was wearing cycling shorts and beach sandals I clipped on her lead and waded in up to my knees. She wasn't too keen at first but when she realised that the waves weren't going to drown her she swam quite happily on the end of the lead for several minutes. Sugar was in her element, swimming round and doing her impersonation of an otter, she was loving it. After our paddle and swim we walked back along the beach and headed back towards the river, stopping briefly at the van for the dogs to have another drink.

From the riverside at Walberswick there are two ways to get to Southwold - along the riverside path for about half a mile, cross the bridge and walk back down the other side, or go across on the ferry. I opted to get the ferry just for the experience. Now the word 'ferry', for me at least, conjures up a picture of a reasonably-sized boat which will carry a fair few people, but the Walberswick ferry is nothing like that at all - it's a rowing boat, and carries no more than eleven passengers. It's operated by a local guy and currently costs 80p per trip, with dogs travelling free. There was already a small queue when I got to the jetty and when everyone else had boarded the boat was full so I had to wait till the next trip. It only takes a few minutes to go across and back so I didn't have long to wait. Being first in the boat on that trip meant I was last to get out and I managed to have a quick chat with the owner - he said that in good weather and at the height of the season he can do as many as sixty trips in a day - times that by eleven people at 80p each and that's a nice little earner. And all that rowing must be good exercise, he had arm muscles like Popeye on a spinach overload.

Leaving the jetty on the Southwold side of the river I walked along the rough, potholed lane past the boat sheds and the chandlery to a riverside cafe which I've been to before. There were a few tables and benches outside, so tying the dogs to one of these I went inside to order - and I didn't have coffee and cake this time, I had fish (said to have been freshly caught that morning) and chips. It was so pleasant sitting in the sun and watching the riverside activity while I had my meal that I was tempted to linger for a while, but my quest for more photos soon had me on my feet again. The boat sheds were a hive of activity when I passed, and there was a big tractor reversing an even bigger boat on a trailer into one of them - the boat was my favourite colour, red, and looked like something which could have been bought with a decent lottery win. Nearing the end of the lane I passed a field with some very comatose-looking cows lying in the sunshine - across in the distance the houses of Southwold encroached on the marsh and the fields, and the white body of the lighthouse rose up from the middle of the buildings.

After passing a caravan site and a car park I finally reached the beach, turned left - turning right would have resulted in a ten foot drop into the river - and walked along till I came to a row of brightly painted beach huts, which looked nicer at the back than they did at the front, and the lower level of the promenade. By this time the sky had clouded over somewhat to the north and I hoped the weather wasn't going to break down on me but it didn't - the clouds soon cleared and left behind a sky which, if anything, was bluer than before.

Taking one of several paths which traverse the cliff side I reached the upper promenade and headed in the direction of the pier, stopping every so often to take a photo. Now most seaside towns (well the ones I've been to anyway) usually have their piers roughly in the centre of the beach, but Southwold has to be different, and its pier is right at the northern end, so it was a fair distance to walk.

About half way along the cliff top path is St. James Green, a popular spot for taking photos of the lighthouse. It's just about impossible to take a photo of just the lighthouse as it is literally surrounded by houses - I did try, but a gable end wall and a roof got in the way.

And I couldn't resist taking this photo, that corner bungalow looks really cute

I finally reached my destination, the end of the promenade and Southwold pier. There's nothing much beyond the pier other than a boating lake and model yacht pond, so after taking a short breather I set off back the way I'd come.

When I got back to the river I decided that instead of going back across on the ferry I would walk all the way round and get some shots along the riverside. Further up the river a few boats were lying, partially tilted, on the mud, but most of them were afloat, tied up to the wooden jettys which spanned the deep gloopy mass. Some of the jettys had fallen into disrepair, with gates hanging off their hinges, handrails broken and missing, and holes in the boardwalk - I could just imagine one of the boat owners coming back from the pub on a dark night, missing his footing and falling off into the mud, getting stuck there while the river rises. I don't know if it's ever happened - I hope it never does.

The sun was still quite hot when I got back to the van so I treated myself to an ice cream and gave the dogs a much needed drink before setting off for 'home'. On the way through the village I stopped to take some photos of the church - it's a lovely old church built in the ruins of an even older church. There are quite a few churches like that in Norfolk and Suffolk and I love to look round them.

Those were my last photos of the day - with the dogs settled in the back of the van and a cd playing happy songs I drove back to California. After having a brew and a bite to eat I downloaded my photos onto my laptop and discarded the few I didn't want to keep. The dogs must have been tired from their day as they stayed on their beds all evening - it was much later when I took them for a final brief walk, then with a last brew I retired to my cosy bed to reflect on the lovely day I'd had and make a few plans for the following morning.

Day 8 - Saturday

Waking up to yet another glorious morning I realised I didn't want to go home the following day - the weather was too good and I was enjoying myself too much. So after the dogs had been walked and I'd had breakfast I phoned my son to ask if he could look after my cats here at home for another day - he said that was no problem, so I went straight round to the site office to see if my pitch would still be available. I was in luck, it was, so I paid for an extra night then phoned my son back to tell him. If only I could afford to give up work completely - I don't think I would ever go home!

Not long afterwards I got a call from an old friend who lives in Kings Lynn, he knew I was staying at California so said he would come down later that day for a visit. Although we correspond regularly by phone, text and email I hadn't actually seen him for some time so I thought it would be nice to have a good 'catch up' and maybe a meal out. He said he wouldn't arrive till tea time though so I had plenty of time to do what I wanted with my day.

Consulting my map book I decided I go to Barton Broad and the village of Barton Turf, which I had never been to before. "Want to go out again?" I asked the dogs - the way they were jumping about with their tails wagging told me that was a definite "yes", so I put a supply of fresh water in the van, collected my camera and set off on my 'voyage of discovery' for that day.

Barton Broad lies in a 'triangle' between the A149, the A1151 and the A1062 and is on the River Ant, but try as I might I couldn't find it. I drove down several country lanes, some of them twice, and though I came across a couple of staithes off the river I couldn't find the broad itself, so I came to the conclusion that unless I'd missed something obvious it can only be reached by boat. I did find Barton Turf though, it's a lovely little village with some very pretty cottages, a village green and a pond. There's also a boatyard, a car park and the staithe where many different boats are moored. It's this staithe which leads to Barton Broad itself, and though I walked along the moorings as far as I could go I didn't come to the open water. The staithe looked very attractive in the sunshine though, with all the different boats moored peacefully in the tranquil water - there's something about boats and water which I find fascinating, they always make a good subject for photos so I was quite happy to wander round there with the dogs and my camera.

When I had seen just about everything there was to see I set off back to California, calling in at Sainsbury's in Stalham for some bread and a few other bits. Arriving back on my pitch I attached the awning to the van - I had no intention of going anywhere else that day - got changed into something decent, and settled down to await the arrival of my friend. He turned up just after 5pm, I made us both a coffee and we sat chatting for well over an hour before we decided it was time to eat. It wasn't hard deciding where to go - across the lane from the site, to the California Tavern where they do a nice meal at very reasonable prices.

This was the height of the season though, and the restaurant was very busy. Many of the tables were occupied and all the ones which weren't had 'reserved' tickets on them. Now whether it was because my friend is a well-heeled businessman and looks the part, or they didn't want to turn potential customers away, but a waitress came across, took the reserved sign off a cosy table for two in a corner, and seated us there. After getting a drink from the bar and studying the menu, we ordered our meal - it took a while for it to arrive but it was worth the wait and we both enjoyed it immensely.

Back in my awning we settled down for an evening of chat and discussion till it was time for my friend to return home. He accompanied me on my final walk round the site with the dogs and made sure I was safely back in my awning before he left - I told him it wasn't necessary but he insisted, which I thought was quite sweet. But then that's my friend - I've known him for thirty six years and he's always been considerate. Once he had gone I settled the dogs on their beds and got into mine, wondering what delights the following day would bring.

This article has the following linked sections

Nine Days in Norfolk
A UKCampsite.co.uk Member's wonderful tale of a camping trip in Norfolk told in words, and a visual treat of photographs.
Nine Days in Norfolk Part 2
A UKCampsite.co.uk Member's wonderful tale of a camping trip in Norfolk told in words, and a visual treat of photographs.
Nine Days in Norfolk Part 3
A UKCampsite.co.uk Member's wonderful tale of a camping trip in Norfolk told in words, and a visual treat of photographs.
Nine Days in Norfolk Part 5
A UKCampsite.co.uk Member's wonderful tale of a camping trip in Norfolk told in words, and a visual treat of photographs.

Index : Holiday Reports, Travel Blogs and Campsite Features : Nine Days in Norfolk Part 4 - by Tigermouse

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