Archive | August, 2013

Cromer RNLI

25 Aug

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On a warm but murky August Bank Holiday Weekend the Cromer RNLI lifeboat returns to its station at the end of Cromer Pier. 

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For anyone sailing in British waters I can’t tell you how good it is to know these guys are always there. 

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Heroes. 

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North Norfolk Coast

23 Aug

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Friday

We’ve managed to avoid the less desirable effects of the school summer holidays until now. Deliberately selecting sites that we felt would be less attractive to families with children (city centres, no toilet/shower facilities, no playgrounds etc) seems to have worked. Picking a site on the North Norfolk coast with a swimming pool and nightly children’s entertainment, however, was always going to be a different kettle of fish. If you add arriving on the week of the local carnival that also includes the August bank holiday weekend you can imagine that it has been something of a culture shock.

That in itself hasn’t been a problem, however. Sure there’s been the general noise of children playing, music from the fun fair and the drone of the carnival loud speaker but that just becomes background which is actually easy to ignore. It has also meant, though, that we have had first class seats for the incredible Wildcats flying display and last night’s fireworks.

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The real downside of our choice of location has been the extreme difficulty of finding anywhere to park when we’ve tried to venture out. Everywhere is absolutely heaving. Every nook and cranny has a car parked in it, often causing chaos for the flow of traffic, most of it circulating the streets looking for their own spot. We ventured to Wells-next-the-Sea (not to be confused with the Wells we visited with the magnificent cathedral), described in the tourist blurb as an unspoilt seaside town set in an area of outstanding natural beauty. From what we saw it could well have matched the hyperbolae but we our attempt to explore had to be abandoned for want of somewhere to leave the car.

We have been able to spend some time in Blakeney, though, and it was well worth the effort. At low tide the quay is lined with children fishing for crabs while around high tide the colourful sails of the small local boats move through the salt marshes to and from the sea. A word of warning to both boats and cars: Get the tide times right! 

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The car park at high tide.

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Watch the tide!

 

Cambridge

18 Aug

Sunday

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We were warned not to drive into Cambridge and as the bus stop is close to the caravan site it didn’t seem like too much of a hardship to use public transport. We saw the bus pulling away just as we turned the corner. Typical. Just our luck, we thought. Then we realised we had to wait a whole 10 minutes for the next one! Now, this probably seems really annoying to anyone from southern England reading this, but to us country bumpkins from North Wales and lately of the Greek Islands, this was pretty amazing and worthy of a blog entry in itself! We were totally staggered, then, when on the way back there were two buses we could have caught waiting at the bus stop. We literally didn’t know which to get on to and stood there dithering until one of them pulled away making the decision for us!

Mention Cambridge and the first thing most people will think of is the university whose college buildings dominate the town and are what everyone comes to see. Having come to see these colleges you do, of course, have to see them from their best angle which is acknowledged to be from the river. As you can’t actually walk along the river bank it is necessary to take a punt and either pole it yourself or sit and let someone else do it for you along with a bit of a commentary. As anyone who has seen me getting in and out of a dinghy will understand, I preferred the idea of the larger, more solid looking “chauffeured” variety. And there was absolutely no way I was going to be balancing on the little platform, shoving the boat along the river bed with a 15 foot (5 meter) pole.

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Both options cost, of course, and we were warned that a bit of bargaining was the order of the day. We’re not very good at this so it was only our obvious indecision about whether to go on one at all that knocked the price down. To be honest, it was worth every penny. Apart from the fact that I was stuck in the middle of a row on a rather uncomfortable gap in the cushions, it was a delightful experience.

Then you really have to take a closer look at, at least, one of the colleges. We chose King’s College, one of the oldest and most popular with the tourists mainly because of its famous chapel. This is one of the most photographed buildings in the world (according to an overheard punt commentary) and widely know because of the “Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” broadcast live by the BBC on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. For me this is an intrinsic part of the traditional Christmas (now largely abandoned by us, thank goodness) and I associate it with getting “The Dinner” ready.

Even out of term time you still don’t get to see around the inside the college buildings other than the chapel or access to the river bank and for your £7.50 per adult we expected a tour. You do get an information leaflet and there are guides at strategic points you can ask questions of inside the chapel. It is impressive with fabulous carvings and Tudor stained glass windows which have survived remarkably unscathed despite Cambridge being a puritanical Parliamentary stronghold during the civil war and Henry VIII beheading Anne Boleyn whose initials are carved into the huge oak organ screen. That’s a bit like being stuck with the tattooed name of your ex after the divorce! 

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York

13 Aug

Tuesday

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York is an assault on all the senses. Bustle and noise are everywhere as the streets, rivers and caravan site fill with visitors of all nationalities. If there are areas of peace and quiet we haven’t found them. Yet we love it.  

It is a city of living, breathing history. Of course the Romans, who were the first to settle here, wouldn’t recognise it now. Nor the Vikings, the Normans nor any other people from all periods of British history since but they have all left their marks still clearly visible in York today. This is what brings in the tourists in. And us.  

Tripper boats toil their way up and down the river, their commentary only a decibel too low to make out what is being said from the shore, while the many hired motor boats, barges and the rowing club do their best to avoid them. On the roads it’s the “Hop on, hop off” open top, double-decker buses that dominate, the throaty throb of their diesel engines filling the air with their growl and fumes. Meanwhile, every pedestrianised area – cobbled streets, city wall, ruined remains, Minster and small church – fill with guided tours in a multitude of languages. Every square has a busker, a street entertainer or ice cream stall. It’s wonderful.

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It’s just impossible to rush. The rest of the traffic seems resigned to wait in queues while those on foot soon learn to slow down their pace. Then you notice the details around you: The medieval meat hooks still in front of the small tourist shops that line the Shambles, evidence of the butchers of old that once gave the narrow street its name; the shrine to Margaret Clitherow, the Tudor butcher’s wife and Pearl of York, now canonised; the small animals depicted on the walls and doors, signatures of the buildings’ architects; the inviting courtyards and terraces of hotels, restaurants and pubs along with the mouth-watering smell of cooking tempting you in.

Four days is not going to be enough to see everything. But we’ll give it a good try! 

The Route So Far

12 Aug

Now in York and more than halfway through our first summer in a caravan it seemed like a good idea to post our route so far.

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Obviously we didn’t go in a straight line or over the sea but I’m sure you get the idea! The actual position of the towns and cities might be a bit off, too.

As something of a shake-out cruise it has proved to be great fun as well as extremely useful. Sometime soon I’ll have to post all we’ve learned so far – the hard way!

Whitby

6 Aug

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Tuesday

We were lucky to get onto the popular caravan site near Whitby. The pitch is actually for a campervan, so we can’t put up our lovely awning, but it was the last one going. It does, however, have a view of the sea and last night’s stunning sunset as well as being opposite the path down to the beach. This is a bit of a mixed blessing, actually, as our pitch tends to get used as a shortcut to the path but, hey, so what? The sun is shining.

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With a brilliant blue sky and quite a stiff, cool breeze we walked into Whitby itself this morning. The fishing fleet was out with the tide but the tourist boats were doing a roaring trade. Once you get past the amusement arcades, the small town still retains a lot of character. The ruined abbey looming above the harbour remains a little creepy despite the bright day and the hordes of visitors.

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To be completely honest, though, much as we enjoyed walking around Whitby, the main attraction is the fish and chips. With several restaurants winning awards and high profile recommendations (including Jeremy Clarkson which did more to put me off if anything) we asked the advice of friends, Lois and Bill, who we know have similar tastes. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, their favourite was also the #1 on tripadvisor with a queue out of the door and down the street. What was surprising was that Neil was prepared to join the queue! The walk back was a lot slower than the walk there. Waddle, waddle. 

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The harbour entrance at Whitby must feel like welcoming arms to boats returning in bad weather. 

 

The “Desolate” North East

3 Aug

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Saturday

For the last few days we’ve been pitched on a small field next to a pub – very convenient – near Berwick-upon-Tweed. While we’ve been here the area has been described as “desolate” and suitable for fracking which has caused a huge outcry, as you might imagine. These are some of our pictures, which I know don’t do the area justice.

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Holy Island with a view of Lindisfarne Castle.

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The small fishing village of Craster, the start of the walk to Dunstanburgh Castle.

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The ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle (and me, of course – no ruin jokes, please!)

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Just over the border, a view from St Abbs Head. In fact there’s a stunning view in all directions.

So, frack the lot?