John Timpany

Norfolk 3


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The sound of the distant traffic 'waterfall' has died away. The tent and bedding is packed and the ignition kicks the engine into life, and the old fear "Where will I live" returns, but there is plenty of time to look after that problem later in the day, and for now I want to look around Norfolk a bit. I find this county very restful because it is relatively flat, undulating really, and you can let your eyes look way into the distance and go dreamy, where at home, I am limited by walls and the inevitable screens of TV and laptop.

Caister castle! How did I overlook this nearly 35 years ago? I know how I missed it back then, because I was far to preoccupied with my relationship, my music and me to focus on much else. I am astonished I never noticed it before, but if Audrey were alive now I can hear her saying "Of course we saw it! Don't you remember when…." and I wouldn't, but I would say yes just to please.

It has the most unusual slender brick built turret, and the subtle red of the bricks emphasises this, making it look as though it would topple in a strong wind, but of course it wouldn't, hasn't, and was built with the purpose of fortifying a home. The castle was built by Sir John Fastolfe from whom William Shakespeare took the name, altered it, and created the buffoon Falstaff (wrongly the manual states). The view from the top of this tower is quite thrilling and a wander round the car & motorbike museum beside it was very nostalgic.

For the first time at Winterton, a little North of Caister, I come across wind turbine generators and I don't think they look at all unsightly or out of place. I expect that centuries ago, some people thought that windmills marred the view, and despite a strong North Westerly blowing towards me, I can't hear them.

This part is very 'Norfolk', and the road to Horsey is lined with silvery leafed coppiced willow on one side and reed on the other where the shallow dyke is. Somehow it reminds me very much of the Greek islands.

Suddenly I have a yearning to see the sea once more, and the name Sea Palling leaps from the map page. That'll do nicely.

Sea Palling is not what I expected, but it should have been. I expect the coastal towns to aim at tourists, but not such a small place as this. I missed the £1 a day charity park and paid the extortionate rates of the pay and display, only to find this one horse (if that) dot on the landscape consisted of a 'family' amusement arcade, a pub, a chippy and a jet ski shop and that not only was the view an architects nightmare (hey, one of them designed it!) it was a musicians too. At least I knew a lot of the 50's numbers blaring from the arcade, but judging that most of the tourists, me included were of that era, it made sense without the sensibility.

'Since I'm here….' the optimist in me whispered and I walked over the concrete ramp carving through the high dune to the beach.

Since my childhood and the few years spent at Southend, I have loved the seaside out of season, and mid September is just about there. Add to that a faint drizzle of rain and the tourists vanish like yesterdays mayflies. The beach at Southend was pebbles and I would kick them over just beneath the promenade to find the many pennies people had dropped, then take these to the arcades where the owner (I knew them all) would tell me which one arm bandits were about to pay out. With the winnings I bought ice cream & toffee apples from him.

Not far out from shore, closer to the margins than the man made reefs of granite, was a seal. The first I have seen since the banks off Blakeney 30 years ago. Not much further along and I reached steps that would take me over the dune sea barrier, and coming down the other side I was struck by the size of a wooden garage nestling into the foot of the hill. As I looked around, I saw more and more of these garages, then suddenly realised they were dwellings, mostly summer chalets, and between these and a few flint and brick built classic Norfolk cottages, was a thin metalled road called The Marrams.

Wonderful names too, like 'Beach Cottages', ok, 'Driftwood' which it clearly was and 'The Shed', which made me chuckle. Across the road was a paddock enclosed by 'Norfolk' fencing i.e. a few posts hammered into the ground and string strung backwards and forwards between them. 'Yup, at'll keep 'em 'orses in.'

I should think the planning officer either lost too much sleep over this place or he lived here, since anything left lying around like a shed, and old caravan or a horse box was soon added to with scraps from something else, a lean to tacked on here and some corrugated iron there, and suddenly it was a home. Of sorts. It was delightful and I fell in love with the character of this place and it's people right then and there, and I determined that I would be back for a longer stay.

In no time at all I found a remote place tucked away amid a small copse of fir and a solitary sycamore, and paying the owner a fiver, pitched my tent.

So this became N2 on my Satnav and since it was only 4:00pm I could spend some more time on the beach.



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