I woke that morning to a cloudless blue sky and sunshine, a complete contrast to the previous three days. It was my birthday too, and for one fanciful moment I wondered if someone 'up there' had ordered some nice weather especially for me, but it was probably just coincidence. I took the dogs for a walk down on the beach, then opened the cards and presents given to me by my family over a leisurely breakfast.
After that it was a quick tidy up then a study of the map book to plan my day of exploration. I decided on a circular route taking in Horning, Wroxham, and various other places, so with the dogs settled in the back of the van and the awning disconnected I set off.
My route took me through Potter Heigham and Ludham, and it was just after I had gone through Ludham village that I saw a sign pointing down a lane to How Hill. Not knowing what, or where, How Hill was I decided to take a look so I pulled off the main road and followed the lane, which eventually brought me to a large and very pleasant grassy area with space for parking in one corner. I pulled in and managed to find a space under a tree, then took stock of my surroundings - people were sitting around on the grass, some on folding chairs, and others were having a picnic. A group of children were playing ball and there was a large, thatched-roof house set back in its own gardens.
After giving the dogs a drink I clipped their leads on and set off to explore - an information board near the fence told me that this was How Hill House, which was a conference and study centre, and just along the path a sign pointed to the River Ant and Toad Hole Cottage. This turned out to be a small one-time marshman's cottage which was furnished exactly how it would have been 100 years before, but as intriguing as it sounded there were too many people already in there for me to get a proper look so I continued on down to the river.
Not knowing what to expect I was very pleasantly surprised when I got there - to my left was Turf Fen mill and several boats moored alongside the towpath, and to my right was a thatched-roof boathouse and a couple of old drainage mills in the fields along the path. I let the dogs off the lead so they could explore and walked down as far as the second mill, then retraced my steps and walked the other way.
I hadn't gone very far when I came across the most fantastic garden I have ever seen - it was set back from the riverside and seemed to be surrounded on three sides by a square moat. There was a large pond with tall reeds around its edge - on one side were well-manicured lawns and a summer house set among the trees, and on the other were rhododendron bushes in full bloom with a multitude of flowers in several lovely colours. It looked like it would provide many beautiful photographs and I would have loved to wander round with the camera, but it was obviously a private garden so I had to content myself with using the zoom lens instead.
I don't know how long I stood there just gazing at that garden but eventually Sophie began to get impatient, jumping up at me and telling me to get a move on, so I walked back the way I had come and returned to the van. I gave the dogs another drink and got myself a can of Coke from my cool bag, then set off to head for Horning. It was just after I left How Hill that I experienced my first 'unexpected happening' since I had started driving - rounding a bend on the very narrow single-track lane I came face-to-face with a huge bin wagon. The passing place on my side was way back up the lane and I didn't really want to reverse all that way, however the wagon driver reversed into the passing place on his side, which was nearer, and I managed to squeeze round him without scraping along the hedge. Once I got back onto the main road it was a straightforward drive to Horning, though I did make a brief stop at Ludham bridge to take a couple of photos.
Reaching Horning I found the one and only car park to be full - I couldn't really park anywhere else with any safety so I had to wait till a space became available, though fortunately I didn't have to wait too long. After getting a ticket and giving the dogs another drink I set off on my next walkabout. Walking past the Swan Inn with its riverside beer garden, my first port of call was the tea room gardens, where I treated myself to coffee and cake in the sunshine.
From the tea rooms I wandered along the main street through the village, having a quick look in the windows of the handful of shops, and stopping for a few minutes to watch a thatcher at work on a cottage roof, then I made my way back to the riverside.
The river was alive with craft of many different types, mainly hire cruisers but there were also some yachts, a couple of wherries and even a canoe. People sat in the sun round the village green, the beer garden was busy with boaters and holidaymakers enjoying a drink and a meal in the sunshine, and the Mississippi paddle boat was moored up, waiting for passengers for its next trip.
When I had photographed just about everything it was possible to photograph I returned to the van and set off for my next port of call, which was Wroxham. As I approached the town it crossed my mind that I wasn't sure where to park, but I decided to be crafty and use the car park at Roy's, which I knew would be free. Now I've never known who 'Roy' actually is, but he seems to own most of Wroxham; there's Roy's supermarket, Roy's department store, Roy's shopping centre, Roy's garden centre - most places belong to Roy. The large carpark is behind the department store and is free to Roy's customers, so to justify being there I had a look round the garden centre before I went anywhere else. And it was from this car park that I discovered some nice gardens and a lovely riverside walk which I hadn't seen on any of my previous visits to the town.
From Wroxham I drove on to Wroxham Broad, which is actually quite a distance from the town itself. The route took me off the main road and down a couple of narrow country lanes, ending in a small tree-shaded car park just by the water. There is a sailing club next to the car park and quite a few yachts were out on the water, as well as some youngsters in canoes and several hire boats, so the place was a hive of activity. It looked to be a good place for the dogs to have a swim so I found a corner just off the slipway where they could go in and cool off. Sugar swims like a fish but for some reaon Sophie will avoid it if she can, so giving her no chances I picked her up and very gently dropped her in - it wasn't deep so I knew she would be okay. She did swim briefly, and got her revenge by shaking water all over me when she came out!
From Wroxham Broad I went on to Salhouse Broad, which is almost a backwater off the River Bure. I first discovered this lovely little place three years ago while on a hire boat for the day - we pulled in there for a picnic and I was so impressed with the area that I made my mind up to go back there sometime. Arriving by road brings you to a car park, and the Broad itself is about a quarter of a mile walk through a pleasant wooded area. There is a wooden walkway along the water's edge, a lovely grassy hill ideal for picnics or just sitting in the sun, and even a small sandy beach. Letting the dogs off the lead I walked up the hill to the top and stood for a while taking in the scene below me - a row of canoes occupied one end of the beach, with several brightly-coloured life jackets draped over the nearby fence; hire craft were moored alongside the walkway and some of their occupants were having a barbecue on the grass; other craft sailed into or out of the Broad, and a young man was throwing sticks into the water for his dog to fetch.
Walking back down the hill I went along the walkway as far as I could go before a small stream and some very boggy ground stopped me, then I retraced my steps and walked along the beach, ending at the path which took me back to the car park. I decided that from there I would head towards Acle and then back 'home', as I had been out for well over five hours and I was feeling quite peckish - and it was while I was driving along a country lane I came across this lovely little village green.
A couple of miles further on the road split; I could have gone either way as they would both take me in the direction I wanted, but I chose to bear left - and I was so glad I did. Rounding a bend I caught a glimpse of water through the hedge on my left, and a bit further on I came to a car park next to a small staithe where several pleasure craft were moored. This was somewhere I had never been before so I just had to stop and take a look. Next to the car park was a small cafe and information centre - a board outside told me that this was Ranworth Broad, and judging by the many boats moored along the staithe it looked like this was a very popular little place.
This was definitely my last stop of the day, and once I had taken the photos I wanted I returned to the van and headed back to the campsite. After having a bite to eat I fed the dogs and took them for a brief walk round the site then settled in for the evening with a dvd, a bottle of wine - supplied by my son and daughter-in-law - and a big slab of fruit cake, which rounded off a really lovely birthday.
- Hi! I'm Eunice and I live in Bolton, Lancashire, with my two dogs Sophie and Sugar and an assortment of cats - well it used to be Sophie and Sugar, now it's Sophie and Poppie. I first began camping back in 1997 when my then partner took me to Anglesey for my birthday weekend. We slept in the back of the car - a hatchback - using the cushions off the settee at home as a mattress, and cooked and brewed up on a single burner camping stove. The site was good, the views were great, the weather fantastic and I was completely hooked. Following that weekend we got a two-man tent and some proper accessories and returned to Anglesey two weeks later, then over time we progressed to a three-man tent followed by an old trailer tent, then a new trailer tent, a campervan and finally a caravan. When my partner decided that the grass was greener on the other side of the street - literally - in April 2009 and I suddenly found myself alone after fifteen years, I decided there was no way I was going to give up camping and caravanning if I could cope on my own. This blog is the story of my travels, trials and tribulations since becoming a solo camper - I hope you like it