It was after I left Stalham that I rounded a bend and spotted a possible opportunity for a photograph - a vast straw-coloured field sloping gently upwards to the skyline and dotted with huge round bales of hay, or maybe straw. It just reminded me of an American prairie, though on a smaller scale. Now I may not have been driving that long but I have become quite proficient at whipping my large mpv round in relatively small laybys so that's what I did, and went back to take a couple of shots. After turning the van round a second time I continued on my way.
Arriving in Cromer I followed the signs through the town for the beach and promenade, but if I was hoping to park on the road by the promenade gardens I had no chance - it was Cromer Carnival Week, the place was heaving with visitors and every available parking space was occupied. I had to drive a distance up the road to where there was a big 'overflow' car park on the grassy cliff top and then walk back. Now the last time I went to Cromer I was struck with how picturesque the promenade gardens were and I got a few nice photographs, but this time things didn't look as nice - there was a distinct lack of flowers and plants and the fountain wasn't working, so I didn't feel it was worth taking any shots. I wandered over to the seaward side of the promenade instead and took a couple of shots overlooking the beach, then went to have a look round a few shops before going down onto the lower promenade and the beach itself.
Having the dogs with me meant that I could only window shop but maybe that was a good thing - it meant my money stayed in my pocket! Now maybe that's a novel way of saving money - take a dog with you when you go shopping and you won't go in anywhere and buy anything! Anyway, after looking round the shops I took a narrow alley heading in the direction of the sea and came out on an intermediate part of the promenade, overlooking a steeply sloping concrete slipway where several fishing boats on trailers were sitting at the bottom.
There was a cafe on the corner with tables outside, so I ordered coffee and cake and sat out in the sunshine to watch the world go by. Anyone would think I live off coffee and cake - I don't, in fact I very rarely eat cake at home and I drink tea rather than coffee, but I like to treat myself when I'm away and coffee and cake is my one indulgence. Maybe I should set myself a challenge - to eat my way round England, having coffee and cake in every place I visit! I might end up the size of a house with all the calories but I'd have fun doing it! Anyway, after satisfying the inner woman with chocolate fudge cake and cream I went down the nearby slope to the bottom level of the promenade and walked to where there was a row of beach huts at the far end.
On the way back I mentally counted all the old tractors used to pull the fishing boats up and down the beach - there were twenty, and with the exception of one which was a David Brown they were all Fordson Majors. Most of them looked very battered about, with rear wings missing, wheels pitted with rust, bonnets bent out of shape and front cowlings which were more hole than tinwork, but given the nature of their use none of that was surprising - these were workhorses, not show models.
After spending some time studying the tractors - yes, I know it's sad! - I walked up the slipway, turned left at the top and onto the cliff top path, heading back in the opposite direction. The path makes an uphill but very pleasant walk, bordered on one side by flowering bushes along the cliff edge and on the other by the fences of peoples' private back gardens. Where the houses end the path opens up into a large and very pleasant green area with a couple of benches where out-of-breath walkers can sit and recover from their exertions. I was heading for the lighthouse but it seemed to be further away than I first thought, so I decided to sit for a while and let the dogs explore their surroundings. And that was where my camera batteries gave up the ghost - for once I had no spares so being unable to take any more photos, and also conscious of the time I had left on my car park ticket, I thought I may as well head back to the van. The sky had clouded over a bit while I was down on the beach but it didn't last long and the sun had come out again warmer than before, so on my way back along the promenade I got myself a can of Coke from a little gift shop and drank it while I was walking along.
Back at the car park I got chatting to the couple whose car was parked next to mine - they had a cute, scruffy little terrier which I could quite easily have brought home - and I found out that from where I sat on the bench I wouldn't have needed to walk too much further along the cliff path before I came to the lighthouse. But being unable to take any more photos would have rendered the exercise pointless anyway, so I made a mental note of that for a return visit, settled the dogs safely in the back of the van, and headed back towards California. I didn't go back on the same route though, I decided to explore the coast south of Cromer to see if there would be any future photographic opportunities.
My first stop was Overstrand, a sprawling village on the outskirts of Cromer - in fact the only thing separating it from Cromer itself was a golf course. Following the signs for the beach I turned off the main road and down a lane which led past a few little shops and ended in a small car park on the cliff top. I don't know what I was expecting to see when I got there but as I drove into the car park I knew I wouldn't be staying long. Away from the main sprawl of the village there was nothing there - just a few little cottages set back from the end of the lane and a zigzag path leading down the cliff to the beach, which was just a long uninteresting stretch of sand divided by breakwaters and backed by a concrete 'promenade'. Even if my camera had been working I wouldn't have bothered taking any photos, so after less than ten minutes I got back in the van and drove on.
A few miles further on I passed RAF Trimingham with its white radar dome looking like a huge golf ball which had strayed from the course back in Cromer - it wasn't something I expected to see, and I thought it looked rather incongruous sitting like that in the middle of open countryside. The coast road eventually passed through Mundesley, which looked marginally more intriguing than Overstrand, and seeing a sign for a car park I thought it worth a look so I pulled in and parked up. Just by the car park entrance was a small gift shop and a nice looking cafe with tables outside, and just beyond the cafe was a pretty garden and a crazy golf course. Across the road were well-tended lawns with pretty flowerbeds near the edges and bench seats overlooking the sea. The lawns were divided by a sloping path leading down to the beach and on the right was a green and white shelter for people to sit out of the sun. A splash of colour down the road caught my eye and when I went to investigate I found another gift shop, larger than the first one and with various brightly coloured beach toys displayed in baskets outside the door. Next door to that was a bakery and another cafe, and a bit further along was The Ship pub with a large beer garden overlooking the sea and another path leading down to the beach. This was a really nice little place, with much more about it than Overstrand, and it was a pity my camera wasn't working. I suppose I could have got some batteries from one of the shops but ordinary ones don't last long so it wasn't worth it. However, Mundesley will still be there next time I stay at California so it will most certainly be on the list for a return visit.
Time was getting on by the time I had finished looking round and I still had quite a distance to go, so I gave the dogs a quick drink and set off once more. Just out of Mundesley the road went inland slightly before turning back towards the coast, and as I drove through Bacton I passed the huge power station which spanned both sides of the road. Situated where it was, in open countryside, it was a complete blot on an otherwise nice landscape - if I thought the Trimingham 'golf ball' looked odd then this was positively ugly. But then I suppose the people of north Norfolk have got to get their power supply from somewhere. Once through Bacton the road turned inland properly and took me back to Stalham, and from there it was less than half an hour back to California. After parking the van on my pitch I connected the awning, put up the blinds, and made a much needed brew and a sandwich. It had been a varied and enjoyable day with quite a lot of driving, now it was time to put my feet up and relax for the rest of the evening.