Leaving Sheringham behind I drove west along the A149 coast road passing the golf course, part of which I had seen from the cliff top gardens, and two or three miles of fields, then on through the village of Weybourne. A couple of miles further on the fields on my right turned to salt marsh with a high bank in the distance which hid the sea from view, and a road sign on my left told me that this was the village of Salthouse - and that's where I made my next stop. Rounding a bend in the road I came upon a large roadside pond - actually part of a dyke - split into two by a rough footpath and a small bridge. Ducks and seagulls were swimming in the water or preening themselves on the bank, and across the far side of the pond a piebald pony wandered about grazing contentedly. It was such a nice and unexpected thing to come across that I just had to stop to take some photos - there was what could loosely be termed a 'lay-by' on that side of the road so I pulled in there, and as it wasn't worth taking the dogs with me I left them in the van for once. It took me roughly five minutes to walk along the road to the end of the pond and back, and having got half a dozen nice photos I got back in the van and continued on my way.
The next village along the road was Cley-next-the-Sea although that's a bit of a misnomer. Because of the vast expanse of saltmarsh it's actually nowhere near the sea - well, probably about a mile away - though I think many years ago it must have been. It looked to be quite a nice place with several interesting little shops, though I couldn't take much notice as I really needed to concentrate on where I was going - not only did the road go round two very sharp bends as it passed through the village, it also narrowed to not much more than the width of two vehicles, and with cars parked by the roadside in various places negotiating a way through was like taking part in The Krypton Factor. I finally got through without hitting anything or anyone or being hit by something, and continued to my next stop which was Blakeney. The road passed through the upper part of Blakeney village where I came to a crossroads with two signs - a right turn would take me to the quay and left would take me to some free parking, so left turn it was. The free parking turned out to be a large and well-surfaced car park belonging to the village hall, and as I didn't know what parking would be available closer to the quayside I thought I may as well leave the van there.
It was only a few minutes walk from the car park to the quayside and when I got there a very pleasant sight met my eyes. The road curved round to the right and on the left of the bend was a very pleasant grassy area with several roadside parking spaces, all occupied, and three or four bench seats dotted about. A wide channel of water cut through the salt marsh and meandered past the road, and just beyond the parking spaces was the start of a promenade. Several boats were moored along the quayside and over on the other side of the channel a group of kids played on a small beach which bordered the marsh. Across the road were a handful of cottages and the Blakeney Hotel and further along the road was a large parking area for cars and boat trailers.
At the entrance to the parking area was a kiosk with a board displaying the parking charges - and reading how much they were I was glad I had taken the option of free parking at the village hall. Set in a corner not far from the kiosk and close to the road was a static caravan which had been set up as a small cafe with tables and chairs outside; behind that was a large expanse of salt marsh and across the road was a small tea room and ice cream shop and a bit further along was the attractive looking Manor Hotel, with it's white walls and terraced garden. I decided that I would walk as far as the next bend in the road before turning round and retracing my steps, and as I got past the cafe I was both surprised and pleased to find another roadside pond similar to the one at Salthouse. This one was more 'formal' though and had landscaped edges with various shrubs and bushes growing on the banks - it was also surrounded by wire fencing, and an information board at one corner told me it was a wildlife area. And it was certainly busy with wildlife - ducks, geese and swans were prevalent with the odd seagull here and there, and several moorhens continually diving under the water to pop up again several yards away. It was a very attractive corner and I spent several minutes taking photos round the perimiter.
When I had photographed just about everything which interested me I made my way back to the van, and after giving the dogs a drink I set out for Wells. The next village along from Blakeney was Morston, one of those 'blink and you miss it' places, but seeing a sign for Morston Quay I thought it was worth taking a look. The lane down to the quay was quite long, bordered by hedges and passing a few quaint cottages and a very small caravan site with only about half a dozen caravans on it, to end in a large gravelled parking area at the edge of the marsh. If I was expecting to see an actual quayside then I was destined to be disappointed; there was just a long channel winding through the marsh, with boats moored up to the banks, and other boats on trailers scattered about the grassy areas. A two-storey timber building with steps up one side was situated on one part of the parking area and this seemed to belong to some sailing club or other, though there was a small ice cream and drinks kiosk on one side of it. There wasn't really much else to see, and after taking my one and only photo I returned to the van and set off once more.
It took me another fifteen minutes or so to reach Wells - or Wells-next-the-Sea to give it its full name - and it didn't surprise me to see that the place was extremely busy, so finding a parking space somewhere wouldn't be easy. Driving along past the quay - which was a proper quay this time - I saw a parking sign and followed it to a car park just behind the quayside road but I hadn't a cat in hell's chance of finding a space there, so out I came and followed another sign pointing to the beach and another car park which, looking at the length of the road to it, seemed to be quite a distance away. The road ran along one side of a raised embankment - on the far side of the embankment was a large 'inland sea' and on the other side of the road were low lying fields, with a miniature railway track running close to, and parallel with, the road. And right at the very end of the road was just what I was looking for - a large and very pleasant purpose-built grassy car park with lots of vacant spaces and a cafe in the corner, all backed by an area of pinewoods. I parked up, got a ticket from the nearby machine, and with the dogs on the lead I set off to explore.
A flight of steps and a path led up the side of the embankment to the top and from there I could get an idea of what to see and where to go. On the other side of the embankment was a wide tarmac path bordered by a long and perfectly straight beach - the inland sea had been split by the recent construction of a large sandbank, creating a sheltered area with a long pontoon where several commercial boats were moored, and this beach was part of it. And looking at the tracks on the sand and the large digger over on the sandbank it seemed that work was still ongoing. To my left was a proper beach backed by an area of dense bushes and trees and with what I assumed to be a lifeboat house at the end, and to my right the inland sea, stretching right back to the quayside, was dotted with private yachts, fishing boats and dinghies of all descriptions bobbing about on the calm water.
I decided to go left first, and the embankment path led me through the trees to the main beach. There was nothing much to my right but further along to my left was a long row of colourful and attractive beach huts backed by trees and built up off the sand, with little balconies and steps up to the front. I didn't go too far along the beach before I turned and retraced my steps back to the embankment with the intention of walking along the top towards the quayside. However it was quite a distance - at least a mile - and if I walked there I would only have to walk all the way back again to get the van, so I decided to get a can of Coke from the cafe and drive along, hoping that when I got there I would be able to find a space in the other car park.
Lady Luck must have been shining on me for once, because as I pulled into the car park and started to look round for a space another driver pulled out from the far corner and I was able to drive straight into the space he had just vacated. So with yet another ticket stuck in the front windscreen - maybe I should start collecting these things! - I released the dogs from the back and set off along the quayside.
At the corner of the road leading to the beach was an amusement place and ice cream shop and on the main road itself was a mixture of gift shops, cafes and take-aways. Several commercial fishing boats were moored alongside the quay and the inland sea became a very wide channel running parallel to the road for quite a distance. I did think about treating myself to fish and chips as I was beginning to feel quite peckish, but every single cafe and take-away was full to bursting and with long queues outside so I gave up on that idea. As I walked along the road curved round to the right away from the quayside but with a lane continuing along by the water, and just by the corner was a small and very pleasant green area with tubs of flowers near the edge and a handful of bench seats overlooking the water. I could see that the lane ran behind a row of cottages further along and emerged again by the waterside, but as time was getting on and I had a long drive back to the camp site I didn't go any further than that corner - finding out what was along the lane was something for another time.
When I got back to the van I had a quick look at the map book with the idea of maybe driving back across country instead of taking the coast road, but the route didn't look to be any shorter plus I would have had to go round the outskirts of Norwich, so I abandoned that idea and set out back on my original route. By then the evening was creeping on but the sun was still shining and with a cd to sing along to it was a very pleasant drive back to California. Arriving back on my pitch I reversed alongside the awning and connected it up to the van, and while the dogs were still in the back I went round to the take-away on the lane and got some fish and chips. Then with the dogs on their beds in the awning I opened my bottle of wine, turned on the tv and settled down to my supper. The busy day and all the driving had taken it's toll though and I was ready for sleep much earlier than normal, so after taking the dogs for a last quick walk round the site I settled them back on their beds and took myself off to mine. It had been a really good birthday - the weather had been great, I had been to places I hadn't seen before and got lots of good photos, all rounded off with fish and chips and a couple of glasses of wine - can't be bad!