It was just gone noon when I finally decided to go out - the weather was perfect for a 'beach day', but rather than just go and sit there I would do my favourite walk up to Hemsby via the avenues and come back along the beach. So with the dogs on their lead and taking nothing more than my camera and a bit of loose change I set off through the site. My route took me along the road past a very pleasant static caravan site and the private area of cliff top known as Lands End, and as is my custom I went across to lean on the wooden gate and look for rabbits but there wasn't a single one. A bit further on from Lands End the road took a sharp left hand turn past an attractive row of whitewashed cottages and a hundred yards or so from there was The Promenade, which isn't a promanade at all but a shingle-surfaced avenue running past a long row of chalet-bungalows and leading back onto the cliff top.
After a hundred yards or so The Promenade widens out slightly and becomes The Esplanade, with quaint chalet-bungalows and more modern larger houses on one side and a well-kept area of cliff top on the other, and it's this avenue which leads towards Hemsby. Eventually the houses and bungalows peter out, the avenue narrows till it's just a footpath and the cliff top changes from grass to dunes. The path crosses a small grassy area then skirts round a clump of bushes and becomes a concrete roadway running through the dunes, and set back in a corner are two rows of quaint fishermen's cottages. Nestling in the dunes at various points are more small chalet-bungalows, many of them being basic timber-built holiday homes but some of them being a bit more substantial and probably lived in all year round.
Walking along there in the sunshine is always very pleasant and because it's almost traffic-free the dogs can run about and explore as much as they like. The concrete roadway ends almost on the beach at Hemsby Gap, joining the proper road which runs up past all the shops and amusements - at the Gap itself is an ice cream kiosk and a cafe with a few outside tables, and a wooden boardwalk runs from there across the sand and onto the beach itself. The beach round the Gap area is always well populated when the weather is good and this time was no exception - beach shelters, pop-up tents and stripey windbreaks were everywhere, with many families picnicing and kids playing in the sand and the sea, and way beyond the end of the boardwalk was the usual pink and white ice cream van. How on earth the guy had driven across the soft sand I'll never know but he was doing a steady trade - and seeing him there tempted me to indulge in a treat. I don't often eat ice cream unless I'm in Italy - Italian ice cream has got to be the best ever - but I would make an exception for once. By the time I'd reached the van the queue had gone down to two so I didn't have to wait long, and I treated myself to a 99 with all the trimmings. Now eating a large ice cream while walking through very soft sand with two dogs on leads, and trying not to make a mess, isn't the easiest of things to do but I managed it - just - and really enjoyed my little treat.
By the time I'd finished the ice cream I had walked far enough away from the Gap for the beach to be much less populated so I was able to let Sophie and Sugar off the lead again, and a bit further on still there was no-one around at all. That's one thing I like about that beach - everyone seems to crowd round the various access areas leaving the long stretches in between empty, and walking along with the dogs I have much of it to myself. Sophie and Sugar were having a great time sniffing and exploring - Sugar has a 'thing' about seaweed and she found a really interesting (to her) large clump of it which she proceeded to roll on then toss up in the air till it fell apart, with Sophie looking at her like she'd lost the plot. I threw a few stones for Sophie and she brought them back - I threw some for Sugar too and she went into the sea for hers but there was no way Sophie was going to get wet, she was staying put on the sand.
The walk from the camp site to Hemsby and back along the beach to the site took just about two hours and I was more than ready for a brew when I got back to the awning. Sitting in the sun with my mug of coffee I contemplated what to do next, and as it was still only mid afternoon I decided I would go out to Clippesby to see Eileen and Ron, the old friends I had tracked down last year. Okay, so Clippesby wasn't exactly local to the camp site but it was only six miles away and no great distance to drive, so with the dogs in the back of the van and the awning disconnected I set off, and less than fifteen minutes later I was reversing onto the driveway at Eileen and Ron's cottage.
Letting myself into the rear garden by the farm gate at the side of the house I found Ron watering the plants and hanging baskets on the patio, he greeted me and told me that Eileen was in the living room watching tv if I wanted to go straight in. As soon as she saw me Eileen said "You're early!" - now as she had no idea I would be going to visit at that time on that particular day I wondered how on earth she could say I was early, then I realised. Last year when I first went to visit it had been August and I had promised I would call again this year so she must have been expecting it to be in August again, and as it was only the beginning of June I was therefore 'early'! Ron put the kettle on and even though I'd not long since had a brew I accepted a mug of coffee, and with Sophie and Sugar playing out in the garden with their border collie Joe we all settled down for a good long chat. We talked and laughed about everything under the sun and before I knew it well over a couple of hours had passed and it was time for me to go. Leaning on her walking stick Eileen got up from her chair and gave me a big hug and I promised that I would call again next time I was at California, which would be in August. Ron came with me to the van and with Sophie and Sugar safely in the back I said my goodbyes and set off back to California.
Back at the camp site I re-connected the awning to the van, made myself a sandwich, then put my chair and table outside to enjoy the rest of the early evening sunshine and reflect on my day. The walk along the beach, the dogs playing on the sand, and my visit to two lovely friends - simple things but I had derived so much pleasure from all of them. As the daylight began to fade I took the dogs round the site for their last walk of the day then after settling them on their beds I made a final brew and took myself off to my own bed. It was much earlier than I would normally go to bed but I had a long day coming up so I wanted to make sure I was well rested and ready for it - and fingers crossed that the sun would keep shining.