Just by the entrance to the car park was a shop selling all manner of beach things from windbreaks to sandals, and across the road was the green with its war memorial and small maritime museum. The war memorial is a 10ft high German bomb casing and is in honour of the twenty six Royal Engineer Bomb Disposal personnel who lost their lives clearing World War 2 landmines from Norfolk's cliffs and beaches. By the side of the maritime museum a concrete slope led down the cliff to the lower promenade - the beach looked really nice, but in spite of it being quite a warm day it wasn't exactly over-populated with people. I walked along past the cafe and the rows of colourful beach huts then turned up the next slope which took me back up onto the road by the side of the Ship Inn.
Near the top of the slope was a small row of shops, the corner one being a cafe with a couple of tables outside, and as it was about time I had a brew I hitched the dogs to a nearby rail and went inside to see what was on offer. There didn't seem to be much in the way of cake so I settled on apple pie with cream and a latte coffee and took them to one of the outside tables. It was very pleasant sitting there in the sunshine but it was soon time to move on so I made my way back to the van.
My next stop was to be at Happisburgh - I had found it to be quite a depressing place when I went there last year but that could have been because it had been quite a dull day, so I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and see if it looked any nicer in the sunshine. Unfortunately it didn't - even though the sun was shining the area down below the caravan site looked just as desolate as it did before, and just behind where I was standing on the cliff top it looked even worse. Large sections of broken concrete, possibly part of a path or even a building, had tumbled off the cliff and were wedged at crazy angles part way down, and scattered on the beach were piles of stones, bricks and rotting timber, with large sections of rusting corrugated steel leaning against the timber sea defences. It all looked really horrible, and it wasn't the sort of beach where I would want to spend any time - saying that though, a few hundred yards to the south and past the sea defences were a couple of quite pleasant sandy bays, so the area wasn't all bad. And at least the red and white lighthouse, standing tall in the middle of a green field, looked a whole lot nicer with the sun shining on it.
Walking back from the lighthouse to the car park I stopped to look at some notices fastened to a fence, and was pleased to read that an action group had been formed to clean up and regenerate the beach and cliff top area - a new access route, car park and toilets were to be built and the cliff top and beach would be cleared of all debris, which would make the whole area a lot more pleasant. The work was to start later in the summer, in fact as I write this in early September the work should be taking place, so it will be interesting to return next year to see if Happisburgh really does look any nicer.
From Happisburgh my journey continued along the coast road to Sea Palling, another place I had been to on a very grey day - and what a difference the sunshine made. It's only a small place but the area near the access ramp to the beach was alive with people and the beach itself looked a whole heap better in the sunshine than it had on that grey day last year. Keeping the dogs on the lead I walked a little way along the top of the dunes, first in one direction then in the other, then went down onto the beach and out towards the water's edge. There were several small pop-up tents and beach shelters dotted about along the beach; small kids were digging in the sand, older kids were paddling and swimming; families were having picnics sheltered by windbreaks and out on the water a couple of jet skis were zooming about. The whole scene was very bright and attractive, a complete contrast to last year, and I was spoilt for choice for taking photos.
When I had got all the photos I wanted I made my way back along the beach and returned to the van ready for my final stop of the day, Horsey - which isn't exactly on the coast but it's only a mile or so inland, and from the car park near the mill there's a footpath right down to the beach. I've been to, and photographed, Horsey Mill more than once but never walked along the riverbank to Horsey Mere, so that's what I was aiming to do.
Arriving at the car park I got a ticket from the machine then released Sophie and Sugar from the back of the van, and being on a riverbank meant I could let them run free - I say riverbank but Horsey Mill isn't actually on a river, it's on a backwater (or dyke as they are known locally) off the mere, which in turn is off the upper reaches of the River Thurne. The car park was on one side of the dyke but the footpath to the mere was on the other side so I had to walk all the way down to the end of the dyke, cross the walkway by the mill then walk back along the other side - not that I minded as it was a very pleasant walk and the distance wasn't great. The mere, when I finally reached it, was nothing out of the ordinary; just a vast expanse of reed-fringed water with a few ducks swimming about here and there, but there was a very pleasant grassy area nearby with a bench set near some trees so I decided to sit for a while in the sunshine and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the area.
I don't know how long I sat there but when I checked the time on my phone it was getting on for 7pm and the time would soon be up on my car park ticket, so I thought I'd better make a move towards heading back to California. Driving through Winterton and Hemsby it didn't take long to get back to the site, and once I'd connected the awning to the van I put the kettle on and made a couple of sandwiches. I spent the evening with my laptop and UKCS, and apart from taking the dogs for their bedtime walk I didn't go out again. I'd been to some nice (and not so nice) places during the day which admittedly, with the exception of the 'secret' windmill, I'd been to before, but the sunshine had made all the difference and I'd had a lovely day. So it was fingers crossed for lots more of the same lovely weather for the rest of my holiday.