It was going on for lunchtime when I finally disconnected the awning from the van and drove away from my pitch. My first port of call was to be Hemsby market then up to the seal hospital at Winterton, followed by Latham's at Potter Heigham and finally a visit to my friends Eileen and Ron out at Clippesby. Unfortunately a look round Hemsby market turned out to be a completely frustrating non-event - Hemsby itself was so busy with holidaymakers that trying to find a parking space was a total nightmare. I pulled into the car park nearest the market but it was full and even though I waited for quite a while there was no-one coming out so I drove down to the big car park by the dunes at the bottom of the road. That too was full and I spent several minutes driving round in the hope that someone would leave and I could get a space but I would have had more success trying to knit fog, so I gave up and drove away again. My next thought was to try to find somewhere behind the main street but everywhere I went I was met by double yellow lines or 'private parking' signs, and after three reverses and a couple of three-point turns I was beginning to lose the will to live, so I conceded defeat and drove away. Going to the market wasn't exactly essential anyway so I would wait until the following weekend and walk there instead.
The main road from Hemsby took me through Winterton and out towards Somerton, and it was on a bend where I saw a roughly made and crudely painted 'seal hospital open' sign pointing down a farm track between the fields - and this was when I experienced my second non-event of the day. At the end of the track was a farmhouse and a motley collection of ramshackle outbuildings and a barn; an area of rough ground on my right had another crudely made sign propped up against the fence, proclaiming this to be the visitors' car park - except there didn't seem to be any visitors as there were no other cars there. Parking up on a reasonably level patch of grass and leaving the dogs in the van I went to see if there was anyone around - another home made sign saying 'table top sale open' pointed to the barn, but the barn door was closed and in front of it yet another sign said 'private - no admittance'. This was getting more confusing by the minute - was the place open or not? With still no-one around I went to the farmhouse to make some enquiries, but although I knocked several times and a dog barked somewhere no-one came to the door. Just across from the farmhouse was a small scruffy outbuilding which looked like it was pretending to be an office/reception and on the window was a poster with a landline phone number - I would ring that, and if nobody was answering the door then maybe they would answer the phone instead. Except nobody did - all I got was a recorded message telling me what to do if I found an abandoned or injured seal on the beach. So it looked like the place wasn't open, and I wondered if maybe I had read the poster wrongly - I would check later on when I got back to the camp site. For now though there was nothing I could do except drive away and head for Potter Heigham.
The car park at Latham's was extremely busy but I was able to get a space under a conveniently overhanging tree at the far end, and after taking the dogs for a walk and giving them a drink I went for a good browse round the store, ending with a coffee and cream-filled Belgian bun in the cafe. Then it was on to Clippesby and Eileen and Ron's place, but as I was driving along one of the lanes I saw a sign for Thurne - I had never been there before so decided to make a detour and take a look. The village was one of those very small 'blink and you miss it' places but there was a staithe which seemed to be a popular mooring place off the main river, so finding a convenient parking place under some trees across the lane from it I clipped the leads on the dogs and set off to explore.
A bit further along the lane was the Lion Inn pub/restaurant which seemed to be a very popular place, and on the corner across the road was a little gift shop which also sold ice cream and soft drinks. Facing the end of the staithe was a short row of attractive cottages followed by a couple of very modern detached houses with balconies overlooking the water. The lane ended there in a small gravelled parking area and a footpath led along the bank towards the river, where Thurne mill stood tall at the end of the staithe. Walking along that path and looking at my surroundings I had a sudden flash of recognition - I had been to Thurne before, on Eileen and Ron's 'Unicorn' many years before, and we had moored for a while against the opposite bank from where I now was, though as we hadn't left the boat I never saw anything of the village. My hazy recollection became clearer when I reached the river and the mill, and I could remember sailing into the staithe and mooring up.
When I reached the mill I lingered for a while watching the river craft sailing to and fro then let the dogs off the lead and continued to follow the path along the riverbank. Eventually it veered away from the water and followed the line of the neighbouring fields, and even though I walked for quite a distance I could see nothing more of the river other the tops of the sails on various dinghies, so I turned round and headed back towards the staithe. The dogs had had a good run and were ready for a drink so I gave them some water then put them in the back of the van while I went to have a look in the gift shop. It was a nice little place selling a mixture of framed prints, ornaments, cuddly toys and nick-nacks, though there was nothing I wanted to buy so I just treated myself to a white Magnum which I ate in the van before setting off for Eileen and Ron's place.
It was only a couple of miles from Thurne to Clippesby so it didn't take long to get to where I was going, and as I parked the van in the driveway at South Cottage and looked round at the landscaped gardens and the private access road I still found it hard to believe how different it was from eighteen or so years ago. With Sophie and Sugar on the lead I let myself in through the big farm gate at the side of the house, and following the sound of hammering I found Ron in one of his sheds doing a bit of DIY. Years ago that particular shed was a source of fascination for me - it wasn't just a normal shed, it was more of a tardis with different sections which got bigger and bigger the further in you went, and it had been stacked full of all sorts of weird and wonderful things. It was one of those places where, no matter what you wanted and how obscure it was, you would find it in there. It was still very much the same now, though in the years since I had last been in there it had been opened up and partially rebuilt into one huge space, and was actually reasonably tidy.
Ron stopped what he was doing when he saw me and together we went across to the house where I found Eileen in the living room, ensconced in her reclining chair and watching tv. Ron put the kettle on and made a brew, and with Sophie and Sugar playing in the garden with Joe the collie we settled in for a good chat. During our conversation I mentioned that I'd been walking along the river bank at Thurne, and Eileen told me that if I had walked far enough I would have ended up back in Potter Heigham. It was almost two hours later when I realised that time was getting on, so not wanting to keep Eileen and Ron from their evening meal I called the dogs and said my goodbyes, with a hug for Eileen and the promise to call again at the end of my holiday.
Back at the camp site I reversed the van onto my pitch, connected the awning and fed the dogs before making myself something to eat, then spent the evening with my laptop and a bit of tv, and making plans for the following day if the weather was good. The forecast on the tv had said it was to be sunny, and as I settled down in my bed later that night I kept my fingers crossed that it would be right.