Walking back through the site I got chatting to a couple of people I had met during my stay there in August last year; they were a nice couple and like me were regulars on the site, and during our conversation they invited me back to their caravan for a coffee. I wasn't in a particular rush to go out so I accepted and spent a very happy hour or so having a good chat and a laugh with them, their teenage daughter and her friend, so it was getting on for lunch time before I finally put the dogs in the back of the van, disconnected the awning and drove away from my pitch.
From the camp site to Oulton Broad was a distance of slightly over 17 miles and according to RAC Routeplanner should (theoretically) have taken just 31 minutes, but whoever worked that one out must have done it in the dead of night in the middle of winter with no traffic on the road as the reality of a sunny day in peak holiday season was ever so slightly different. The drive went well until I turned off the A12 and approached the outskirts of Oulton itself then I hit a long line of nose-to-tail stop-start traffic, and it took me almost as long to get from there to the Broad is it had done to get from California to there. I was just about losing the will to live when I finally saw the bridge which carries the road across the entrance to the Broad and knew I hadn't much further to go. At the far side of the bridge a minor road took me past a handful of shops and an attractive-looking pub and into the large car park adjacent to Nicholas Everitt Park, and though the first few sections were full there was plenty of space further along so I picked a spot in the shade of a couple of trees, got a ticket from a nearby machine then set off with the dogs to see what I could photograph. The weather was perfect and I couldn't have wished for a better location; of all the time I spent wandering round the camera was hardly out of my hand and I took nearly forty photos in total - and I make no apologies for putting many of them on here.
There were several paths leading from the car park and the one I took brought me out at the water's edge just by the private moorings of a sailing club. Set back in a quiet corner was a small shingle beach where a couple of dozen swans and nearly twice as many ducks paddled or swam lazily in the shallow water, and looking across the water to the gardens and houses at the far side of the broad I thought it made quite an attractive scene.
Crossing the top of the nearby slipway I followed the path through a pleasant area of trees and round to the main part of the park. An extensive lawned area overlooked the main part of the broad and stretched for a couple of hundred yards - strolling couples and dog walkers followed the path by the water's edge and families were dotted about enjoying picnics on the grass. On the right was the Park Cafe with its very pleasant outdoor dining area and just beyond it was a mini putting green, several trampolines and a very colourful crazy golf course backed by a well-trimmed evergreen hedge. A path led between the side of the cafe and the trampoline area and following this led me to a children's play area, another cafe and a nice little boating lake where brightly painted canoes moved lazily at the end of their mooring ropes.
By the time I had finished wandering round there I was ready for a brew so I made my way back to the Park Cafe for coffee and cake - and that's where I met my second 'nose-to-tail' queue of the day. The cafe was extremely busy and the queue was right along the front of the counter and up to the door; I must have been there ten minutes before anyone moved, and when I finally got inside I could see why - there was just one girl behind the counter taking orders, serving drinks and operating the till. Having left the dogs hitched to a railing outside I almost gave up there and then but knowing how good the carrot cake was last year I decided to stick it out until it was eventually my turn at the counter. To be fair the girl did apologise for the long wait, which probably wasn't her fault anyway, and when I had finally been served with my coffee and cake I went back outside and found a seat at a table close to the dogs. The coffee was just what I needed and the cake was, as last year, really delicious - it was just a shame that the service was so abysmal.
With my thirst quenched I left the cafe, crossed the grass to the waterside and walked along in the direction of the swing bridge. A wide concrete pedestrianised roadway led from the park towards the main road and this was split into two by a series of stone walls and raised flower beds, with bench seats overlooking the water on one side and grass verges, shrubs and large tubs of flowers on the other. Three single storey thatched roof buildings housed the harbour master's offices, public toilets, a fishing tackle shop and another cafe, and altogether it was a very attractive area.
Reaching the minor road at the end of the broad I followed the pavement and the footpath round almost as far as the Wherry Hotel, stopping every few yards or so to take yet another photo. I was very tempted to cross the footbridge and go beyond the hotel to the far side of the broad but mindful of how much time remained on my car park ticket and the distance I had to walk to get back to the van I decided against it, and after lingering for a few minutes to watch someone fishing I turned and retraced my steps in the direction of the car park.
Back at the van I gave the dogs a drink and pondered on where to go next. Being at Oulton Broad meant that I was only about four miles from Beccles so I could quite easily visit the friends who lived near there and then drive on to Bungay to see Jane, Ady and Andy, but having thought about it I realised that for once I wasn't really in the mood for visiting. I could save that for another day instead, so I decided to drive back to California ahead of the late afternoon rush hour and spend the rest of the day on site. Driving out of Oulton was much easier than driving in as there were no real hold-ups to speak of and it didn't take too long to get back to the camp site; I had no plans to drive anywhere else that day so I connected the awning back up to the van and with the dogs snoozing on their beds I set about downloading the day's photos onto to my laptop. I had got some really good shots, and looking at them on the laptop screen I knew that when I got round to writing the relevant section of my blog I would have a hard job selecting which ones to include - which is why there are now so many of them on this page!