By the time I was ready for leaving camp the day was already very warm and it was getting warmer; with my cycling shorts, vest top and beach sandals on, and the van windows right down as I drove along the A149 it was hard to believe that this was now September - it was more like the summer we should have had when it was summer. And as driving in weather like that is always a pleasure I put a cd on to sing along to, belting out the likes of Young Girl, San Francisco and You Don't Have to Say You Love Me - and if the dogs had their paws over their ears I couldn't see them as they were behind me.
When I reached the outskirts of Hunstanton I followed the signs for the seafront, the road taking me past a lighthouse and a long and very pleasant grassy area and some gardens on the clifftop, and following the relevant signs I finally came to a car park just off the promenade. With a ticket duly purchased and my camera slung round my neck I clipped the leads on the dogs - who were probably very deaf by then - and set off to explore. I'd noticed the riot of colour in the promenade gardens as I'd driven past so that was the first place I headed for and I wasn't disappointed. The gardens sloped down from the clifftop road to the lower promenade and there was colour everywhere I looked; this was far better than when I'd been there before and I was already very impressed. There was so much to take photos of that I ended up taking a couple of dozen, and I make no apologies for posting many of them on here.
By the time I'd finished wandering round the gardens I was ready for some liquid refreshment; at the far end of the gardens were a couple of bowling greens and beyond those was a nice-looking little cafe so I went to see what they had in the way of coffee and cake. Although there were no tables outside there were a couple of bench seats so I hitched Sophie and Sugar to one of those while I went in to place my order, then with my coffee and carrot cake on a tray I went back out to sit in the sunshine with them, taking my tray back in when I'd finished. At the end of the path which ran past the cafe were some steps leading down to the lower promenade, and when I got to the bottom I found that the promenade itself actually ended a bit further along. The cliffs at that point were made up of two colours, the lower layer being brick red and the top layer being white, with piles of boulders and small scree lying at the base after falling from the cliff face itself.
Heading off in the other direction I walked back past the lower end of the gardens and for quite a distance southwards. The promenade at that point was just a long wide expanse of concrete backed by various buildings including a large leisure centre, and with a handful of fast food stalls and a big funfair stretching along one section of it . The tide was on its way out and there were quite a lot of couples and families with very young kids enjoying themselves on the beach. Although this part of the promenade wasn't as attractive as up by the gardens it wasn't that bad, and it certainly looked better than when I'd seen it a few years previously, although it was let down somewhat by a derelict-looking area in the centre of the funfair. I didn't go any further than the end of the fair as there didn't seem to be anything much beyond there so I turned round and headed back towards the van, stopping for a few minutes to watch the Wash Monster coming in from the sea.
Now although the Wash Monster might sound like a giant washing machine it's actually an amphibious vehicle which takes passengers for trips out in the sea, along the coast as far as the lighthouse and back. The Wash is that particular bit of the North Sea, and the vehicle itself has been painted to resemble a monstrous Great White shark; from a distance it doesn't look too bad but close up it's hideous and actually quite scarey-looking. It was fascinating to watch it though as it came out of the sea and trundled up the beach, stopping nose-on to the promenade where the front opened up automatically and a walkway folded out to allow the passengers to disembark.
When I finally got back to the van I gave the dogs a drink, settled them in the back and set off to have a look round the area near the lighthouse, which I'd seen on my way into the town. Not far from the lighthouse, and close to the seafront road, was the wall and archway of an ancient ruined chapel, originally built by the monks of Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk to commemorate St. Edmund's landing at that spot after crossing the North Sea from Germany. A few yards away was a small garden area with a large wolf sculpture in the centre which signified a connection to St. Edmund, and round the other side of the archway was a garden of rest, created in memory of the local men who died in the First World War. Beyond the lighthouse a large car park was situated on the sloping clifftop and in the distance I could see a beach but it was too far away for me to want to walk there so I just took a few photos round where I was then set off to my next port of call.
Going back along the A149 my next stop should have been the beach at Holme-next-the-Sea, but when I got to the car park, which was just a private grassy area set back off the lane, I found out that the charge was a flat rate of £4 - which would be okay for anyone staying all day but I wasn't, so I just turned round and drove straight out again to continue my journey back towards Sheringham. The next place along was Brancaster beach, and although I'd been to Brancaster Staithe last year I hadn't been to the beach so I thought I'd see if I had more luck there. The beach itself was down a long lane off the main road and when I got almost to the end I found that yet again there was a car park with a stupid fee to pay, however there was a wide grass verge along the side of the lane at that point so I parked there for the few minutes it took me to walk down to the beach and take a photo.
Back on the road again I decided that while I was in the vicinity I would make a brief return visit to Brancaster Staithe and Burnham Overy. The kiosk at Brancaster Staithe was still open when I got there and as the late afternoon was still very warm and I needed some more liquid refreshment I bought a can of Coke and drank it while sitting in the van and looking at the boats. At Burnham Overy I took the dogs for a walk along the high bank above the staithe then set off once more, making my third and final stop at Wells. By this time it was gone 6pm and the sun had taken on its early evening glow, meaning I didn't have much photography light left, so with just a couple of shots of the boats moored along the creek I returned to the van and continued my journey, not stopping again until I got back to the camp site.
It had still been daylight for most of my drive back to California but once the light started to fade it disappeared quite rapidly and by the time I drove onto my pitch it was almost dark. With the awning re-attached to the van and the dogs fed I settled in for the rest of the evening, only going out again to take Sophie and Sugar for their bedtime walk round the site. As I lay in bed later on my mind went back over the last few hours; it had been a long drive to Hunstanton and back but I'd been quite pleasantly surprised by the place and I'd got some good photos so it had all been worth it - and I may even be tempted to make a return visit another time.