The walk up to Hemsby was very pleasant, and I noticed along the way that one or two of the original chalet bungalows were having building work done to extend them and make them larger, which was a shame really as they would lose the quirky individuality which was common around there and morph into the type of properties you could see more or less anywhere. When I reached Hemsby itself I resisted the temptation to look round the shops and just went straight onto the beach, letting the dogs off their leads when I got away from the more populated area. Throwing stones for the two of them while I walked along, and with Sugar running in and out of the sea, I made my way at a leisurely pace back to the camp site where I pottered about round the awning while Sugar dried out from her soaking in the sea.
It was 1pm when I set out for Latham's, my breakfast had long since worn off by then so I was looking forward to yet another of their cream-filled Belgian buns - and any guilt I may have felt about consuming all those calories was offset by having just had a good long walk with the dogs. The coffee and bun were just as good as always and after a quick walk round the store I returned to the van and set off for Reedham. My first intention was to go to Pettits Animal Adventure Park on the outskirts of Reedham but when I got there I didn't stay - for a start the entrance fee was very pricey and secondly dogs weren't allowed in. Now on a cool dull day that wouldn't have been too much of a problem, they would have been okay in the van, but the weather was boiling hot and the only car parking available was in an open field with no shade - and as cooked dog was definitely not on the menu I abandoned that part of my plan and drove on to the village itself, where I managed to find a parking space overlooking the river in the shade of a couple of nice trees. The parking spaces were only supposed to be for customers of the Lord Nelson pub across the road so to justify being there, and because a refreshing drink would be a good idea, I hitched the dogs to one of the outside tables and went to get a glass of Coke, which I drank while watching the passing boats on the water.
With my drink eventually finished I went for a wander along the riverside and was surprised to see that since my last visit there two years ago a nice little cafe had opened up - in my opinion it was just what the village had been short of and I'll certainly try it next time I'm there. When I got to the Ship Inn at the far end of the road I found the front of it completely covered in flowers and certainly worth a couple of photos; the garden overlooking the river looked very colourful too, and as I walked back to the van I passed a cottage with a very pretty garden full of brightly coloured flowers - and with the flower tubs set at intervals along the grass by the river the village was looking the brightest I'd ever seen it.
My next stop was half a mile along the river at Reedham ferry where I could take the dogs for a good walk along the riverbank; there was a small car park just below the riverbank near the end of the lane, luckily with a couple of free spaces, so I pulled in there and with dogs and camera in hand went to see what I could photograph. The nearby pub looked to be very busy and the tables on the riverbank patio area were all full with people enjoying a drink in the sunshine. Between the lane and the top of the riverbank was a narrow strip of garden planted with a profusion of roses and smaller flowers in a riot of different colours and I couldn't resist taking a photo, then I set off to see what was along the riverbank itself. The footpath was separated from the pub area by a post-and-rail fence and a gate, and only a couple of hundred yards away from there, and just down below the top of the riverbank, was a converted windmill with a wrap-around sun room halfway up and with stairs leading down from an outside balcony into a small neat garden; the whole thing looked very quirky so that was another photo to add to my collection.
Beyond the windmill there was nothing but open fields stretching to the edge of the village in the distance, and as I walked along I experienced what must have been the most perfect half hour of my life. Even though I was on a public footpath not far from a busy pub there wasn't a single person around, and the wide expanse of reeds which separated the main river from the bank deadened the noise of any passing boats. With the hot sun shining from an almost cloudless blue sky, and nothing but the sound of the breeze whispering through the reeds and the calling of various birds as they flew overhead the peace and tranquility was almost tangible. It was as if I'd been transported to my own little paradise and time had stood still once I got there - it's almost impossible to describe, but that short period of time somehow seemed so special that if I could have bottled it and kept it for ever then I would have done so.
Although I was very tempted to find a patch of grass and sit there for the rest of the afternoon I decided against it as there was somewhere else I wanted to go to so I retraced my steps back to the van. I remember that several years ago the actress and singer Martine McCutcheon sang a song called 'My Perfect Moment' - well this had been my perfect half hour, so it was with a touch of regret that I went back through the gate at the end of the path and left my little bit of paradise behind.
Back at the van I gave the dogs a very welcome drink then set off to my next port of call, which involved going across the river on the nearby ferry. It only takes two vehicles at a time - three if you're lucky - and I expected to wait in a queue for it, but when I drove out of the car park and up to the waiting point a few yards away there was no-one else there so I was the first in line. The ferry was already on its way across from the other side and once it had pulled in and disgorged its cargo of two cars plus passengers I was free to drive on, stopping the van where the ferryman indicated. It only took four minutes to trundle across to the other side, so not even worth me getting out of the van, and once the front was lowered to the bank I was able to drive off and be on my way. My next stop was Beccles marina and the River Waveney and by using the ferry instead of going all the way round by road I reckoned I'd saved about twenty miles on the journey.
The A146 crossed over the Waveney on the outskirts of Beccles and there was a rather handy lay-by just after the bridge, with a path leading down to the riverside - on several previous occasions I'd intended to take some photos from that bridge but never had, so I pulled in there and went to rectify the matter, first taking a few shots from the bridge itself then going down to the riverside and taking a few from there. The marina itself was beyond the bridge on the other side of the road though it was easier to go round by road rather than walk along the riverbank, but surprisingly once I got there, and even though there were boats all over the place, there was very little of interest to take photos of.
By the time I'd finished wandering round I was feeling quite peckish; there was a Morrisons supermarket not far away so I drove there, parked in a far corner of the very pleasant car park, and went to see what I could find in the way of food. I came out with a pack of sausage rolls, and after making a quick brew using my suitcase stove I ate a couple of them while watching the comings and goings of the various Morrisons customers.
My final stop of the day was a visit to someone I knew who lived at the far side of Beccles; I hadn't seen her when I'd called last year as she hadn't been in, and I didn't even know if she would be in this time but she was and she was quite surprised to see me. It was a bittersweet visit in many ways though as her husband had passed away only seven weeks before, and as much as I would have liked to attend his funeral certain circumstances had prevented me from doing so. She was quite happy to sit and chat though and before I knew it a couple of hours had passed and it was time for me to go. The daylight was fading rapidly when I left; it was a forty minute drive back to the camp site and before I'd got even halfway there it had gone completely dark. That in itself wasn't a problem, but when I arrived at my pitch and had to reverse the van into the right place to connect the awning I couldn't see properly what I was doing; it took four attempts before I got it right, and even then I was a bit closer than I should have been. So, note to self - always get back to the awning before dark!!