My first stop was at the village of Stokesby on the River Bure, a place I hadn't been to before. I was able to park by the riverside on the edge of the village green, and with just one small general store/post office/tea room, a church, an old windmill and a riverside pub it didn't take me long to look round. My wanderings were mainly concentrated on the river bank close to the Ferry Inn and with just a handful of shots taken I went in search of the village sign. At first I didn't think there was one but I found it eventually in front of a row of houses set back off the road; made of metal the colours were very pale and it seemed to blend into the background which made it easy to miss.
From Stokesby I went on to the small town of Acle, and by the time I arrived there was quite a bit of blue sky showing through the grey clouds - it looked like the day could be getting better. On many occasions while passing through or visiting Acle I've intended to have a look round the church but never have so this time I was definitely going to do it, and with a supermarket car park directly across the road I wouldn't have far to go to get back to the van. The inside of the church was really nice, and although there was only one stained glass window it was a brightly coloured one and worth a photo.
From Acle I went on to Reedham Ferry, parking in the small car park just down below the riverbank and close to the Reedham Ferry Inn. My original intention was to take the dogs for a walk along the riverbank then cross the river on the ferry and visit Loddon and Chedgrave which were somewhere over the other side, however things didn't quite work out like that.
The walk along the riverbank was very pleasant and being away from the main part of the river it was also very quiet, with little noise other than various birds singing in the nearby trees. Although I would have liked to walk the mile into Reedham village Sam still can't go as far as Sophie and Poppie so we only did about half that distance, and it was while we were heading back to the van that what bit of blue sky there was disappeared, the grey was back, and it looked like it was going to rain.
With a visit to Loddon and Chedgrave no longer figuring in my plans I put the dogs back in the van and walked the few yards to the ferry point; in a post on the UKCS forums a guy with the username of Valkrider had recently said that he operated the ferry on weekdays and for me to say 'hello' if ever I was along that way, to which I'd jokingly asked if I could have a free ferry ride if I did. The ferry was over the far side of the river but it didn't take long for it to come back to my side and once the two cars on board had driven off I went to speak to the guy operating it - and the conversation went like this :
Me - Are you Valkrider?
Him (with raised eyebrows) - Who?
Me - Valkrider
Him - Sorry, never heard of him. Do you know him?
Me - No, I've never met him but he posts on the UKCS forums
Him - Never heard of that either
Me - It's a camping-related website
Him - (silence)
Me - I've been told he operates the ferry on weekdays
Him - Who told you that?
Me - He did
Him - I thought you'd never met him?
Me - I haven't, he put it in a forum post
Him - (A silent look which said 'who on earth is this mad woman?')
Me - He definitely said he was here on weekdays
Him - Well it could be Martin but he's not here yet
Me - (Thinking that was flippin' obvious as there was no-one else around) Well when does he get here?
Him - He comes on at 2 o'clock
Me - Okay, I'll come back later
And off I went, back to the van. With that conversation I wasn't quite sure which of us sounded the most idiotic, however I decided to wait until 2pm and see if the next ferry operator was the guy I was hoping to meet. With an hour to kill, and feeling rather peckish, I drove round to the village, parked up overlooking the river, and went in search of a snack and a drink. It was just my luck that the only cafe was closed, however the small post office/shop had a board outside which said coffee was available from there so I went in to have a look. The coffee came from a self-service vending machine and with a pre-packed egg mayo sandwich to go with it I went back to the van and had my snack while watching the passing boats.
It wasn't long afterwards that one of the dark clouds dropped a heavy rain shower on Reedham, and looking at the sky over the far side of the river confirmed my decision not to go across to Loddon and Chedgrave - I needed sunshine for what I wanted to photograph and it was obvious I wasn't going to get it. Just after 2pm I drove back round to the ferry point and parked up; the ferry was just chugging its way across to the far side and when it came back again a few minutes later I saw that it was certainly operated by a different guy - and on speaking to him he confirmed that he was indeed Valkrider, aka Martin.
With a steady flow of cars wanting to cross from both sides of the river he didn't have time to stop and talk but he invited me onto the ferry as a foot passenger and I was able to chat to him while he was working. Having reached the far riverbank and returned Martin asked me if I wanted to stay on for another ride across - well I wasn't going to turn down that opportunity so I stayed, and managed to take a couple of reasonable photos from somewhere mid-river. So yes, I did get my free ferry ride, not once but twice - and if you're reading this Martin then thanks, it was great.
Returning to the van, and with the sky showing no sign of clearing, there was no point going anywhere else just for the sake of it so I decided to call it a day and go back to the camp site. The rest of the afternoon and evening were spent reading, watching a bit of tv and getting my teeth into a couple of fairly difficult crosswords, while the dogs amused themselves with a game of musical beds without the music. They all started off in their own beds but then Poppie decided to take over Sam's bed which left Sam to lie on the floor as her bed was far too small for him; later on she was joined by Sophie, and Sam then went and curled up in Sophie's bed.
When we went out for our bedtime walk at 11pm I was quite surprised to see that the daytime cloud had completely gone since darkness had fallen and I could now see every star in the sky. With a planned 'big day out' being very much a part of the holiday I only had three days left to do it so I really hoped that the clear night sky was the promise of good weather the following day.