The dogs, as usual, were eager to go out for their first walk through the heath and along the beach but there was one slight problem - when we got to the beach we found there wasn't one. Where there would normally be several yards of sand between the sea defences and the high water mark the wind had whipped the sea into a raging foaming mass of water which surged across the beach and right up to the sea defences, so unless we went back through the heath the only other route was the narrow path between the boulders and the base of the cliff. The sea was also rushing part of the way up the steps leading back to the camp site, I'd never seen it so far up before so this was a photo opportunity not to be missed.
By 11am I'd had enough of being in the tent. The constant loud noise of it being blown by the wind was something akin to the Chinese water torture and it was really getting on my nerves so I decided to take myself off out. I would have been going out anyway, to climb Winterton church tower, but it wasn't open until 2pm so it meant I had some time to kill but it was also an excuse - as if I needed one - to go to Latham's for a good mooch round and to treat myself to coffee and a Belgian cream bun.
I got to Winterton church just before 2pm and though I expected there would be quite a few people wanting to do the climb there was only one other couple. The whole thing was overseen by two of the church ladies; the older one, who must have been at least eighty years old, stayed on the ground floor and took the money while the one in her sixties went up the tower, but before she went up she left a mobile phone with the older lady. And that's when she said the funniest thing I've heard in a while.
Scrolling through the numbers she was telling the older lady the names of people who she could ring if necessary - "That one's Alan, that's Bill, Jack's number's in there, oh, you don't want Phil, he's dead"....... Now I know being dead isn't a laughing matter, especially for the person who's deceased, but the matter-of-fact way in which she said it just struck me as funny, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't keep a straight face and just broke into a fit of giggles. I did apologise for laughing but she set me off again with her next comment - "Well, you don't always remember to delete them do you?"
With my money for the climb handed over - suggested donation £3 - and my name and signature in the book, presumably as a means of identification if I should fall off the top or down the stairs, and also to absolve them of any blame if I did, I started the climb. The tower was 132ft high with 147 steps; they must have been the steepest and narrowest tower steps I've ever climbed and were certainly a good test of heart and lung capacity. About halfway up a doorway and a steep ladder led down into the bell chamber where its six bells were all tied up with tape; I was told they hadn't been rung for some years as the bell frame above was too badly damaged.
Finally up on the roof I was rewarded with far reaching views across the countryside and coast - or I would have been if the day hadn't been so cloudy and hazy, but it was still worth taking a few shots. The church lady who had gone up ahead of me was a lovely person to talk to and she told me lots of previously unknown-to-me facts about the church, the village and the area in general. I wouldn't normally have stayed up there too long as it was still very windy but she was such an interesting person to talk to that I stayed for the whole of the two hours. While we'd been chatting the cloud had begun to clear out to sea and blue sky was appearing but it didn't last long and the grey cloud was soon back.
If I'd thought that going up the stairs was an effort then going back down was a very hairy experience. Because some of the steps were very deep and uneven I'd been advised to go down backwards so I could feel my way with my feet; with nothing on one side of the stairs to stop me from falling into oblivion and no way of seeing where I was going I clung onto the rail on the other side with both hands and slowly, one step at a time, made my way back down to the bottom, with the church lady following a few steps above me.
Back at ground level I thanked both the ladies, left a comment in the guest book near the door and returned to the van. There was no point taking the dogs for a walk round Winterton as I was only a few minutes drive from the camp site so I went straight back there and took them for a walk round the nearby private lanes instead. Thinking back to the church tower climb it was certainly the most difficult one I've done so far but in spite of it being such a hairy experience I'll definitely do it again on hopefully a much clearer day - so roll on next year!