Monday, 11 January 2016

Day: 202 4/4/99 Hopton-on-Sea to Great Yarmouth

Weather:  Misty, some sunny intervals

Distance:  16km (9.9 miles)    Total Distance:   2618 miles

In the morning after breakfast we went to St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church for mass.  The young priest did a good job with a packed church. I almost tripped him up as he was coming backwards around the church sprinkling the Holy water over us and I was standing in the isle, as my legs were uncomfortable.  The kids were given a small Easter egg each on the way out. 

Margaret dropped me at Hopton-on-Sea before heading off to Caister and Horsey.  I started off along the cliff tops past a caravan site and then a golf course.  I hardly had to walk along the sand at all that section.  I had lunch – a sausage roll, coffee and piece of bread pudding (£2.50) at the first café I came to on the promenade into Great Yarmouth.  The man serving me managed to knock a big jar of coffee over just as he was taking my money. 

From Gorleston-on-Sea up into Great Yarmouth was along the quays.  This side was not too bad with some access right down to the waters edge and an interesting mix of craft including trawlers etc.

The road heading south along the quays was depressing.  The highlight was the north end where I was able to walk right up near the moored ships which included a couple of naval training boats and the Sir Winston Churchill tall ship used for young people.  After that access to the quays was blocked by buildings and the road was industrial and dusty. 

As soon as I turned the corner and started heading northwards I was expecting it to be a seaside town but in fact it was quite desolate, full of industry and deserted and derelict caravans.  There was a car park near the tip packed with cars pointing out to sea and people reading newspapers.

The first signs of crowds were at the pleasure beach with its roller coasters and water slides etc.  Even then it was like looking at the crowds from behind a screen as they were concentrated on the pavement and I was on the promenade on the seaward side of the activities. 

The front was packed with people but I kept to the lower promenade that was much less crowded as it was not exactly seaside weather. 

The police were out in force on the front and there appeared to be trouble at one of the pubs on the front. 

I got back to the Youth Hostel just 10 minutes before Margaret and the boys.  They had been travelling around north of Great Yarmouth and had climbed Horsey Mill.  I took the boys over the park next to the hostel for a half-hour run around. 

That evening we went to see the pedestrian precinct in Great Yarmouth but were not at all impressed.  It was full of cheap shops.  We bought some fish and chips and ate them back in the hostel.  I watched Great Britain make a valiant go of beating USA in the tennis’s Davies Cup and then went to bed.

Day: 201 3/4/99 Kessingland to Hopton-on-Sea

Weather:  Misty

Distance:  15km (9.3 miles)    Total Distance:   2608 miles

The family dropped me at Kessingland and headed off for another morning in Southwold, so taken were they by it yesterday.  I headed off into the mist.  Visibility was very poor and all I could see was the waters edge.  I hardly saw anything else until I reached the outskirts of Lowestoft and saw a church appearing through the mist.  

I came off the beach and onto the start of the promenade.  I passed another series of very smart beach huts and was admiring them when I got talking to an elderly man who told me that the council were having trouble letting them on a weekly basis.  We agreed that people should get out and enjoy the countryside more!  As I got further into Lowestoft the number of tourists increased to the point where I crossed the bridge over Lake Lothing where I had to battle to get through the crowds.  I had chosen not to stop at a café fully expecting there to be somewhere on the north side of the town.

I got back to the coast via an industrial estate and it was desolate, just concrete sea defences and what looked like a Bird’s Eye factory.  The one highlight was a large circle on the ground marking the most easterly point in the country and depicting which direction it was to all the European capitals and the distances. 

The concrete gave way to beaches with cliffs.  At one stage I almost got bowled over by a black labrador, no apology from the owner, just a giggle between her and her daughter.  Access along the beach gradually got more difficult because of the tide breakers and it was only possible to walk at the bottom of the cliffs along narrow paths.  I then came across a beach designated to nudists near Corton.  The improving weather meant two gents were enjoying the privilege of not needing to wear clothes.

After Corton the beach opened up and I returned initially walking on concrete promenade and then walking on firm sand.  I had arranged to meet Margaret at Hopton on Sea. We had driven to the village in the morning on our way to Kessingland in order that we fully understood where the meeting point was!  I got to Hopton in three and a half-hours and a bit early so walked up the track that led down to the beach to save Margaret driving down.  I stopped on the turning into the housing estate and Margaret soon turned up. 

From there we went to spend the afternoon at Fritton Country Park.  It was very pricey to get in, £17 for the family, but pretty good inside.  We watched a falconry display with a barn owl and a bald eagle called Margaret! The adventure playground was good and then we had a go on the putting.  When it closed we headed back and stopped off at a pub, the Church Farm, down by the broads in Burgh Castle.  Again the kids tore around the garden and we stayed as long as we could with the mist coming down again and it getting colder and colder.  We then went back to the hostel and Margaret made corn beef hash.

Day: 200 2/4/99 Southwold to Kessingland

Weather:  Mild & overcast

Distance:  11km (6.8 miles)    Total Distance:   2599 miles

This was to be an Easter family holiday staying in Great Yarmouth Youth Hostel.  Gareth woke at 7.00am due to a loud clap of thunder outside.  We left Coventry by 10.30am in rain but fortunately by the time we got to Southwold it had stopped raining and was a mild but overcast day.  I took the A14 route via Ipswich for the last time.  Although this was probably a long way around I knew it was a fast road.  We drove though the village and down to the quay and had our sandwiches and a mug of tea and chocolate flapjack from the kiosk.  I was walking by 1.15pm. 

Margaret went into Southwold with the boys and was impressed with the shops etc. She also took them to the beach.  I set off along the beach and then up onto the promenade by the smartest beach huts I had ever seen, all well maintained and all with their own names. 

Once the promenade ended I took to the beach again and kept down by the tide line on the firm sand.  There were not too many people around outside Southwold,  just the occasional sea angler and I had to be careful not to walk across their lines.  I watched the low crumbling cliffs that are a feature of this area.  I stopped for a rest on a tree trunk and a drink from my rucksack near a lake some three-quarters of the way along.

I arrived at Kessingland just some five minutes early but there was no sign of the family.  I figured that the café that was on the bend in the road just as it came down to the sea was the best place to meet her so ordered a coffee and drank it outside.  Margaret and the boys soon arrived and joined me at the café. We played on the promenade for a while and then headed for Great Yarmouth. 

We had a warm welcome from the warden Duncan to this town house in a relatively quiet part of town.  We had a dorm to ourselves but the top bunks did not have any side bars so we pushed them together so Margaret felt safer.  One thing about the dorm was that it was hot which meant we slept with the windows open – but that made I very noisy!

Day: 199 16/2/99 Sizewell to Southwold

Weather:  Sunny, windy and cold

Distance:  15km ( 9.3 miles)    Total Distance:   2592miles

I paid my £40 B&B bill and drove down the road to Sizewell to park in the car park.  It was a good walking day especially as the wind was blowing off the land and I could walk near the shore out of the chilling breeze.  The whole day was pretty much the same, walking along the sand and shingle.  I had hoped to see something of Minsmere bird reserve but there was not much to see from the beach.  I sometimes came up to the top of the beach because there was better footing there. The cliffs all along here were low and crumbling and the noise of mini-rockfalls could sometimes be heard.

At Dunwich I had hoped to get a cup of coffee but the café was deserted and a sign said it would not open till March. I read about the old village that had been buried in the sand. I had a drink from the rucksack before heading off across the heath-land rather than the beach itself.  When the heath got watery I went back onto the beach again. Near Walberswick there were two mechanical diggers piling up the pebbles again.  I am just glad they saw me approaching otherwise I may have been buried by a shovel-full.

Just short of Southwold, I spotted a tea kiosk ahead but as I was nearing it I realised it was on the opposite side of the river!  I still felt good so decided it would be easier next time to start at Southwold, so  I walked up the river bank, over the footbridge and down the other side.  This would have been quite pleasant in summer but in the cold wind of February it was a bit of a struggle.  I had a great cup of coffee and chocolate flapjack at the kiosk before about turning and going back up the river and over the bridge into the village of Walberswick.  It seemed as if it would be easier to get a lift from there back to Sizewell than from Southwold. 

I had to wait about 15 minutes to get a lift to Middleton from a man in a Mercedes who used to work in 'The City' but now lives in Suffolk and just goes into London occasionally.  I was lucky and soon got a second lift from a builder in a transit van who was six weeks off retirement and had just been to see his son in a pub in Middleton.  He was kind enough to take me all the way to Sizewell.

I got home at 4.30pm to hear the phone message on my answer machine from my boss to tell me that my job was safe but a number of others in my department were being made redundant.  Good news and bad news I guess.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Day: 198 15/2/99 Snape Maltings to Sizewell

Weather:  Cool, calm and calm.

Distance:  21km ( 13.0 miles)    Total Distance:   2582miles

A smashing cooked breakfast served with a copy of the Telegraph in a warm breakfast room confirmed that this B&B was difficult to fault.  It was so new that the toaster provided to make my toast gave off that new electrical appliance smell when I turned it on to make my toast.

I parked at Snape Maltings car park where the weather was cold, still and misty.  I walked over the river and then turned right down eastwards.  The Environment Agency were working on drainage work and making a right mess of the path but I got past without too much trouble.  From then on for the next hour was a fantastic walk via what I later learnt was the Sailors Path, the path trodden out by sailors who’s boats came into Snape and they then walked down to Aldeburgh to get accommodation.  The mist was slowly clearing and the sun getting through.  That combined with the stillness of the morning made it spectacular walking weather without anyone to be seen.  There was loads of bird-life around both in and out of the woodland areas.

The path came out on the Aldeburgh road a couple of miles before the town.  For the next hundred or so yards there was no footpath, but things improved near the golf course and things became safer.  Just before the town I took a right turn through a park and then another right to head once again out onto some sea defences.  Something made me think that these would be the last sea defences I would see for quite a while.  

After another half an hour or so I came out on the sea wall at Slaughden.  I turned right and walked up almost as far as I was allowed to the Martello tower, around that and then about turned and headed North.  I knew that from now on I would face minimal detours inland compared with what I had faced in the past couple of years.  To try to celebrate this fact I tried to find a tea shop in Aldeburgh but failed.  The town looked busy enough but the only busy shop I saw was the queues outside the Fish and Chip shop as it was lunchtime.  Having failed in my search I turned back down to the promenade, and stopped on the outskirts to have a snack from my rucksack. 

I was heading for Sizewell and seemed to be making very good progress, so decided to take the next bit very leisurely.  I was walking along a heath-land nature reserve and was walking so slowly that I was overtaken by a middle aged lady who walked up to the outskirts of Thorpness around a post and then back again. 

I tried at Thorpness once again to find a tea shop and was much more successful this time – I seemed to have a choice of two!  I chose the first I came to and it was an OK choice.  At this time of year you stumble upon those properties that have just been taken over and are full of owners trying to make the best of it.  This was one of those and the new owner was in evidence trying to sell his new style to anyone who would listen – how much money he had put into it, the new carpet, his long hours and what a success he hoped it would be. Judging by the number of people the on a blustery February afternoon – he was onto a winner, but judging by the fact that he charged £1.74 for a piece of average chocolate cake, he may find their custom short lived.  I bought a copy of the Daily Express because I had just got into doing Codebreakers – those type of crosswords where each letter had a number and you had to work out the crossword using only the numbered letters.

From Thorpness to Sizewell I walked along the beach which was comparatively easy because the tide was out leaving some hard sandy areas neat the bottom of the beach.  Slowly the power station at Sizewell got bigger and bigger.  I was still feeling good but decided to stop there because there was nowhere more sensible to stop for quite a while after that. 

I strolled up to the top of the beach, past the public conveniences perched on the beach itself and the closed up tea-rooms called very amusingly Sizewell T.  Sizewell has nothing more to it than a small fishing fleet, a row of houses and a pub, and of course the power station and a pub, outside which I started to hitch.  I got a lift no trouble from a man who worked at the power station and was taking a half-day to go to the dentist.  He took me to Leiston where I walked to the outside of the village and hitched again.  This time it took longer to get a lift and I eventually started walking.  I was in the next village by the time I got a lift – from another contractor at Sizewell A who had been on a job of welding up the boiler there.  It seemed to have been a long and technically difficult job performed by doing the whole weld at elevated temperatures and heating up the weld and cooling it down in one go rather than in small sections – I think I understood what he meant anyway. 

He dropped me at the turning off to Snape and after a few yards walking I did nor hitch any more because it was too short a walk to go.  At Snape Maltings I changed my shoes and then explored one of the craft shops, bought a card to send to my parents and then went back to the B&B for a hot soak.  For tea I went to a pub just a mile down the road, the Parrot and something, and had a great meal of duck in black cherry and ginger sauce, and a nice pint of Adnams bitter. It was only spoilt by the fact that the young waitress put me to sit next to another couple rather than in a quieter part of the dining area which meant that I was eavesdropping on their conversation.

I then drove back and parked the car at the B&B before going to explore the town again.  I passed a couple of pubs that did not look too inviting and ended up in the King’s Head at the other end of the town.  This too was not too good, the beer was acidic and both the bar and the lounge were occupied by people speaking at the top of their voices.