Posted by: glenswatman | September 21, 2013

20130911-20 East and South of England

 

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WEDNESDAY 11 SEPTEMBER – We leave at 8.30am and call in to see Claire.  She is now hobbling round with just one crutch and managing much better than before. Steve’s OK with driving short journeys but I drive today as it takes us 3 ½ hours to get to Kings Lyn.  At Brewster’s we meet up with Greg and Corrina (fellow motorhomers) who we met in Fuerteventura in 2005.  We’ve not seen each other since but have kept in contact through the Internet.  We chat our way through lunch but could do with loads more time.  However Greg tells us the things we plan to see on the north Norfolk coast will take up all the time we have left and makes us realise that if we get a motorhome next spring we should allow a good month for East Anglia.  After driving through the Sandringham Estate we head to the pilgrimage town of Little Walsingham.  It’s a really strange place with lots of shrines and churches including a Russian Orthodox one.  The main welcome centre contains a hill with 3 crosses, an outdoor alter, Stations of the Cross and a church enclosing a replica of Mary’s house in Nazareth.  Joining the coast at Wells-next-the-sea we are immediately struck by the number of attractive houses with walls made up of lots of stones.  The sea is far out so the quay area is a bit bleak.  Heading east we travel through many more pretty villages (definite rivals for ones we saw in Cornwall).  Arriving in Cromer it is cool and windy but we brave the elements for a walk along the promenade.  The theatre must have just finished a show as pensioners wander out – tough contest as to whether the theatre or the patrons are oldest!  I’ve booked us into a guest house on the outskirts of Norwich and we settle in for the night after a lovely day out.  We’re having trouble with the TV and have to call owner Daniel, he can’t fix it so suggests we sit in the conservatory to watch one there.  Sitting down I find a puddle beneath my feet, Daniel says they had a downpour last night but doesn’t do anything about wiping up the wet patch.  However he does agree to give us a breakfast in the morning due to the inconvenience.

NORWICH, ALWYNE GUEST HOUSE (£42 double)

THURSDAY 12 SEPTEMBER – We have a really good breakfast before heading into Norwich.  The Rough Guide sets out a walk that takes in the main highlights beginning at the magnificent cathedral.  Horatio Nelson came from here and outside is a statue of him as well as Edith Cavell.  We meander through some quaint streets past lots of churches dressed with flint stone.  In Market Square we are approached by someone promoting free events in Norwich over the following few days and she highly recommends a detour to Surrey House, headquarters of Aviva which used to be Norwich Union.  It is a truly magnificent building with lots of different colour marble, boardrooms or various sizes and grandeur and lovely clocks and decorations.  So glad we could fit it in as the public are not normally permitted inside.  We take a wrong turn heading out of Norwich and decide to take a look at a “woodland burial” area.   Most interesting but certainly not a cheap option as the cheapest thing they offer is to have your ashes scattered for £250.  Jenny meets us at to Merryhill Leisure naturist site and shows us to our static caravan.  She returns after we have settled in to show us the lodges and statics that are for sale.  We look at a huge range but the caravan and site we like best is next to the cheapest at £5999.  It’s a 37 x 12 foot ABI 13 year’s old but very well maintained and will loads of extras.  You can stay in it for 8 months of the year with annual fees and membership coming in under £2000.  Spend the rest of the afternoon by the outdoor pool, it’s warm enough for me to have a swim and chat to Jill and her husband Barry whilst Steve chats to other members Rod, Nick and Colin.  You can stay here 12 months of the year in the lodges and many people do creating quite a community.  Rod is a fellow traveller and has a motorhome as well as his lodge.  His wife is away visiting their daughter so we invite him to join us for a meal.  Later on we move over to his really luxurious lodge complete with workshops where he creates furniture from driftwood and a Jacuzzi in the garden.  We’ve been made so welcome here and already met lots of people that we feel that with approval from St James this would be a good place for us to live.

MERRYHILL LEISURE STATIC CARAVAN (£55 night)

FRIDAY 13 SEPTEMBER – Hard to believe this is our 38th wedding anniversary, the years certainly have flown by.  There’s been heavy rain in the night and when I go to get something out of the car I realise Steve’s window was wide open and the seat is soaked, hopefully it will dry out before our long journey tomorrow.  It’s a pleasant morning so we walk down the static we may be to check out whether it has sunshine in the garden, it does.  We can just picture us sat out having breakfast there.  Nick’s wife Anne invites us in for coffee and as they have been living here for 6 years she is able to tell us all about the local Doctors, dentists etc.  Lunch time we head off and explore a bit of the area before settling on a lovely celebratory lunch at The Bridge.  Barry is having a “new deck” warming party in the evening and has invited us along which is a great opportunity to meet some of the other members.  There are over 50 people there and the majority live in the park so we can see that it would still be interesting out of season.  One of the residents runs a catering company and she has prepared a wonderful feast for everyone.  Luckily another member runs a mobile ice rink business and has loads of gazebo style tents which help to keep everyone dry from the rain.  Think we would both fit in here really well and having been given first refusal on the caravan we just need to talk things over during Steve’s next check up.

MERRYHILL 2

SATURDAY 14 SEPTEMBER – We pop down to check a couple more things in “our” static and say our farewells to some of the many people who have befriended us.  On the outskirts of Norwich we visit the main hospital to take a look at their haematology unit.  Apparently they have treated over 50’s with ALL but we need to phone in the week to speak to a specialist and will probably go through Leeds first.  Stop off in Thetford to visit the “Dad’s Army” museum as this was the fictional town of “Walmington-on-sea”.  After visiting the museum and posing for a photo with “Captain Mainwaring” we head down to the river to see his statue and then to the “Charles Burrell” museum where they have “Jones’s” truck.  Another free museum is in the main square where they have lots of pictures but more interestingly to us a cafe with irresistible 30p cups of tea, 60p coffee and 60p slices of cake.  Arriving in Hitchin we are welcomed by Peter & Margaret.  As always Margaret knew we were coming so baked one of her delicious cakes.  The rest of the day flies by as we catch up on news.

HITCHIN 1

SUNDAY 15 SEPTEMBER – winter has arrived with rain and wind and a huge drop in temperature.  Margaret suggests a visit to Audley End historic house.  It’s an amazing place, absolutely huge and with some really interesting features inside.  In the kitchens there are people in character doing cooking displays and interacting with visitors.  One little boy has an amazing conversation with the cook and thoroughly entertains us all.  We return for a Pete’s speciality meal of marinated pork and another chat.

HITCHIN 2

MONDAY 16 SEPTEMBER We want to take Peter & Margaret out to lunch and settle on The Green Man at Great Wymondley where we partake in the over 55’s 2 course lunch.  Our onward journey takes us through London and past the Olympic stadium area and then near the O2 dome.  We detour to drive around the dome then to the Thames Barrier visitor centre but it is closed.  Vez & Dave live in Bromley and have left a house key at the pub next door.  They live in a lovely 1800’s railway cottage and we have a bedroom on the top floor.  It’s after 7pm when they arrive back from work but we still manage to fit in lots of talking and a meal cooked by Dave.  Vez is doing really well with her pregnancy and we share lots of travel stories as well and many memories of when Vez was a child and used to visit us as the Post Office, happy days.

BROMLEY

TUESDAY 17 SEPTEMBER – After kicking out the original plans of a show, Buckingham Palace and London Eye due to risk of infection Steve has chosen for us to go into the city and look around the famous shops plus Sotheby’s.  At Bromley North we wait until 9.30pm for the off peak train to London Bridge.  Then it’s onto the tube which is somewhat busier and means Steve standing bay a door facing away from everyone. First we visit the magnificent Selfridges store.  After watching the series Mr Selfridge we are fascinated to see that the main entrance displays are the same products (ladies gloves and scarves) as were shown there when the store first opened.  We’re amazed by the designer clothes sections with few garments on display and lots of staff hanging around doing nothing.  In the food hall we happily tuck into a few food samples but find the prices ridiculously high. Down the side streets “Victoria’s Secret” has an entertaining window displays of creations used in various fashion shows.   In Sotheby’s there is an art auction being held and it is fascinating to sit in and watch the telephone bids pushing up prices for 1500’s sketches to double the guide figure.  Cutting through the famous Berkley Square we arrive at the Dorchester and although dressed in jeans and raincoats we brazen our way in to look around.  As we leave the doorman asks if he would like us to hail a taxi and I am tempted to say “no thank you, we are just going to stroll over to Harrods”.  Detour to look at the Australian war memorial which is unusual in having just the names of the 23,000+ towns where the soldiers were born.  We’ve been lucky with the weather but the rain begins just as we head down Knightsbridge to the store.  Harrods is enormous and the food halls there are amazing.  There are 4 different sections with themed decor, in the fruit and vegetable hall the chandeliers are made up of different fruits.  In the fish and meat hall there are numerous oyster bars with people swilling down champagne.  We reach an area where they are cooking up fillet steaks and at £15 think it sounds reasonable until closer inspections reveals it is per 100grams and the only thing served with it is cherry tomatoes, everything else is extra.  Reckon it must be a rich lady stood in the queue with her 2 children; yes people are queuing up to pay those prices.  We do have steak for lunch, that is hot peppered steak pies at £1.20 each from Sainsbury local across the road, and very nice they are too.  Steve’s shoulder is really aching and he’s had enough so we head back to the train and arrive in Bromley around 3pm leaving time for him to have a siesta.   Once Dave & Vez are back we send out for a Chinese which goes down well.  It’s really interesting hearing more about both their jobs and also their visits to Dubai where Dave’s sister lives.

BROMLEY 2

WEDNESDAY 18 SEPTEMBER – We’re in no rush today so take the sat nav shortest route towards Guildford.  We spot a sign to the National Trust Polesden Lacey house and what a gem it turns out to be.  Belonging to Edwardian hostess Margaret Greville (daughter of William McEwan famous for his beer) it was left to the National Trust in its entirety when she died.  She loved to mix with royalty and was a great friend of George VI and Queen Elizabeth who honeymooned there.  The rooms and decoration are very extravagant.  It’s only a short drive to the contrasting mansion of Clandon Park in Palladian style The two storey marble entrance hall is amazing as are many of the rooms.  Heading onwards we reach Andover before finding suitable accommodation at Cherry Trees in the village of Picket Piece.  Richard gives us such a welcome to his lovely home that we are happy to sacrifice and en-suite in order to stay.  Wetherspoons in Andover delivers a great value £2.99 evening meal.  Realise it is a bad move not having an en-suite when we get back and I want the loo but find someone in the bathroom for over an hour.

PICKET PIECE NR ANDOVER, CHEERY TREES B&B (£55)

THURSDAY 19 SEPTEMBER – Steve’s 59th birthday, scary to think he will be 60 next year.  We manage to arrive at Stonehenge ahead of the tour buses.  Steve’s never been but I visited many times as a child as we lived nearby.  As an adult the stones look much smaller especially as you now can’t get really near to them.  An audio guide tells the interesting theory about them and more about other ancient sites in the area.  From later this year a new visitor centre down the road will change everything about the way future visits are conducted.  In Tisbury we visit Liz & John Lofthouse.  There are a couple of birthday cards waiting for Steve and Liz even puts candles on a cake.  We knew Liz & John back in the late 1970’s when we all lived in Newport and started our families but have lost touch a bit over the years.  Over lunch, through the afternoon and evening meal and beyond we somehow find enough things to talk about to fill in all the time.

TISBURY 1

FRIDAY 20 SEPTEMBER – John has a beautiful picture in their kitchen that he took at nearby Stourhead.  They suggest we might like to visit as it is nearby.  The lake makes for a lovely walk and at each turn there are views across it to fancy bridges or buildings.  It’s pleasantly warm and the sun keeps trying to come through altering the colours of the leaves which are beginning to change.  The house is also very interesting with a particularly quirky cabinet of curiosities which looks like a fancy church but in fact houses 130 hidden drawers.  After stopping for a nice pub lunch on the way back we return to chat.  Last year their daughter Claire got married in Italy and it is lovely to see the wedding video complete with funny spoof adverts from the family.  We never seem to run out of topics of conversation and agree we must get together again soon.

TISBURY 2

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