The North Road in Norfolk 2008
The North Road in Norfolk - July 21st to 28th
By Graham Thompson
Sheringham is a trifle over 100 miles or less than three hours from home, but I had not visited North Norfolk since the hot and dry summer of 1976. My 2008 arrival was heralded by cold and windy conditions. This was forgotten over the next five days as the sun came out, the wind came away from the north quarter, the countryside put on its harvest face and the North Road came out to enjoy a memorable few days of cycling. Eddie, Peter, Eric, Graham, Tony, Alison, Adrian, Gemma and Dave – add in the surnames of Graves, Egan, Jewell, Thompson, Giles, Hargreaves, Kennett and Sperrin – and you have a good mix of senior members plus two token youngsters to gain admittance to Sheringham Youth Hostel.
A start at midday was made up the long hill from the coast, Graham (the ex.) looked down at the tarmac on the struggle up the hill, failed to see the left turn and he was on his own as his friends took the turn. Not bothered as he had a 1967 Barts map, knew the target was Blickling Hall and had to keep moving to keep warm. The Hall is closed on Mondays, but the nearby farm food shop yielded fresh venison rolls and soft drinks. Eventually the main party arrived and by chance were greeted by Dave Gudgeon and family on holiday at Holt. There is a multitude of lanes and we returned to Sheringham in sunshine guided by Eddie who is an expert in the art of studying a map whilst riding.
This was a modest introduction of 26 miles.
Tuesday marked a vast improvement in the weather and we headed westward skirting Holt and keeping to the lanes through Langham and Binham to Great and Little Walsingham for the morning halt. It was decided that we should view the coast at Wells next the Sea, but this was not to anyone’s liking as it is a candyfloss cum ice cream place. Eric bravely led us to Holkham Hall which boasted a good meal spot. This proved to be true, but as we rested our bikes against the wall in the car park a superior lady motorist suggested that her party should move on as the place seemed to be overrun with rough cyclists, cyclists from the premier road cycling club of the country no less! This caused much merriment to the rough cyclists who were made welcome in the restaurant. After lunch the ex-president proposed a circuit following the estate wall to New Holkham, after which the road climbed steadily before a long swoop down to Wighton, the ex getting his speed up to 28 mph. This proved too much for Tony’s rear tyre – the first and only puncture of the week. It only takes one to replace an inner tube, a simple task for one, but quite complicated for nine pairs of hands. Eventually the task was completed and we were on our way to Binham which boasts the remains of an extensive priory, where the boundary wall was being repaired and the ex fell into conversation with the main man who was able to give a brief history of the priory, the nave having been converted into the local church. In times past I suspect that the priory was much more important than the shrine at Walsingham. Outward roads now became inward roads as we rounded off the day of 57 miles. My overall speed over the week turned out to be just over 11 mph – it is the quality not the quantity that counts at my age.
Wednesday called for a lazy day and in Saxthorpe we fell into conversation with a granny who spoke of a good tea room at Heydon. The church was visited. A passing van driver could hardly conceal his delight at Adrian’s jersey. He had already sported one dedicated to Pink Floyd, but this one was emblazoned with the two words of Lynyrd Skynyrd which one might assume is a village in remotest Welsh hills. Heavy Metal which to the cognoscenti is music, but to many just ghastly noise – no accounting for tastes! The tea room at Heydon – Village Tea Room and Shop – is a delight in an idyllic setting and the party can recommend the bakewell tartlet, lemon and lime drizzle sponge cake.
When in the area visit it! We made a return visit in the afternoon. We halted at Booton to admire the Victorian Gothic Church of St. Michael, The Archangel. The small market town of Reepham was the lunch venue where the party snacked in a café and some tended to a mother and a young girl who had fainted in the heat of the day. Life is full of disappointments: the ex. had to forego Adnams bitter, a dish of whitebait and brown bread to keep the others company. The return to the Heydon tea room was ample compensation before the meander in the lanes to the coast. Tony had a rest day to recover from his cold so missed a very good day.
Thursday called for a longer ride so we again went to the Walsinghams for morning coffee and then onto Great Snoring, but the ex. fancied the lane to Houghton St. Giles and the villages on the west side of the River Stiffkey. Signs proclaiming deep fords and unbridged fords prevented this so he by chance rejoined the party at East Barsham. The route now led to Fakenham which had been chosen as the far destination. A busy bypass separated one from the eight so the one was on his own for the afternoon, after coming to the opinion once again that Fakenham is a funny sort of town. Sorry, Mr M. L. Hill, for this personal opinion. The ex. had earlier phoned him to tell of our plans, but he was otherwise engaged so could not join us. An afternoon of solitude was spent wandering the deserted lanes north eastwards to Holt for tea and a disappointing browse in a second hand bookshop which had previously provided good books. Still some miles to be covered in the direction of Baconsthorpe and Gresham to finally catch up with the North Road party at the hostel. This was the longest and hottest day with just under 60 miles on the computer.
Friday was by common consent a short day with a third visit to the tea rooms at Heydon and onward to Aylsham with some extra loops worked into the schedule thrown in to pass the time of day. Five favoured The Unicorn for lunch under the awning and four sought out a café nearby in the town centre. We meandered through lanes, coming across ladies dangling feet in the cooling water at a ford and then an invitation from two ladies on bicycles to turn round and ride slowly with them. We had not set our minds on dalliance as our stomachs were set on another tea at Heydon, so like true cyclists we rode on, perhaps ambled would be a good word for the rearguard of the group.
Heydon was forsaken as tea was taken at Pretty Corner above Sheringham. Two sampled bush tea which the main lady in The No. 1 Ladies detective Agency, a novel set in Botswana, drank and which turned out to be very refreshing despite the aroma of horses and stables! Waitrose stock it.
And that was it except that on Saturday Peter and the ex had a potter near Holt, across The Heath to Kelling for coffee and cakes. The road through Weybourne to Sheringham was enough for the ex., but Peter went further afield with time to spare before catching his homeward bound train. Evenings were the time to take in liquids such as Straw Dog bitter or Kourtaki Greek wine, catch up on gossip, hear about plans for next year, perhaps unfulfilled as next year is always the year after!
The four in the pub could provide copious copy for the Gazette Editor with cycling and family tales, and the sober five would probably say yeah, yeah.
Many thanks to Adrian and Eddie, too.