Sea Palling, a small village on the north Norfolk coast, used to just be called Palling. But a little re-branding took place in the Victorian era, to entice the growing number of tourists looking for coastal escapes from the big industrial smoggy cities. Like Staithes, on the Yorkshire coast, where we visited last weekend, this place also has a history of being a smuggler’s cove, with tea and other, more intoxicating, beverages being particularly popular.
We took a dip in its waters on Monday, this week, during our own little sojourn by the sea. When I say ‘we’, it was mainly me, although my brother’s wife, did venture quite close to the breaking foam. And when I say ‘dip’, I meant only my feet as it was the North Sea after all. I did manage to submerge my ankles for a few seconds, but had to channel my inner Wim Hof, to breathe through the freeze. What Sea Palling also had was a clean sandy beach where I could build sandcastles with my two year old niece. We never quite got to fortress level as, after each castle was built, it was summarily demolished so that she could enjoy the squish of the sand in her hands. And who could blame her, as this was her first ever experience of a warm sunny seaside.
We’re back home now and our garden has grown wild in the week we’ve been away, so Anne’s been pulling up some of the weeds while I’ve done a little mowing. We’ve left some of the grass long, but just cut paths through it, to encourage a few more insects and things. Actually, that was one thing we noticed when driving around Norfolk. There were definitely more splats on our windscreen than we’ve seen in a while. I rarely have to fill up the squirty water thing in the car any more, as the rate of windscreen kill has gone down, even in the last ten years.
However, I digress. I should not be writing this blog at all really, as my final assignment of the year is due this Thursday and I’ve still got tons to do on it. But we had such a lovely time in Norfolk that I need to get it down somehow, in order to retain the memories.
We were there in a cottage with my brother and his family. It was more of a town house than a cottage but really well furnished, and sat with a small group of similar houses on a farm near Great Yarmouth. On-site facilities include an indoor pool, a huge play and games room, two BBQ areas, swings and slides and a generally massive field. So with a two-year-old and a nearly five-month-old there was little need or desire to go out and about too often.
So we didn’t. We only ventured out twice. To Sea Palling and later, to Cromer.
Cromer is a much larger seaside resort and, evidently, has a history of Victorian gentility, given the architecture. It has been going as a small town since at least the mediaeval times but really came into its own in the nineteenth century, even getting a mention in Jane Austen’s Emma, as desirable for ‘sea-bathing’. I do like a nice pier to watch the deeper waves crashing around from a safe closeness, and it has one of those. Not as long as Brighton’s but much calmer, as it has no crazy fairground rides.
Norfolk has many coastal resorts, and, of course, the Broads, for landlubbers like me to get excited about. I think we found two, contrasting but excellent examples, that certainly worked for us. The rest of the time, we relaxed at the cottage, had some friends come round who were local, played with the kids, and ate and drank very well. Anne got her pencils and paints out to do a little more sketching and I had brought my coursework. But most of all we were just enjoying spending time and getting to know our little niece and nephew, and their parents were just enjoying having a bit of a rest. The pool was a regular activity as it was warm, so we could even take the little one in.
On the way back, the two of us popped into Norwich, to have a little stroll around the Cathedral. There was an interesting art installation based on the life of Edith Cavell, a local woman and a hero of World War I. I had not really known her story before, but it is definitely worth looking up. Although I found the cartoonesque art work a little strange, her life sounded inspiring. She was executed by a German firing squad, and the night before her death she was quoted as saying,
Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.
Those words just seem to cut through all the propaganda and jingoism that whip up countries into war time and time again. A fascinating woman.