It’s early Tuesday morning and we are loading the car for 9 nights at a CL in Norfolk. 9 nights means I’m a little more organised than for our usual 2 night breaks. Off to the storage site to get the legs up and off we go. Still within 2 miles from home and we realise that we’d forgotten breakfast. We’d had a takeaway pizza the night before and wrapped the left overs up to eat en route. Pizza it is for breakfast then. Up the A3 and through the Hindhead tunnel. I realised I’d forgotten to pack a white bra, no white T shirts this holiday then. Onto the M25 and I realised we’d forgotten to pack the caravan box. This is a box that I put things in as I remember them before the next trip out. Clean towels are in the box as are basic food supplies, new toothbrushes, toothpaste, caravan blanket and countless other bits and pieces. Feeling rather useless and down, quick check back, yes we’d remembered the caravan.
The heavens opened the skies went black. Come on. This is July it’s supposed to be summer. We ploughed on and black clouds gave way to lighter clouds with the occasional patch of blue. Not enough to make a pair of sailor’s trousers though so as my grandma used to say summer’s not quite here yet.
170 miles later we arrived at the site. Driving down a long gravel drive,bedecked with baskets teeming with flowers, the drive opened up onto a small 6 pitch field, The Grange CL. The owners live on site and were on hand at our arrival. A small site office and a ladies and gents toilets are in a small building to the side of the site. There is a small daily charge to use the loos and a charge to use wifi. We paid for use of the toilet/shower but declined the wifi as our gadget managed to pick up wifi for free from the surrounding area. The site office is well stocked with tourist leaflets on things to do in the area and the owners, Pat and Steve, are more than happy to share their knowledge of the local area. Legs down facing a beautiful dovecote, peace and tranquility reigned. The awning went up quickly, kettle on and a bite to eat. Having forgotten most of our supplies this meant a trip into the local market town of Diss. Diss boasts three supermarkets and plenty of local shops whilst still retaining the small town feel.
Morrisons was our chosen supermarket. We entered at just after 4pm, good time or bad time, I’m not sure. They had just started reducing items. I like to refer to the section dedicated to reduced items as ‘The Shit Corner’. Boy was the Shit Corner good today. Trolley loaded with bargains I just hoped my fridge and freezer could cope.
It had rained overnight but the morning greeted us with sunshine and fluffy clouds. Reduced Morrisons Bloomer toasted with lashings of butter for breakfast swilled down with a strong cup of tea. Time to explore. The owners had encouraged us to take time to wander around their 6 acres of land. Leaving the site through a 5 bar gate we were pleasantly surprised. It was like entering the wardrobe and finding Narnia. A wildlife town awaited us. Hidden amongst tall grasses and an abundance of wild flowers was an assortment of bug hotels, owl boxes, ponds, a bird hide and ‘Ye Olde non Swinging Swing Chair’. The 6 acre site was alive with butterflies, bees and birds. With the suggestion from the humble abodes that frogs, reptiles and countless other mini beasts live here. With birdseed provided in the bird hide we topped up the feeders and sat back to enjoy the birds feasting.
We later met up with Steve, the owner and wildlife enthusiast, who told us that he was leaving a moth box out over night and that if we were up early tomorrow morning we’d be able to see its contents.
After lunch, armed with a parcel for my parents that needed posting, we set off on the tandem for Diss. A 14 mile round trip to a lovely little market town with a Mere in the centre. A beautiful lake left over from the ice age. Today however, we didn’t do the town justice, with rain imminent we decided to save exploring for another day.
Early to rise to check out the moth box. Us getting up early whilst on holiday is unheard of let alone getting up early to go and look at moths. I feel we just lost all our street cred, if we ever had any in the first place that is. The site still slumbered as we headed into our little wildlife haven. Steve was out ahead of us and opened the box to reveal a bounty of moths, different sizes, shapes and colours all basking under the lamp placed in the box to lure them in. The piece de resistance was a beautiful Hawk Moth which quite happily posed on Steve’s hand for photographs. Moths duly released back into the wild we set off for a quiet half an hour in the bird hide. I think on this occasion we must’ve been up before the birds as we only saw a couple of Yellow Hammers.
Back to the caravan to prepare for a ride to Norwich. A 40 mile round trip. The sun was out, sun cream applied and off we went. Having only ridden less than a dozen times since our Tour of Great Britain my bum didn’t feel too bad on my Brooks Saddle. Legs felt good as we powered on. Probably a good part of the country for me to embark on such a lengthy ride. The furthest I’ve ridden in the last 18 months is about 15 miles so the relatively flat terrain of Norfolk felt promising. On arrival in Norwich we were on the hunt for lunch. We’d holidayed here 30 years ago on one of our first holidays together on a boat on the Norfolk broads so we headed down towards the water. Lovely pub found with a waterside balcony and settled down to eat. Reminiscing about our first holiday we set ourselves the challenge of recreating a photograph taken of our younger selves. Location found. Willing photographer on a nearby boat found. Pose. Job done.
Heading back I got quite saddle sore and the hips played up a bit but despite the moaning, ( apparently I’m good at this) I’m still proud of the fact I managed the ride after such a long time out of the saddle.
Another sunny day dawned and saw us peering into the moth box again. This morning we were greeted by a Privet Moth. A stunning creature resembling more of a butterfly than the usual moth.
Day 5 & 6
Little bit of a lie in and then a full cooked breakfast on the teppanyaki. The site had EHU maintenance on Friday. Another first, we switched the fridge onto gas for the few hours that our supply would off. Having switched it back onto EHU after said works were completed we thought nothing of it. Woke up this morning and the bloomin fridge was warm! Nightmare.
Meeting friends later and doing an early tea so hopefully we’re set up food wise until then. Met up at a pub about 45 minutes away. The Hare Arms, a beautiful little village pub which has a lovely beer garden with various breeds of chickens and peacocks roaming around. With it being a lovely sunny day and our friends having 3 young children we opted for the beer garden. We all met 8 summers ago in Turkey and hit it off straight away. We have kept in touch over the years and managed to meet up every year since. The family is 3 generations and has grown over the years with us getting to meet the latest addition, Sienna, a beautiful little 17 week old bundle of smiles. Food ordered, Sienna’s older brothers playing in the large beer garden, time to catch up. The food arrived, large portions that were extremely well presented, time to tuck in. It’s always great catching up with old friends but all good things come to an end. We said our goodbyes and head back to the caravan just in time for Steve to watch Le Tour de France and for me to try to get my Fitbit steps in with a stroll around the wildlife area. Early to bed, more friends to meet tomorrow.
Second day of lunching out was a hot day. Grateful to leave the confines of the sun lounger, carefully placed south facing outside the awning. We set off in the hot tin box on wheels, known to us as’ The Volvo, slowly roasting for the few few miles whilst the air conditioning kicked in. Arriving at The Marsh Harrier. A lovely old pub refurbished now looking like a new pub. This, too, had a lovely beer garden that people where taking full advantage of. Dave is an old colleague of Steves from the days when we worked Monday to Friday, 9-5, and hated every minute of the daily grind. Dave brought along his wife, Sharon, a lovely lady originally from Rochdale. Two chatty northern women meant that there wasn’t any awkward silences. Food ordered. I opted for the traditional Sunday roast and Steve, the ham hock. Conversation flowed freely, as did the local ale. All fed, watered and caught up, time to say our good byes with promises of meeting up again. Back to the hot tin box on wheels to return to the caravan to continue to slowly roast outside the awning.
The holiday is slowly coming to a close, but the weather is cranking up. Wall to wall blue skies today with more than enough blue to make trousers for a crew of sailors. The sun blazed down reaching an amazing 29 degrees. Steve opted for the sweltering heat in the shade of the rolled up awning with me choosing to hop between the awning and the perfect blue skies. Quick cool down in the later part of the afternoon in the chilled aisles of the local supermarket got us ready for a walk around the wildlife area assisting the owner of the site with his Big Butterfly Count.
Armed with the sheet downloaded from the website, off we went. Laughable really, if you’d’ve told me last week that on my holidays I’d be getting up at the crack of dawn to look at moths and spend hot afternoons chasing butterflies around a field, I would never have believed you. An almost impossible task as butterflies just don’t sit still for long enough for you to get close enough to identity them. We only really managed to identify about 4 different ones but we saw it as something different and a way of me getting extra steps in on my Fitbit.
During our visit Steve, the owner, had invited some owl specialists out to check his barn owl box at the end of the wildlife area as he suspected there may be chicks in there. Specialists arrived and low and behold 2 beautiful baby chicks. Ringed and carefully placed back in their box the babies settled down to await mum’s return. Whilst we did not witness the babies being ringed ( best to keep people to a minimum whilst the experts do what they do best), Steve Garten, the owner, was on hand and took these beautiful photos.
So hot last night that every window and skylight was opened to full, with the mozzy blinds in place and light breeze it made for a pleasant nights sleep.
Today was a tourist day, once again reliving some old holiday spots, but first, we need to feed Steve’s belly, it must be nearing 12 noon then!!! We acquire Tesco reward points, not by being loyal Tesco shoppers, oh no, but by purchasing everything using a Tesco CreditCard which is paid off “IN FULL” every month, just in case Martin Lewis is reading. These reward points convert very nicely into Food Vouchers, and generally provide a three course meal once a month, or have even been used to provide a no cost return journey through the Channel Tunnel in the past. We travelled to Beccles, a point we remembered from our Norfolk Broads holidays, that also happened to have a ‘Prezzo’ so three course lunch it is then. A short walk down to the water admiring the sheer variety of architecture along the way and we were in familiar territory reminiscing about the old times whilst a family of Swans paid us a visit.
We journeyed onwards to Great Yarmouth, now we may not be the people to do Great Yarmouth justice, but I don’t suppose they are hoping to attract middle aged caravanners (cheeky auto correct just corrected caravanners to caravan nerds!!!). Let’s just say it has gone the way of other ‘Kiss Me Quick’ seaside resorts and we seem to prefer them in winter when the tattoos and naked beer bellies are covered up back ‘inland’ somewhere. Anyway, we ‘joined in’ and spent an hour snoozing on the beach, with views of a large oil tanker and some enormous oil rig, which may have been an off-shore wind turbine planter, we didn’t know, while ‘beer bellies’ grandchildren traipsed 50yrds and back on a donkey for £2.50 each. Nice to see that old style pier entertainment still exists, featuring one of my childhood favourites, Showaddywaddy, whom I saw in Woking a couple of weeks ago.
We next journeyed onwards to Acle for a peaceful half hour at the ‘The Bridge Inn’, a nice looking part thatched pub by the side of the ‘Broads’. Then back home, and yes, we do call the caravan home, via Tesco (more reward points) for fuel. After a full day of 30C temperatures it was fair to say the caravan was HOT on our return, the already opened windows were flung to the full extremities and the freezer was raided for the choc-ices rather quickly. End of the day, in the awning, wine in hand, watching the full moon rising after a walk round the sites wildlife area watching the Barn Owl swooping around the field, but not close enough for a picture, sorry.
Lazy day planned to end the holiday. Think a little bit of heat exhaustion may be affecting me, woke up to temperatures rising towards 30 degrees again and feeling quite dizzy. Water by the litre and sit in the shade was prescribed by the boss. Temperatures soared and a little nap after lunch I was feeling almost back to normal.
A short walk around the wildlife area and housemartins swooping over the water caught our attention. Some swooped gracefully skimming over the surface drinking as they went. Others not quite as graceful belly flopped in an attempt at getting a drink. The small fishing lake proudly presents about 9 fishing platforms, all fenced off to prevent children and animals entering the water. The water is well stocked with fish of all sizes, carp I think, but don’t quote me on that. Ideal for the more inexperienced fisherman as we were told you were more than likely guaranteed to get a catch.
On returning from our walk we decided it was time the awning came down. Unpegged it came down with relative ease and dutifully allowed itself to be folded and stored away in the boot of the car. Just in time me thinks. The sky turned black and distant rumblings suggested an imminent storm approaching. Within minutes big fat rain drops were making that wonderful noise in our roof, lightning flashed and the thunder clapped. As quickly as it arrived the storm moved on its way leaving the world looking and smelling fresher and cooler.
Awake early, breakfast done, time to pack away. I always hate this bit as it always seems to be the final full stop behind our holiday. The owners, Pat & Steve came over to say goodbye and with great sadness we hitched up and set off back to Hampshire. Alarms set for our early morning return to work tomorrow.
Would we go again? In a flash! We didn’t have any real plans to do anything this holiday. We just wanted bucket loads of rest and relaxation, which we certainly got. The way the site is set up it oozes calm and relaxation with the wildlife area being a great asset. It’s up to you how you use the wildlife area, be it for fishing, twitching, dog walking, studying the many different homes for different animals or just for a lovely evening stroll and a quiet moment in the ‘non swinging swinging seat’ watching the beautiful sunsets. Or like us you could completely surprise yourselves and find yourselves getting up at silly o’clock to look at moths. It’s entirely up to you how much you get out of the site. We got so much from the holiday it made us more determine to retire early and tour. There’s a great big world out there waiting to be discovered and we found a tiny piece of tranquility a few hours up the road.