Day 1 Wells-Next-the-Sea
The destination for this years cycling weekend away was Smallburgh in Norfolk. Setting off from Camelot (Beverley) in four separate carts, the Knights agreed to meet at Wells-Next-the-Sea for a spot of lunch before heading out for a short ride. Sir Tristan and Lady Isolde (Dave & Carol) were first to arrive at the Beach Café, shortly followed by Sir Geraint and Lady Enid (Stephen & Sharrin), King Arthur and Lady Guinevere (Neil & Heather) and finally Sir Gawain and Sir Percival (Mark & Pugwash). After a light lunch it was time to consult the map to settle on a suitable route of around 20 miles. Sir Gawain suggested that there was a nice route which would take us through Holkham Hall estate, most appropriate for such esteemed company.
On reaching the “tradesmans entrance” to the rear of the estate, the Knights were suitably impressed with the sweepingly long driveway leading up to a “Needle” atop a hill. As we swept passed the obelisk Tour de France style we then had our first glimpse of the main house and the stunning vista that lay before us. King Arthur was so taken by the view that we stopped for a photo opportunity, no doubt getting ideas to improve his own “castle” back in Camelot. On reaching the main entrance it was time to consult the map once more.
Choosing a circular route around the Holkham estate we doubled back through Burnham Thorpe towards Warham before returning to the “carts” at the Beach café. With the horses all strapped in once more, it was off for the final jaunt to our accommodation for the weekend, Avalon (aka The Mews House in Smallburgh). It was not long before the call of the jacuzzi overcame the knights along with a few aperitifs to celebrate our first day on the Tour de Norfolk.
Day 2 Sea Paling for Lunch
The knights awoke to a bright Saturday morning and the promise of perfect weather for our planned journey which was to follow part of a recommended circular route around the Norfolk Broads. Setting out from Avalon, we travelled west along quiet country lanes around RAF Coltishall until reaching Buxton Lamas (no sign of any Lamas though). On the way King Arthur and Sir Tristan dismounted to “point Percy” behind a hedge while the others continued at a gentle pace. By the time the pair caught up again sweat was dripping and steam coming from the ears in their effort to get back to the peloton. Next we headed south east through Frettenham with a brief section on the main Norwich road at Crostwick then to Woodbastwick. From there we took the ferry road to Horning where we got up close and personal with Broads as we found our way flooded. Sir Gawain was the first to bravely coax his steed through the stream followed gingerly by the rest of the knights and King Arthur taking the chance to record our efforts for posterity. Safely through, we then came to the ferry crossing at the River Bure.
The “ferry” turns out to be an old lifeboat dating back to the “old days” (1970s) able to carry up to 13 persons, so plenty room for 7 knights plus steeds. On reaching the opposite bank it was time for a coffee break at the Ferry Inn (or Ferr Inn according to the sign, I don’t know Y). It was very pleasant sitting outside in the sunshine watching the myriad of boats passing by, sometimes mooring up. Fortunately we departed just as the Inn started to get rather busy.
Next section took the knights through Ludham and Hickling to our lunch destination at Sea Paling. After so many flat road sections, the site of the “Sea Wall” leading up to the lifeboat station proved to be a spur for a quick sprint to the top. Kudos shared equally by King Arthur, Sir Gawain, Sir Percival and Sir Geraint at 10 sec each. Casting our eyes around from such dizzy heights at the various establishments we settled on Reefs Bar. There seemed to be a bit of mix up with the order, as Sir Percival and Sir Tristan had completed their meals before the others were served up.
The homeward journey saw the knights travelling along the coast road to Lessingham then inland to Happisburgh Common and East Ruston. Along the way, we passed through a swarm of wasps, a chance reminder to Sir Tristan to keep his gob shut. Onwards through Horning and Dilham before returning to the relaxing grounds of Avalon.
Sir Gawain wasted no time in jumping in the jacuzzi where he found it so relaxing that he drifted off to the land of nod. His slumber was soon disturbed by the arrival of Guinevere, Sir Geraint, Lady Enid and Lady Isolde while King Arthur and Sir Gawain went to do battle on the tennis court where King Arthur managed to retain his crown.
After dinner, it was time for King Arthur’s entertainment in the form of a drinking game Boop. With fingers forming periscopes around the eyes each knight was called upon to Boop or Boop-Boop left or right pinging another knight around the table. A simple game (much loved by children) but equally confusing and entertaining after a few bevvies.
Day 3 Crabs in Cromer
Back in the day when I was a young midshipman the “rules of the road” were drummed into us, one of which included “Assumptions should not be made on the basis of scanty information”. This sprang to mind today as we set off with only a vague idea which roads to take to reach our destination at East Runton via Holt. A slightly longer journey than the previous day made slightly longer by the various twists and turns caused by missed junctions. Fortunately the wind was generally favourable. Shortly after setting out, Sir Gawain reported a loose horseshoe, but with having the latest tubeless horseshoes was able to carry on after pumping a bit more air in. At Aylsham, we stopped to check directions when a fellow approached and we thought we’d ask him which way only to find he was a visitor and was seeking directions himself.
The further north we travelled the more undulating the terrain became although nothing too taxing. Eventually we found our way to Holt via Blickling, Oulton and Saxthorpe. Having agreed to meet Lady Isolde at 1pm time was becoming critical with all the frequent stops to check the map for directions. There was no coffee stop planned en-route so we pressed on eventually reaching Holt before turning back into the wind towards Baconsthorpe. Even into the wind, we found there was shelter provided by the hedges and trees lining many of the roads. Heading north to Sheringham we got our first glimpse of the sea before taking the coast road to East Runton. Arriving there, we stopped to ask directions to the café only to find more visitors.
It was a great relief for most of us to reach the Rocky Bottoms café where we found Lady Isolde patiently waiting. Water and drinks was the first order of the day. Crab salad and crab wraps proved to be the most popular choice among the knights. It was a little breezy in our little corner, however with the sun shining and warming our backs, no-one felt like moving. The reluctance to move extended to after the meal, probably with thoughts of the head winds we were expecting on the way back.
Sticking to the coast road led by King Arthur through Cromer and on to Mundesley where we stopped for a photo shoot on the cliff edge. Approaching an elderly couple to ask if they would act as photographer turn out they were visitors too. Are there any locals in this neck of the woods? Further along the road Sir Gawain’s steed threw a shoe and caused him to hit the turf as he tried to dodge over a little gulley in the roadside. Fortunately no damage done and after reshodding we were off again. The wind did not turn out to be such an excessive feature until we turned south west after Bacton towards Crostwight and Honing. At the turn off to Avalon, Lady Enid found she was only needing a few km more to complete a century, so along with Sir Geraint went off in search of the missing km while the rest raced back to get into the Jacuzzi. A fitting end to a wonderful weekend of cycling and good company.