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Union flagNorth Norfolk Tour 1997

Tour map imageHow it all started

When I was a teenager I spent most weekends and holidays cycling around Norfolk my home county. This was mainly with my friend Simon as we both had a passion for the M&GN railway that used to run through Norfolk and we used to visit the old stations and walk the lines. These trips were always day trips and after seeing a couple cycle tourers all loaded up with panniers I thought it would be great fun to tour and stay out over night. Unfortunately we didn't have the money then for panniers and tents so it wasn't until 20 years later that I got that opportunity.

In the Summer of 95 Simon and his wife had bought a caravan and invited us up to North Norfolk for the weekend. Bring some bikes with you they said, well Frank had her old racing bike which she used to go to work on and the only bike I had was my mum's all steel 'sit up and beg 'ladies Raleigh circa 1950. Well we had a whale of a time cycling around Blakney and Letheringsett and it brought back so many memories.

Setting off on our first cycle tour with mother wishing us well.

Setting off on our first cycle tour with mother wishing us well.

Afterwards we said to ourselves it was about time that we had some decent bikes so we could go out at weekends and do the odd days cycling around our local villages. The following summer we were the proud owners of 2 Claud Butler Odyssey bikes.

I still had this urge to have a go at cycle touring and spotted two cheap aluminium rear racks in a local cycle shop. "What about having a go at cycle touring now that we have rear racks all we need are some panniers?" Frank needed little persuasion and 4 Karrimor rear panniers were quickly purchased and 2 Bardales followed shortly afterwards.

With all the camping gear that we already owned there was no excuse but that Whitsun to have a go at cycle touring. We picked North Norfolk as our first cycle tour for various reasons:

a) It's a beautiful part of the country that I knew well.
b) The Norfolk country lanes are still relatively quiet and free from traffic.
c)There are a reasonable amount of campsites in the area as we weren't sure how much distance we could cover with loaded panniers.
d) My parents still live there and it gave us a good place to leave our car.

Having driven up to Norwich in the morning, it was early afternoon by the time we set off.

We headed north towards the coast and due to our late start only managed as far as a small campsite near Hevingham.

The next day, after an interesting shower (my only 20p coin lasted a mere 2 minutes leaving me covered in shampoo, with no alternative than to rinse in freezing cold water) we set off towards Cawston heath and then on to the small market town of Alysham. From there we continued northwards following parts of the 'Weavers way'. Our route took us past the historic Blicking Hall and on through delightful countryside to the villages of Erpingham and Aldborough. At Aldborough we stopped for some lunch and had the added bonus of watching a few overs of the local cricket match before pressing on northwards.

Frank relaxing after her 2nd day of cycle touring

Frank relaxing after her 2nd day of cycle touring.

Our next stop was another National trust property Felbrigg hall and after a welcome cream tea it was off across the park and up the 'Lions Mouth' (a classic beech woodland at it's best in Autumn) to our campsite aptly named 'Roman camp'. The next day we took the coast road to Sherringham and after a look at the steam trains of the North Norfolk Railway, it was then on through Weybourne for lunch at Salthouse. If you like fresh Crab then this is the place that does it the best, the Café/shop in the village is run by a lady who's husband goes out to catch them every day, so you can't get them any fresher. we stopped for some dressed crab and some excellent shrimp and garlic paté. It was then a short ride from there to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve at Cley marshes for a bit of bird watching (you see, to us it's not just hacking off the miles, we use the bikes to tour and see places). After the delight at seeing close up some Bearded Tits, it was on to Blakeney with it's wonderful little harbour and excellent tea shop (yes this was turning into a tour of the North Norfolk tea shops!). From there is was just a short way through Morston and on to our campsite at Stiffkey. The campsite is on what was once an old 2nd World War military camp and the toilet blocks are still original! It does however have a wonderful view out across the marshes and through to 'Abraham's Bosom'.

Evening meal watching the Sunset over Stiffkey marshes.

Evening meal watching the Sunset over Stiffkey marshes.

The next day was again fine (we seem to hit a wonderful week of weather), we set off early to explore the seaside town of Wells-next-the-sea. After a bit of shopping, it was of again to have a look at Holkham Hall, Thomas Coke's 17th century Palladian mansion. After some lunch and a nice chat with a chap who was riding a recumbent, we set off for Holkham Gap and Holkham Meals.

Holkham Meals has since been made famous due it's appearance in the final shots of 'Shakespeare in love', where Gwyneth Paltrow in wash up on the beach. We had hoped for hard sand to ride along, however the recent good weather had dried the sands and it was heavier going than we had anticipated.

Soon we past Gun Hill and arrived at the small harbour of Burnham Overy Staithe. From there we rejoined the coast road and made haste through Brancaster to find our campsite at Holme-next-the-sea.

The bridle path at Holkham Meals

The bridle path at Holkham Meals

Holkham Meals pre 'Shakespeare in love'

Holkham Meals pre 'Shakespeare in love'

This proved to be an interesting campsite. It was a small field behind someone's house with just a cold water tap and a single toilet (which didn't seem to be screwed to the floor!) The next day we were off bird watching again, this time at the RSPB bird reserve at Titchwell Marsh. Lunch time beckoned and a route was quickly planned through Burnham Market to Burnham Thorpe and a lunch at the delightful 'Lord Nelson' pub. Having been suitably refreshed it was off to visit the shrine of Our Lady at little Walsingham and then through Great and Little Snorings to the Old Brick Kilns Caravan and Camping park at Barney.

At the campsite we met up with our friends Simon and Angela for the weekend. We spent the next couple of day catching up on news, exploring a Saxon fort at Warham camp and Kite Flying. All too soon it was Sunday and we set off on our final leg of the journey through the villages of Swanton Novers, Hindolveston, Guestwick,Wood Dalling to a stop at Salle to have a look at it's wonderful church which has a double hammer beam roof and lovely lych gate. On then to Reepham where we joined the start of 'Marriots Way'- a cycle route along the track bed of the disused M&GN joint railway that runs all the way through to Norwich ( a distance of 24 miles).

Kite Flying

Kite Flying

Lych Gate, Salle church

Lych Gate, Salle church

This unfortunately took a toll on my rear rack as the surface in places is quite rough and at Lenwade one of the welds on one of the stays broke and then a little later another broke.

We decided to continue on to Norwich by road to preserve the rest of the rack. Fortunately we got back to Norwich in one piece without a total collapse, it just goes to show you get what you pay for!

All in all an enjoyable first trip, we were definitely hooked on cycle touring and we were soon planning our first trip abroad to Holland.