Home to 303 square kilometres of broads, miles of golden beaches and 659 Medieval churches no less, the county of Norfolk was the place we chose for one of our first summer caravan holidays. Formed over 1.2 billion years ago, it is believed to be the first part of Britain which was explored and then chosen as a place to settle by early humans. As explorers ourselves, albeit towing a newly bought Elddis Wisp, we initially chose it as a relatively easy place to drive and navigate for the first time. What we didn’t expect was that we’d love it so much that we’d be back again next year!
After a relatively pain free journey from “up north” we arrived at Two Mills Touring Park near North Walsham and were welcomed by the friendliest and best tea making wardens you could meet. We were escorted to our pitch swiftly and let the ambience of the tranquil countryside surroundings ease us in, with the additional help of a glass of wine! Cherry, our dog, was particularly appreciative of the large dog walk taking us up to the top of the site where the view over to the fields surrounding it reminded me of Sting’s famous song, “Fields of Gold.” These same fields led to a picturesque walk to nearby North Walsham to replenish provisions throughout the holiday, as well as offering a variety of eateries and pubs only twenty minutes’ walk away.
The days passed by swiftly, thanks to the sunshine and availability of such a huge variety of places to visit on our doorstep. Here are some of our highlights.
Mundesley beach and village at just under fifteen minutes’ drive to the coast was a welcome first outing. A charming and quintessential English village, Mundesley has plenty to offer for families and couples who like the simple pleasures of sunny afternoons on beautiful sandy beaches. The beach itself, won the Blue Flag award in 2016 and you can walk along, wistfully eyeing up the beach houses jotted along the front. Afterwards, you can have a paddle without the crowds of people you might expect to find in other resorts along the coast. Cherry loved running up down the beach flirting with the gentle waves, whilst we both appreciated a hearty meal at the Ship Inn overlooking the sea and beach as the sun was beginning to set.
Felbrigg Hall Estate
Felbrigg Hall Estate and Gardens was another place we visited only ten minutes’ drive away from North Walsham. Its vast estate which extends to 520 acres provided us with plenty of walks to explore the regal rolling countryside estate. In addition, it was dog friendly and perfect for us. Many of the paths are buggy friendly and the hall itself offers plenty to do for the young and old. The hall was built in the fifteenth century and its library contains 5000 books, one of which dates from 1509. It also has a stunning walled garden containing a diverse array of plants. We didn’t stay long enough to see one of Felbrigg’s famous ghosts but we were able to enjoy the delightful cakes and drinks on offer downstairs.
Holkham Hall was another highlight of our trip. The vast beach which extends outwards from its grounds was made famous in the 1998 film “Shakespeare in Love.” Its golden and seemingly, endless beach is perfect for dog lovers and big enough to cater for everyone who visits. The pine trees lining the entrance of the beach give it a unique setting and form part of the nature reserve surrounding this area. There is also plenty of car parking space for the many visitors who arrive during the summer months.
Elsewhere at Holkham Hall, families and couples can hire bikes and navigate the many paths zig zagging around the grounds. There are also boats, canoes and kayaks to hire on the lake. Near the entrance is a huge adventure playground for families and children which will keep everyone amused. Those searching for gastronomic delights will not be disappointed by Holkham Village Inn, “The Victoria”, or even the extensive range of food and drink on offer at the Holkham Hall shop. We decided to have a posh picnic on the lawn outside the hall but there are plenty of options for eating and drinking elsewhere. We then took a walk around the grounds to spot deer. Unfortunately, due to our poor map-reading skills we got lost and re-enacted a “Pride and Prejudice” style moment as my husband romantically lifted me over the fiendish nettles and thorns to retrace our steps back onto one of the paths!
Potter Heigham provided another delightful day out when we hired a small boat to explore the nature and ambience of the Norfolk Broads. We spent many hours marvelling at the houses running alongside the water’s edge, wistfully dreaming about winning the lottery and owning one. With help from the waterways map which we were given, we found plenty of places to stop and rest our sea legs with a well earned scone.
Other Norfolk Delights
We were also wowed by the many characterful villages like Sheringham and West Runton where we stopped on various visits along the North Norfolk Coastal route. Cromer remains a traditional seaside resort, complete with crabbing opportunities which you really have to try when you are there. The pier, beach, arcades and zoo are great for keeping families entertained, no matter what the British weather has to offer. We enjoyed a drizzly day here but were not stuck for things to do and took one of the last trains back to North Walsham, after we had tired ourselves out.
All in all, for one of our first caravanning trips, we felt we had made the right choice in Norfolk and had a truly wonderful holiday. The only decision we had to make at the end of it was…. which caravan site would we book next year when we would definitely return?
From television locations to literary landmarks, the Dorset coast has more to offer than just its beautiful beaches…
Staying at a quiet Caravan and Motorhome site, a mile from a farm shop and restaurant where the ITV series Broadchurch was filmed, we were able to relax within seconds of arriving due to the magnificent view in front of us. The site itself, overlooked the rolling fields and landscape which typify the countryside in this area of the world. The award winning Washingpool Farm Shop, whose restaurant was fully booked for Sunday lunches when we arrived, was stocked with a huge variety of fresh produce from local farms, butchers and businesses including Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s nearby River Cottage business. Needless to say, I had to prevent myself from spending all of our holiday budget on the first day due to the delicious looking chutneys, terrines and homemade scones on offer!
Later that day we headed to nearby Bridport where its annual week long carnival was well under way. The streets were full of tourists eating, drinking and joining the Morris dancers who were one of several types of entertainers on show. Every year, the Bridport Carnival is the highlight of the town’s calendar and on the third Saturday of August, a procession of floats travels up West Street and down South Street. There are many other activities such as fetes and a funfair and on the following Sunday evening, a torch lit parade from Bridport to West Bay ends in fireworks and live music. We were very sorry we would miss the end of the Carnival as we were due to go back home, but knew that we would return again, to enjoy another full week at Bridport. Bridport museum was also free to enter and included much information about the history of the area from as early as the Iron Age. What’s more, it also housed ammonite fossils found within a few miles of Bridport itself.
West Bay, made famous recently for the Broadchurch series, is five minutes by car from Bridport or around a forty five minute walk. We decided to opt for the latter, having journeyed a fair distance by car the day before. The golden sandstone cliffs along the sea front demonstrated how spectacular this area of coastline really is. Indeed, within the 95 mile Jurassic Coast there are many cliffs and beaches which all deserve attention as they form part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At West Bay itself, the sandstone exposes 180 million years of history. We spent a lovely sunny afternoon walking around the harbour, spotting the famous police station and cliff scene from Broadchurch and watching families enjoying crabbing, fish and chips, ice creams and the beautiful beach before returning back to our car, which was parked at Bridport.
The following days, thanks to the summer weather, were spent visiting many other resorts and attractions all within 30 minutes’ drive of our location at Salway Ash. We visited and walked along the wild beauty of Chesil Beach from the car park at East Bexington, whilst on the western side of Bridport, Charmouth and Lyme Regis offered different charms. We stayed longer at Lyme Regis, where the car park at the top of the hill on approach from the east offered good value for money, at only £2 for all day parking. We walked along the harbour, drank at the French Lieutenant’s Bistro, (as you do), and made our way along the promenade to the Historic Cobb part of the harbour. This was formed as a shelter for the town and a way to build upon its fishing trade. We were treated to a beautiful view near the end of the harbour, where we could see as far as Charmouth, the Golden Cap, West Bay and then further along to Chesil Beach. Many sea fishing and sightseeing trips run from here daily, both of which are very popular with families.
Another interesting day out was at Forde Abbey, a privately owned former Cistercian monastery in Dorset built in 1141. Inside the abbey you can walk in the footsteps of former monks and explore the beautiful interior featured in the recent Hollywood adaptation of “Far from the Madding Crowd.” Alternatively you can just visit the gardens themselves which are £10 per adult or £9 each for us, as we were able to use vouchers from a leaflet collected at Bridport’s Tourist Information Centre. Home to the highest powered fountain in the country, we spent several hours exploring the award winning herbaceous borders, bog garden, walled garden, as well as the wild flower garden where we took plenty of stunning photos.
Our final destination took a little longer to get to from our base but was definitely worth the drive. This was Nothe Fort in Weymouth. As a completely dog friendly attraction it appealed to us and as an award-winning visitor attraction, it did not disappoint. Built by the Victorians to protect Portland Harbour there were three levels of informative displays, with the lower section being housed in a labyrinth of underground passageways. It was full of interactive and highly informative displays covering Roman history and spanning many centuries. We particularly liked the chilling nuclear bunker style display which included a radio warning to be sent across to British people in case of an attack, as well as the anti-aircraft guns and technology on the top level. We spent several hours wandering through each display and watching cinema presentations. At the price of £8 for adults and £2 for children, we concluded that it was fantastic value for money. Furthermore, the fact that we could take our dog, (safe in the knowledge she would not be stuck in a car on a summer’s day), was brilliant.
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip and can’t wait for our next stay in Dorset!