That’s a huge piece of bread if you ask me…
…and I don’t make much of the hipster vitamins but at least no rabbits were harmed.
It is well known, perhaps written in ancient scripture, that a day out to the British seaside is something everyone must commit to at some point in their life. In that regard, I am blessed for I try to make regular trips to the seaside.
Living in the centre of the UK, where nearly everything is three and a half hours away, means that I am the furthest away from the seaside as you can be at any point in the UK. Moreover, the selection of seaside destinations reachable within a reasonable time from this point is a little bit grim. Hunstanton is one such place, with its miles of coastal caravan parks; Skegness is another, again with miles of coastal caravan parks. And yet for just a half hour extra drive, one can reach beautiful Cromer, which is where Mrs Gnomepants V2.0 and I have just spent our bank holiday weekend.
Regular readers (if there are any left) will know that I have visited Cromer before – a small sleepy Norfolk coastal town famous for its crabs. Cromer’s tiny streets are littered with shops selling curios, knick-knacks and tat that most people will only use once, a place which once enjoyed a grander time of bathing machines, day trip ferries embarked via a pier and swanky hotels staffed by gentlemen in smart uniforms. A place as yet unspoilt by amusement arcades, kiss me quick hats and leery youths on drunken stag weekends.
A trip to the British seaside comes with a checklist of things to do. Over the years I have pared down my list to three things:
While I might also occasionally chuck in “a paddle”, “Cream tea in the afternoon” and “A play on the penny cascades”, the core holy trinity of food and a walk does me just fine these days, and this weekend I managed all three successfully. The waters around Cromer are Norfolk brown in colour and not the tropical azure that I am used to these days and the thought of dissolving my feet paddling in effluent still does not fill me with joy. Cream teas, while abundant at British seasides, are only really any good when in Devon or Cornwall (sorry, I’m a jam first kind of heathen) and the lack of (or inability to find) arcades in Cromer saw away any chance of chucking away half a tonne of copper coins in the hope of winning a bottle opener in the shape of a naked lady.
None the less, our trip to Cromer was most enjoyable. The seaside ennui began with a late lunch of fish and chips in Mary Janes. Quality, no fuss large cod and chips and a roll and butter for me, with an unbattered haddock and chips for Zoe. I tell you, providing you do your research well, fish and chips at the seaside never fails to please. Unless you’re one of those strange people who doesn’t like fish and chips. Mary Jane’s is a favourite of mine, with Scarborough’s Golden Grid and Whitby’s Magpie Cafe also in the top five fish and chip shops in the UK. Naturally, as any Yorkshireman would testify, the best fish and chips in the world are from Yorkshire, but alas, when it’s a four-hour drive to the Weatherby Whaler, Mary Jane’s will have to suffice. Oh, and don’t let anyone tell you that Harry Ramsden’s is quality fish and chips either. If they do, slap them with a wet piece of huss and tell them to get hence to McDonald’s for a Fillet-o-fish.
Next on the checklist was an ice cream. Now I’m a sucker for a whippy ice cream with a flake, but I’m also a sucker for locally produced ice creams as they tend to have unusual flavours. So we took a brisk walk along the pier and the prom (sadly, no brass bands tiddly-om-pom-poming) in hope of finding something worthwhile. Now, as the sun was out in all its glory in Norfolk this weekend, it seemed that every man and his wife, four kids and dog, were also out in force. As a result, the more ideally placed ice cream shops were rammed or had a line of queues outside. Indeed, the pier was quite busy, especially at the embarkation end (where the RNLI lifeboat station is) were middle-aged fathers tried to terrify their children into enjoying themselves by threatening them with freshly crab-laddered crabs. There were even a couple of armed policemen, but such a sight is the norm now that the British Police State is under martial law.
Cromer was also home to the bravest man who ever lived, Henry Bloggs. Bloggs and his chums would fearlessly brave the elements, row a wooden boat far out to sea and rescue drowning townies from watery deaths while smoking a pipe and looking rather cool in a sou’wester. In force 10 gales. For free. With rain lashing his chops. Now you don’t see people doing much of that these days do you? No. You don’t. Now that’s bravery. And, when you’re that brave, you get medals, your own monument and a museum named after you. Not bad eh? Oh, and you also have lots of murals drawn around your town in your honour. Makes helping an old biddy with their shopping seem a bit limp.
Sadly parking is a premium in Cromer on popular days, so three hours is not enough to enjoy a sit and a watch of the world going by so we had to leave. Previous visits to this part of the coast, however, had involved a stay or visit to Sheringham and being a stickler for tradition, it was only fair that we popped in to see what the place looks like in season, even if it was only for half an hour.
Sheringham is the upmarket sister of Cromer. Middle classes, mostly with nearby holiday homes, price out the locals and swan about like they own the place. Mostly because they do. The stark difference between Cromer and Sheringham is evident from the upmarket theatre and selection of nearby restaurants in Sheringham. While Cromer’s fish and chips attract some diners, it is Sherringham’s mix of Nepalese, Thai and European restaurants that mark the contrast there. Indeed, short of organic, artesian gluten-free neo-paleo hypoallergenic ice creams, it is hard not to delight at the pomposity of some of the patrons. Children with names such as Pompidu, Sefton and Chanterey freely express themselves while aloof mums swig large glasses of Prosecco and dads pander to Parmesan and Chigley’s ever increasing demands in an attempt to be the best fathers ever.
Indeed, much like Cromer, there are rows and rows of chalets lining the prom. For non-Brits reading, a chalet or beach hut is basically a really expensive garden shed which you’re not allowed to live in. However, it is this quirk that makes this part of the coast so picturesque. The sight of painted wooden huts often with unusual names being cracked open for the first time in six months is a delight to behold and, much like the bathing machine houses in Scarborough and Cromer, is an important part of British seaside heritage.
With bellies full of noms and a distance to travel to our B&B, we left the Norfolk coast once more and headed inland for further bank holiday adventure.
In the wooly wilds of North Wales, there is a place dear to me. A peaceful place. A place where magic awaits. A serene place where the only loud noise is the occasional jet fighter from Valley flying over head or the farmer making bales of hay.
This place is nearly unpronounceable at a campsite at the base of the large mountain. I won’t tell you where it is exactly, but regular readers will know. I don’t want the area spoilt by coach loads of people seeking peace and serenity.
Lovely isn’t it?
This is the spot. Miles from anywhere. Peaceful. Quiet. No people to bother you.
In my minds eye it is always this glorious too. Skies as blue as language in a working mans club. Grass as green as my old Hyundai Coupe. A climate as warm as toast. Beautiful. Quiet.
Why this particular view? Well during the day the sea looks so calm and serene there. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you may witness the clouds rolling in off the sea like something from an eerie movie. Shrouding everything yet still allowing parts of the landscape to peek out like cheeky little kittens.
A bit like this
But I know. I know from bitter personal experience. This place can be cold, wet and stormy. But it doesn’t stop me from remembering it as a warm welcoming place.
It is no wonder that this area is steeped in mythology and wonder. This is where Arthur had his Camelot. Nothing to do with Glastonbury or Cornwall. This is the land of the dragon. Where the isle of Avalon lies over the treacherous waters. Where few come. Where fewer remain.
Those that do, and stay the night, are treated to a display of stars bright. Of distant light from the Pembrokeshire coast cast from lighthouses across the bay. Shooting stars, dolphins basking in the light of the setting sun. All this. With naught but peace and quiet.
It is where I want to be scattered should I be cremated. It is where I would like to spend my last waking moments on the Earth.
No mobile phone signal. Nothing. Just peace and quiet.
After having carefully planned my working week to coincide with a visit to the North West to make it easier to travel to Wales, I set off from Liverpool on Thursday morning bound for Pistyll near Caernarfon to begin the third phase of the walk around the coast of Wales.
At this pace, I suspect I will have completed the walk some time in my late 80s. Probably on a mobility shopper.
Regular readers will recall that last year we ended our walk at Porth Towyn having set off from Porth Oer. Because we were starting further up the coast, it made sense to change our usual campsite to a new….untested one.
This year’s campsite was at the amusingly named Penisarlon Camping Farm near Pistyll.
The camp site was very clean and peaceful with fantastic views across towards Nefyn (our goal for the Friday) to the South west and towards Nant Gwrtheyrn to the North East with St George’s Channel to the north.
However as we had arrived earlier than expected we decided that, though too late to start our walk properly, we could start a bit of next year’s planned walk.
This took us towards Nant Gwrtheyrn, though we did not reach there until later in the weekend. Instead we were treated to a lovely bog blocking our path, sheep, second homes and a quaint little church, St Buenos.
On the Friday, we awoke to a lovely rainbow across the bay. Little or no rain during the night but plenty of snoring from me.
This year we began where we left off and made our way across the once more sunny cliffs and dips leading towards Porth Dinllaen. Glorious views. Glorious weather.
Four hours of walking later we crossed Nefyn Golf course and reached Porth Dinllaen.
During the previous night we had espied a strange structure out in the bay. It looked like a drilling platform and part of me was concerned that the greedy oil people had set their eyes on a protected area of outstanding natural beauty.
Fortunately, this was not the case. The platform was actually for the construction of a new RNLI Lifeboat launch slipway. So it wasn’t too bad.
The construction site had an interesting staircase winding its way down the cliff side allowing access to the official coastal path bringing us out at the lovely Ty Coch Inn where we ended our second day’s walk with a delicious and rewarding pint before heading back to the campsite.
After a rather sleepless night for Nick (my snoring again!) who ended up sleeping in his car, it was agreed that completing the short trail up to the campsite would be sufficient for this years walk.
Before that we needed sustenance in the form of a hearty breakfast. On the inbound trip, I espied a brown sign directing the visitor to a place called Nant Gwrtheyrn which had a cafe.
Nant Gwrtheyrn is an old village built for quarry workers in the 1800s. If you were to follow the link above you will be able to read the history. The landscape there is a bizarre mix of post industrial archaeology and nature. There’s a church there, a cafe and a collection of stone cottages available for rent by holiday makers.
However, the cafe didn’t open for breakfast so we scuttled back to Nefyn and the continuation of our walk.
The short trail continuation took us from where we left off the day before and along a winding cliff top pathway. Again, plenty of luxury cliff top homes for the wealthy and privileged. Glorious views.
It’s places like this that make you realise that no matter how hard the average Jo works, they will never attain a picturesque view (like that in the panoramic picture below) without luck, windfall or skulduggery.
The path turned in land and took us through the village where we had earlier eaten our hearty breakfast before heading up a very steep looking hill.
Eventually the path turned into something resembling Borneo. Overgrown gorse bushes, brambles and scratchy things took their toll on our bare shins, bitey creepies made a meal on our blood, and burny heaty hot sun scorched our flesh from on high. Yet, after three hours of walking, we reached the campsite and the starting point for our continuing adventure next year.
Not something like the creation of a cure for a terminal disease. Nor (hopefully) some catastrophic event where millions of lives are snuffed out in a moment. Nor is it something like finding a teaspoon on Mars.
Tomorrow the British public elect regional Police and Crime Commissioners.
You read right. The British public….that’s me and the people around me….elect….as in vote for, like you would for say, a president or MP….. regional….as in local….. Police and Crime Commissioners1…..Big decision making honchos in the police force.
The end of an era. A moment in history.
So you would think that such a monumental moment in history would be heralded with fanfare, instruction and promotion. Well…you would be wrong. Here in sunny Royal Leamington Spa there has been little in the way of canvassing.
Much like during the local and general elections the half hearted mehness of the candidates is not giving me insight into who to vote for nor is it inspiring me to vote. Regular followers of my blogs (Hi Louenne) will probably remember during the local elections in Barnsley I challenged the candidates to come to my house and suggest why I should vote for them. Nobody did, so I voted for an outsider. I also complained of a similar lack of canvassing during the general elections.
I later wrote a piece about local MP Jeremy Wright who, until recently, had only discussed chickens once in Parliament, now seems to be a most prolific letter writer in his new job in the ministry of Justice2
For the Police and Crime Commissioner of Warwickshire there had been nothing much until Mrs Fruitcake received a card addressed to her from the local independent candidate Mr Ron Ball. [http://www.ronball4pcc.co.uk]
Mr Ron Ball says that if he is elected he will :
Ensure no reductions in policing
Spend money on nice offices for him to use
That’s fairly honest. I mean what else could he say? Nothing, I noted about the commissioning of crime. But maybe he doesn’t really want to advertise that bit.
So like in Barnsley, as Mr Ron Ball was the only person to bother to send some information about himself and why he was standing even though it wasn’t addressed to me, he was going to get my vote.
That is…..Until last night.
Hurrah! Someone else to consider.
Make sure there are no reductions in policing
Spend money on nice offices for him to use
Ok. So that’s pretty much standard then. Then…at the top of the back page….
“I WILL KEEP POLITICS OUT OF POLICING”
How? Hang on, you’re the LABOUR PCC candidate. And you’re going to KEEP POLITICS OUT OF POLICING?
That’s like Jimmy Saville running for Child Protection officer saying “KEEP MOLESTATION OUT OF CHILDRENS HOMES”
I don’t get it.
As yet Gnomepants Heights is still to receive propaganda from the Conservative candidate, Fraser Pithie [http://www.fraserpithie.org.uk/] . Being a Conservative area he probably thinks “I don’t need to do anything as people in this area automatically vote for conservative here anyway. I mean if Adolf Hitler was standing as a conservative then people here would vote for him.”
But no doubt he will say that he will:
Make sure there are no reductions in policing
Spend money on nice offices for him to use
While probably also keeping politics out of policing.
Hmmm. In all that’s like saying “Vote for me and I’ll do the job” which is to be expected. But it’s so confusing. It’s like being asked to pick your favourite pot of jam. Where all the jams are the same flavour and brand.
Especially as I notice a distinct sweeping resemblance. They all look the same. Perhaps they are. Maybe they are all the same person So I’ll put the challenge out there.
Dear Messrs BALL, PITHIE and PLASKETT.
I, Stegzy Gnomepants, challenge you to come to my house and tell me why I should vote for you.
I won’t tell you where I live. You must prove your policing skills by using detective work to find me. If you find me and tell me why you’re the person I should vote for you’ll get my vote. And a photo opportunity.
Lots of love
I’m not holding my breath. My challenge failed in Barnsley. However all this insight into the candidates might be in vain. During research for this article I came across several items about voter apathy. Interestingly enough, one about apathy in Barnsley. [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20301308]
I’ll let you know if anything happens.
1 – A person that commissions both Police and Crime? Who would commission crime? “Oh we need more burglaries in that area and we should have some more stabbings in that area….”
2 – Granted, Mr Wright is doing an important job in Parliament now and no doubt his wrist is swollen due to the 3-4 letters he writes each day. But my point remains, he doesn’t seem to be doing much specifically for the Coventry and Warwickshire area. He’s too busy you see….writing letters about prisons and the cost of jam in police cells.
Following the mad tour of the east coast of Devon we decided to take a trip inland. Our guide books told us of the wonders of Cornwall and our brief trip across the Taymar on Tuesday showed us that Cornwall was closer than we thought.
But where to go were either of us hadn’t been before? Our first thought was “Oooh where does FJ Warren live? She’s Cornish. But the thought of a another long drive was not appealing. Instead we peeked at the maps and guidebooks and settled on Launceston.
According to the guidebooks, Launceston was the ancient Cornish capital. It had a castle, a steam train and other interesting things like cider farms on route. So it seemed like the natural choice. So once more across the Taymar we went noting for the second time that week that people are charged to leave Cornwall and not go in.
Launceston is…boring. Tatty around the edges. Pretty. But boring. After a brief 10 minute walk it appeared we had done Launceston. So we tootled up to the castle to have mooch there. But at £7 each to go and look around some crumbling ruins we thought £14 would be better spent on cake or fun. So way ahead of planned schedule we buggered off back to the car and went to see where else we could get to.
The Bodmin Moor of my childhood was not the Bodmin Moor of my middle age. Either there has been a new road built across the moor in the 30 or so years since my last visit or my dad took us across Bodmin Moor along some weird unmarked B road. So much so, by the time we had reached Bodmin I was like “Oh, we’re here already”.
Bodmin was interesting. Well what we saw through the car windows. But with only shops and more money wanting to be spent we thought another stop mooching round a provincial town was not on the cards. So when the only place to park for free was up a side street alongside Bodmin General, part of the Bodmin Steam Railway, we thought “But a steam train ride might be fun!”
So that’s what we did. We bought 2 tickets to Boscarne and boarded the chuffing chuffer.
It was fun!
When we returned we stopped for a cream tea.
Full of cake and after a bit of geocaching, we hopped back into the car and headed toward Polperro via Lostwithiel. Lostwithiel is described as the Medieval Capital of Cornwall. Again, it was quaint, children were playing in the river and shops seemed open.
One thing we had noticed during our time in the Southwest was that everyone seemed to be so miserable. Shop keepers and ice cream van men were no exception. I can only imagine that the misery was down to the lack of boobs on display. Cornwall needs more boobs. Or cake. Or maybe just a tickle.
Anyway, before misery got a grip, we headed off again, this time to Polperro. My nan and granddad visited Polperro when they were alive. I remember leafing through their photograph album at the pretty houses and narrow streets. Indeed it was. Narrow, quaint, overpriced and packed with tourists. Having been fleeced £4 for parking we wandered into the village to try and find somewhere to eat. We were a bit early and all the restaurants seemed to do nice fish dishes. Sadly none were open until half an hour after our parking expired and I didn’t feel like paying a further £4-£8 just to stuff my face. Our minds were made up by the time we had reached the quayside that we would head off to Looe and see if there was any other nice places to eat instead.
But before we could turn round and make our way back, a woman offered us a boat ride along the coast. How could we refuse?
So that’s what we did.
On our return we made our way back through the tourists to the car and drove off to Looe. Looe reminded me of Skegness without the wind amusement arcades or Victoriana. It was heaving with tourists of the lower orders. Police men, our first since leaving the midlands, were talking to shouty drunk youths. Haggard teen mothers were dragging their screeching urchins. Young girls with more tattoos and piercings than a freak show jostled with loud shouty short haired scallies for chips from the harbour chippy. But our guidebooks insisted that there was good eating to be had somewhere in Looe.
And yes. They were right. We stopped for dinner at the Smuggler’s Cot in Looe where I had the biggest Lemon Sole (and bones) I’ve ever seen. It was delicious! Meanwhile Zoe struggled with her mammoth 20oz D cut rump steak. She assured me that was delicious too.
After the rather soggy Tuesday I was three quarter expecting the Wednesday to be a wash out as well. It started off overcast so I wasn’t entirely optimistic about the weather.
We had decided to have a trip over the Dart Moor and visit Widecome in the Moor where there is a haunted inn. I had this romantic image of Dartmoor. Rolling plains with Tors and rocks and ponies and goblins and ruined crofts and weirdness and Kate Bush and floaty types and a scary gothic foreboding Victorian prison and a sign saying “Abandon ye hope” and a solitary pub called “The Slaughtered Lamb”, Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all.
I guess I spent too much time in Yorkshire.
Sure we saw some ponies and some stones and some tors, but the lack of crofts, pubs and prisons almost outweighed the lack of Kate Bush prancing about in a floaty dress.
Anyway, we made our way across the moor and into the sleepy Yorkshiresque village of Widecome in the Moor. You might know Widecome from the folk song Widecome Fayre or you might not. Or you might know Widecome from the Great Storm of some time long ago where the Devil blew up the church. Or you might know Widecome in the Moor from page 7 of your 1976 AA Road Atlas. Either way it is a lovely place. It was there we had breakfast. Our second and last, Full English breakfast of the week. All that meat blocks your insides you know.
Widecome has loads of interesting things like the old church and ancient wells. The Old Inn in Widecome is a haunted inn from Marc Alexander’s Haunted Inns (1973). The story goes that you can hear the cries of a child and possibly even see the spectre of a man. Bollocks or not? Who knows.
From Widecome we headed back into civilization and into Torquay.
I’m sorry but my next statement might upset some people.
Torquay is a dump.
There I’ve said it.
My mental image of Torquay is sandy beaches and long sweeping promenades lined with palm trees, cafés and a harbour full of luxury yachts. Instead it was streets full of chavs, tattooed Tommys and indiscreet Escorts. Sure there were some palm trees and yes there were some yachts but the streets had handy information notices warning the residents that their excessive drinking threatens the safety of their children and their development. Not “It’s so Bracing” or “Buy our Rock” more like “Drinking makes your children into awful people like you” and “Chavviness is born through nurture not nature”.
We walked to the breakwater and bawked at the cost of entrance fee to the Sea Life centre – £11.75. So £23.50 better off in pocket, we decided to try and find some geocaches. Our searching took us to a little stony beach behind the Sea Life Centre which, incidentally, we could see inside from the outside. It was on the beach we were shortly joined by a dark haired woman in her late 40s walking her dogs. She was talking on her telephone giving the caller assurances that she was good looking and that he wouldn’t be disappointed and that she lived in a discrete house and discretion was her watchword for the price he would be paying.
Made our way back to the car via an amusement arcade where Zoe won me a gold £ on the tuppenny pushnshoves followed by a direct run to the car and a continuation of our journey southward.
The roads took us towards the misnamed Slapton Sands. Misnamed because Slapton Gravels doesn’t have the same ring to it. The weather had brightened and there were lots of people there enjoying the sun and sea. In such situations I crave ice cream so joy lightened my life when I was able to buy a 99 from the ice cream van there.
Now I was always of the opinion that the top five of miserable people doing jobs went something like this:
81 bus driver
Post office counter clerk
Surly Pot man in a dodgy pub
But I now have to move Ice Cream Van Man at Slapton
Bits of Stone Sands to the top. I actually felt like apologising for wanting to give him my money for his overpriced wares.
From there we went via Start Point (another overpriced place; £4 parking and another £5 for a look round the lighthouse) to Salcombe.
Salcombe is a bit like Torquay should have been only without all the posh wazzaks poncing about at the Regatta that was taking place there. It was a complete polar opposite to Torquay only with awful children instead of awful parents.
Hunger got the better of us so we made our way back to Plymouth searching for a Chinese restaurant that wasn’t full.
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Walks with a Westie in a beautiful county
Going undercover to investigate the Lynchian Mysteries.
Emotions as messy as my hair.