Holiday in East Anglia 2005

July 25 and July 29

Rural Lincolnshire, Rutland Water, The Fens, Four Winds, North Norfolk coast, Norfolk in general, Bantry, Framlingham, Suffolk Coast, Constable Country, Bufo Villae, Essex, Burghley House

We chose East Anglia for an area mum had not seen for decades (and then only in part) and for new views. Some of these were based on her and my art interest, particularly around the Suffolk coast and the area John Constable lived in and painted.
This meant we took some art materials to experience the area in a more fullsome way. The journey each day was planned the day before, except the first day which was planned earlier. This allowed mum to have a drawn map on her lap which I as the driver could see
Day 1 was the journey from home to Newton, north of Wisbech. Having obtained some provisions at Scunthorpe Morrisons, we travelled down the lethal A15 as far as the A631 roundabout where we turned off for the country route. This involved going via Market Rasen and (as it turned out) the national cycle route of the B1202. My first of many wrong turnings took me from Bardney to a small ruined abbey. We went via the Lincolnshire fields to the A15 where a wrongly numbered B road meant a missed turning of the B1429 so we went to the A 153 and B6403. It puzzles me why more is not made of roads like the B6403, as it bypasses Grantham and led to the A1. We took the A1 to the A606 and this allowed mum to see Rutland Water.
I had been there with Elena a year earlier and at that time we went to Hambleton and the lake edge that is inside the U shape of the lake. This time mum and I went to Whitwell, which was a little disappointing, and then we went via Oakham's left turning and Manton to the Normanton stop. It was quite cold there, and windy, and also it was not clear that the top level was not as interesting as going down to the lake side where the church jutting in was preserved. Indeed we went to a cafe higher up to find it was takeaway only into the cold when we could have gone to the lakeside cafe with a view and been inside. As it happened the car was taken lower down and we did a short walk towards the Normanton church. We could have done this from the beginning.
So the weather was cool or even cold, probably assisted that way by the water itself. Now we headed east and to the Fens. I like the Fens because of the perfectly flat landscape. There is a consequence of the drained land, however. As we came on to the B660 the road became very uneven. Many of the Fenland roads are sinking like this, produced cracked and uneven roads. We arrived at Ramsey (slightly raised up from surrounding land), which Elena and I had visited last year. This time, however, a chap was in the church, which meant mum and I could go in. He told us it was first built in 969 CE and was the hospitium to the abbey (the ruin nearby).
We moved on to find us directed down the unclassified road in the Chatteris direction, with a large dyke to the west and a chance of dropping into it. At Doddington on the old A141 I stopped to photograph one of these late Victorian clock towers (there is one in Warboys, one large one in Machynlleth - thus the interest) where a lorry thundered past us and nearly hit the car coming around the bend. We were parked safely enough but I suspect much rat running - after all the A141 is now redrawn bypassing all local centres.
We visited March (and another clock tower!) and then Wisbech became a nightmare of driving errors. It was an error when on the correct road going north on the A1101 that found the accommodation we had booked. Going to Gorefield from the B1166 rather than going to Newton from the B1165 we stumbled across the accommodation north of Gorefield whereas we might never have found it from arriving in Newton.
Four Winds was very well presented bed and breakfast accommodation, and the extras made the difference. It is two tied cottages combined into a large house. Mrs Best helpfully made extra drinks and offered to carry baggage; in the rooms though were all you could ask for regarding provisions, even fruit juices to add to the selection of drinks and means to make them. On top of this (and most important) the beds are not some hard frame and thin mattress, but full quality orthopaedic beds, and they made a difference to the sleep being both supportative and comfortable. So now I have this address I will ask to stay there when needing accommodation in the Fenlands to Cambridge area. The pricing is at the cheap end of bed and breakfast, and to be honest it was too cheap for the quality.
Day 2 was for the north Norfolk coast ending up at north Suffolk. We went via Tydd Gote (is Tydd related to the Welsh for farmhouse, Tyddyn I wonder) and Sutton Bridge. It swung as we arrived at the roundabout. It was an example of the utter inadequacy of roads into Norfolk, and a news item that evening on local BBC television had been about the chaos and over intensive use of the A14. Mrs Best had said that the M11 will come to Wisbech sometime, and that there will be a private railway line reopening to Wisbech. More on the M11 below.
I then became muddled at Kings Lynn, but decided on a change of route to nod at Sandringham. The estate reminded me of Scotland and the large parkland trees around royal estates there. It must be how they like it. After the nod we went to Hunstanton. This is a bit like Cleethorpes - seaside with a bit of river, in this case The Wash with views to Lincolnshire. We walked from Tesco through a car park and then funfair to the beach, and then I went to get the car so mum walked less. She was not impressed by the funfair. At least it was warmer than Rutland.
The north Norfok coast was impressive, served by a narrow twisty A road. We were caught in parking traffic on the side road at Brancaster and wondered if we could even get out. We paused at Wells-next-the-sea in a waterside cult de sac, and at Blakeney we were able to park and sat on chairs taken to do some sketching. The boats enjoy a natural harbour of built up silt; the Blakeney Hotel I sketched seems to have evolved with parts built on over time, and is very complex to sketch.

Taking roads that go cross country and routes not along the lines of principal signposting is rather difficult in Norfolk. The centre of gravity seems to be Norwich and A roads to it, as far as the county is concerned (is this any different from any other). Signs are inconsistent too. It may be that the AZ map showed a B road where it was not and where it was - the same number given twice in one area for different roads. Anyway, via much confusion we went via Holt and then Aylsham to get to east of Acle. The idea was that Cantley at the end of a B road might give us a view of the Broads nearby where there seemed to be no roads at all. As it was, all we saw by way of Broads was Wroxham Broad in its town. The rest was disappointing, but the route did allow me to see the convent at Ditchingham near Bungay in Norfolk where I once spent some days with Essex University Chaplaincy then as a declared agnostic and yet regarded the atmospherics as spiritual. I did not remember the place, possibly because so much was inside and with discussions.
Saxtead accommodation called Bantry was good. I had a bedroom and sitting room and mum did too, and with the adjoining door unlocked it was more like a chalet than bed and breakfast. Mum's side also had a kitchenette. Although this was the most expensive accommodation, the effect of the living space and tables (some of the furniture was a bit charity shop in standard - wobbly chairs, basic tables) was not to go for a meal on either of the two evenings there. Saxtead Green itself, nearby, has a windmill amongst much green space and is an attraction in its own right.
We looked in at Framlington before heading off for the coast. I chose this area as a convenient location for both the coast and the John Constable area, but also I knew it had a Unitarian Meeting House which I located.
The first stop after Framlington was Southwold. It is famous for its coloured huts along the sea front. The landlady told us after that they start at £40,000 if wanted. There is also the pier, restored in 2001, with its clock feature. It was very windy and I held on to mum in the gaps between buildings along the pier. Southwold reminded me of Hornsea, and it has the look of the past about it. It is accessible for car drivers and it is not necessary to pay and display.
Walberswick was next. Known about by artists, it has black huts and a ferry crossing in an inlet of boats. Southwold is visible in the distance. We walked from the village to the water. There is limited car parking.
Sizewell is a stark and yet beautiful line of coast. There is the nuclear power station, of course, humming away, but the coast is what I found attractive. There are platforms in the water. Some boats seemed to be worse for wear on the beach. I took the car to a higher position so that mum, who stayed in the car, could see over to the beach. She had been drawing some of the again black coloured buildings in the vicinity. I had confused this place with
We skipped Dunwich (a possible destination) and went to Thorpeness. What an amaxing place! First of all we entered at the alms houses (we think) set of buildings; the Dolphin public house is also there. There was a high building in the distance I could not approach in the car. This was not the same building as the House in the Clouds, seen from the other end of Thorpeness, with the pool, small lake and black building, and other picturesque buildings. I had expected an exposed coast but here it was continuously chocolate box.
Aldeburgh is a long town in a street with some interest. It probably performs better as an arts centre than something to look at. Except at the southern end the eye is rewarded on a road given the national speed limit but becomes nothing more than compacted pebbles with plenty of sinks and bumps. On the one side is coast and the other the River Alde housing plenty of boats. It is a place to sit and observe, with windows down. We did not stop at Snape; I realised only afterwards it was another potential destination.
It was a long road to Orford in the early evening. We must have missed a lot, particularly Orford Ness (if it is easily accessible). We did get to Orford Quay, and did a little sketching, putting the car on the Quay (which might not have been possible before 6 pm).

Although more time was spent in places than touring the miles, there were places missed, and Bawdsey was one. We came back via Framlingham to Saxtead.
Next day we left this accommodation to go to the John Constable area. First we went along the A1120 and A140 to get to the A14 and Asda in order to get another digital camera card. The 128 mb version is still £5 more expensive than a local supermarket in Barton! So I paid less than double for double the memory. In Germany the price is half.
It was a short trip from Asda to East Bergholt. I remember an Alwyn Crawshaw series and video of him visiting the Constable country. I was sure I identified a house he tried to draw. Well after looking at the church I received directions for the first studio, and I can see why Crawshaw did not choose that. It is down a narrow lane with a busy garage next door, and does not assist drawing or painting there. I painted the building I thought Crawshaw did, whilst mum returned to the car. I made a complete hash of it, not helped by looking through a large parked car. I was unhappy about tyre pressures and attention to that came next.
After this we went in the Dedham direction. At a village (though I'm not sure what village) we parked where we were supposed to leaving a long walk to the pool and building there, what looked like a factory or some sort. I was shouted at to move from a private seating area. Very sorry. Mum on arriving waited while I walked all the way back to bring the car closer. She and I set about painting in a public spot. She affected hers badly using black to illustrate the darkness of the water, but it went wrong. My effort was better than the East Bergholt house, but then we had a huge rainstorm and colours were merged and it was all washed out into a mess. On top of this I probably strained my improving back by walking backwards and forwards, and lugging stools and painting gear to our location.
As for next, I am still not sure if we visited Dedham or Stratford St. Mary. In this place with a wide street there was a place advertising itself outside as an art gallery and cultural centre, which seemed to be no more than a furniture shop.
The final puzzle was Flatford. I'd already told someone at the pond to go to East Bergholt and it was near there. Now I had no idea how to get there, and the advice from a local was the same. By car it needs to go on to and come off the A12 dual carriageway. It seems that the dualled A12 has cut the area in two, and has become something of a barrier. Roads turn into slip roads. Perhaps it was after Stratford St. Mary that we ended up at a slip road we did not want. Anyway, the result was a mad semi-lost detour in the direction of Manningtree before a sign appeared for Flatford.
The car park is run by someone else, but it seems to hold a monopoly for the attraction. Perhaps with mum slow and my back trouble there could have been a way to use the disabled car park, but the restrictions are too closely set. So it meant more walking, with mum going slowly. Beyond the tea shop there is Flatford Mill and Willy Lot's House. Whilst the area is preserved to look like the painting of The Haywain, it comes across as much more confined than the painting. What it shows is the illusory nature and representation of any painting. Constable did not just paint what he saw but an idea and even an ideal. One photograph I took will allow a new personal painting of it from the Constable angle. Now the weather was hot. Flatford Mill displays its private notices, in front of seats. If we took this literally, there would be nowhere to sit. People need places to sit, and there could be seats along the footpath. Well we sat there regardless, and I did a quick painting. People passed me who worked at the now study centre, with only comments on the hot weather.

That done we changed our mind about having a drink with noisy children in the tea room, and decided to press on back to the car. We went around the outskirts of Manningtree for a road to take us eventually to Walton-on-the-Naze. We saw some views at probably the southern end of the town across the sea, and then set about finding the accommodation at Bufo Villae (Toad Hall) run by a female couple in a very seaside bed and breakfast manner, filling in cards and papers and next day interrogating me about a key I had already handed in. Space was confined, and mum was downstairs whereas I was in a confined space bedroom upstairs. As a result we went out for a meal which was, like the first evening, too much and disappointing. It is too expensive and too wasteful. Next morning, probably in part due to lugging too much about the day before, and with confined space, I had a lock up back spasm. I carried on (as must) but days later with my back not freed I would end up with another huge and painful spasm. The improvement that made the holiday possible was reversed.
The journey home included a movement along the coast. St Osyth might show a picture of the nearby estuary, but it was less interesting than expected. The naturist beach (didn't know there was one there) was too far away! This included a ride to Point Clear, which I assumed might be a clear point, but it was no more than a caravan park to add to local caravan parks.
With that we headed towards Colchester. I cannot understand why the directions to London and A12 did not tell us to turn right for the main bypass and instead took us through the inner ring road of the town. Interesting roundabout of mini roundabouts encountered. Well we did get to the A12 and the A120, which had a traffic blockage at a roundabout that begins the dual carriageway. Back in 1982 this road was not the fast one it is now, but this one ends in a hideous traffic light roundabout for the M11. Then the M11 is a two lane horror of right land snakes of traffic, and the A14 was so busy traffic kept coming to a half for no reason other than there was far too much traffic on it, again snaking on the right lane to have a chance of overtaking traffic on the left and not being trapped behind it. Somehow the A1 copes, even with snakes, and can handle its roundabouts, but the A14 is dreadful. There were queues for those wanting the Midlands, the beginning of the ability to drive at a normal speed on a dual carriageway.
We turned Burghley House into a kind of service station rest area. Much of it was shut down, except for its expensive cafe. It gave us a good rest. Then we proceeded towards the A46 turn off, a road that has transformed our way home, only to get to the dreadful A15, one of the most dangerous roads in the country with a combination of road works and slow traffic. This road is in desperate need of upgrading but, as with so many Lincolnshire roads, nothing has been done. We went to Scunthorpe's Morrisons, a short diversion from the route home, for petrol and provisions, just as we had done when setting out.


Adrian Worsfold