Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Great British Summer

"We take a UK holiday in mid-August"

The picture may not be that clear so I will describe - it is the window of our holiday cottage in beautiful North Norfolk, showing the streaming rain running down the glass. Yes, we picked mid-August for a UK holiday and, of course, though the week previous was very hot, our week was wet and windy. Not as bad as our Yorkshire trip a few years back (we came home after just three days - everywhere was flooded), but still wet.

However, undaunted, we explored the locale. We stayed in Cley (pronounced clay) in a neat little cottage opposite the 'smoke-house'. The smoke house sold all sorts of smoked fish and meats - lovely! Except I'm the only one who likes them so I never bought any.

Cley is right on the North Norfolk coast and the view from our window was amazing - the windmill and the reed beds. There is a beautiful coastal path from Cley to Blakeney (and beyond too) which we walked a few times. 2 3/4 miles amongst the reeds with the marshy fields either side and inlets with small sailing boats and, just a bit further out, the sea. It was a nice walk and we managed it a few times without being rained on, though it regularly threatened.

Walking and beach visiting were how we spent most of the time - the children are too old now for visits to the zoo or adventure parks but we did revisit the Sea Life Centre at Hunstanton (Alex had his 5th birthday party there 12 years ago). We visited beaches such as Holkham and Cromer (you can clearly see the rain coming in from the sea on this picture of Cromer beach) and enjoyed driving down country lanes and visiting local pubs. Midweek we swapped our son for Jack (Melody's boyfriend). Wells beach was a late discovery with wide open sands and channels with slow flowing water. The beaches were, on the whole, huge expanses of sand or pebbles. The only beach we never actually made it to was Cley's own.

One afternoon I was indulged and went off to the nearby nature reserve to birdwatch. The reed beds and mud flats are perfect for waders of all kinds. In my brief visit I saw avocet, dunlin, ruff, plovers, marsh harriers and, to my great delight, a spoonbill. If you are not familiar with birds, these are the oddest looking creatures. I was very content to sit and watch the world and the birds. Other visitors to the reserve were friendly too. One man showed me a photo he'd taken of a bittern - a rare bird known to be in the marshes but as yet unseen. The others in the hides had cameras and binoculars, some with huge lenses, but the immediate cameraderie was comfortable and not competitive.

On our last day we visited Holkham Hall - not the hall itself but the grounds. We walked round the lake and enjoyed a brief hint of sunshine (well, the absence of rain to be more accurate) and managed to spend an hour on the beach before the rain arrived. This tree trunk struck me as rather beautiful.

Thursday night the storms hit. Lightning, thunder and fluctuating power too. The streets were awash with rain water and the little house made its own set of sounds as the wind and rain battered it. Morning came and the rain still fell but we were due to leave for home. As we headed inland and South, the rain slowly abated and were were home in time to watch the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

I have one more holiday planned this year - a trip to Spain with my daughter, her friend Rosie, and my friend Cathy. I hope - oh how I hope! - that we don't experience mad Spanish storms. I could really do with seeing the sun.
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