Roundabouts, Gas and A Pudding (LGD -393 Days)
Saturday 15 April 2017, 73 Miles
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Well it all seemed to be pretty clear on the ‘phone. Daren (Nairo) Morgan and I had arranged to meet in the car park across the road from Tesco in the centre of Watton. I arrived early so I had the time to have a quick look round to see this small and rather unprepossessing town. Five minutes was all it took and, at the risk of annoying the locals, I felt that was all the time I needed to see what Watton had to offer. So back to the car to await Nairo’s arrival. Next thing I knew was a phone call – “Where are you?” “In the car park opposite Tesco!” Anyway, long story short, so was Nairo – but a different car park. No matter we were soon reunited, kitted up and ready to roll.
With the prospect of a fairly strong and gusty wind from the north west we had decided to head north west on the outward leg of the ride, hopefully benefitting from a tail wind back. To ring the changes I had included a few lanes which I hadn’t ridden before. Nairo was amused (I think) to hear that I have a map of East Anglia which I mark up to show which roads I’ve ridden on. The map’s now quite well marked so I’m at the stage of trying to fill in the gaps. With the strong wind, and my selective deafness, it was sometimes quite difficult to hear what Nairo was saying but I did catch the words “obsessive” and “affliction”. Hmmm.
We made good progress to our first landmark, the lovely small village of Castle Acre which was quite quiet. If the wind risked cooling us down, the short sharp rise into Castle Acre was perfect for raising the body temperature. Leaving Castle Acre we continued to head gently upwards, making light of the wind, along one of those typical long, straight, deeply hedged Norfolk lanes. This one forms part of the Peddars Way, a 46-mile-long path starting on the Norfolk/Suffolk Border and ending at the coast near Hunstanton where it meets the Norfolk Coast Path. The coast path which covers the 44 miles from Hunstanton to Cromer is a lovely walk which I did a few years ago.
At Great Bircham we turned north east bound for Burnham Market. This provided us with immediate relief from the wind and our speed picked up. It was also much easier to hold a conversation. We had thought that Burnham might be a good place to stop for a quick drink and cake but when we arrived it was absolutely heaving with people and it seemed almost as if every Range Rover and Discovery owner in England had decided to come here today (Easter Saturday). Mindful of our last café frustration with the Hell Angels in East Harling (see 1st April) we decide to press on and seek our sustenance elsewhere. I subsequently discovered that the crowds were there for the Burnham Market International Horse Trials. And this being rural Norfolk, the highlight of the day’s programme was some camel racing!
We didn’t have far to go as a couple of miles down the road Nairo spotted a café sign so we pulled over and treated ourselves to coffee, cola and some tasty coffee and walnut cake. The “café” was actually a rather more ambitious venture since it also sold local produce and assorted country crafts stuff. It was also heaving with people so we had to wait rather longer than was ideal before our order arrived.
Suitably refreshed we set off heading south east with the wind fully in our favour and made good time to Fakenham. I celebrated our arrival by doing a lap of honour round the roundabout before entering the town – Nairo was somewhat less complementary about my antics! As we head out of the town we stopped at the Fakenham Gas Museum which seemed a rather quirky attraction to find in north Norfolk.
With some post-ride giggling on the ineterweb I learnt that the gas works produced town gas from 1846 to 1965 when it was the last one operating in the UK after the others had been closed and demolished. It is the only complete town gas works in the country and has been converted in to a museum which opened in 1987. It is also protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
We paused at the delightfully named hamlet of Pudding Norton with the remains of St Margaret’s Church visible from the road. The church is believed to date from the 12th and 13th centuries and it is thought to have been used until the reign of Elizabeth I. Little is known about it after then. Today, only the west tower and part of the west end of the nave remain.
Nairo and I continued to make excellent speed as we headed south east towards Dereham before turning back to Watton. The riding was excellent marred only by quite a lot of traffic. This being rural Norfolk even the B roads are busy. The last leg back into the wind made sure that any fuel left in the tank was pretty well used up so we adjourned to Watton’s greasy spoon to top up.
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