Coast at Lyme Regis

Autumn beauty in Dorset and Devon

England was resplendent in its autumn colours for the last two weeks of my stay. My sister and I rented a house between Teignmouth and Torquay for a small family gathering. The house was located on a hill with a beautiful view of the Devon coast. It had a large kitchen table that was perfect for family chats and catching up on the news.

View from the house
View from the house
Sunrise
Sunrise

On one day, we made a foray into Torquay and had a walk along the beachfront. On another one we caught the small ferry from Shaldon over the estuary to Teignmouth and explored that small coastal town. We also enjoyed walks in the late afternoon across the fields to the undulating Coastal Path. I would love to have hiked more but there was not enough time and my cousins were not as enthused with the idea as I was!

I spent my last weekend with friends in Weymouth. We took a day trip to Bridport, where we explored the market, and then drove on to Lyme Regis. All the boats were high and dry in the harbour as the tide was at its lowest ebb. Rock formations and sand patterns were exposed on the beach. The sun was out, but the wind was bitter as we strolled along the Cob wall. It didn’t deter the large number of people wandering around and one or two even ventured into the cold water. We didn’t linger but returned to the high street and bought pasties for lunch. These we ate as we walked along, guarding them from the marauding seagulls that have been known to snatch ice creams and sandwiches from the arms of babes!

The Cob at Lyme Regis
The Cob at Lyme Regis

The following morning, after completing my first ever lino print under my friend’s guidance, we walked down to the beach where a race track had been constructed. Approximately 140 motor bikes were competing against each other in various noisy races. There were a few breakdowns but no accidents or injuries. Somehow, the riders avoided collisions. The wind blew straight at the spectators and sand blasted our faces. We returned home with it in our ears and hair but the event had been fun to watch.

Motor bike racing on the beach
Motor bike racing on the beach
Dorset Coast at Eype

The vagaries of the English weather!

The weather couldn’t have been better for dog walking along the Dorset coastal path at Eype.

But the following day, it turned extremely gloomy. Chesil Beach was shrouded in cloud and there was drizzling rain at Portland Sculpture Park and St George’s Cemetery.

Chesil Beach
Chesil Beach

Traffic, traffic and more traffic!

Friday afternoon motorway traffic at Winchester
Friday afternoon motorway traffic at Winchester

I left Norwich on Friday and headed down the A11 to meet Geoff and Ginny, friends from way back when, at a hotel near Stanstead. There, we had coffee that extended into a most enjoyable lunch, sitting next to the duck pond. Unfortunately, the hotel was right under the flight path so it got a little noisy periodically!

Afterwards, it took an unbelievable 5 hours to reach Weymouth. I was anticipating the M25 and M3 being slow but hadn’t considered the time I would arrive at the Winchester bypass and the consequent traffic. To say I was pleased to arrive in Weymouth is probably a slight understatement but the journey served as a reminder as to why I choose not to live in England anymore.

Saturday was spent in a far more relaxed manner. After a leisurely breakfast, we drove out to Lulworth Cove and walked to the next cove, in the opposite direction to the one all the tourists were taking to toil up the steep cliff path to Durdle Door. It was a good decision, as we met no one else on the track itself and the only people in the cove seemed to have arrived by boat.

We sat on the beach for a while, eating our sandwiches and admiring the chalky cliff faces and the unusual stratified rock formations. When it looked as though it was about to start raining, we set off back to Lulworth, where it was now extremely busy. As ice cream is an essential part of any visit to the seaside, we queued up with everyone else so that we could indulge ourselves (blackcurrant and cream is highly recommended!).

Sunday saw me on the move again. This time, I was flying to Knock (Ireland), from Bristol to stay with my sister. The journey was, once again, quite slow, and I only just returned the hire car in time. (Following the GPS lady’s instructions, I had also managed to bypass the petrol station that I would normally have used and ended up driving some distance to find another one. Sometimes, it is not wise to follow all her advice!)

Bristol Airport was the busiest I had ever seen it but everything went smoothly and it wasn’t long before I was airborne. It is only an hour’s flight, so the transition from the beautiful sunshine of England to the cold and grey of west Ireland was very quick. The weather has been variable ever since. We have had a couple of trips into Sligo and one to Enniskillen in ‘The North’, but, otherwise, time has been spent relaxing at home, which is also needed from time to time.

We did manage to get a couple of visits to the beach but Strandhill was a bit too wet and wild when we arrived for our walk so we sat in the car and ate ice creams instead! However, Russ, Minnie (the dog) and I went for a lovely walk at Dunmoran on Friday afternoon when the sun finally came out. The beach is very long and is part of Sligo Bay so we could look across to the mountains of Donegal. It was very revitalising. And Minnie enjoyed chasing a stick! Sadly, there were no ice cream shops.

Being a tourist at home

The beach at Great Yarmouth
The beach at Great Yarmouth

The week has passed very quickly and, in between reading sessions, I have practised being a tourist at home. Being a solo traveller in England is a new and unexpected experience for me as, when I have been here previously, it has always been to visit family and friends. Now, I am in an area that I don’t know and alone, apart from meeting up with Maddie a couple of times.

One of these times was at Biddy’s Tea room in Norwich, which displayed an array of cakes, as well as a variety of teas to choose from, including one of their own mix. The room featured very comfortable, elderly leather arm chairs, old fashioned tea sets and a number of old hard back books. The walls were decorated with plates and pictures and took me back rather more years than I would like to consider. I can recommend the Bakewell Tart.

I also had a couple of forays to the coast. The first was to Great Yarmouth, on a particularly grey day, when I decided that I needed to go for a walk by the sea. The beach was mostly shingle with some sand and there was yet another wind farm just out at sea. There seems to be a prolific number of these along the Norfolk coast, which rather indicates that it might be quite windy here, usually!

Great Yarmouth itself is a typical English seaside town with a pier, many amusement arcades, mini putt, donkey and horse and carriage rides, casinos and fish and chips. Some of the buildings along the sea front have definitely seen better days but there are some lovely Georgian houses leading away from the beach. Inevitably, there is, also, a prolific number of terraced Victorian Bed and Breakfasts. I wonder if they still lock people out after breakfast and deter them from returning before tea time?

I parked some way out of town and walked along the beach towards the pier and then all the way along the promenade, so had ample time to admire both the infrastructure and the people. The latter hadn’t been deterred by the gloomy weather and were out in force along the main street, in which there were a number of cheap clothing shops intermingled with the cafes, souvenir and sweet shops. (I have to confess to buying a packet of Cinder Toffee, of which I consumed far too much and, consequently, felt a little sick.) I feel that I have now seen enough of Great Yarmouth and have no need to return!

Sheringham beach
Sheringham beach
View from the coastal path
View from the coastal path

My other coastal trip was to Sheringham on the north Norfolk coast. I had a very pretty drive to get there, through obscure country lanes, guided by the lady on my phone, on a beautiful sunny day. Having done no research or planning as to what to do when I arrived, and, having parked at the start of the Coastal Walk, it seemed to be a good place to start.

The tide going out at Sheringham
The tide going out at Sheringham

I therefore spent a couple of very enjoyable hours walking along the cliff overlooking the beach and out to sea. For the first part, it traversed the golf course and then continued on past fairly flat farmland. The sound of the water receding over the shingle was very relaxing and there weren’t too many other people. If only I had been well prepared and brought my sandwiches!

Afterwards, I had a wander around Sheringham, which is an attractive small town that, at this time of year, also has a lot of visitors. There were a number of people on the beach, sheltered by wind breaks, as well as sitting along the promenade wall, eating ice cream. I had coffee and bought a cake from the bakery. (Cake eating is becoming an obsession and is not helping the waistline!)

Boat disappearing under a very low bridge
Boat disappearing under a very low bridge
Norfolk Broad
Norfolk Broad

My intention was to stop in Cromer on the way back but there was a tailback of cars through the town and no obvious parking, so I continued along the coast for some way before turning inland towards Norwich. At one point, I realised I was passing through a town on the Broads (a lot of boats on a wide river being the clue), so stopped for a walk there. However, it was very crowded and the waterside pubs were filled with people from the boats that had moored alongside, so I didn’t stay long but continued ‘home’. (Am I becoming that averse to people?!)

I would have to say that I preferred the north Norfolk coast to that of the east and it must be lovely out of season. It has also been a novelty and quite a strange feeling being a solo tourist in England!

City to sea

I have had two or three forays into Norwich this week and have now, thankfully, worked out the route to and from. It is not difficult at all once you know where to go! Car parking is expensive and they all tend to be full by late morning. Consequently, I have timed my visits so that I go in after the rush hour but before the car parks are full. I am then able to return in time to watch Wimbledon. One has to get one’s priorities right!

Some very wonky Mediaeval buildings
Some very wonky Mediaeval buildings

Apart from shopping and getting a much needed haircut in a backroom, upstairs, out of the way salon where I was the only evident customer for a very talkative hairdresser of Moroccan origin, I also had dinner with Nick and Maddie, whom I met in Colombia last year. Maddie and I took an early evening walk first and then they cooked dinner for me at their house. It was lovely to catch up with them again.

The mornings have been spent wandering aimlessly, trying to familiarise myself with this historic city. Whilst relatively compact and easily walkable, it is a labyrinth of small streets (one area of which is appropriately called The Lanes), pedestrian areas and road works.

Along the riverside walk
Along the riverside walk

There is a lovely riverside walk, not one, but two, Cathedrals, a Castle and an infinite number of Tudor and Victorian buildings. These are all jumbled up with the modern, the most dominant of these being The Forum, which houses a very smart library.


At present, there is also a Dragon Trail around the city, which means that 120 of these brightly decorated creatures pop up in all sorts of unexpected places. They have been sponsored by various local businesses and the concept is “designed to showcase the heritage, architecture and creativity in Norwich.” It certainly adds a lot of colour!

On Thursday, I decided that as I needed a break from the city, I could miss one afternoon of Wimbledon, and took myself off to Wells-next-the-sea, which is about an hour’s drive. The enlightened lady in my phone, who occasionally deigns to work, issued directions along the way and took me along some interesting country lanes that I may not have found on my own.

On the way, I stopped at Fakenham, which, I had read, had a Thursday market that was worth visiting. I didn’t think it was particularly but maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind, having driven round for a while trying to find somewhere to park. This seems to be a perennial problem in England as I took even longer in Wells-next-the-sea to find a place. It is not something I could tolerate on a long term basis. It did, however, give my phone lady something to work on as this was not on her agenda so, in addition, to country lanes, I was also treated to one or two housing estates that I certainly wouldn’t have visited otherwise!

Waterfront at Wells-next-the-sea
Waterfront at Wells-next-the-sea
Walk along the stop bank
Walk along the stop bank

Wells-next-the-sea was beautiful. It has been a while since I have been to the beach (Peru not having too many nice ones, particularly in the south and especially not in the mountains!), and I had forgotten how much I love being by the sea. The small town itself was very busy and, as mentioned, the car parks were full but once parked, I enjoyed a long walk along the stop bank out to the sea. Or, should I say, the sand for, in true British seaside fashion, the sea itself was some distance away and that was with the tide in!

There appeared to be a number of school groups visiting as well as families with pre school children, obviously taking their holidays before the main rush. I walked all the way along the bathing area, passed all the beach huts, until I reached the actual sea. Here, I sat on the dunes for a while watching the many, many dogs being walked and listening to the waves. Very restful!

The drive back took about an hour through some fairly flat farmland. The sky was still blue and the sun warm. It was a most enjoyable day.