Tuesday, 31 March 2009

If it’s Tuesday....

When I was looking to move here to Lynn, I thought it pretty cool that they had a place called “Tuesday Market Place”, where they held a market every Tuesday!! Well, what else would it be called? History tells us it was once a huge affair, but nowadays the market stalls only take up about a quarter of the available space in the Market Place.

This Tuesday it’s a sunny spring morning as I walked over to High Street, which is bustling with people shopping and meeting each other. There are also people trying to stop you to sign up for a “good cause”, and there is one of our regular street artists singing his repertoire of pop classics, accompanied by his guitar.

Then I emerge into Tuesday Market Place, and the first sign I see is one offering to buy “scrap gold” - which always seems odd to me - who is it that scraps gold? I go past this and the stall selling underwear and similar items, and then come to a van selling bacon products. I buy a couple of gammon joints from him, which are certainly cheaper than the supermarkets. There are a couple, sometimes 3 or 4 vegetable sellers in the market, but I have my favourite, who sets up in the corner of the market next to The Globe, so I go there next.

This is actually a number of stalls put together, and he sells everything from locally produced veg., to exotic fruits that I’ve never previously heard of. When I first started going to the market, he had cabbages on offer at 2 for £1.20 - I eat a lot of greens, but I asked him how long they would stay fresh. He told me that they’d be good for at least a couple of weeks in the fridge, as they only came out of the field the day before - short of growing them myself, it’s difficult to see how I could get fresher than that! On another occasion - a wet and windy November day, as I paid I was thanked for coming out in the weather to buy at his stall - very good customer service!

Today I get a couple of cabbages, a melon, ginger and garlic, and that’s about all I need for the rest of the week. Then I go to the next stall which is also a regular. This place sells packaged and tinned foods cheaply, and what it has changes from week to week. I’ve previously got things like tins of olives where the labels are torn, dried peppers, stock cubes and other random items. Today, they have their normal selection of cakes and sweets, but nothing that I need so after checking that out, I move on to the next row of stalls.

The second row is more changeable, although there are still a few places you see from week to week. There is a big garden equipment and hardware place, and I stop to look at the solar powered garden lights. They have some in the form of rocks, and I wonder about getting a couple for my patio garden. The stall holder sees me looking and comes to chat, but in the end I decide to leave these for now. Going past other pitches selling ink cartridges, Goth clothing, shirts and jumpers, bedding, more fruit and veg, and mobility scooters, I come to the fish stand which is normally a feature at the end of the second row. I stop and look, but decide against fish at the moment, although the locally caught dressed crap does look appealing.

Rounding the corner past the hot snacks van, I start down the third row, and first there is another place I wanted to look at, the plant seller. They have masses of flowers, tubas and bulbs, but no tomatoes plants, which is what I was interested in. I almost buy some seedling lettuce, but as I wasn't sure where I’d plant them, I decided against. Walking along I come to a stall I’d not seen before selling things like chocolate covered nuts, Turkish delight and olives - I love fresh olives, so I buy some to have in my salad tonight.
Coming back again along the second row, I stop to look at the clothes place - not the Goth one! - and have a look at what he has in the way of men’s shirts. I end up being sold 3 buttoned short sleeved cotton shirts for £5 - another bargain, and another bag to carry.

So with my carrier bags I wend my way back through the market, down the High Street and home. It may not be as big as it was in olden days, but it’s still a vibrant part of the community, and a delight to shop at. The supermarkets may offer a wider range of products, and be more predictable, but Tuesday Market is a great shopping experience, and the best place to get fresh local produce.

So if it’s Tuesday, it must be Tuesday Market Place.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Time Travel

This is an old property that I live in - the buildings were originally put up in 1650 - so they are older than the USA:) The buildings actually form a square built around a courtyard, which is now a calm oasis of grass and flower beds - a lot different from when it was the hub of a commercial enterprise I'm sure!! The courtyard has also got some old timbers which form an enclosed seating area - these are old roofing timbers from part of the building that no longer exists.

Back in 1650, when Lynn was the second biggest port in England, this building was a shipping merchant’s home and workplace - what is now my tiny one bed room cottage was then the end part of the main warehouse which went right down to the water’s edge. Most of this has been demolished and is open, and when you look at the cottage knowing that, it’s easy to see the difference between the original brick work, and the later changes. As I sit looking out my window towards the river, on my right there is a moss covered 6 foot high brick wall which marks the boundary of what was the merchant’s property. The other side of that wall is our private parking lot, marked out into bays. There have only been private dwellings here for a relatively short amount of time (which in Lynn means less that a hundred years), and the parking lot was previously a coal merchant’s yard.

In the wall is a gate to the parking lot and next to that is a really old hand water pump - the original water supply to the warehouse!!! As you go through the gate, the house to the right seems like it’s part of the same complex, but on closer inspection it’s not actually attached to this building at all. This is another courtyard building - smaller in size than my complex, but actually owned and lived in by one family. Walking past this house there is another gateway in a wall that seems even older than the original walls in my cottage - these are the remnants of yet another Shipping Merchant’s home and warehouse - actually, this is almost all that remains of it, as it has been rebuilt into private apartments.

Going through the gate here, there is a private path through bushes, and then you come to a public right of way - if you turned left this path goes under the new apartments to the riverbank - and under the other part that remains of the older building - a wall with a low beam that you need to duck under if you are more than about 5 foot 10. In front is a raised garden, and again this is a private area for more old houses hidden away back there.

But turning right and going away from the river, you walk under an arch which is part of the building fronting onto Queen Street - and suddenly from the quiet country feel of the backyards, you are in the bustle of a busy street. It’s a two minute walk, but feels almost like time travel, from the 17th to 21st Centuries!

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Walk the Walks

On the edge of Historic Lynn is an open area of park called “The Walks”, and the first question I had about them was - why are they called The Walks? Well it seems that back in the 18th Century the rich considered it cool to promenade and needed somewhere nice to walk and be seen. And so they planned tree lined walks - paved with gravel to raise them above the marsh land that surrounded Lynn. Hence we still have “The Walks” which are a nationally listed landscape.

So much for history - what do they feel like? Well. I’ve been here for about 8 months, so have seen them in late summer, fall, winter, and now as spring makes itself felt, and in all those seasons they’ve been a quiet and relaxing, and invigorating and bright.

Entering the park from the west, you are presented with a long tree-lined avenue with a stream running on your right, and leading to a low stone structure. As you approach this it becomes clear that this is an old stone gate and bridge, which was once part of the town walls. Just the other side of the wall the water course has been made to form a small island with a band stand. Further along the area to the left opens up and is a large expanse of green where people play impromptu football games, throw ball and push their prams. This area is surrounded by impressive trees, and has the feel of being separate from the rest of The Walks. In the winter, during a really wet spell, this area was so waterlogged that pools developed and there were ducks and gulls on them! The whole area around Lynn used to be marsh land, and you could see then why the 18th century avenues were raised from the surrounding land - we wouldn’t want the gentry getting their feet wet, would we?

Coming to the other end of the Walks, and turning left, we get to the grand avenue, which is the smartest in terms of trees and street furniture, with elegant lighting and ironwork benches. I hear that the local council spent many millions restoring this area, and here it really looks like it was money well spent. Walking along here there is a children’s playground on the left, and then a small cafĂ©.

Further along, and there is a raised area of land with an ancient looking structure - this is called “The Red Mound” and is a tiny circular chapel, and sign on it says Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount 1485. I hear it’s open to the public from time to time, but have yet to actually get there when it is.

We then pass St Johns church, and come to a formal garden which is known as St James Park, and its centrepiece of a stone fountain. There are pretty formal plantings here and is well cared for, and also well used when the sun is out.

It takes maybe 30 minutes to walk slowly round The Walks, and you get to see ancient architecture, old trees, rivers flowing, people playing and walking, abundant birds life and occasional squirrels - all in one neat historic bundle.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Wenns public house

When I was new in the town, I asked the landlady why the name of the pub was Wenns - it has a picture of a sale boat outside, and I wondered if it was the name of the type of boat, or something like that. But I was told no - the original 17th century place was a temperance guest house, run my two sisters by the name of Wenn - hence Wenns:) And although it now sells beer, and doesn't have overnight guests, it's been in the hospitality business to this day!

To some extent you can see the development of the place over the years in the structure - as you enter from the corner of High Street and Saturday Market Place, you come into an upper bar, and this used to be the "snug" - and I've been told that up to about 30 years ago you had to have a tie on before you could be served in this bar! Here there are comfy chairs and tables, and bar stool where the "more mature" people can sit and chat. Off of this is another room with a pool table, and the door to the "smoking area" - although most of the smokers seem to congregate outside the pub, rather than use this.

Down two stairs takes you to the larger bar area, which would have been a separate bar in previous days, and has its own entrance in Saturday Market Place. This is a longer bar, with tables and chairs but also has a few bar stools too. The jukebox is here, and this is the main "congregating" part of the place. When they did food, you ate it at the tables in this area.

Further along you go under some wood beams to an area set up with big trestle tables and benches. This always seems odd to me, but now I know that this used to be a completely different building - a previous owner bought it and extended the bar into it. Here is where the bands set up for live music, and also where the quiz and poker nights happen.

Like all pubs right now, it's struggling - they stopped doing food recently because they were spending more on providing it that it was making. But they have not taken the strategy I see some other places have of shutting on quiet nights. Some days you will go by and see no one in there but the barmaid - and at others there will be a smattering of people there.

I for one would be sad should such an historic part of the community be forced to close, and hope they ride out the current economic storm. Certainly it is a friendly and welcoming place, and something of a centrepiece to Historic Lynn.

Sunday, 15 March 2009


This is the first time I've actually lived where I have a view of a tidal river, and I'm coming to understand some more of the dynamics of the tides. There's about 6 hours between high and low tides, so it's reasonable to assume that the water flows in or out at a steady rate during those times - reasonable, but wrong!!

In fact, the tide coming in is really dramatic and takes very little time - the water surges in and sometimes looks like a fast flowing mountain stream - only it's going "up-hill"!!! At other times you get the feel for the power that there is behind the water - the surface is calm and flat, but constantly moving and revolving. The occasional boat going against the tide makes huge bow waves and really pushes against the flow - and yet moves so slowly against that power.

The water rises and the mud banks disappear, and you begin to think that this time maybe the water will just keep on coming, and go over the banks. But then, imperceptibly at first, there is a change and a slowing, and for a few brief moments the water is still, and we are at high tide. And then the thing happens that seems a miracle - the water starts moving in the opposite direction. Suddenly there is a strong flow out to sea - "downhill" again! The mud banks come back into view and the powerful river becomes a calm stream again, just flowing gently down to the sea.

Low tide last longer than high tide - and the river is a gentle and calm meander for a time, before we once again experience the power and splendour of the tide arriving.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


Sitting in the morning sun
I'll be sitting when the evening comes
Watching the boats roll in
And I watch 'em roll away again

Sitting on the dock of King's Lynn
Watching the tide roll in
I'm just sitting on the dock of King's Lynn
Wasting time

I left my home in Essex
Headed up to Norfolk way
'Cause I had nothin to live for
And look like nothing's gonna come my way

So I'm just...

Look like all thing's gonna change
nothin ever stays the same
I can't do what ten people tell me to do
So I guess I'll remain the same

Sittin here resting my bones
And this loneliness won't leave me alone
It's two thousand miles I roamed
Just to make this dock my home

Now, I'm just...