Tuesday, 18 May 2010

A bike ride to Castle Rising

It was another perfect sunny Saturday morning, and I decided to take a trip along the national cycle route that runs through Lynn, Heading out along the Quay I was soon through The Walks and out on what is called the Sandringham Railway route – which actually runs for a few miles along the route of the old railway line from Lynn to Hunstanton. This is a popular path, but I imagine most people are busy with their weekend chores, and not many people are about. Soon I reach the main Lynn to Cromer road which I cross, and then it's back on a cycle path before the route turns and takes me through South Wotton.

This little village is mainly fairly new housing, and being close to Lynn and the main access routes, whilst also being quiet and in the middle of countryside, is popular for families to settle in. The cycle path takes me through the park, and out by what for me is the village's main claim to fame - the pyramid.

Now, a pyramid isn't something you'd necessarily expect to see in the the Norfolk countryside, and this one is maybe 6 feet tall, and on closer inspection, I see that it was put up to mark the Millennium – other places had fountains, or clock-towers – the Wottons chose a pyramid to mark the coming of the new century – and why not?

At this point the cycle route joins the road again, and this is the village street as we get into North Wotton, and then out of the village to open country. As it leaves Wotton, the road climes a small wooded slope, and a couple of cars pass me. I know that the impression of Norfolk is of a very flat county, and whilst there are certainly no mountains, most of the countryside is gently rising and falling, so there are slopes, and occasional hills. As I cycle up the slope, I see that a group of 5 joggers running down the slope towards me. As they get closer they move to the side and I move out to pass them, and it is one of the joys of cycling that I can say thanks to them as I pass, and we acknowledge each other as human beings, not just more traffic on the road. At the top of the slope this small lane joins a slightly larger road as we approach my destination for this trip, Castle Rising.

As I cycle into this tiny hamlet, the first thing I see is a tea room, and so I stop here, go in to get a coffee, and sit outside at one of the tables and enjoy the sun. From the garden here I have a good view of the castle. Now, I have to admit something here – in my head I compare every castle I see with Dover Castle – I was brought up in Dover, and that castle dominated the town, and is really extensive and colours my expectations on any other castle.

But I am here and as I look up at Castle Rising Castle I have to admit that it does bare some similarities with my beloved Dover Castle – it is at least real 12th century stonework and has impressive surrounding earthworks. I decide to go cycle up to the castle after this rest stop, but first I observe the people around me in the garden. I see that another cyclist has stopped here, and there are a few tables of people enjoying the sunshine. One couple at the other side of the garden are busily pouring over what I take to be details of houses for sale – what a nice thing to be doing on a sunny Saturday! The other cyclist gets up to leave, and we share a few words about the cycle route – she is on her way to Sandringham, and I have been that route so am able to assure her that it just crosses the main road at one point, otherwise it's on country lanes and cycle paths.

Having finished my drink, and utilized the bathroom facilities, I head up the hill – yes a real hill! - to the entrance to the castle. The car park is filling up I see, not unexpected on a day like this, and I get off the bike to walk down along the earthworks. I decide not to go into the castle itself, although from what I can see it's evident that there is a lot of preserved stonework there – maybe another time I'll go inside and explore more.

I then head back into the village, and stop at the church of St Lawrence. This church also dates back to the 12th century, and I am encouraged to see that the building is open for people to walk around. Inside it is white and bright, full of flowers, and with the sun shining through the stained glass windows, it is a very uplifting place to be. I spend some minutes admiring the building and in quiet thought before going back outside and walking around the building looking at the ancient – and not so ancient – grave stones.

I then free-wheel down the hill past the War memorial and stop at the bottom to examine one of a number of unusual looking street lights that I've observed around the roads. They are eight sided wooden posts, and although thy have an electric light in them, they almost look like they could have been originally gas or even oil lamps – the signage on them says the following:
“Erected by the people of Castle Rising as a memorial of the Great War 1914 - 1919”

I make another stop as I reach a kissing gate that the bike won't go through, so I chain it up and walk up the path through a field to see if I can get anymore glimpses of a very unusual looking building I've spotted on top of the rise – a kind of peach coloured frontage, with inset statues. Returning to the bike, I find the saddle covered by ladybirds, which I gently encourage to move back onto the fence, before setting back off home.

I make one final stop in South Wotton on my way back to get a cold drink from the village store – and find the people serving are extremely welcoming and pleased to serve – actually makes me want to go visit them again!

I'm home in time for lunch – a very pleasant way to spend a morning in this very pleasant part of the world.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Stormy River

I know I keep on about how great king's Lynn is, but the weather here is really changeable. Today when I woke up it was bright and sunny, but soon the wind started getting really strong and the clouds came skudding over.

It was nearly high tide, and the wind and the rain made the water really stormy - so I made this short video from my window. And you know - even then it's a good view:)