Norfolk Cycle Tour (Day 3)

June 12, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Posted in Cycle Rides, Cycling, Eating and Drinking, Timmy | 1 Comment
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Georgian market town Holt attracts lots of visitors (locals meeting for a coffee, tourists, second home owners in search of olives and harissa). I went to pick up a few supplies for my day and to have a little look around its shops which include an outpost of the Norwich art and craft shop, Verandah, and Old Town, purveyors of modern versions of old style home and workwear (stove pipe trousers, house dresses – lots of twill).

For provisions I went to the Owl Bakery and got a sausage roll, warm from the oven, and a coconut tart, which was the closest I could get to one of the Five’s favourites, coconut macaroons. There’s a tea room at the back of the bakery where I stopped for a coffee, which was much needed on what was shaping up to be a damp and misty morning. The tea room is charming without trying too hard and has booths and tables with old tea tins, metal teapots, tennis rackets and other miscellanea propped up on shelves all around. I had a good cup of hot coffee but did note that it cost more than a cup of coffee in a fancy East London cafe (this says much about the fashionable parts of North Norfolk).

My route on Day 3 was Holt to Heydon, via Blickling Hall. There are a few nasty B roads around Holt but cycle route provision means there’s an underpass to help you avoid the worst of these. Within a few minutes I was once again completely alone on a quiet road in the midst of woods and fields, on my way to my first stopping off point, Baconsthorpe Castle.

Baconsthorpe is an actual ruined castle, on the very edge of the village at the end of a long farm lane. Apart from the Tudor Gatehouse, the rest of the castle is a little Kirrin-like. Timmy and I had the place to ourselves, apart from the cawing rooks and a lot of geese (there’s a mere next to the castle). We explored a little and as it was a bit lonely and eerie we stopped to fortify ourselves with the coconut tart  –  a delicious and very restorative elevensey (is this the singular of ‘elevenses’?). As we were leaving some day trippers in a motor car turned up. Pah!

The roads around this part of the county are lovely. Contrary to popular belief, Norfolk is not flat, especially around this area which was shaped long ago by Ice Age glaciers. There were a few little climbs followed by some exhilarating downhill stretches. In Itteringham we stopped off for a ginger beer from the village post office. NB This is an excellent little shop which sells postcards, stationery, teas and ices much in the tradition of the village shops encountered by the Five.

My timings were much better than the previous day, perhaps because I decided to abandon my 20 church quest, and I arrived at Blickling in good time for a picnic lunch inspired by a meal in Five Have a Wonderful Time in which they feast on sausage rolls and strawberries. I confess my version was a little inauthentic as I opted for fresh (although rather squished after a morning being bumped around in my bike basket) rather than tinned strawberries.

After a look around the hall and its gardens, I visited its excellent and rather large secondhand bookshop. Despite trying to travel light I succumbed to two hardbacks. These were Blytons, of course: a hardback Ring o’ Bells Mystery and Enid Blyton’s Nature Lover’s Book. The second is a thing of such beauty that I will return to it in more detail another time.

Day 3 was by far my greediest day. In less than an hour I was in Heydon’s Village Tea Room and Shop (I took a longer route to avoid busy roads) with a pot of tea and a scone. Like Biddy’s Tea Room in Norwich they sell lavender scones so I requested to have mine with lemon curd and cream – a heavenly although rather indulgent combination. But surely ok after all that cycling?

My destination for the night was the Stable Cottages at Heydon Hall, run by the fabulous and indomitable Sarah. I was given another cup of tea and, with the other guests, sat outside and watched the wide array of birds (woodpeckers, nutcrackers) that frequent Sarah’s garden and the grounds of the hall. Rather magically, a barn owl appeared and flew around the estate on its early evening hunt.

This was the final night of my trip. The next day I had a gentle ride back into Norwich day (2-3 hours along the Marriott’s Way, old railway track which is now a designated cycle route) and decided to round off my trip with a final cream tea, this time in the garden of the Briton’s Arms on Elm Hill. Whipped rather than clotted cream but very good nevertheless.

Tally for the penultimate and the final day: Ruined castles (1), ginger beers (1), cream teas (2), stately homes (1), churches (0).

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  1. I liked Enid Blyton’s Nature Lover’s book which I highlight and discuss in sections that appraise Enid Blyton’s vivid and overt environmental activism in my book on Enid Blyton, titled, The Famous Five: A Personal Anecdotage (www.thefamousfiveapersonalanecdotage.blogspot.com). Stephen Isabirye


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