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Jolly Mollie does North Norfolk

A travelogue of my mother and I experiencing the North Norfolk Coast. This was a short sojourn taken during the first week of April 2000. Also, this was to be the first time since I was 17 that I was to be away with her. Would I survive? Would she survive?

An inexpensive holiday – the week’s accommodation cost £200 – but is still worthy of the Web process…

Comments? Email me!

Saturday 1st April

All Fools’ Day

Collect Jolly Mollie from Northampton. “I’m 83 you know, and doing very well!” Leave Northampton at 12:30 – arrive at “The Springs” at 3:30.

This was not going to be a repeat of the “epic journeys” I suffered in my childhood. The annual holiday factory fortnight of my childhood was to Norfolk. All day in an immaculate Austin 16 black saloon just to travel 100 miles. Oh no! Crossing the Great North Road was always the big moment - the whole family instructed to remain in silence for this manoeuvre. We survived.

Anyway the VW Passat Synchro managed with ease – the Great North Road was un-dramatically negotiated via a roundabout near Peterbourgh.

We had music playing at about –20dB. The rendition of Terrence and Phillip’s ditty from the South Park Movie amused me. Jolly Mollie couldn’t quite hear the words.

We find ”The Springs” – a former hotel - now a large house with several annexes for guests. Rooms were warm and clean. A friendly welcome from the hostess, Mrs Pinnington, and her menagerie of 2 cats (Brian, and Max), and rabbits (Maud, Nelson and Hardy). Being welcomed by a rabbit is a bit frightening.

“Rooms were warm and clean” I wrote above… this was a time warp experience. Norfolk is a nice enough county, blah blah.. BUT you do go back in time about 30 years. I mean saying: “I went to the Travelodge” and then “The rooms were warm and clean” you would think I’d dropped a bit! This is not a real problem. (Plastic cards are not used, they use “folding stuff” promissory notes on bits of paper – quaint!) Jolly Mollie’s idea of fun is austerity dinners for the troops – that was 50 years ago! She was at home here - I was in for some mental torture.

Where is “The Springs”? Here’s the OS Grid Reference: TG 117 418. A mile inland of the North Norfolk Coast, near Weybourne.

Jolly unpacks. I don’t know why this should take her 3 hours. I must still be in student mode: dump bags down in corner and go.

I inspect the local town of Sheringham. This is a retro town. Different products are sold in different establishments. Fruit and vegetables from one shop, photographic film from the chemists, meat from a butcher and dresser. (What's a dresser?)

I’m not used to this. Food is normally collected from rows of shelving displays in one large “shed” or supermarket.

Dressing is the final process a crab experiences on its transitional arc of life: it becomes tasty food.

The Jolly Mollie Mission: “get some nice fish and chips for supper, dear”. I interrogated a few locals. “If in doubt, ask” is a motto I like to misapply. “Well it depends if you like your chips soggy and lots of them, m’duck, or dry and crisp?” The consensual recommendation was “Pegs”. Dry, firm and fresh.

After supper, my plan was to usurp any “Mothering Sunday” problems. Feed Jolly Mollie a nice dinner. (That is lunch, the meal taken at midday.) The local “Red Loin” at Upper Sheringham announced they were serving Sunday Lunches. They were fully booked. I said we would be happy to sit in the corner, leave early, and not to be a nuisance. “OK 12:30 sharp, and don’t linger!“

Another recommendation for them: this local serves Wherry bitter from Woodforde's of Norwich, and Greene King IPA. Very good!

Jolly Mollie does like her routine. Watch the BBC national news at 9:00, then bed. Bed at 9:30! That’s before pubs shut!

I retired with Jeff Buckley - a young dead American that can (could) sing a ditty well.

Sunday 2nd April

Mothering Sunday 

Note to siblings: Jolly Mollie doesn’t approve of the corruption to “Mothers’ Day”. Do not buy her cards with that legend. Cards with a pussy cat on will win brownie points, but not enough to make up for incorrect legends.

There is always a mission. Why can’t we just “hang loose?” Oh well, perhaps I’m as guilty. Today’s mission: Visit Wickmere. Jolly Mollie was the last Rector’s wife of that parish in 1953. I have no memories of this village: I was but a twinkle in my father’s eye.

A short 10 minute drive, and yes, Wickmere exists. A church, rectory, some cottages, and a row of council houses. Nothing modern here - very picturesque. (OK, not the council houses.) A village locked in time, cowing to the local landowner. (Political comment!)

The Old Rectory At WickmereWe approach the Old Rectory.
A girl plays outside Jolly Mollie’s old house. “They’re out the back. Go round the back. Walk round to the back.”
“Of the house?” I enquire.
“Yes walk to the back of the house on that path.”
“This path?”
I do enjoy winding up small people.

We meet the present owner occupier Mr. Rice. He welcomes us, and hears stories about the place. Complete with complementary cup of tea, Jolly Mollie is firing on all 4 cylinders. She talks about the walled garden, the fig tree, the glebe, Lord and Lady Walpole…

“Oh yes and the ghost,” she continues.
His daughter listens.
“I never saw anything, but there are unaccounted cooking smells. And I’d never, never walk down that passage on my own.”
The girl squirms.
Now I know where I get my pleasure in tormenting small people.

We had a tour of the rectory and gardens. He was most interested in how the place had been put to use. 

Mr. Rice and his troubled child wished us a good day and a pleasant journey.

The prearranged lunch at the Red Lion, Upper Sheringham was excellent – good old trusty Roast Beef. (...had to pay cash though!)

That afternoon I walk to Weybourne, a nearby village on the coast. The church is fascinating. Part of the chancel is attached to a ruinous Augustine Priory. The North Norfolk Railway proudly runs a timetabled steam train. This time of year just a locomotive and carriage/ brake van is provided - totally resonable!

Serving Suggestion! Back at "the Springs" Jolly Mollie prepares salad. This is an amazing meal of tinned puke and something called luncheon meat. Incredible. The tinned puke is purveyed by Mr. Heinz. It is called potato salad. It is foul. It’s bits of spud with yellow sick. I praised Jolly Mollie for being so inventive.

That night, after the news broadcast, all remains were fed to the rabbits. I vowed to find some “modern” food. There must be a supermarket somewhere near….

Monday 3rd April 

A raw north easterly wind blows in

The locals and the map makers obviously didn’t get on. The seaside resort of Cromer is pronounced Croomer. Hunstanton, Huns-ston. Cley Kl-eye. This is just a minor irritation.

So to Croomer. Budgens, the supermarket, has a presence there. The locals wander around it in a daze. Pushing trolleys, looking for shopkeepers at the end of each row. I bought some “modern” food. None of that post war austerity luncheon mechanically recovered meat for me!

Now we had a “nice” salad meal with Jolly Mollie. You know - like we normally eat these days. Pleasant, fresh, inventive, spicey….

The holiday weather sets in. A raw north easterly wind blows in of the sea.

WickmereI drive of to Wickmere to get some moody shots of the church. Successful ones too! I said moody shots - I mean taking photographs using 800 ISO print film. Sunny 16 rule. Pah! Murky 2.8 rule. 

Looking up Sunny 16 on a web search engine may be interesting. Ignore what you read there. Sunny 16 is a rule of thumb used by photographers. The rule states that a sunny scene can be exposed with an aperture of f16 with a shutter speed set to the reciprocal of the film speed. 

Get used to single track working – the unclassified roads are narrow! Norfolk County Council Transport (road signage division) has a policy of misdirecting traffic so car drivers avoid small villages. This just makes the roads more congested with tourists like me trying to find small villages.

Time for another whinge: Land–owners sapping villages. It’s mediaeval. Although everyone we met was cheerful – other than those looking for the shopkeepers at Budgens.

Investigate eating-place for Jolly Mollie. (Criteria: car park near the entrance, a short walk – no steps..)

IPAThe evening sees us at the Crown Inn in Sheringham. This pub is near the edge of the cliff in the town. The weather has now deteriorated to a gale. The high seas are spectacular. “Awesome!” exclaims Jolly Mollie. The pub is well insulated from the wind – and a couple of crab salads were served. IPA fine!

Tuesday 4th April

Tea with the Rector

Weather worsens. Well what do you expect – it's barely spring! So I’ll stop whinging. In fact taking a holiday this early in the year is excellent: there are no crowds! All the car parks are empty. Pub and restaurant owners are relaxed – pleased to see some custom. So I'll stop complaining.

Weather becomes more dramatic. Heavy sleet showers, 2°C, very bleak, but our accommodation is warm.

Today's mission: we arrange to meet the current rector of Wickmere, the Revd David “seven churches” Hares.

I take Jolly Mollie, via Blickling (Well known Elizabethan House) and the Walpole Arms, Itteringham (Fire, ginger cat and beer, and Norfolk sausages in mash!) to see the good man. [Blickling is due a revisit:  there is a tenuous link with the Hubbard family.]

Rectors My father, Jolly Mollie’s husband, was responsible for 2 parishes in 1953 (Wickmere and Little Barningham). The present incumbent now has an extra five. All churches are used every Sunday. We chat about clip art, colour scanners, the internet, the future of Bill Gates. His church newsletters have colour. It’s great to see current technology in use here! 

Jolly Mollie enjoys a cup of tea and the friendly chat. She doesn't know the difference between a UAE and a Dr. Watson log. She's got sense!

Here's a question I was posed: "Where do you get retired PC’s that are adequate for use by students overseas?"

Wickmere tomb With acquired key, I returned to Wickmere church to look around the interior. I felt weird in such an isolated place, with howling gale and sleet outside.

The evening sees us eating Gill’s Fish and Chips, and playing Scrabble®. This is a tedious game that should be computerised and then forgotten. Still, Jolly Mollie thrashed me…

Wednesday 5th April

Freedom for the day.

I leave Jolly Mollie with the animals, and I’m off! Time to interact with some people of my age group! Andrew and Laura are in Suffolk for a few days. I join them. 

They have rented a Landmark Trust property in Peasenhall for a week. (The New Inn - High End) This is a timber frame building, dating from the 1600’s and renovated in the 1970’s. Could do with a comfy sofa, but we do like the exposed beams.

We visit Aldeburgh, and are hauled into “Scandelicious” at number 163, The High Street. Tasty Swedish food! Today's new word is Skagenrora: a starter or filling based on freshly-peeled prawns. They have a magnetic swipe credit card reader - so I successfully catch them out with my "chip enabled" credit card.

Martello Tower, Laura and Andrew We say "Hello" to the Martello Tower, where we stayed in 1996.

We “Do” Framlingham Castle, 13 towers to walk around on the curtain wall. You need a head for heights. (Half day closing in the village!)

Tea and scones in the tea-shop in Peasenhall. Laura and I look for murderers…

“Near Peasenhall's church stands Providence House, overshadowed by a murder mystery. In May of 1902, the servant of the Crisp family, Rose Harsent was strangled. The accused William Gardiner was tried, and the first jury voted 11 to one for guilty. A second trial was set, as a unanimous vote was required, and this jury voted 11 to one for not guilty. The charge was dropped and the accused left the village, although locals still maintain that he had been framed. The real murderer was never found.”

An evening at Laxfield for a splendid steak pudding. The King's Head - old-fashioned inn, open fires and traditional menu.

Verdict on Suffolk: villages just as pleasant as those back home in Northamptonshire. It’s just ours don’t have the silly pink painted houses!

Thursday 6th April


Woken at 6:30 am by Jolly Mollie singing. B flat minor key of “Joy to the World” or something! and Jolly Mollie is beside herself with joy! Her baby is back and the sun is shining. 

Yes, the sun has returned. The weather forecast reported later that Hunstanton enjoyed 12 hours of sun today. This is an excellent day to be out.

Take Jolly Mollie for a long drive along the coast westward.

Chocolate Box (copyright N Hubbard, April 2000) We stop by a “Chocolate box” windmill at Cley Next The Sea.

Half day closing in Wells Next The Sea. "How Quaint." This is just a minor irritation. The Sheep Skein on the quay provides a beer. The neighbouring Fish and Chip shop provides a first-rate freshly cooked cod and chips. 

A very clear day – the land surrounding the Wash and even Skegness in Lincolnshire is visible from Hunstanton. (OK I was using a 300mm lens with a 2 x converter as a telescope…) 

We travel as far as Heacham, a popular holiday spot of my childhood, famous for its lavendar.

That evening I was at the beach at Weybourne. Excellent photo opportunities! Sunset, fishermen, people running, crashing waves, crescent moon in earthshine. No camera with me. Buffoon!

“The Ship” at Weybourne pours a good IPA and Abbot.

Friday 7th April


Just like yesterday, but today we turned right instead or left. We hugged the coast eastward as far as the Norfolk Broads. The “Q” factor deteriorates around Eccles, with an immediate improvement as we approach Horsey – we’ve hit “The Broads.” 

At Horsey we stumbled on the Nelson Head pub for lunch – yet more excellent food and beer! 

Wind Farm Jolly Mollie saw some “Beastly ugly windmills” at West Somerton. (“Turbines please Jolly”)  Any sensible discussion about alternative energy and the impact on the environment would involve sentences with clauses, and some logical reasoning. But we agreed it was OK to differ on some things! She likes pink cottages too. (The wind farm has a 1MW capacity.)

Today’s new word is Staithe meaning jetty. We saw this word frequently on Norfolk road signs.

Little BarninghamWickmere I revisit the churches encountered earlier this week with camera – now in sunshine! Definitely Sunny 16!

That evening I stump up £2.10 and drop in on the Splash (indoor swimming pool) at Sheringham. Punching a large floating ball with some kids is simple fun – none of the structured “fun” of scrabble. 

A final meal at the Wheat Sheaf at West Beckham. Wherry bitter. Yum!

Get back so Jolly Mollie can pack. Doh!


Jolly Mollie enjoyed herself, particularly revisiting her old house. I enjoyed the break too.


Half day closing is a bit arbitrary and antiquated. How do you find out if a town is closed on a particular weekday? Credit cards are fairly useless - you're obliged to use cash at most places. 


We could have easily occupied ourselves for another week looking around. Norfolk is a great place to visit for a quiet holiday. Beer is good. Food is generous and straightforward.

All images © N G Hubbard April 2000