In July 2020, we felt incredibly lucky to have been able to enjoy a planned summer holiday in Cornwall, during which we met up with some relatives and were blessed with glorious weather. Unfortunately, our luck didn’t last. A four-week lockdown in November scuppered our plans for a final short break before winter.
By late February, when even we – healthy 40-somethings – had received our first doses of the vaccine, we reasoned that enough people would have been vaccinated by Easter to allow some reopening of the hospitality industry.
We took a chance and provisionally booked a week’s stay at Kelling Heath Holiday Park, on the North Norfolk coast, just after Easter.
Visiting somewhere new
We had never been to this area before, but we loved the look of it. Then, barely a week later, came the official announcement that campsites and other self-catering holiday accommodation would at last be allowed to reopen…from 12 April. Exactly one week later than we were hoping for.
So we set about looking for alternative dates, and finally settled on a four-night break starting on 29 April – Rose’s birthday – and finishing on the May bank holiday.
Our photographs might suggest that we arrived at the site, were shown to our pitch and set up in bright sunshine. And yes, there did indeed appear to be something in the sky that generated light.
Heat, though? Not a bit of it. The chilly northerly was what my Grandad used to call a lazy wind: one that simply couldn’t be bothered to blow around you, but would instead cut right through.
This was a bit of a problem for pubs and restaurants, which were still only allowed to serve food and drink outdoors.
The staff at Kelling Heath, bless them, were doing their best. But they could do nothing to prevent hot food and drink from going cold almost before it was set down on the table.
And you couldn’t really enjoy a cold beer, either, because that seemed to have the effect of lowering your body temperature even further. After managing one drink each, we almost ran back to the ’van, turned up the heating and consumed our own food and drink from the supplies we had (very wisely) brought with us.
Splendid Sheringham Park
We had – for once – planned ahead for the next day, and pre-booked admission to the nearby National Trust estate at Sheringham Park.
This fine estate comprises some 1000 acres of mixed woods and parkland, originally designed by Humphry Repton in 1912.
The park is renowned for its great collections of rhododendrons and azaleas, and the story goes that the previous landowner, Tom Upcher, would host rhododendron parties for the sole purpose of showing them off.
The guests would arrive in their finest, to stroll on the main carriageway, sipping champagne as they admired the grand display. Our own walk was undertaken just as the rhododendrons were starting to flower, a few weeks too early to admire them in all of their spectacular glory. The upside, though, was that we were also able to enjoy the last of the year’s beautiful bluebells.
After stumbling across an old tree almost hollow enough for Rose to fit inside, we paused to marvel at the gorgeous view of the coast offered from the edge of the wood. Even the wind had dropped, leaving the sun feeling warm enough to tempt us to continue walking along a path that looked as though it led to a beach.
Actually, it led to the top of a cliff, from which the beach is perfectly accessible – if you happen to be skilled in rock-climbing.
We, however, had to admit defeat and retrace our steps, but we were rewarded by a sighting of a fine old steam train as it made its way along the Sheringham-Holt heritage line.
Even more spectacular views of the local area are available from several nearby viewing towers. However, there were signs up to warn visitors that these were currently closed because of the social distancing requirements.
Despite there being not another soul in sight, I was not about to flout those rules and climb to the top of one of the towers to get a better photo – that would have to wait for another occasion.
Our walk completed, we then drove the short distance to Sheringham for a bit more exploration and a spot of lunch (motorhome parking should be available at Austin Fields Coach Park, PE30 9DS).
Our first port of call was to the heritage railway station, to enquire about steam train trips. Sadly, those social distancing constraints meant the only way to travel was to book an entire compartment (capable of accommodating up to six) at a cost of £40 – a sum even I had to admit was hard to justify for two of us on a round trip of eight miles.
We opted instead for a drive along the coast, stopping at Weybourne beach (where we were finally able to get a photo of ourselves by the sea), before arriving at Wells-next-the-Sea.
Its unique location, sheltered from the sea by salt marshes, helped the town become one of the largest ports in England during Tudor times.
Pleasure boats and beach huts
Today, the harbour serves local crabbing vessels and numerous pleasure boats, and the marshes form part of one of the largest National Nature Reserves in England.
However, the town is perhaps best known for its iconic collection of brightly coloured beach huts, built up on stilts to protect them against the high spring and autumn tides.
Unfortunately, we discovered that the early evening is probably not the best time to be able to appreciate these very photogenic edifices, because their north-east facing position means that at this time of day, they are wholly in the shadow of the cliff that looms behind them.
However, they certainly have a great deal of charm, even in poor light, and something about them must still have inspired Rose, because she decided that she wanted to go back and explore the town further during the daytime.
Rain, rain, go away
The next day started well. I managed a run along some of the many footpaths in and around the holiday park, during which I was thrilled to spot a group of muntjac deer crossing my path.
After this, we had a breakfast of bacon served in a pretzel roll, which Rose said was the best she had ever tasted, and during our return journey towards Wells-next-the-Sea, we came across an old school building that had been converted into a secondhand bookshop; my kind of place.
But those first few minutes after our return to Wells-next-the-Sea felt quite surreal. To this day, I have no idea why Rose wanted to look inside a large antique shop, and even less clue why some children appeared to be taking well-mannered llamas for a walk along the pavement outside!
By the time we had finished our shopping, the rain had set in, which meant that a planned visit to the beach – even with the option of a land train to spare us the walk from town – had very much lost its appeal. Our exploration was limited to a visit to a local bakery for lunch, and a brief pause to admire the imposing granary, overlooking the harbour and dating from 1904.
We returned to the site by a different route and were surprised to spot a large dome on the way, next to which was a Spitfire on a plinth.
It turned out that this is the site of the former RAF Langham Airfield, and the dome was set up in 1942 as a training facility for anti-aircraft gunners. Forty such facilities were built in the UK during World War II, but today only six remain.
Once back at the site we took advantage of a respite in the rain to enjoy a brief evening walk around one of the campsite’s many trails, which offer beautiful views of the coast, before stopping to admire the red squirrels in the site’s very own breeding enclosure.
Relaxation and optimism
The following morning meant an early start and a 45-minute drive to Wroxham, for a half-day cruise along the famous Norfolk Broads on a small self-drive motorboat.
The sun had come out, to the point where it even began to feel slightly warm, and the 5mph speed limit – rigorously enforced to protect the wildlife on the banks from the wash caused by passing boats – gave us the ideal opportunity to enjoy the scenery along the River Bure.
I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt so happy and relaxed. It was perhaps inevitable that the afternoon couldn’t quite equal the morning. Horsey Windmill proved to be so popular with visitors, we couldn’t even park close by, and the wind chill stopped us appreciating the beach at Happisburgh as much as we might have. A shop sign announcing ‘Rosie’s Books’ turned out to signify a place that sold bric-a-brac, not books.
Watching the weather
By the time we reached bustling Cromer (motorhome parking is available at Runton Road Car Park, NR27 9AU), the rain had set in again and next day’s forecast indicated that the wind was likely to reach gale force. We only had time for one more bacon roll breakfast and another quick photo of the steam train as it made its way from Sheringham to Holt, before leaving early enough to make it home while the weather was still amenable.
But we finished our holiday feeling optimistic. Yes, the weather could have been kinder and some of the Covid-19 restrictions did indeed feel a bit, well, restrictive.
Just remember the same time the year before, when the whole country was still in lockdown, and there could be no comparison. We enjoyed a peaceful, relaxing holiday and would love to return to Norfolk for a longer summer break.
If you’re planning your next tour and are looking for some inspiration, our guide to the best motorhome sites could be the solution, as we share our pick of the standout campsites in the country.
Where we stayed
Kelling Heath Holiday Park
Weybourne Road, Holt, Norfolk NR25 7HW
- Web: www.kellingheath.co.uk
- Open: 10 February to 10 December 2022
- Charges (pitch+2+hook-up): From £33.25
This is a beautifully well-kept site that offers miles of walking/running and cycling trails across the surrounding heathland, which the owners are making every effort to conserve. Yes, it’s relatively pricey and some of the facilities, which include an indoor pool and a gym, are even costlier, but this is a site where the whole family could stay for a week and have no reason to leave. Although it would be a pity if they did that, because they would be missing out on everything this lovely area has to offer.
When to go to North Norfolk
North Norfolk can be enjoyed at any time of year, although it’s perhaps best without a cold northerly!
Way to go
We followed the A47 from Peterborough to King’s Lynn, and continued on the A148, which passes close to the campsite entrance.
Food and drink
We mostly ate at the site, which has an excellent bar, restaurant and take-away pizzeria. There’s also a well-stocked shop if you prefer your own cooking. We enjoyed a drink and a snack at the Ferry Inn in Horning.
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