With the mysterious words ‘weather warning’ ringing in my ears, I spent the train journey to King’s Lynn debating whether West Norfolk’s most unique attraction is its apparently-excellent network of buses, or Seahenge. Here was my opportunity to find out.
Four minutes from the station, King’s Lynn museum holds the wonder of Seahenge. A 21’ circle of split timbers surrounding an upturned tree stump, dated to 2049BC. Not about, mark you, but exactly 2049BC. Built on salt marsh, covered over time by swamp, peat, and finally the encroaching sea, it re-emerged from the shifting sands of Holme Beach in 1998. A burial site, place of meeting or worship, calendar? Of course no one can be certain. The timbers and stump were preserved at the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth. Markings of up to fifty bronze axes have been identified, suggesting a huge expenditure of scarce resources to cut and strip the timbers. Twisted honeysuckle rope was used to haul it into position. Now much of Seahenge is on display, along with a wealth of information on wall panels and audio system. (Presumably the remainder is hidden in the broom cupboard, but no one explains this?) But what of the stump? Why upturned? My guess: it was to induce awe. So many ‘right-way-up’ trees in the surrounding forest would necessitate something different. I notice that this is not an idea taken up by any of the experts.
And the buses? Lynx Buses, Stagecoach in Norfolk, and the Coasthopper service, have West Norfolk well covered, with routes near most attractions and rover tickets all the way to Cromer.
Sitting on the River Great Ouse, the town abounds with historic and maritime references to trade, shipbuilding, defence, fishing, exploration, and more; and town walks to guide you to your choice of attractions. As well, the flat terrain of West Norfolk (locals prefer ‘gently undulating’) makes for easy walking.
Norfolk Lavender in Heacham is worth a visit, even before the lavender blooms. The Farm Park Shop has an excellent range, continually experimenting with new flavours and ideas which you can see them cooking in their open kitchen. We chose a Norfolk pasty (apparently much the same as a Cornish pasty, but made in Norfolk!) plus a vegetarian ‘tiffin egg’ and frittata, all delicious and well-priced; and ate them amongst the lavender and flowering chives, overlooked by a mighty stag.
Farmer Fred’s Play Barn, well set-out with separate toddler area, has homemade food and salad on its menu. Grandson’s favourite was the vertical drop slide. There’s also an animal area (£4), with piglets running and snuffling about.
Heacham Beach buffeted us with ‘weather warning’ winds, until we gave in and watched, entranced, as a moorhen built its nest in a nearby stream (drainage ditch?). This was the closest we got to the wader spectaculars of the Snettisham Nature Reserve.
The Hunstanton Sea-Life Sanctuary was more absorbing than expected, with fascinating titbits of marine information to ponder. For example: jellyfish have no brain, no heart, and no bones! I felt I should deduce something useful from that, but was too busy trying to make sense of: huge piles of plastic rubbish much bigger than the United Kingdom already float through our oceans. How can this possibly be?
The seal hospital with its rescued pups, injured, abandoned, and cared for until well enough for release, was inspiring. I’m not sure what yarns the chatty otters were spinning: perhaps reminding Grandson to rush back to the penguins again? Or telling of the Pirate Bay outdoor play area? Certainly he was ready for a runabout. There’s also the country’s first domed-tunnel tank, with good eye-level and overhead views; where Ernie the green turtle spends his time.
In Hunstanton we encountered fantastic roaring ‘weather warning’ waves crashing onto the promenade, and a chalkboard sign destroying our last hope of the seal safari boat trip running any time soon. I offered Grandson a bumpercar ride in substitution, but he was not placated. Frankly, neither was I.
And for the perfect end to a brilliant day, we carried takeout parcels of chips to the hilltop and watched the powerful waves pounding as we munched.
Pink stayed at the Hollies Bed & Breakfast.