Greg's Occasional News & Views

12 August 2018

Good morning to you all. It’s been another splendid week, not quite so hot and stifling as it has been. And, we even had a tolerable amount of rain which the lawn and garden enjoyed. Too bad we were on a short break to the Norfolk Broads!

We had a three-day break in Norfolk which was outstanding! We went with our friends Dave & Sue Walton and Sue & Stuart Kelly-Brown and the outing was all organised in splendid fashion by Dave who is a bit of an “expert” in all things Norfolk related. He has spent many happy days floating around the Norfolk Broads on a number of previous occasions.

We stayed at the Beechwood Hotel in North Walsham which was excellent. Interestingly, it used to be a private home, The Shrubs, owned by Peter and Margaret McLeod, two doctors who had spent time in Mesopotamia in the 1930s. While they were there they met a young, divorced single-mother who was becoming a well-established author, Agatha Christie. They became fast friends and when the McLeods returned to the UK they bought The Shrubs and Agatha was a frequent visitor. She would generally come for a month at a time and would spend her days writing in the summer house in the garden. In the evenings she would discuss the plots of her novels with the McLeods who would supply relevant medical information, for example on how poisons affected the body, to ensure her novels were as authentic as possible.

We spent the first day of our visit on the Norfolk Broads, an area of outstanding natural beauty. The Broads are man-made waterways originally created by peat digging. The first written evidence of this dates back to the 12th century when much of east Norfolk had been cleared of its woodland for fuel and building materials. For the next 200 years peat digging was a major industry.

Over time the pits gradually began to fill with water, making the peat more difficult to extract. Peat diggings were abandoned by the 14th century. They flooded, and this partly man-made landscape became a wetland, rich in wildlife.

Dave had organised the hiring of a small boat in which we intrepidly set out to make our way across one of the broads and along some navigable ditches to arrive, ultimately at Horsey Windpump, one of the many windmills scattered throughout the area. These were originally used to grind corn but also to pump water out of the peat bogs.

After some excitement navigating our way up a narrow channel with boats moored on either side, we tied up next to the windpump and set off on a trek to the nearby village for some lunch and then on to the sea at the Horsey Gap, well-known for the colony of seals which can be seen basking in the midday sunshine. Quite a treat.

The following day, Thursday, we ventured out to Blickling Hall, a National Trust property just down the road from North Walsham. The weather was pretty dismal and it rained much of the day – a good day to visit a stately home! The Blickling estate was once owned by Sir Geoffrey Boleyn, the grandfather of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII who was born on the estate. The present red-brick mansion was built by Sir Henry Hobart after he purchased the estate in 1616.

The house itself was grand, as you might imagine, and the gardens and parkland were superb. Shame the weather was so grim! There was also an art installation throughout the house inspired by the incredible collection of books housed in the Long Gallery Library. The Blickling library contains more than 12,500 books and the installation is about encouraging visitors to consider the importance of books, the threat posed to them around the globe and their shifting role and continued relevance in a changing world. My favourite bit was the actual long gallery itself where the installation has books leaping off the shelves and making their way to the window to escape their incarceration. Very effective and thought-provoking.

All in all a great couple of days away.

A couple of things caught my attention this week. Firstly, there was an article in the Guardian about a man in Germany who summoned the police to rescue him from a baby squirrel. Yep, you read that correctly.

There was also an excellent article about the Tail o’ the Pup restaurant re-opening in Los Angeles.

The article has a collection of other weird and wonderfully-shaped eating establishments in the greater Los Angeles area which got me to thinking – I wonder if my mother remembers any of these fine hostelries in their heyday?

Love to you all,






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