Wild Times at Wild Duck Norfolk – July 2013

It’s been a while since I last posted and I have no excuses at all.  Last year we all set off for Wild Duck Holiday Park near Caistor. I shall clarify all: myself, Bruce, 3 teens (the oldest teen having gone on holiday in the Lake District with his mates) plus my brother, his wife 935067_10151667450039130_2034901642_nand their two sons.  We had booked the Holiday using Sun (newspaper) holiday vouchers and after much trawling through and umming and aaaring decided on this park as it was inland a bit, spacious, had swimming pools, a David Bellamy Conservation Award and of course ducks. We arrived in 30 degree sunshine and as the caravans weren’t ready we headed for the bar.  The park has a kind of centre parks feel about it, except with caravans instead of villas.  The bar and restaurant have a fabulous terrace with sofa and coffee tables made from felled trees and we were soon all spread out applying sun cream and sipping a cool drink.

Eventually we were allocated our caravan – a small 3 bedroomed static van which was perfectly adequate. Fortunately the statics are not laid out in military precision rows which I find totally soul destroying, they are ‘scattered’ among the trees and small lake which is right up my street, I like a bit of scattering and non-conformity.

999698_10151667450554130_764429634_nOnce unpacked we got the disposable barbies out and rustled up a little feast, of 998540_10151667461729130_1807661417_ncourse with the heat and the laid back feel of the place it’s hard to keep a track on just how many wines/beer/cider one has drank – until one feels just a bit brahms and list.  Anyhow, the children came back eventually and we all turned in for the night.  This was the start of a few nights of drink and one especially memorable night saw my sister in law getting stuck in a kiddies ride and showing her pants off!  She did spend the next day in sun glasses with a glass of water and a packet of paracetemol next to her.


The next few days were spent in glorious sunshine, it was fab spending time with my brother and his family on an idyllic family sea 556995_10151667459939130_818558374_nside holiday.  One day was spent canoeing the broads, my son had a Sevylor inflatable canoe for his birthday and my bro hired a canoe and off they went.  Several hours were passed playing in the outdoor (and indoor) swimming pools although I had to be sneaky taking photos as you are not allowed to take photos in the pool area, I got told off once and then it just became a challenge and I eventually managed to take this one of our kids playing ball in the pool.  Shocking!969745_10151667451974130_2061475538_n






No seaside holiday is complete without a trip to the beach.  I’m not usually a big fan of UK beaches an account of them being windy, cold and inhospitable places however Gorleston Beach is a lovely sweep of sand and the sky was blue (although the sea was that browny, uninviting sludge colour).  It is years since I lay on a UK 942389_10151667455289130_71444370_nbeach and it was very pleasant indeed.  We ate ice-creams, chips and candy floss, drank far too much, partied on with the cheesy entertainment at night, laughed, talked and relaxed.  I couldnt have asked for a better holiday and all too soon it was over.  There’s always next year……..1016151_10151667450544130_1086130427_n64615_10151667457954130_1964500613_n1069798_10151667460814130_1376552022_n1011981_10151667455199130_892725791_n


Here come the girls……..North Norfolk 2012


On a sunny Saturday morning in October,  The Girls (2 of my besties and me) set off for a wild weekend in……..Cromer.  Coach trip mecca of the Norfolk Coast and famous for crabs….I assume they’re the kind you eat.  First stop Norfolk Lavender 545720_10151144367874130_551994584_nFarm near Hunstanton, we so know how to party.  Mads could hardly contain her excitement when she discovered there was a farm shop, her excitement was contagious and I very nearly bought some sort of  homemade pickle packaged in a jar in that shabby chic kind of style.  Lou, for the only time that weekend, was not stuck behind the lense of a digital SLR and instead tucked into cake for lunch while Mads and I opted for the healthy option and wished we’d chosen the cake!


560836_10151144368429130_1612022392_nOnwards to Wells Next To The Sea along the North Norfolk coast road, dotted with quaint villages and gourmet pubs to keep the London set fed and watered.  We decided that any pub painted with vintage Farrow & Ball type paint would be far too expensive for our pockets so we carried on until we reached Wells and parked on the beach car park.  For those 246567_10151076688076128_403123761_nunfamiliar with Wells beach it is worth a visit, sand and sea (doh) with a few dunes and the icing on the cake is the multi coloured beach huts (offers in region of £60,000 if you fancy one).  Lou took some stunning pictures, a few of which I’ve posted below, as a semi-professional arty-farty camera whizz I left her to it although I was allowed to use her precious SLR to take a few pics…they will be the ones with Lou in the picture. If you want to see more of Lou’s photos look up Beaulah Beau on Facebook.

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384556_10151076691696128_110761988_nNext stop Cromer, one of the bigger resorts along the North Norfolk coast.  Cromer is famous for its crabs but as none of us are particularly keen on crabs, it was the cheap rate at the impressive Victorian Hotel De Paris that had grabbed our attention and our sole reason for visiting Cromer.  When we arrived the building did indeed look impressive, perched on the cliff high above the pier,  you could almost imagine a Victorian lady in the dress of the day carrying a parasol and entering the building.  The interior, however, was a mix of impressive 559598_10151144371629130_867491371_nVictorian decor and original features contrasted with  naff formica furniture and Georgian wire windows adorned with a plethora (so wanted to use that word…plethora) of health and safety signs.  It soon became apparent that the hotel was destination central for coach trips which attracted the older (than us) clientele.  Why the management think that a bit of crappy formica and old wing back chairs arranged nursing home style around the edge of a lounge is attractive to older people I can only guess at.  Perhaps the raving reviews on TripAdvisor has something to do with it, mine wasn’t so glowing but neither was it terrible.  What stopped me from writing a totally crap review was the room; despite the smell of damp (which we later discovered was due to water coming through the en-suite ceiling when the room above took a shower) despite the naff wing back chairs and the lack of homely touches – the view was awesome framed by the huge bay window.  Pier people watching soon became a favourite activity, as well as drinking nice cups of tea while sitting on the dark green (why are these chairs always dark green?) wing back chairs positioned to take advantage of the views from the window.391667_10151144370239130_240433565_n The Hotels position is what has saved it and why it continues to prove a popular choice for a the coach travelling masses.  That said we met some characters and the breakfast was excellent considering the poor waiter had to serve 1 vegetarian, 1 gluten-free and 1 cake-a-holic!

251345_10151144370514130_2061643158_nMads had a small single room with a side view that didn’t smell of damp and I shared a huge room with Lou. After we 576880_10151144371744130_721178116_nhad checked out each others rooms, texted, facebooked and tweeted and had a nice cup of tea (omg we will end up going home on the coach!) we decided to take in the sights and stock up on provisions before getting ready to hit Cromers night life.  The sights didn’t take long, shops were closing and Cromer isn’t a massive place to stroll around.  We bought a bag of nuts and a bottle of wine and headed back to the hotel, the highlight being when Mads told me to “mind the 199967_10151144371139130_924177134_nbob” when approaching some dog poo.  Poo being referred to as “bob” is something I haven’t heard since my childhood and it set us off in fits of laughter, it’s one of those moments that can’t be explained and can only be shared by 3 friends who met at college when they were 16 and are still laughing about bob almost 30 years later.  I guess you had to be there.

The evening could have been a bit of a disaster if it wasn’t for our shared sense of humour.  We had booked a 155283_10151144374874130_1267667880_nrestaurant/bistro type place for a meal, a bit pricey but we were celebrating my birthday.  We arrived and were served drinks then led to our table – no-one else was in the restaurant, the vege option was off, several starters were no longer available and when it got to the point where Mads could have her steak but not the sauce we decided it was time to leave.  I say we decided but I was, as usual, indecisive and despite outward appearances I can’t stand 249506_10151144371304130_782133243_nconfrontation. Mads is very self-assured if something isn’t right and she wanted me to enjoy my birthday meal but it was Lou, while Mads was still reasoning with me, that went up to the waitress and told her we wouldn’t be ordering anything to eat on account of nothing being available and we would drink up and leave.  Now, sitting in an empty restaurant with a waitress glowering is not my idea of non confrontational and, for the first time that evening, I made a decision; I swigged my Pimms and legged it.  I was half-way up the street before Lou and Mads caught up, we looked at each other and once more the laughter commenced.  We eventually found an Italian which served gluten-free pasta and tucked into our meal at last, our intention being to find a pub afterwards which served late.  But like 3 small children that have had a busy day we all began yawning and headed back to the hotel, we passed  guests playing dominoes (no doubt into the wee small hours) and trundled up the stairs, though the regulation fire door and into our rooms for a nice cup of tea before bed.  Ibiza style partying it was not.

Early to bed, early to rise; in fact so early we saw the sun-rise, a spectacular free show from our window which Lou 528632_10151144373054130_1877013167_ncaught on camera.  We tucked into breakfast, showered, packed, complained about the water coming through the bathroom ceiling and checked out.  Would we return to the Hotel De Paris? –  Maybe in another 30 years time….by coach! Our route home took us through Kings Lynn where we stopped for an unimpressive lunch at Nandos although granted it’s not the best place for a vegetarian to have lunch.  We chatted, we laughed, we listened to tunes and sang to a few of them and all to quickly our snatched mini-weekend away was over.  OK so it wasn’t exactly as it used to be, partying all night fuelled by drink, but it was just as enjoyable.  I reckon you could drop the three of us in the most boring place on earth and we’d still have fun, we’d still be comfortable enough with each other to nod off, pass wind and laugh at bob.  I guess that’s what growing up and growing older together does to people; that and booking coach trips to Cromer.189203_10151144372564130_1504490383_n

Day 5 – Widmouth Bay & Day 6 – The Home Run……..

Today was a take it easy day except for a visit to Widemouth Bay.  For the keen surfer this seems the place to be, a huge expanse of sand near Bude with the surf rolling in all white and frothy.  For those not into surfing there is the digging in the sand option, taken up again by all 4 kids and the people watching with a coffee option, taken up by Bruce and I at the handy little cafe/kiosk.  It was a fab way to end our holiday, we may not have risked sunburn in Cornwall but it has plenty to offer and I will certainly return one day especially if I am a) brave enough b) have the money to learn to surf! (Oh and c) loose enough weight to actually get into a wetsuit).

Day 5 – The Home Run:

Time flies when you’re enjoying yourself and quicker than a blink of the eye it was time to leave Cornwall.  Other than the weather the general consensus was it had been a good holiday but France still comes out favourite.  Fugly, our lovely Fiat Multipla, had whizzed around the Cornish countryside without any fuss whatsoever so we were pretty confident we’d get home with no problems.  And we nearly did!  About 10 miles from home, all of a sudden with no warning, our drive shaft fell off.  Luckily Mum came and rescued the kids and Bruce and I waited for recovery.  We were soon hooked up and towed back to Bruces unit where we picked up his van, not a total disaster and we nearly made it home!

Day 4 – Shipwrecks, Cider & Seals………..

So where do you take 3 teenage boys and 1 almost teenage girl on a rainy day in Cornwall that costs next to nowt?  I scoured the tourist info brochures concentrating purely on the price, not looking at what the actual attraction was, which is why we nearly ended up at Billy Bears Fun House and Ball Pool! Sadly indoor play area days are long gone but I was attracted to the Shipwreck museum in Charlestown, surely that would capture a little interest in a teenage soul?  With the rain still beating down we arrived at the Museum, it cost a little over £20 for all 6 of us using a combination of discount vouchers, student union card and a small white lie.  Ollie and Bets posed on a lifeboat with as much enthusiasm as they could muster and we walked through the underground tunnels to the main museum.  Bruce and I found it fascinating and could have wandered round looking at the displays for a good few hours but the teenage mutant lot whizzed round and hung out by the exit, although I couldn’t see them I knew they were there, I could feel their “I’m bored” hormones permeating the thick stone walls between us and them.  I blame myself, I’d promised them a visit to a Cider Farm and the prospect of an illicit drink of Cornwalls best scrumpy was a far more attractive proposition to them.

On to Healey’s Cornish Cyder Farm for a taste of their finest.  To be honest there isn’t a lot to see here unless you take the distillery tour which is about £5.00 per adult but it does have a nice cafe, shop and some big shire horses.  Despite it being free admission we spent a small fortune having a pasty in the cafe (8/10 better than yesterday was the verdict) and buying scrumpy.  George bought some mustard (don’t ask) with his spending money and declared he’d very much enjoyed the cyder farm.  Just being in an alcoholic environment was enough to lift the spirits of even the most disinterested teen but they could only stand and watch as Bruce and I sampled the delights of Healey’s finest at the tasting table (I had to stop after 3 tasters as I was driving and I’m a lightweight when it comes to drinking).  We hiccupped our way back to Fugly The Car and set off for Newquay.

I have never been to Newquay before so when we stumbled upon the Harbour pictured above, with the sun now shining and blue sky starting to dominate the sky, I knew I had found a favourite place.  We entered the harbour a slightly unconventional way by steep stone steps and across rocks, whereupon the kids found a cave and we suggested they go and explore it whilst we explored the prospects of a coffee overlooking the harbour.  We found The Boathouse, a restaurant right on the harbour beach, and with the vain hope that it may be a couple of hours before we needed to call Cave Rescue we settled down to a peaceful, relaxing cup of coffee at a reasonable price in the sunshine watching the boats a bobbing.  It wasn’t long before the peace was shattered, cave explored, the teen tribe had decided to dig holes in the sand (fast becoming a favourite past-time on this holiday) right below where we were drinking coffee, they had a whole beach but no, they needed an audience for their hole digging and we were the chosen two.  We tried to ignore them, refused to “look after” jumpers, cameras, phones, mustard and a pair of socks but eventually we were surrounded by a jumble sale of belongings.  I tried not to look or engage with them but I was soon laughing at their exploits and clicking away with the camera.  They are a totally bizarre bunch but I do love em all. And as for the seal referred to in the title, we met him on our wander around the harbour walls following a boat in hoping for a fish.

Day 3- On the trail of Doc Martin……….

I admit I’m a big fan of Doc Martin and couldn’t resist the temptation.  After a pastie (pastie was rated 7/10 by Bruce) in Rock we headed for Port Issac where the series is partly filmed.  As advised we parked at the top of the hill and were greeted by a parking attendant who I’m sure is straight from the series, you know the type, fingers in lots of pies, little earners going on here and there.  You could almost see the pound signs ring up in his eyes as he took our £3.00 and in true Cornish style, with few words, pointed to a stretch of overgrown grass and hedge where we were to park. We then began the hike down the hill and realised we could have parked anywhere for free on the side roads but hey ho!

Port Issacc is nestled on a steep hill going down to a small working harbour and is everything you’d expect of a small Cornish fishing village; nets and baskets, boats and cottages, crab sandwiches, ice-creams and lots of tourists!  I got out the camera and started to exercise my creative side, the best of which are below.  Left to my own devices I could have stayed for hours, people watching, taking pics and drinking coffee or even a few beers.  But I was not left to my own devices, 4 teens moodily stomped around said quaint village, decided it was “alright” then were ready to move on to the next.  They did agree to pose for photo on the steps which I think clearly illustrates their disinterest levels.  I didn’t even get as far as seeing Doc Martins house.

Day 2 – Flushing Beach

We awoke to a grey sky and Bruce being stuck to the plastic mattress, we had luckily managed to go through the night without peeing the bed which surely deserved a gold star on our star chart.  Our plans today involved meeting friends L & S for a day on the beach, we had been promised some sunshine although the low, grey clouds and sea mist told a different story. 

After waking the platoon and issuing rations we left the barracks for Penryn where L & S live, I was being ever the optimist and spotting glimmers of sunshine however my hoodwinking came to an abrupt end as the rain began to fall just as we arrived at L & S’s house.  The rain passed quickly and the clouds began to break and as we sat on the decking drinking coffee we decided that by the time we got to the beach we would definitely be needing the sun tan lotion.  And so to Flushing beach via Argos at Falmouth where I had been given information that a Lumix camera had been reduced from over £100 to £49 and as my lovely Mum and Dad had given us a bit of spending money before I left I decided to treat us (meaning me) to a new camera – it’s a fab little thing so big thanks to Mum and Dad.  We also dropped in to Trago Mills, a shop full of low quality, cheap everythings to buy an SD card, a £3.99 watch for Beta and a dressing gown for George as well as a pair of flip flops for Bruce.  We now had all the necessities for a day at the beach – except towels! 

We arrived at Flushing beach to the sun shining and the sea sparkling.  The kids immediately got to work digging big holes for no reason whatsoever and Ohm and H arrived to assist in the “dig a great big hole” project.  I got busy with my camera, see results below, taking pictures of the few bits of blue sky I could find to give the illusion of being on a “summer” holiday.  We spent a lovely hour eating our pack up (reduced sandwiches from Tesco Express – Tuna & Sweetcorn 15p, bargain!) talking to L & S and watching the world go by until L got a phone call to say his Mum had fallen and possible broken her ankle so they had to rush off to take her to hospital (fortunately it was only a twisted ankle, painful though).  With no friends to play with Bruce and I left the kids digging a hole and headed for The Royal Standard for a cup of their lovely coffee.  We arranged to collect the kids 1 hour later which we did and shoved various sandy, soaked bodies (no towels remember) into Fugly and back to the barracks. 

Having attempted to cook a meal for six using 1 small oven tray the night before, we decided to have Fish & Chips for dinner that evening and went into the village of Mullion.  Here we found The Galleon Fish & Chip shop and what a find, the service was friendly and efficient and they serve freshly caught local fish in their crispy home made batter, Bruce thoroughly enjoyed the Pollock.  If you’re ever in the area in need of fish and chips this is the place to go, they have a small restaurant to.

Suitably full we returned to our nissan hut and went to bed eager to be up and moving on to our new destination the following morning.

Flushing Beach July 2012

Blue sky at Flushing July 2012

And so to Cornwall……………..

Exhausted, stressed, tired and penniless we set off for Cornwall at 5.30am on a wet and soggy July morning – Bruce had just returned from a gig and I just wanted to escape from …well everything really.  The kids dragged themselves out of bed and into the car and by the time we reached the M6 everyone was sleeping soundly, except me as I was driving and battling with lorry spray and a torrent of standing water.  We passed an accident where someone had quite obviously lost the battle and rolled the car, debris littered over the carriages like a suitcase spilling its contents, it had only just happened, I hope everyone was OK.

After a pit stop just after Bristol (items consumed 9 cobs, 7 bags of crisps, 1 packet beef, 1 packet ham, cheese, jaffa cakes and a kit kat) we arrived in Plymouth to visit our friends S & J then continued on to Mullion.  The sun began to make brief appearances, the rain stopped and all of a sudden we were on holiday……….The kids, as always, are the best and never fail to make us laugh at their silly words and observations, apparently one of the ruder ‘in’ sayings is from Southpark (or Family Guy all the same to me).  We drove the last few miles full of hope – hope that we would have a super duper caravan thingy and even more hope that the jet stream would position itself where it’s supposed to be this time of year IE north of the UK!  

Our first view of Parkdean Holiday Park, Mullion was the concrete building with Costcutter emblazoned across it, the windowless, grey architecture a relic from the heady days of 1950s holiday camps. This did not bode well, a bunker for a shop, a barrier at the gate and rows of green Nissan hut style caravans almost arrogantly plonked in a beautiful part of the country.   Reception were friendly and efficient and gave us our entertainment passes which we never paid for and had deep reservations about using them for the ‘on site entertainment and pool complex’. 

We found our block and located our home for the next two nights – a green static caravan set within it’s own water feature – a bog!  To be fair to Parkdean they were working tirelessly to place down paths, paving stones and gravel to counteract the rain that the pesky jet stream has been dumping on us for the last few weeks.  We investigated our nissan/caravan further, it didn’t take much investigation as it was very small for a static van and certainly not big enough for all 6 of us.  The first indication of this was the seating area that we couldn’t all sit in at the same time (meals in shifts, TV watching rota) further investigation found the sofa bed a very tight squeeze to pull out and not get mangled with the table and the flimsy mattress was dismissed out of hand “I’m not sleeping on that thing” retorted one happy teenager.  Consequently George ended up sleeping at right angles in the L shaped dining area.  As Bruce and I squeezed and pushed past various bodies, luggage and shoe debris we located our bedroom and the wonderfully considerate built in incontinence sheet on the double mattress – no way of removing it whatsoever but at least we can now wet the bed with impunity!  We’re staying for 2 nights and will be visiting friends so we’re going to have to put up with it.

On the bright side Cornwall is a beautiful county, rugged and quaint, almost foreign and so very different from the rolling Leicestershire countryside and we were away, I’m not sure Bruce shared my optimism, partly due to being thoroughly knackered and partly due to his non comprehension of how anyone can possibly enjoy a holiday in the rain, I think it’s his Mediterranean blood that’s a the heart of these weather issues plus the fact he can be bloody miserable sometimes.  Ohm rang his old mate H in Flushing and speedily set up going over to see him for a sleep over – so leaving 3 bodies behind Bruce, Ohm and I set off for the quaint little village opposite Falmouth and Penryn where Ohms best friend from his school days in Penryn lives.  H’s Mum was in the Royal Standard Pub so we felt it only right, after dropping Ohm off that we go and join her.

We were met with warm friendly service that stretched to giving me a wine taster to be sure I liked it – I did! Bruce had a pint of Doombar, a locally produced beer. The menu looked diverse and interesting with most things homemade and apparently the food is well worth splashing out for, maybe next time. We settled down outside, child free and listened to K telling her stories and anecdotes with such naturally comedic timing that we were soon falling about laughing.  Her stories included her pissed up Granpops as commander of a Navy ship and taking his lump hammer to a Japanese made Microwave oven, her various ballistic experiments one involving a pedal bin, several cans of hairspray and a dead turkey, apparently her television set was no more after that little escapade and her sons battle re-enactments where one elderly lady beat him around the head with her handbag when he was dressed as a German officer.   K was interesting, intelligent with a passion for life and a hearty laugh, enough to chase the blues away and take you away from the mundane existence found in the cul de sacs of of a Leicestershire village where the most interesting thing some of our neighbours have to think about is what that unconventional family across the road (that will be us) is up to and why we don’t put our bins back on the drive the second the bin men have emptied them!  After a freshly ground and just about perfect coffee we set off for our barracks and a much needed sleep in our plastic bed.