For quite a while now, Sue and I have been talking about finding time for a ride over to Hunstanton on the North Norfolk coast, which has itself become something of a mecca for bikers. I believe that Sunday is the biggest day for bikes, but as I am off work at the moment and Sue had a day off as well, we decided to go yesterday (Monday). The weather forecast was for isolated showers, so we packed our waterproofs (always a sensible precaution when riding in the UK in any case). The rest of our advanced planning consisted of a decision to call in at Peckover House in Wisbech, a wonderful 18th century house that was once owned by a Quaker family who became quite big in the world of banking. The house is now owned by the National Trust.
Anyway, I am jumping ahead a little. We set off on the Heritage Softail through our fair, but congested city heading south-west towards Melton Mowbray. It was warm although overcast, but when the sun came out, it was a glorious morning. We got to Melton in good time and continued out through Oakham, passing the large expanse of Rutland Water. We crossed the A1 and entered the town of Stamford where we managed to lose our way for a few minutes, but a stop in a side street and a quick consult of the map showed that a little more planning could have helped as we didn’t need to be in Stamford at all; we should have by-passed the town by taking the A1 south towards Peterborough. I am not keen on retracing my route, mainly because it is an admission that my navigation was not 100%, so we continued along the A16 towards Market Deeping but swung left before this town towards Peterborough where we stopped for a coffee (getting one of our lattes free with a completed loyalty card) and a Chicken and Cheese Deli of the Dayat McDonalds before we picked up our semi-planned route for the final 20 mile run into Wisbech.
The centre of Wisbech is a wonderfully preserved Georgian port town, although there seems to be very little maritime activity on the River Nene these days. Parking was free in every car park we saw, and we easily found a space a short walk from the centre and, as it turned out, just behind Peckover House. Like most of the National Trust houses that we have visited, Peckover House was very well signposted and it was a short walk from the bike to the house. We arrived there a few minutes before the house was due to open at 1pm, so by the time we had obtained our tickets, the door was open and we were welcomed by a knowledgeable and friendly steward.
We were both very impressed with the house and its gardens. The Peckover family were obviously well-to-do, but in keeping with their Quaker beliefs, had a social conscience and were benefactors to the town. Unlike many of the big, grand country houses now in the care of the National Trust, this was a town house that felt like it could have been lived in by a real family. It had a very human scale, although the library is a big, and very impressive room. We were also very impressed that nothing was roped off in the way that much of the furniture in some rooms in other NT places are.
The gardens were also really well cared for and we enjoyed our walk through them to a building at the far end of the garden known as the Reed Barn. This is now a large tea room and a small second-hand book store. We enjoyed our tea and cake and, of course, came away with a couple of books.
Back on the bike and after a brief detour round the centre of Wisbech, we found the road towards Kings Lynn where the by-pass was far less busy than it had been on previous summer weekend trips to the area. We were soon clear of the town and heading north towards Hunstanton.
The last time we were in Hunstanton, we found a parking area just behind the south promenade, but the gate was locked, so we ended up on the sea front in an area where there were just two other machines, a Honda bike and a scooter. While we were there we spotted just one of two more bikes in this area, but Monday afternoon is clearly not a great time for a bike meet.
Hunstanton, although on the east coast of England, actually faces west onto the Wash. This meant that the view out to sea was actually of the south Lincolnshire coast, although we could not identify any specific places.
It struck both Sue and I while we were there was the fact that last time we had visited Hunstanton, there seemed to be huge numbers of very overweight people there. Now I’m the first to admit that I’m not the exactly small myself, so for this to have made such an impression, we must be talking BIG! Anyway, on this visit, we didn’t really see anyone who could have been called very obese.
There were a few spots of rain while we were eating our obligatory seaside ice cream, but it didn’t amount to much. We had a walk around the town and looked in a few of the shops before the main reason for our visit to the place – fish and chips.
We went into Bears Fish And Chips and were greeted by a friendly guy behind the counter who reminded both of us of Owen Newitt from the Vicar of Dibley. He certainly had some physical resemblance to Roger Lloyd Pack, the actor who played Owen, but his voice was pure Owen. The fish and chips were very good and there was plenty of them. There was a good mug of tea as well. If you visit Hunstanton, Bears Fish and Chip Shop is at 26 Le Strange Terrace, Hunstanton, Norfolk, PE36 5AJ.
With the inner biker satisfied, we had a walk along the South Promenade and through the funfair. We weren’t tempted by the rides and as we walked back towards the bike, we decided to kit up and head for home.
The ride home meant retracing our steps to Kings Lynn before diverging from our ride out to head along the A17 towards Boston. In fact, I followed rather too many signs for Boston and ened up off our direct route (again) and in the middle of that town. Although this put a few extra miles on, it also gave us another opportunity for coffee stop which very fortuitously coincided with a brief shower of rain.
The ride back along the A52 was uneventful, although my confidence in cornering seemed to have settled into a groove and I enjoyed this part of the ride.
I still feel pretty good and I wonder whether the day out on the bike with Sue has done some good for my depression as well.