Sunday, 27 August 2017
Very hilly, Sheringham
As opposed, of course, to 'very flat, Norfolk' - which, in the north-east, it is definitely not. The Holt/Cromer ridge, sloping down from wooded tops to fertile pasture and cliffs, was a plaything for local boy Humphrey Repton, 'humanising, as well as animating, beautiful scenery' with his landscaping, declaring it 'my most favourite work' - and that from a distinguished list of 200.
Our Sheringham Rundweg, taking in woods, cliffs, town, the beach where we swam and a fine country church, began at the National Trust car park. The classic view of the park and house was not to come until towards the end. We began by walking through central woodland with very tall trees - conifers, Spanish chestnuts, oaks and beeches, even the odd monkey puzzle tree.
Soon we were fringing the wood, with isolated clumps of trees in a clearer landscape
and then the coast,
looking towards Weybourne Windmill and the north sea.
Couples were sitting on benches waiting for the steam train to pass and complete a classic view, but since we pressed on, turning from east to south where you can just make out the wind turbines out at sea
past a traditional way of forest management,
some virgin beech leaves on a branch shooting out from a knotty clump
and down towards the sea past poppy-fringed fields,
we only saw the train looking back.
Then it was out on to the cliffs which make such a marked contrast on this part of the coast to the saltmarshes and dunes of the north-west. Swallows were shrieking and swooping in abundance
while the view back reveals a steady climb (the top photo shows where to, the highest point on the coast)
and I even saw a solitary puffball mushroom near the cliff edge.
Sheringham prides itself on clean beaches - what will happen when (if, inshallah) we leave the EU?
We walked back along the lower sea front to find a spot sheltered by a windbreaker from which Cally and I could launch out for the obligatory swim, the beach proper occupied only by black-headed gulls.
I liked the vibe of Sheringham, the attention to detail in the muralising of its sea walls
and on this cafe front - we'll let Ellie off her non-punctuation for the piquancy of the graphics. I had no idea that Einstein, fleeing Hitler in 1933, found shelter in Roughton on Cromer Heath.
There's even an excellent coffee shop for us townies, serving its own roast, and of course the best fish and chips (competition between three chippies within close vicinity is strong). The next stretch meant walking along a road for about a mile until we reached Old Sheringham, very discreet, with its church nicely set below the park ridge.
I may be pre-empting a future Norfolk churches walk - next one due, in two Saturdays' time, should take us further east along the coast if the weather's fine - but it's time for some bench ends. All Saints is big, light and airy, 'full of interesting things,' as Betjeman notes. Clearly I should have paid more attention to the rood screen, but I was seduced by details like this mermaid, close by the table near the door.
Further east, off the central aisle, are a cat with a kitten in its mouth,
a swaddled figure (whether baby or corpse is debated) beneath an unusual face
and various mythical beasts like this dragon.
The memorial to Abbot Upcher (died 1819), who commissioned Repton to landscape the estate, is by Bacon Junior and Samuel Manning. Thus Pevsner: 'Hanging monument of considerable size. White marble. A disconsolate woman lies over a broken column and a dead branch'.
Upcher, encourged by Repton to let the local people gather wood on the estate in part of an attempt to strike 'a happy medium between Licentious Equality and Oppressive Tyranny' (big deal, we shrug now, but it no doubt was then), also provided the handsome reservoir outside, dedicated prematurely to the 'year of peace' 1814,
and with a handsome flint-walled basin behind the facade
A short walk up a lane leads you back to National Trust land, the boldest sweep of Sheringham Park.
More puffballs here as we climbed the hill
and then a fine view, as Repton intended, from the Temple as featured in his Red Book but not actually completed in his lifetime (the present replica dates from 1975).
Sheringham Hall, now in private hands, faces inland. As the National Trust guide puts it, presumably paraphrasing before quoting Repton, 'a sea view might be pleasant in the Bay of Naples, but not in the harsh climate of the north Norfolk coast: "Can it ever rain in Paradise?" '
And then, into the woods again.
Back at base, the nice man in the National Trust shop helped me to identify two species which had intrigued us on Jill's new pond in Lower Southrepps: the iridescent thing spinning rapidly in circles was a whirligig beetle, and though I was familiar with this creature, good to have its exact, if obvious, title: red-eyed damselfly.
Not finished with north Norfolk yet - and we'll be back there for the big annual walk, which will merit a couple more churches to be featured here by way of canvassing for sponsorship.