Walking over Bishy Barnabees
The first fat raindrops hitting the windscreen should have made me abandon the whole ill conceived plan. My friend Cindy had agreed to, as she put it, release me back into the wild. She had driven me and my badly packed, bargain rucsack into Norfolk’s vast Thetford Forest. Raindrops continued to splatter the screen as we crept along looking for a narrow opening in the trees that marked the point at which the ancient Peddars’ Way crossed the road.
I had only recently decided to take up backpacking. Being in my, shall we say middle years and having never been a walker, or camped in anything needing less than six poles and a degree in architecture to erect, the decision to circumnavigate Norfolk may seem foolhardy. I had however prepared carefully.
A week earlier I had taken my rucsack into the woods for a trial run. Not at that time having all the equipment I would need, I loaded up with books to simulate the 20 Kilograms I anticipated carrying out in the wilderness.
It seemed a little heavier than expected, and indeed, as I swung it up to my shoulder, I executed a graceful pirouette, ending up sprawled across the sofa under the Waverley Encyclopaedia, Mrs Beeton and Female Labour Under Socialism.
I persevered and soon worked out a technique involving balancing the rucsack on the back of a chair and reversing into it. I staggered off to tramp through the local woods hoping against hope that as I grew in strength and experience, I might be able to straighten my back and look at the track ahead rather than my feet.
I managed a circuit of about three miles without being arrested on suspicion of robbing the local library, and reasoned that my intended daily stages of twelve to fifteen miles should be easily achievable. After all, I would have all day and surely each day I would grow stronger? I had visions of doing the last fifty miles at a brisk trot.
My intended route was a circuit of Norfolk taking in the Peddars’ Way from Thetford Forest up to the coast at Hunstanton, The North Norfolk Coastal path along to Cromer, The Weavers’ Way diagonally down to Great Yarmouth finishing with a fast romp along the Angles Way which would take me back to my starting point. A total of about 225 miles
It looked wonderful on the map. Little hamlets with windmills and unbridged fords, doubtless home to an ample bosomed Mrs Miggins the local shop owner, busy weighing sugar in brown paper bags. Village greens where one might spot a romantic gypsy encampment with a row of spotless washing hanging from the chestnut trees.
But back to the steamed up car, the raindrops and the leaden skies. The forecast spoke of scattered showers, maybe becoming more organised later.
Having planned the trip for days, I was reluctant to let this put me off and pulling on my remarkably inexpensive waterproofs, I trusted that I would prove more organised than the showers. Cindy looked on in blank incredulity as I sat the rucsack on the car, backed in and buckled myself to it. Tugging the straps so tight that I struggled to breathe, I choked out a thankyou, said my farewell, and with her pleas to phone if it all went horribly wrong ringing in my ears, I set out into the Norfolk bush.
I tried terribly hard to walk easily and confidently in an upright position until she was out of sight, but soon, rustling and squeaking, wheezing and stumbling I drooped back into the Neanderthal posture so familiar from my previous tests. I say “tests” as prior to the previous week’s full scale rehearsal with a bag of books; I had very sensibly walked the first few miles of the Peddars’ Way to test my ability to carry a load over rough country.
Not at that stage owning camping equipment; after all I had two weeks to sort that out, I had used two shopping bags with shoulder straps crossed diagonally around my neck. These were laden with whatever had come to hand up to the necessary 40 pounds. As I had used the bathroom scales to ascertain this with some accuracy, much of the contents had a lavatorial flavour. In went the loo brush; paper, lifebuoy and Toilet Duck to fine-tune the weight of the bags.
This preliminary test proved that, yes, I could carry the weight, but no, my neck could not withstand the effect of the crossed straps slowly throttling me.
I stumbled on, hands clasped under each bag to try to lift them sufficiently to breathe from time to time, and managed a creditable two miles before collapsing exhausted. This explains why I had asked Cindy to drop me off part way along the Peddars’ Way; no sense walking the same bit twice. Besides, I think the memories would have flooded back and caused morale to fall to an unacceptable level on a trip which was to place such demands on a virgin hiker.
It was less easy to ignore the purple bruises still evident on my throat, but you can’t have everything.
Thus I trudged on. The rain continued to fall, appearing very well organised already to me. I wore a green PVC anorak with a faulty zip, green overtrousers which were totally waterproof…although rather less breatheable. On my head was an ex Malayan campaign jungle hat. My boots were quite new and again very well priced…they and my feet had attempted to break one another in as I wore them a couple of times to do the shopping. My socks were the real thing, guaranteed absolutely no blisters in five hundred miles. I doubted I could walk that far, so felt quite well taken care of in that department. My budget rucsack contained an ultra lightweight one-person tent, a synthetic sleeping bag guaranteed to be snug down to 10 degrees Celsius, a gas stove and a selection of cooking utensils. Stores included pot noodles and a big bag of vegetarian sausage mix.
It seemed unlikely that the rain could last much longer. It drummed on my soft and soggy hat, dripping uncomfortably down my neck. The scenery I glimpsed from my stooped position seemed marvellous though; beautiful water meadows grown lush and tall in the recent wet weather. They had also grown very wet and discharged their load of rainwater down my legs as I blundered through.
I crossed the river Thet by an attractive wooden footbridge and made quite good progress through pine forests and over heathland. I vowed to return one day in dry weather without the contents of a small family hardware business on my back.
Eventually I reached the main A11 trunk road. I stood Quasimodo-like at the verge as traffic thundered by hurling up sheets of cold spray. After a strained look both ways, I broke into a lumbering trot to cross between cars of leering motorists. By now I had become very wet indeed. I had real doubts about the ability of my rucsack to keep the contents watertight. Should I find a ‘phone and call Cindy? No, it’s bound to stop soon.
On the other side of the road I noticed two young lads kitted out in waterproofs and carrying backpacks. They stood dripping and shivering by a large Volvo estate. Inside sat a well-dressed man who I took to be their father. As I drew alongside I heard him issuing orders from the snug dry car, Classic FM playing gently in the background. The kids were being sent off on their Duke of Edinburgh Award trek. Dad got out of the car, popped up a Martini golf umbrella and gave the boys a manly pat on their already soggy shoulders. “Hurry up, I’m getting wet! ” he urged as the lads trudged off along the by now, muddy track. Bless them; they looked a picture of abject misery…as probably did I.
Time for my lunch break. But how and where? The rain still teemed down and opening the rucsack would quickly soak the contents; besides it was hardly the weather for a jolly picnic on a mossy bank with lashings of ginger beer. I stumbled into the woods that bordered the track and sought shelter under the trees. I was by now beginning to feel a little chilly too. A rummage in the rucsack unearthed sandwiches that were dry, and a host of essential equipment that was not. Being resourceful, I used a black plastic refuse sack to fashion an attractive cover for my pack. Images of stable doors and missing horses swam before me.
As I squatted shivering and dripping beneath the trees, I watched a cheery couple clomp past deep in conversation. They wore top quality anoraks with deep hoods and their packs were fitted with tailored covers. I watched in pouting envy as they disappeared in the distance. I would however be meeting them again in sunnier circumstances.
Not really refreshed, I once more set sail. Again I marvelled at the scenery, only partially obscured by the rain. The Peddars’ Way itself runs for almost 50 miles and follows an old Roman road which itself may well have been built on a much older trackway. So, I was possibly trudging in the footsteps of woad covered ancient Britons .I probably looked about as attractive with the rain running down my neck and the dye running from my jacket.
At its southern end, the Peddars Way passes through the sandy heathland known as Breckland. A Part of this has long been given over to the military for battle training and the track skirts this mystery area of muffled thumps and rattling gunfire. In the heart of the training area lies an idyllic English village forcibly evacuated long ago to provide realistic conditions for the forces to practice duffing up Johnny Foreigner. The people who left and their descendants are regularly taken back on bus trips to revisit their now somewhat secondhand former home.
I stopped again briefly to catch my breath, but it’s hard to relax in the rain. It’s too wet to put anything down or to sit. Sandwiches get soggy unless wolfed down quickly. So, I marched on, feet beginning to swell and twinge. In hindsight, that was the cause of many of my later problems. Being unable to stop and rest, unwilling to take a peep at what was happening in my boots.
In fact, ignorance was more blisters than bliss.
I tramped on past the wonderfully named Pingo Trail. This was said to be a fascinating area of circular ponds left by the Ice Age. I toyed with the idea of diverting to take a look but the weather being the way it was, I felt that the ponds might soon be diverting to visit me instead. About 8 miles from my starting point, I reached civilization in the form of the Dog and Partridge Inn.
It looked warm and welcoming, whereas I looked like a swamp rat on a bad hair day. I stood and peered through the window, a pool of water forming around my big muddy boots that contained my big throbbing feet. A foolish decision somehow floated to the surface. Don’t stop here, go on to the campsite only a short distance away, set up camp and dry out before returning.
So, what on earth possessed me to plod on past the site and head for the next one some 8 miles further ahead? It could only have been the foolish assumption that it would be better to unpack and make camp after the rain had stopped, as it surely must? Be that as it may, I nevertheless began to hobble on through the flooded track, my feet now hurting horribly and not daring to investigate the state of my camping equipment, my long distance socks or my underwear.
At length I reached the village of Great Cressingham. A phone box beckoned but weary, battered and soaked as I was, I just could not admit defeat. The campsite I had been heading for was actually at the back of a B&B and as no one was home, I repaired to the local pub to wait. I stood on the doormat and began a struggle with my wet clothes in an attempt to find a dry layer somewhere underneath. Wet nylon clung to wet denim and hopping from one leg to the other and again to neither, I fell in a cursing heap on the doormat.
The bar went very quiet. Half a dozen blokes looked on open mouthed.
“Well, what have we got here?” asked the tall one.
“What are you doing out in this.. Are you daft?” enquired his neighbour
I struggled to pull off my muddy boots.
“Don’t worry about that!” said the landlord “ never notice a bit more muck in here.”
Feeling horribly embarrassed, I squelched to the bar and ordered a beer and tried to explain what had brought me out on a day like this. Not easy, as I had long since forgotten myself.
The beer flowed and the conversation turned to my plans for the night. It was obvious that I was wet through and that my camping equipment was likely to be soaked too. I stood and dripped trying to laugh along with the bar-room banter. The silly fixed grin now making my ears ache.
To make matters worse, apparently the campsite owner worked all day and wouldn’t be home for hours yet. As rain lashed against the windows I really thought, “This is it, adventure over. Where’s the ‘phone?” I began to feel really cold now after standing still for a while and the thought of home and a hot bath seemed extremely seductive. However, the adventure was only just beginning.
Big John had been the main protagonist in the barrage of mickey taking, largely along the lines of ” He don’t half look wet don’t he, must have been out in the rain; do you reckon he’s drip dry?” He suddenly said in a loud voice,
“ You can sleep in my caravan if you want”
Everybody laughed uproariously
“ Har har har…hev he still got chickens in it?”
“ Would that be the 50 quid a night caravan or the expensive one?”
I didn’t know what to say.
When Big John went off to the Gents, the landlord leaned over and said
“ Don’t let the mickey taking put you off. He’s got a heart of gold really. He means it” And so it was that I ended up hurtling through the lanes, sloshing through huge puddles, in a four by four pick-up piloted by my new friend.
Shortly, we came to a bungalow with a caravan parked neatly underneath the carport. John took me to the front door, eyed me up and down and said
“ Wait here, I’ll get the wife”
Not surprisingly, she looked somewhat startled by this turn of events. Once she was over the initial shock however, she quickly offered to dry off my clothes in the tumble drier. John led me to the caravan and tugged open the sticking door. An unmistakable odour of dampness seeped from within. We clambered inside. It had clearly not been used, other than for the storage of an old mattress, for a very long time.
“Well, what do you think? “ asked John
“Very nice” I heard myself mumble
“Great! Now, you’d probably have spent 20 quid on B&B wouldn’t you? I’m happy to let you sleep here for 15. Full English breakfast thrown in. What do you say to that?”
There were plenty of things I could have said to that, but what squeaked out was ” Fine, thankyou very much”
“OK then get some of your wet stuff off and come to the back door. Whatever you do, don’t just walk in right?”
“Have you got a toilet I could use?”
“ Ah, good point, “said John “ yes, good point. We’re off out soon and if you want to come in to use the bog, I’d better introduce you to Simba. He’s a bit of a bugger. Might have you if he don’t know you”
Simba turned out to be a Rhodesian ridgeback. I believe they use them to hunt hippos, or possibly lions. He clearly didn’t like me and had to be restrained by John. I could hear him snarling at the loo door as I sat within. I could feel a bout of constipation coming on.
We decided against my using the bathroom while they were away.
“ Just go in the garden” said John “ It’ll be alright, oh, and have you got the fifteen quid? Probably best I take it up front eh?”
Returning to the caravan, I proceeded to strip off my clothes. This was the first chance that I had had to really take stock. I had been wearing a red fleece jacket over a white T-shirt under my leaky anorak. I now had a pink fleece jacket and a red(dish) T-shirt where the colour had bled.
The overtrousers had done a great job of keeping out the rain, although not being breathable- I was just as wet from my own sweat. Possibly too much information. My long distance socks were also soaked and beneath them, or rather glued to them, my feet were in a truly dreadful state. Huge blisters everywhere.
I dried off as best I could and dressed in the driest of the wet clothes from my pack. John’s wife collected the wet stuff to pop into the drier. An amazing woman. You just got the impression that if he had brought home a travelling circus, she’d have taken it in her stride and rustled up some hay for the elephants. I draped my wet sleeping bag from the curtain pelmets and lit my Camping Gaz stove to both cook and to warm the caravan a little.
I had just rummaged through my pack and fished out the Pot Noodles to prepare for supper, when John appeared. He tugged at the swollen door almost overbalancing the stove roaring away on the work surface. Dangerous stuff.
“We’re off out now” he said, adding gruffly ” Here’s something for you”
He thrust a bottle of Lambrusco sparkling wine into my hands. A few minutes later, his wife appeared with my lovely fluffy warm dry clothes! I finished preparing the meal and having a spare gas cartridge, decided to allow the stove to burn itself out.
Admittedly the atmosphere was somewhat steamy, but the combination of wine, Pot noodles, the flickering light from the stove and my book about wartime Chindits surviving in the jungles of Malaysia gave me a warm comfortable feeling, broken only by the need to pee in the herbaceous border from time to time.
My sleeping bag had dried off quickly and after writing up my journal for the day, I snuggled inside. The gas stove spluttered out. I felt that the glow from my feet would probably have illuminated the caravan, but using jungle fighting mind control techniques now familiar to me from the book, I tried to forget the pain and eventually, after listening for a while to the rain still drumming on the roof, I drifted off to sleep.
I slept well and awoke to the rumbling throaty growls of the ridgeback as John took him out for “walkies” or maybe “snarlies” or “threatenies”.
But joy! The sun was shining. The sky was eggshell blue. A bright new day.
I would walk miles. Well, I thought that I would. That was until my poor battered feet hit the floor. Oh dear. Agony would be the word. Well, it would have been the correct word if only they had hurt a little less. They were truly an awful sight. I patched them up as best I could with plasters and limped to the house door.
John cooked breakfast and restrained the Hound of the Baskervilles while I gulped it down. As I sipped hot coffee, he sidled over and said brusquely
“ Here’s a bit of change”
He dropped half a dozen pound coins into my hand and snorted,
“ Alright then? You ready for the off?“
His good lady came through to wish me well.
I re-packed the rucsack, carefully rolling the sleeping bag in a big polythene bag provided by my hosts.
I thanked them both for all that they had done for me and set off into the blue. Absolute stars both of them.
My feet hurt dreadfully. I wondered how on earth I would ever reach far off Swaffham today. It looked to be about 8 or 9 miles on the map. I fathomed that covering a mile at a time and resting in between might be the way to tackle it. The sun beat down although I had to skirt massive puddles across the lanes as I made my way back towards the Peddars’ Way. I wasn’t far off course and soon rejoined the route. Soon I was steaming yet again, this time from the heat. I stopped to rest on a wide grassy verge by a hedge. I draped what damp clothing remained amongst the branches to dry fully and lay back on the grass to rest.
The sound of voices approaching roused me. It was the walking couple from the previous day. They stopped to chat. Apparently Joan and Trevor had walked almost every long distance footpath in Britain and thought they would do a quick lap of Norfolk to add to the tally.
When they learned that yesterday had been my very first day’s walking ever, they were fulsome in their praise. How on earth had I managed to stick it out? And camping out too, why, they’d used a Bed and Breakfast and were glad of it too!
Lying toad that I am, I allowed them to think that I had slept through the storm in my tent and added modestly that I was sure that it could have been a lot worse. They asked did I want to walk a way with them?
Knowing that I could barely hop, I deceitfully declined, saying I wanted to savour the peace of the countryside a little longer, but hoped to see them later.
Eventually I pulled everything together, re-packed, and carried on.
How can I describe how bad my feet were? Every time I stopped, I pulled off my socks, paddled in puddles, patted myself dry and frequently renewed the plasters. All to little avail. Well, actually, to no avail whatsoever. I hobbled and winced my way through lovely countryside, occasionally trying to convince myself that this is how pilgrims of old felt and that it was good for the erm, soul if not the soles.
Late in the afternoon I reached the junction with the A47 trunk road and limped pathetically over to the MacDonald’s situated by the roundabout. I dined on some sort of Real Meal Deal, wondering whether I dare camp in the bushes nearby. I reflected on the fact that I had been out here in the bush for not much more than 24 hours. Already my legs were like jelly and my feet like burgers. The dye had run on my budget fleece and now the straps from my rucsack were beginning to cut grooves into my shoulders. Wonderful.
I decided against camping amongst the bushes and trudged on through Swaffham to a lovely clean, well cared for campsite just the other side of town. As related earlier, I had left little to chance on this trip and had practised some of the tasks I would face well in advance, hence the bag of books and strangulation by shopping bag. Sadly, I had not been able to find a large enough piece of grass on which to erect my new tent. Admittedly it was only about two metres long and one wide, but well, that’s the way it was!
What a sight I must have made. Tent spread on the ground, hobbling painfully from side to side, hopping over it at times, trying various combinations of poles and pegs, until at last a sort of drunken wigwam emerged from the chaos. Using a discarded brick. I thumped in some lightweight alloy tent pegs, ruining about 50 percent and bashing my thumb at regular intervals.
I light-headedly blew up my airbed, almost fainting in the process, and unrolled my synthetic modern sleeping bag. Another bargain. Camping at last. This was what it was all about. I unloaded fully and made myself at home. After preparing and eating a nutritious salad I settled down with my book. Well. I say salad, admittedly it didn’t contain anything green, but it did include nuts and crisps and things like that-chocolate and so on. Then, after yet another attempt at dressing my wounded feet, I settled down for the night.
God it was cold. I had brought along a t-shirt as a nightie but this was soon supplemented by the rest of my clothes, an ordnance survey map tucked inside my shirt and a pair of underpants on my head to cut heat loss.
I shuddered and shivered through a freezing cold night. I felt it most in the small of my back. Nothing I could do would warm me. I considered getting up and going for a jog. Then I remembered that I couldn’t walk. I had thoughtfully sawn the neck off a plastic Coca Cola bottle to serve any natural needs in the night. I didn’t use it. In fact it might well have frozen if I had.
Morning came and time for a rethink. As I struggled to walk across the gravel to the toilet block, I knew I could go no further. I determined to miss the next stretch and catch a bus to Hunstanton up on the coast. Hopefully, I could lie up for a day or two for my feet to recover and then carry on from there. Apart from the beautiful Castle Acre, I reasoned that all I would miss would be several miles of sugar beet. I quickly packed and visited the site office in search of a bus timetable. The owner turned out to be an ex local government officer who had only recently changed career and bought the site. A splendid chap, he offered me a ride into town in his car. It might otherwise have meant a taxi-or an ambulance.
I felt a strange mixture of relief and disappointment as I boarded the bus to Kings’ Lynn. Mostly it just felt great to sit down on something soft, although my multi coloured t-shirt and generally bedraggled appearance attracted a great deal of unwanted attention from my fellow passengers.
All too soon it was time to forsake the comfort of the coach and fight my way back into the backpack.
Now a 40-pound pack is not insignificant. You know it’s there. You tend to bash into people before you get to know your new working width. It becomes difficult to enter shops or squeeze through gaps. Turning round is particularly hazardous. On the Peddars’ Way, this is unimportant; in Kings’ Lynn it begins to matter. I managed to trash several charity shops before finding a tasteful, and cheap, replacement for the inadvertently tie-dyed t-shirt.
I waited a while for the bus on to Hunstanton. Lots of people wanted to stop and ask embarrassing questions like, “How far have you walked with that?”
An honest answer seemed wholly inappropriate and would doubtless have disappointed my new found fan club. Thus I lied through my teeth.
“ Ooh, you must be so strong!” cooed an ancient, but still comely lady wearing a long Mac, a knitted beret and clutching a leatherette shopping bag.
(Remember, I had been away from civilization for a long time now)
“ Well, you get used to it, hardly know it’s there after a while “ I dissembled.
My blue face and struggle for breath rather giving the lie to the latter boast.
It seemed strange being the centre of so much attention; after all, backpackers were surely not that uncommon? Although maybe the fact that most of them tend to stick to footpaths and steer clear of bus stations increased my rarity value. Time passed quickly as I chatted with, and grievously misled, my new friends. Soon the bus came into view. It was at that moment that I developed a knee-clenching urge to pee. The loos were a long way off and I just knew that I couldn’t hold out for the next 40 minutes on the bus.
To the astonishment of the rest of the bus queue, I heaved my pack onto my back and set off at an ungainly lope for the toilets. I really had no choice; well, none that would be considered decent and hygienic.
As with charity shops, so with toilet cubicles. The danger of becoming wedged in place can hardly be exaggerated. You can’t leave the pack outside the cubicle; it might get pinched- or worse still, detonated by the bomb disposal squad. You have to struggle in like a leatherneck turtle tackling a kissing gate. Naturally the bus had long gone when I emerged.
I waited a further 40 minutes for the next bus. Amazing, considering that in Norfolk, calendars are mostly more useful than timetables.
“Next bus? That’ll be about Wednesday I reckon!”
Struggling onto a bus wearing a backpack is about as easy as squeezing one into a loo cubicle. You hover at the front, attempting to undo the straps and slip the lop-sided monstrosity into the luggage rack, the little tin mug tied on the back threatening to take out the eye of anyone foolish enough to sit nearby.
As the pack comes free, the driver inevitably chooses that very moment to smack the bus into gear and roar off into the traffic. There is a complex formula about force being something to do with weight multiplied by speed. Thus, hurtling out of control down the aisle of a country bus with an errant backpack is somewhat akin to the horrors of a loose cannon below decks on Nelson’s Victory. This is even more amusing, and potentially dangerous, for onlookers when one forgets to undo the chest or waist strap on the pack causing it to rotate around one’s circumference as the coach hits a bump and the bearer moonwalks above the floor in conditions of zero gravity.
A glimpse of historic Castle Rising in the distance, a sign directing one to Her Majesty’s holiday home at Sandringham, the world famous Caley’s Mill lavender farm at Heacham -all passed by in a blur, probably caused by vibration. But, how much better for me culturally than tramping over endless fields? We chugged up the one in eighty hill at the approach to Hunstanton, or “Sunny Hunny” as it is cheerily, if oft inaccurately known. The only seaside town on the east coast to face west, Hunstanton offers wonderful sunsets over the sea - albeit combined with a distant view of Lincolnshire’s Friskney Marshes.
I disembarked and painfully made my way towards a campsite I had found listed in a walker’s guide to the Peddars Way. It turned out to be a very large commercial site with caravans, kiddies’ roundabouts and a swimming pool. The reception office was located at the end of a long gravel drive. It was probably about 300 yards, but to my tortured soles, seemed never ending. The attractive young woman at the desk greeted me with a rather weak and somewhat forced smile.
I dumped the pack on the floor and heaved a sigh of relief.
“ I’d like to camp for a night or two”
“Sorry, but you can’t”
“Sorry, but we don’t take single-sex parties”
“ But I’m not a party…although I suppose I am single sex, but I can’t help that can I?”
“Sorry, that’s the rules”
To the accompaniment of my hissing and singing feet, I argued and pleaded, but after checking with her supervisor, she confirmed that I was not welcome. Apparently single sex parties often had drinking orgies and, even when they arrived alone, usually brought back hordes of boozy louts later on.
I believe that if the Olympics were to include the 1500 metres hobble, I would be favourite to bring home gold for Britain. I made my way disconsolately towards the town centre. The promenade at Hunstanton is very pleasant; lovely safe sands with characteristic red pebbles. An ancient WW2 DUKW amphibious vehicle offered trips out to Seal Island. Apparently the locals amuse themselves by trying to convince the unwary that the land they can see across the Wash is in fact Holland.
I arrived at the tourist office only to be told that there was no other campsite in town. I stood rocking and swaying on my heels, staring blankly at the lady behind the counter. I was about to biblically shake the dust from my boots and leave Hunny with a powerful curse of eternal sunless-ness, when
A bright Scottish voice piped up from the back,
“ Is the laddie looking to camp?”
“ He is, and he looks about done for” her colleague accurately observed.
“Well, I’ll ring my friend Mary,” trilled my Scottish angel “ She has a smallholding along the coast near Holme and might let you camp there if I ask nicely”
She rang through and discovered that indeed Mary would let me camp and in fact, had a couple camping on her land already.
I thanked her profusely and shuffled off to catch a bus. The north Norfolk coast is blessed with a service known as the Coast Hopper, a fleet of small buses driven by chatty, cheeky drivers unseen since the days of Ealing comedies.
I was soon pouring myself out onto the roadside at nearby Holme and introducing myself to Mary.