Friday, 4 August 2017

Norfolk highways & byways - Part Two

Suitably refreshed after a good nights sleep, and only awakened by the clucking of the hens in their coup at the rear of the garden, I showered and then wandered down for breakfast. Full English, of course with freshly laid eggs from the aforementioned chickens.

I then set off to visit dad and then to meet up with my sister. Dad’s care home is situated in the small village of Gressenhall, a few miles to the north-west of Dereham. I stopped off first to do some shopping, and also to ensure my arrival did not coincide with the home’s lunchtime.

Dad was just finishing his pudding when I arrived, and was looking pretty good. Despite him not talking a lot of sense he was pleased to see me. He is still reasonably mobile, but not sufficiently so for me to tempt him outside into the enclosed garden area. “Far too cold for sitting outside”, was his response. I stayed for around an hour, and told him I would call in the following day; although I don’t think that registered.

Dereham Museum & Parish Church
After leaving I drove back into Dereham and dived into Greggs for a coffee plus quick bite to eat. I had the laptop with me, so I spent three-quarters of an hour bashing out a couple of draft blog posts, keeping one eye on the keyboard and the other on the comings and goings in this popular High Street chain outlet. For a decent, freshly prepared roll, and an equally decent cup of coffee, you can’t really go wrong, and my egg-salad sub was just the right size and the right price to keep me going until the evening.

Later, I joined my sister, her new husband and one of my nieces for an evening meal at the Romany Rye; the local Wetherspoon’s outlet in Dereham. We arrived around 7pm, to find the place heaving, but fortunately we found a table tucked away at the rear of the pub. My brother-in-law was keen to try out is newly downloaded Wetherspoon’s App, which worked well for our food order, along with the standard drinks, but as blogger, Jessica Boak pointed out recently, the App falls down when it comes to guest ales. I had to make a trip to the bar to discover what was available, and bought my choice physically rather than electronically.

Although I was tempted by the Forbury Lion Strong IPA from Loddon Brewery, at 5.5% ABV it was a little strong, bearing in mind I would be driving back to Mulbarton later. Instead I settled for the 4.5% Flashman’s Clout  from Dorset Brewing Company (DBC). Now this was a beer whose name I remember from sometime back, and I believe it was one of a range of several beers with a “Tom Brown’s Schooldays” theme produced at a brew-pub. If my memory is correct I imagine DBC, who are a relative newcomer on the brewing scene, must have acquired the rights to the name.

The beer was pleasant enough and went well with my Chicken Tikka Masala. We spent an enjoyable evening, catching up, and the big news is my youngest niece is waiting to hear about a place at Oxford University. This will be a first for our side of the Bailey family, so we are keeping our fingers crossed on this one.

We left Spoons shortly before 9pm. It was raining rather heavily outside, so I gave my relatives a lift back to their place before heading back to the B & B. Although  I eventually become accustomed to it during winter, I don’t like driving along unlit roads after dark, especially when it’s wet, so it was here that the Sat-Nav really came into its own.

I don’t think I could have found the narrow turning off the A140 without its assistance, and even then I almost missed it, so I was glad to get back to my room and crack open one of the bottles I had left in the fridge. I fired the laptop up and did some writing, until my eyelids became rather heavy and I found myself drifting off.

After another good night’s sleep and another equally good breakfast, I paid by bill and checked out from Meadow Farm Cottage. The place was definitely one of the nicest I have stayed at for a long time, and if it was nearer to Dereham I would consider staying there for future visits to Norfolk.

Beers of Europe
I headed west along the A47 and made my way back to the care-home at Gressenhall, in order to say goodbye to dad. I then headed for home, but not before diverting towards Kings Lynn for a visit to Beers of Europe, in order to satisfy my Rauchbier fix.

The Sat Nav took me along a much quieter route to the north of A47, through some very pleasant country side, through the village of Litcham with its attractive flint-built houses,  and then across Massingham Heath. People who don’t know Norfolk that well have a preconception that the county is totally flat, and whilst it is in places, there are some hills towards the northern coastal area. My drive through a long, gradually sloping, dry valley, with the sun shining and hardly another vehicle in sight, was very pleasant, and I was sorry when I had to eventually leave this pleasing landscape and join the much busier A47.

Former maltings - Bishops Stortford
I picked up a few bottles at Beers of Europe, including several Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbiers, before heading south on the A10 towards Ely. The Fenland countryside looked quite different from my visit earlier in the year, as the bare, dark black soil had been replaced with fields of fully grown crops; particularly wheat. I skirted Ely and turned off towards Soham, before picking up A14 to the north of Newmarket. 

I stopped briefly at Bishop’s Stortford for a look round and to stretch my legs, before continuing my journey south via the M11 and the M25. I arrived home just after 4pm, just in time to collect my son from work, and to enjoy the rather tasty lasagna which Eileen had prepared for us.

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