Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sunday 24 March

We're still suffering snow, ice and bitterly cold easterly winds here in the UK. 'This is the winter that just keeps on giving', the BBC weather man said earlier this week, which did make me laugh. I'm quite ready for some sunshine and a bit more warmth, but so is everybody else and there's nothing much we can do about it, so no point in moaning.

Normally on my Sunday morning bike rides I tend to leave Norwich behind and explore the little villages in the countryside. Because of that strong easterly wind and because I was coming down with a cold and didn't want to venture too far, I decided to head into Norwich itself last Sunday. I don't know the city that well at all. B. and I've been to restaurants (Shiki is one of our favourites) and we've been to the cinema and bowling, but they're not in the prettiest parts. I had noticed before the city seems to have a large number of churches but didn't realise quite how old it was. I thought I'd try and follow the river Wensum towards the west, specially as there was a riverwalk most of the way which I should be able to cycle early on Sunday morning as many people are still in bed at that time! Be warned, this is quite a photo heavy post. I only did 9 miles but spent 2.5 hours on the bike, stopping frequently to take photos.

This is the start of the riverwalk, near Carrow Bridge and the Norwich City football ground.

Renovated warehouses - I love warehouses and there were plenty of them along this route.

One that still needs doing up

This was one of my favourite discoveries of the bike ride. I had noticed on the map I had brought with me that there was a little ferry across the river. B. had told me it wasn't in use anymore but was probably started when they built the cathedral, to bring building materials across the river. I liked this little building and stopped to take a photo, and suddenly realised that this was in fact Pulls Ferry.

One of the things I liked about this bike ride were the many bridges over the river, most of them with a pub at one end. This is Bishop Bridge.

At most points during my ride the cathedral was visible in the distance.

I lost my back light here... When I took the photo of Pulls Ferry, my bike fell over in the wind. It's quite a sturdy bike but the bottle holder broke off and the back light came off. I put it back on, then a little later on when I was taking a photo here, I grabbed the saddle to move the bike, accidentally pushing the light which came off again, bounced a couple of times on the paving slab and promptly splashed into the river! It made me wonder what else you'd find if you dredged the river...

This was a piece of art by two students from the Norwich University College of Arts (which is quite nearby). At first I thought the leaves were part of it, but the piece had collected water which had frozen in the cold weather, trapping the fallen leaves.
There was a little information plaque about it:

This old mill, St. James Mill, is now the head office for Jarrolds, a local department store. Not much of the mill survives.

This is Whitefriars Bridge, which I crossed to take the picture of the old mill.

 Another peek at the cathedral

This road is called Quayside, appropriately enough! It reminded me vaguely of little towns in Holland. The railway sleepers symbolise the packages that would be unloaded here, and are engraved with the names of people who used to work here.

This is Fye Bridge - aren't all those old names fabulous?

One of the packages with a local name

Another one of those old street names: Pigg Lane.

This is the Norwich Technology Institute, a fabulous Victorian building now used for the Arts department of the university if I remember correctly.

A few other views of the same building. The wind was whistling down this road and my hands were turning blue with taking pictures and figuring out the map.
I took a wrong turn here and lost the river for a bit, but found a sweet little part of Norwich along the way:

A little stairway between a church and another building, connecting two slightly bigger roads.

A little further along and I come across a pumping station

There was a sign on the building about a charity working towards restoration of the pumping station, but looking online I found the group was dissolved a while ago. It seems a shame, as the station is one of only two air compressor pumping stations in Britain.

A little further upriver marked my return point, as by now I was close to leaving Norwich and it was time to head back to the ski club anyway (besides, by now I was actually getting quite cold!)

I did make a little detour to visit the cathedral grounds though - after having seen it from a distance, I couldn't not visit. I'd only ever seen it in the dark after we'd had a meal nearby last year, and didn't realise quite how stunning it was.

The cathedral sits in its own grounds and this is one of the entrances where you can just see the back of the cathedral. This entrance was private and I had to cycle a little further to find an entrance with public access.

There are some cloisters by the side of the cathedral which provide a wonderful frame for endless photos...

One last look at the river
Back on Carrow Bridge but looking in the opposite direction of my starting point. In fact, this was heading east and extremely windy! I now made straight for the ski club, looking forward to our usual moccha after B. finishes his training session.

I have since discovered that Norwich County Council have set up specific bike trails in and around Norwich and publish a Norwich Cycle Map which you can request. It arrived in the post earlier this week and it is full of things I have yet to discover. I predict many more happy hours of exploring the city on bike - I am hoping with some sunshine at some point too :-)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wednesday 13 March

That snow we were predicted for last weekend? I didn't take it wholly seriously. It is March after all. Yes, a few years ago we woke up on Easter Sunday and it was all white outside, but that doesn't happen very often. Normally it's time for daffodils, a gentle breeze, some light green buds. We had a day like that last week, giving a hint of a promise of Spring. We were warned of ice and snow, a bitterly cold easterly wind. Surely not, I thought. They've got it wrong.


Yes, that's me. I was determined to get out there, knowing I feel better for a bit of fresh air. Fresh.Air. Right.
It rained all day on Saturday. On Saturday evening, as I was driving to Norfolk, snowflakes joined the raindrops. Snowflakes became the dominant species. I started spotting cars from the other direction covered in snow. We drove to Norwich to the ski club, where B. had a grand slalom competition. 'It can't be snowed off', he sniggered. It wasn't. It snowed all evening. We came back home to a blanket of a good couple of inches.
We woke up on Sunday morning and there was no more snow and it had even started thawing. Despite the odd snowflake still confusedly fluttering out of the sky, I thought I'd give the bike ride a go. Wrapped up in, wait for it, thermal long sleeved tshirt, a fleece top, my fleece lined rainjacket, my lycra cycling trousers, a pair of ski socks, an extra pair of socks on top of that, a fleece hat under my helmet (giving me that charming mushroom appearance - my head really isn't that big, honestly) and some ski gloves as I'd forgotten to bring my own. I wasn't cold - in fact, I was quite warm. Sweating even.

Until I came across this.

Just a bit of a flood right? While I was taking this photo, a car came towards me and drove through. The water was up to his bumper. I then had to cycle through (behind me is a steep hill which I didn't want to cycle up). It was so deep my foot on the pedal disappeared under the water. Blergh. I dripped water from my shoe for a mile. My foot got cold. And colder. And frozen.

A neglected Wesleyan chapel in Needham

This is the little ford we cross on the ladies tractor road run I take part in every year. In fact, the first time I did it, I was a bit freaked out by it - you take a sharp turn right, down into the water and back up again, and where I'm standing, you take a sharp turn right again. Not fun when you're desperately trying not to stall a tractor that has a 15 step manual for restarting it and there are numerous tractor drivers in front and behind you who are equally freaked out...

A few pictures of Brockdish Church. I love Victorian tiled floors. I like the colours and the geometric patterns. This one was particularly richly decorated.
I spent ages trying to get that last photo and I was still not happy with it (it's not sharp enough). I'd forgotten my tripod which didn't help...

The exterior of the church is quite unusual too - it has the usual flint stonework but you don't see many towers like these.

Coming back I had to cycle 5 or 6 miles into that easterly wind they'd warned us about. One thing about cycling is that you become much more aware of the wind and its direction. It may seem calm but as soon as you step on the bike you notice it. I definitely noticed it on Sunday and came back feeling quite sore and out of breath. And still with that cold foot.
The grand total - not as much as usual but considering the conditions, I was still quite pleased with this.

After a warm shower I was greeted with this 

The first time that B. lit the woodburner in the barn renovation. Cosy!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday 8 March

As the kids have got older, our annual holidays in Lyme Regis have changed too. From going to the zoo and spending hours on the beach, digging, running into the water and trying to avoid the waves, we tried doing a few short walks a few years ago. This year the holiday turned into a proper walking holiday.

 I'm not sure how the kids feel about it - we get lots of groans, 'how long is this walk?' and 'are we nearly there yet?' but both of them seem to enjoy taking photos along the way and sometimes even admit to enjoying themselves. As long as you choose a walk with plenty to see along the way, they seem alright. O and the bribe of a cream tea or ice cream usually goes down well too.

Having done 40 miles on foot that week I got a real taste for walking which I wanted to keep up. And as B. left for a skiing trip as soon as we got back from Lyme Regis (we saw each other for 5 hours before he had to set out for the airport!), I had plenty of time to give parttime dog a decent workout that weekend. Poor dog, normally he's at the door when I come to fetch him, but after doing 5 miles on Saturday, he wasn't at the door on Sunday morning. When I asked his owner where he was, she gestured for me to come in. He was in his basket and lifted up his head in a rather resigned way: another walk...?

These photos are from two walks which were largely the same apart from me trying to find another footpath and exploring a bit further afield on the second walk. 

Our walk started at the top of Nowton Park. You make your way to the visitor center, then leave by the main entrance and take a very small countrylane up towards Hardwick Heath, another old park in Bury St. Edmunds. We're very lucky in having lots of open, green spaces, and at Hardwick Heath dogs are even allowed off the lead. 
This house is on that little country lane, it's a small flint cottage that is so typical for around here. The house is from the same era as my own cottage, and I think the initials over the door are the same as my cottage too.

The first sign of blossom - Spring really is on its way (uhm, we have snow predicted for this weekend!)

What I like so much about these walks is that you're walking in open countryside, but it's really right on your doorstep. Here we've just left behind a small modern estate. Parttime dog managed to sneak into the photo.

I spotted these cottages on our second walk when I'd gotten a bit lost. (I'm forever getting lost on bike rides and walks. Not properly lost, I'm always vaguely aware of where I am, but sometimes I'm not sure exactly how I'll get back to where I want to be. And then suddenly there will be a road or landmark I recognise and I'll go 'oh so that's where I am'. Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle suddenly falling into place. It's actually quite good fun.)
I had no idea what they were at first. There is a Latin inscription above the central door which I couldn't make out, but then B., who thought they were farmers' cottages but rather grande, saw on the photo that above the bench there is an inscription in English. They are almshouses which were built by the Oakes family, who lived in Nowton in the 19th century and I think owned the house in Nowton Park.
They are not the only spectacular almshouses around here - there are some lovely ones in Hawstead too. I have just bought an Ordnance Survey map of this area on eBay (yes, I have lived in Bury St. Edmunds for almost 18 years and don't own an OS map from around here!) and plan to find a walk around there sometime too.

This is looking back on the road I've just come from. Lovely, quiet and rural, and yet you're only a mile or so from the hustle and bustle of the town center.

This is a little crossroads in Nowton, the house actually stands in, or rather on the edge of, Nowton Park where the walk ended. The sign post has a large oak tree in remembrance of the Oakes family. 

I have known Nowton Park for a long time as it is right next to the school where J. used to teach. They have an amazing avenue with millions of daffodils in the Spring which I think I may have posted a photo of on this blog in the past. (They're just about to flower again.) I'm really enjoying finding out about the history of this area that I know so well. With the days getting longer and not long now till the clocks go back, I think that OS map is going to get a lot of use (and parttime dog a lot of exercise).
This weekend I'm back to my bike ride - I haven't been on the bike for I think 5 weeks and I've missed it. Annoyingly, we've had some lovely weather here in the last few weeks, even a proper Spring day earlier this week, but now it's gone colder again and they're predicting snow and yet again, cold easterly winds - just in time for Sunday's bike ride.... now where's my hat?