I begin my post with the happiness of having had both a recent holiday and a satisfying piece of work on my house to get at least one of the chaotic rooms in order (or at least, having covered over the luminous peach, my eyes no longer bleed on entering the room). It’s amazing how long painting a room can take if only one of you is able to do painting or prep and the other is busy entertaining the borderline stir crazy child in the next room.
Nevertheless, despite the fact the job took 4 days not two, we got it done and headed off to Norfolk for a family holiday. Going to the same place we had been 2 years ago is excellent value as (a) we know where to go; and (b) our son had forgotten it all, so it was all new to him!
I was keen that this holiday would see some more use of my Leica M, and a new, belated addition to my stable, a Leica Q. In addition I took along my Nikon D810 and D750. We stayed in Overstrand, a lovely location on the North Norfolk coast near to Cromer. It has a lovely sandy beach with clear waters off the shore and lots of seafood. It’s also a location perched precariously on the top of an eroding coastline and I knew from a colleague with family in the area that the coast had been pounded by a storm in 2014 which had done much damage.
Nevertheless, the village was much as we remembered it and I was very happy to see the colours of the place in the bright and contrasty summer sun. This brought to mind some of the images I had taken with Fuji X cameras in the same location two years ago. Fuji does do colour in a very attractive way, though not in the only way that’s attractive. Funnily enough, the Leica Q has a different but similarly eye catching palette. Getting back to Overstrand, it’s a very nice location that you could easily stay in for a week and there simply aren’t enough houses or people for the beach to be overwhelmed in the way that other locations along the sea front can. There was ample opportunity during the week to build sandcastle a and run into the sea. The White Horse is a lovely pub with a nice beer garden and great food, it’s well worth a visit.
We did make another visit to see the seals at Blakeney Point via the nice people at Bean’s boats. I took my D810 and Tamron 150-600mm lens and shot the beach in aperture priority with auto ISO set with a minimum shutter speed of 1/640-1/1000.
The Tamron, is a really great lens for casual wildlife photography. It fits in a deep bag with a DSLR and one or two other lenses. In my case I took my Nikon 80-400 (unused) and Nikon 24-70, which I used for some shots of my family and boats passing out through the harbour. I also took along the Leica Q as it is so compact.
The biggest downside with the Tamron is really the resolution, which is good, but not as good as a prime, particularly in the 500-600 range. That said any lack of sharpness in my shots was really a factor of the instability of the waves, though I won’t be as daft as the previous passenger who wrote a trip advisor review claiming the boat should have been kept more steady for his photography (???).
This year, we wanted to spend more time doing things at our son’s pace rather than trying to whizz about seeing everything. In particular, while Holkham beach and surrounds are simply beautiful, we thought we would visit Wells next to the sea instead this time.
This resulted in a seemingly never ending earth for shells, a lovely walk through the river and some great fun flying three kites. Particular mention should go to the look of the beach at Wells which mirrors Holkham, but with beach huts on stilts. It’s very attractive, but can be difficult to appreciate when the beach is packed. People genuinely love these little huts and the amount of attention paid to some of them is scary – they certainly make a spectacular sight. Our journey to Wells had a bizarre end in a local pub where a meal of crab and on my part burger took 3 hours from start to finish. I know it’s busy, but there was a degree of headless chickening going on with the waiting staff. I almost expected someone to emerge from the kitchen muttering about the war or chasing a filigree Siberian hamster*…
On our way to Wells, we stopped at Langham Dome, a WWII anti-aircraft gun training facility that was a forerunner of today’s virtual reality, flight simulators and (I suppose) first person shoot-em-up games. Basically, a film of aircraft approaching would be projected onto the inside of the dome for trainee gunners to practice shooting at. It was in danger of crumbling away (it was in a poor state the last time we saw it) and it’s been extensively restored and turned into a museum, which is worth a visit if you are passing by.
A trip to North Norfolk wouldn’t be complete without a trip on the steam train between holt and Sherringham, which was all the more fun as our son got to climb into the driver’s cabin. Predictably, he was terrified of the firebox (I think he thought he was going to be toasted!) but I think he enjoyed it all the same. I actually made an error in the timing of the steam trains and our journey to Sheringham was via a diesel, which resulted in a bit of a grump from our son.
Nevertheless, he enjoyed the sea front in Sheringham with its fictional sandy beach. There is a sandy beach at Sheringham, but we almost alway visit at a time when the tides are in, leaving a beach of pebbles to sit on (we built a pebble castle). Comedy was provided by the lad of about 16 who went deeper and deeper into the water in search of sand, announcing to his friends and family (and the beach in general) “not here, ow, more pebbles!”
Regardless of the pebbles, there’s something so exemplary of the British sea side experience of people sitting about, waiting for the sandy beach to appear. It probably helps that the sea front in Sheringham is so pretty, though patience is required to put up with the walk from the station to the promenade, which sometimes resembles a scene from “Shaun of the Dead” (I’m becoming a Londoner at heart… 😉 ).
On the return journey we picked up the steam train and of course I took lots of photos with my Leicas. We also visited Sheringham Park which is lovely and also contains an all important playground. In fact the day was only marred by hearing someone in the next compartment on the train smack a child for playing up. I’m aware some people do believe in physical chastisement of children for bad behaviour, but even in the 80s I don’t recall it happening in public.
One afternoon, we decided to head to Cromer, which is a location in transition from the old British seaside to the new. Parts of that transition are welcome – who would object to flood defence repair and everything on the promenade being repaired and painted? But all too often this involves the sweeping away of features and people that were the character of the location.
In our visit, we wanted to see the promenade and the pier (both Victorian). It’s fair to say the promenade is currently a tidied up building site. The work I mention above has been suspended for the summer months, but many of the older buildings are crumbling and the railings were mainly temporary structures. There was an odd air of “mad max by sea” in the scene by the crumbling and closed toilets that are part of the 1930s beach shelters.
Moving on down to the pier, it has been tidied and extensively painted since our last visit in 2011. Our son found the walk boring, perhaps because the lifeboat station at the end of the pier was closed, but the views along the shore and of the town were magnificent, all the more so for a dramatic group of clouds that swept in as we walked. I would have loved to spend an hour trying to fish for crabs off the pier, but time and the patience of our son did not allow such frivolity.
Our course the “storm of the century” swept in on the Friday (really a bit of a damp squib – it just rained for 24 hours), so we decamped to Felbrigg hall, which I have no photos of, but was a really interesting location to visit. Very nice cakes too. Before the storm hit, we had been for a walk along the cliff path toward Cromer past the golf course. I had walked the same route earlier in the week in sunnier weather and the views are spectacular. Sadly, I had forgotten how close the path runs to the golf course (I was trying to work out if the cliff had eroded to bring it closer), so I was treated to a golf ball whizzing past my leg with an almost apologetic shout of “fore” from the tee. Being a kind soul 🙂 I pointed out the final resting place of the ball and carried on to where the path turns into a bit of a jungle. There were the remains of some old buildings in amongst all the ferns and brambles but the real interest was the views and wildlife with birds and insects galore and I was even lucky enough to see a bird of prey fly off from some of the gorse growing on the cliff.
On our way home we decided to visit Baconsthorpe Castle. This is a ruined great medieval house that was more of a stately home than a fortification. Nonetheless the site was very beautiful with a nearby mere and the storm clouds overhead. It’s not a location with a visitor centre, indeed we reached it down a farm track, but if you can use your imagination and know about both castles and houses from that period, it is a great place to visit. Fortunately our son has a fascination with castles, so this visit proved popular… Comedy was provided by me and my son getting out of the car on arrival and the last wave of the storm arriving at exactly that point. This led to a comedic wrestle to get back into the car on my part. My son was ok but in getting him into the car I was drenched and successfully made the car smell like wet dog on our journey home.
All in all a great trip, and I really enjoyed being next to the sea, the sun, the beaches and the food. I was extremely happy with both my M240 and my D810 on this trip. I used both to take lots of pictures and both are very instinctive and fun to use. It’s fair to say taking the Tamron 150-600 was a great move, it’s a perfect lens for those who shoot at distance rarely but want at least good to very good results. The little Leica Q is also an impressive camera and, mostly, has displaced the RX1R in my affections. Once you factor in the ease of its wifi connection, it’s a bit like having a full frame smartphone camera. More on that in another post though.
Taken with my Nikon D810, Nikon D750, Leica M240 and Leica Q. Lenses used were various (you can click through to Flickr for the details).
*gratuitious Fawlty Towers reference…