A change in the weather

The day breaks with a huge dump of water for an hour, heralding the end of heat and the arrival of cool with grey, blustering skies dampening holiday plans and seaside activities. So it’s onto the Coastline to explore the Norfolk coast by bus.

Finding the bus station in King’s Lynn was an inauspicious start. Google Maps and tourist signs combined to complicate the journey’s start, extending the walk from 10 minutes to over half an hour, before a friendly local, lips & nose pierced with silver graffiti, takes us by hand and leads the way with her elderly charges.

The bus station appeared through the drizzle at the edge of the functional, 60s shopping precinct, with tunnels of cattle seats herding patient lines of greyed, coated ancients, along with the occasional splash of youthful dress & colourful hair, to a neon display for the number 36 to Wells-Next-the-Sea. The single decker arrives after a short wait and gorges on the slow-moving, hokey-cokey of waiting passengers. Off we go. Through the sad streets of downtown KL – Kings Lynn not Kuala Lumpa!

Grey skies, grey weather, grey companions silently stare at the grey landscape through grey windows streaked with chasing trails of snaking droplets and diagonals of shower streams of water. With surprise that anyone wants to leave the warm interior, the bus stops and its passengers push out through the door, out onto the harbour side where others have had the same idea. Car parks are full, the pavement is crowded. Through the gloom, family groups stagger against the drizzle and the powerful gusts of wind off the sea.

There seems to be a distinct lack of cafes. The condensationed windows of the occasional shop unit give a clue, confirmed by the queue waiting to enter. On the streets, punters balance trays of fish & chips or erupting cones of ice cream, sourced from doorways or windows.

The main fun activity for young and old, is squelching about in the silt and mud of the bank

or crabbing from the side of the harbour, the latter with guaranteed, successful results.

Intrepid groups set off up the inlet, the promise of the sands and the wonderful beach huts forcing them against the wind.

Making history in King’s Lynn

I do like Kings Lynn. A small port town in Norfolk on the River Great Ouse – big in history with a long maritime tradition. The core of the old town hugs along one side of the river as it opens out into the Wash. Here, cobbled streets, grand houses and converted warehouses slowly release memories of trading families & merchants, adventurers & seafarers, fishing fleets & river ferries. Focus here and ignore the tangle of modern shopping and faceless homes that surround it.

In the 13th century Kings Lynn was one of England’s foremost ports, trading as it did with the Hanseatic League, a group of cities in Germany. They came with fish, furs, timber, wax & pitch and returned home from Lynn with wool, cloth & salt. In its hey day, vessels moored up in stacks along the river. The Purfleet provided access into the middle of town and was a safe harbour for vessels of all nationalities. The Custom House dominates the quay side, standing out as it does from converted warehouses, storerooms and offices.

This guy is Captain George Vancouver, a famous local seafarer.

Lynn’s top dog merchants built their grand houses and warehouses on King Street with land running down to the river where the water was deeper so large ships could moor at their private quays.

Merchants showed off their wealth in the form of doorways, door knockers, window frames and warehouses.

Of course, such wealth manifested itself in civic projects as well – the Holy Trinity Guildhall was rebuilt in the 1470s and extended over the years.

The first of the two towers of St Margaret’s Church was erected about 1400 to enhance the church and act as an important seamark for ships entering the Wash. On its face a Moon Clock displays the phases of the moon to aid mariners in determining the state of the tides.

There are two market squares in Kings Lynn, both with charters dating from the time of King John to hold markets. They are, rather unimaginatively, called Saturday Market Place and this one – Tuesday Market Place

Old warehouses await redevelopment.

They may have been completed by the time you visit!