This Summer, we decided to spend a couple of nights on the North Norfolk Coast for our Summer Hols. Well, why not… it’s got everything – sea, sand, great food and plenty to do. (Plus, unlike last years holibobs, it’s just hop, skip and a jump back home at the end, instead of a 9-hour Endurance Marathon of Hell via London. And that’s got to be good).
Excitingly, we also decided to give the new Bell tents at The Grove in Cromer a go and ‘glamp’ (camping but with slightly more creature comforts).
Choosing the last weekend in July, we couldn’t get our tent until after lunch but we journeyed out early anyway, deciding to make the most of our Norfolk adventure. We’d read about ‘The Enchanted Railway’ taking place on the Wells & Walsingham Light Railway (WWLR) this Summer. It ticked all the best boxes – miniature steam train, fairies, views of the countryside – so we thought we’d give it a go.
Though we’ve visited Walsingham loads of times, it was actually really nice to travel there as if tourists – making it our sole ‘destination’ for the day. The weather was glorious and we had a great lunch (and some very good cakes) at Norton’s Café Bar – situated at The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, and enjoyed a lovely stroll right around the village, which is exceptionally pretty with many marvellous old buildings.
The ‘Enchanted Railway’ was very sweet. It was our first ride on the WWLR (the longest 10¼” narrow gauge steam railway in the world) and the journey from Walsingham to Wells and back took us through lovely Norfolk countryside, with stunning views. Along the route were Fairy houses hidden on the banks and by the bridges that we had to spot, identify and check off a sheet we’d been given. A lovely thing to do.
After Walsingham, we drove along the coast to Cromer, arriving late afternoon to get booked, and settled, in.
The Grove really had thought of everything at their ‘glamp’-site. Inside our Bell tent was an inviting-looking double bed with proper duvet and pillows, etc., a set of very groovy ‘camping’ cot-style bunk beds for the boys and even a little wood-burning stove. Outside was a cooking and eating area covered with a gazebo where you found a camping grill, cool-box, water container, etc. Pretty much everything you’d need to cook and eat with is supplied with your tent, and a block for washing up is only a short walk away (as is the wash block with toilet, shower, etc.).
The handful of tents (named after Norfolk cheeses – ours was ‘Binham Blue’) were arranged in a circle around a couple of fire-pits for more ambitious (almost certainly communal) camp-fires.
The first night – a lovely, clear, summery evening, we took the path through the woods to Cromer beach and strolled along to enjoy a wonderful sunset. We also toasted marshmallows on the previously-mentioned communal fire with some of the other campers. A perfect start to a lovely Norfolk camping holiday.
Unfortunately, that’s where our stay on the Norfolk coast started to go a bit downhill…
We awoke to a slightly cooler day, with heavy rain forecast for later. Not the news you want when you’re camping.
However, being hardy and British, we refused to let that get us down and spent a lovely morning on West Runton beach, digging in the sand (we actually dug a channel from the see to our sandcastle – that took some effort, believe me!) and splashing in the sea as the sky became more and more overcast. West Runton is a great beach – wonderfully purist with no bells and whistles – just lots of lovely sand and surf. Plus some pretty good rocks for rock pooling when the tide’s out.
The imposing weather and the swiftly incoming tide (it does come in fast on the Norfolk coast) forced our retreat.
And then the rain came down.
And not just any rain. This was the veritable ‘Marks and Spencer’ of rain. Full-on from every direction, with wind to back it up.
It literally put the dampers on… well, pretty much everything. It was so grand and multi-directional that we couldn’t even shelter in the gazebo-covered outside seating bit beside out tent. Everything outside got absolutely soaked.
Fortunately, at The Grove, there was a ray of sunshine in the heated indoor swimming pool. So we spent the afternoon in there, which the kids loved.
On Saturday evening, we ventured (by car!) back to Cromer and dined downstairs at No. 1 Cromer (Cockle Popcorn – mmmmm). We even strolled out onto a very wet Cromer Pier before taking shelter in the arcades (don’t judge – it’s a certified heritage British seaside pastime. Plus it was tipping it down).
Cromer is a marvellous location for a family holiday (even in torrential rain). The Grove campsite is lovely – intimate and hidden away, with everything you need for a brilliant stay, including very easy access to the beach. There is the added bonus of loads of great things to do nearby, including excellent beaches, and lots of superb places to eat.
It’s an exercise I’d definitely repeat (possibly accessing a long-range weather forecast before booking) and one we’d highly recommend.
And as if all that’s not enough, we hear The Grove are upgrading their luxury clamping offering with insulated Nomadic and Mongolian Yurts for the 2016 season. Fabulous.
Click here for further details and booking information.
95 Overstrand Road, Cromer, Norfolk, NR27 0DJ.
Tel: 01263 512412.