Retirees Go Abroad – Oxford and Cambridge – On Our Own Again

Retirees Go Abroad – Oxford and Cambridge

On Our Own Again

Rod and Kerry were up early to catch a flight to Spain out of Stansted while we snored away but they were kind enough to sound their horn to inform us of their successful departure. We rose leisurely and got ready to vacate the room. The day was fine and for some reason Kerry wanted to go to the beach. The feeling passed and went to breakfast in a small café in the village (I’m sorry this is a town not a village). But it really does feel like an old rural village, untouched by the industrial revolution and reminiscent of earlier times. We finished breakfast and the need to go to the beach returned. So out came the National Trust Handbook and we found Blickling Estate at Aylsham in Norfolk.

The National Trust Handbook says of Blickling

“Nobody ever forgets their first sight of Blickling.  The breath-taking red-brick mansion and ancient yew hedges sit at the heart of a magnificent garden and historic park in the beautiful Bure meadows.” It is true. This is a stunning house in equally stunning gardens.

The Hand book goes on to say “Explore the house, with its nationally important book collection, and hear the real voices of the servants who once worked ‘downstairs’. Blickling’s owners have used the estate as a place of quiet refuge, while playing their part on the world’s political stage.  From ambassadors and airmen, to kings’ mistresses, its complex and sometimes tragic family history has been tainted by debt and social ambition.”

The Estate played a key role in the 2nd World War. RAF Oulton was a bomber base created on the Blickling Estate in 1939. The station was instrumental in winning the war, as documented by the Luftwaffe themselves. You can visit the museum and see artefacts from that period.

The manor of Blickling is recorded in the Domesday Book. Its owners have included Sir John Fastolf and Geoffrey Boleyn, grandfather of Anne Boleyn, the ill-fated wife of Henry VIII. The present red-brick mansion was built 1616-24 by Robert Lyminge (the architect of Hatfield) for Sir Henry Hobart, 1st Baronet, Lord Chief Justice to James I.

A tour of the house includes “upstairs” and “downstairs” but the house is best known for its library the finest library held by the National Trust. It is made up of 12,000 books collected mainly between 1720 and 1730 in the great book sales that took place in England and Europe at that time. It is held in the Long Gallery, a 123 foot long gallery built by Sir Henry Hobart in 1629 for exercise during bad weather. The Long Gallery is outstanding for its elaborately intricate Jacobean plasterwork ceiling. The bulk of the large library was collected in the 18th century by Sir Richard Ellys of Nocton. The Fist Earl of Buckinghamshire who had inherited the library from his distant relative had the bookcases installed to hold the library in or about 1745 relegating the full length portraits he had commissioned for the gallery in 1729 to the rest of the house. There is plenty more to know about this house and estate and you can read this at

Lord Lothian Ambassador to the USA at the time of WWII was the last private owner of the house. He was instrumental in persuading President Roosevelt to enter the war against Germany and the Axis Powers. On his death the house and the estate were bequeathed to the National Trust.

We took a walk through the gardens. It was very serene. The gardens have been set up with formal paths and interesting informal paths and each sector although containing the same mixtures of trees and bushes seemed to have its own identity. I’ll give you a tip – the secret garden is no secret any longer – it is sign posted. I will let you enjoy the photos.

Aylsham is close enough to the East Anglian coast to justify Kerry saying “Let’s stay at the beach!” We got some local knowledge from one of the assistants at Blickling and headed to Cromer, a typical English beachside resort town with a pier. We drove into the town around 4.00pm as we had been told that it would be no trouble to pick up cheap accommodation as the summer break had finished. Well I don’t know on what facts that advice was based but it was far from true. We drove around Cromer twice without any luck (except for one place that wanted 169 quid for the room for the night). I even tried phoning the proprietor of one B&B who had left a message on the front door that he was away for the moment and to telephone him. Two days later he called back – he had been away on holidays!

Anyway, we drove along the coast to Sheringham, a pretty seaside village with no pier but it did have accommodation and views of the sea. So we dropped anchor and took a walk around the beach defences (all concrete rocks and pebble beach with timber breakwaters/groins) into the village. Kerry restrained herself until we had walked all through the village to return to the penny arcade where we spent a fortune (well a lot of time) feeding tuppenny coins into the machines. She got so carried away nearly all the cafes and restaurants had closed so we went to the Lobster Hotel where they did not have any Lobster, but we got fed and watered. The next morning after another walk along the sea front and booking out we walked up to the rail station for the North Norfolk Steam Railway. The website will give you the story but here is what it says about the railway;

The North Norfolk Railway offers far more than just a train ride, experience yesterday tomorrow with a day out travelling through some of Norfolk’s stunning coastal countryside.

The railway operates both steam and diesel trains, see the timetable for dates and times, and make a day of it with our great value rover ticket!

There’s lots of other things as well as the train ride, including meals aboard The North Norfolk maneducation days, numerous special events throughout the year. This is all helped by our supporting charity, The Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway Society.”

They have 10 steam locos, 9 of which are in service. If you get excited about steam engines then have a look on the website. We bought a return ticket to Holt and jumped aboard the train. The restored station included all the usual baggage and paraphernalia you would expect a café, gift shop and history room. The rolling stock was impeccable and the locos restored to within an inch of their lives. The journey was enjoyable and brought back memories of the journey through the Yorkshire moors from Whitby to Pickering (Heartbeat country)

When the train ride finished we had a 4 hour trip back to Long Eaton. If there is one thing to know about the East country (Lincolnshire and Norfolk) there are no motorways which makes travel times longer but the scenery is grander.


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Retired Australian Lawyer having worked representing the innocent and the not so innocent in Australia and some of the remote parts of the world and having travelled widely through Europe, Western Russia, Canada, USA, New Zealand, Thailand Malaysia Solomon Islands northern China, Hong Kong and the UAE So now that I have the time I am writing about my travels present and past. Hope you enjoy exploring off the beaten track.