Last updated September 26, 2011

East Anglia Seaside Resorts

Kings Lynn to Southend

The Peterborough Passport plaza was the first call on this leg of the trip. After weeks of nervous preparation of documents and photographs, the passport renewals were a minor formality and by 12:30 we were on the road again. In the meantime we did visit Queensgate Mall and the adjacent open air market and ate a lusty lunch in little car. We did a little shopping in the mall but were not too well impressed with the experience and pretty much just browsed. Weather-wise, the fog was gone and in it's place was a biting wind with intermittent rain showers. Accordingly, we fairly rushed through the open air market even though great looking pork pies were spotted in several places.

Talking with Burnham John the previous day, we had become convinced that we had never given the East coast of England a fair shake. Thus it was that the next two days were assigned to checking out the coastal towns of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex counties - at least this would be a start on the southern end. Again, the recurring obstacle to easy travel enjoyment was the chronic shortage of parking. Many features and often entire towns, including Diss, Cromer and Aldeburgh for example, were passed up simply because there was nowhere to stop let alone anywhere to park for an hour or so. Too bad. The weather also remained pretty unfriendly, overcast with strong winds and temperatures in the thirties. However, we thoroughly enjoyed the drive and the scenery and, even when we did find a parking spot, the weather minimized the time spent outside. The views here are the headland at the north end of Hunstanton and the beach at Wells-Next-The-Sea, each with my reluctant windsock substitute.

Great Yarmouth

This day ended up in Great Yarmouth where we enjoyed the best Fish and Chips of the entire trip - the fish was large and greasy and the chips thick and soggy, perfect! Great Yarmouth, like most other resorts that we spent any time in, appeared to be wrestling with the changing mores of the holidaymaking public and the formidable drink-drive legislation introduced in recent years. Street crime and drugs may also be a contributing factor if the frequent warning given to us as we moved around the country were anything to go by.

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Our coastal car cruise continued on the following day with visits to Lowestoft and Clacton-on-Sea. The weather was a little kinder and there was a little sun although the cold and the wind prevailed.

Lowestoft

Lowestoft is in the County of Suffolk, the County we lived in at the time we emigrated to the US nearly 30 years ago. The main industry prior to 1960 was fishing, with herring, cod, skate, plaice and haddock forming the core of the catch. Unfortunately, poorly regulated over fishing diminished fish stocks to such an extent that the fleet was largely gone by the mid-sixties. Other, unrelated businesses also failed over the following years leaving the town increasingly dependent on servicing North Sa oil rigs and seaside holidaymakers.

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From Lowestoft, we continued south to Clacton-on-Sea but were diverted along the way when we caught sight of the ruins of Leiston Abbey. A quick U-turn and here we were back in the thirteen hundreds!

Leiston Abbey Remains

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Clacton-on-Sea

The current Clacton was much different than the one we remembered from occasional visits in the fifties. Another seaside resort, struggling to adapt to cheap and plentiful air travel siphoning off the lions share of holidaymakers to Spain and beyond, Clacton is turning - or has turned - into a retirement center. Many of the formerly threadbare hotels along the seafront are now filled with year round senior citizens and this population shift has tempered the flavor of many of the attractions.

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Southend-on-Sea

Southend is less than 40 miles from London and is the closest seaside location for east London and, when the railroad linked London and Southend around 1850, the flow of holidaymakers to the area was greatly increased. Southend-on-Sea is actually something of a fraud. First, it is not "on-Sea". It is actually on the north shore of the Thames estuary and although it is tidal, it is technically on the river. Second, there never was such a place as Southend historically. The area was at the south end of the village of Prittlewell and just happened to be on the river. As the area became more used the "south end" of Prittlewell morphed into Southend and subsequently swallowed Prittlewell administratively, along with several other local communities. Finally, the famous Southend Pier is actually in Westcliff-on-Sea, another township absorbed by Southend. The pier is the longest pleasure pier in the world at 1.3 miles and has had a turbulent history with fires and shipwrecks. A diesel-electric train service runs from end to end. Click here for a highly readable history.

Another famous Southend institution is the Kursaal. The fortunes of the Kursaal somewhat parallel the fortunes of 20th century Southend and many other coastal town that were dependent on  holiday visitors.

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And onto London, the North Circular Road and Ascot for the New Year. During this journey we saw the first of what is becoming an increasingly common sight in London and other big cities - a substantial pub given over to a McDonalds Restaurant. Several more were spied on or loop around London, including the Yorkshire Grey at Eltham Green. Some sort of progress, I suppose.

 

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