Friday, March 30, 2012

Day 3 - Part 2 - Langham Glass and Holkam, Black Boys Hotel

Following our tour of Norwich Cathedral we head fairly directly back to 38 St Giles, though I can’t resist a bit of a closer look at the covered market along the way.  We consider seeing whether the car hire people can come and pick us up, but in the end decide we’ll just call a cab and be done with it. Good decision.  Our taxi arrives in due course and is a lovely comfy new vehicle.  I feel pangs of regret at leaving Norwich as we pass over a bridge and I see the Norwich playhouse by the water. So much we have had to leave unexplored.
We have a lovely chat along the way and for a second time today Blickling Hall is enthusiastically recommended as a very special place. We will have to try hard to visit there.
It’s after 2pm by the time we are departing from Enterprise Car Rentals on the Cromer Road. We successfully navigate the rather complex roundabout and instruct tomtom to take us to Sculthorpe Boulevard, Fakenham.
It’s a very pleasant drive and we enjoy seeing open range pig farms with lots of little huts for each pig to retreat to. There’s a sign up saying something like “Better conditions. Be proud of British Pork”.  It would certainly appear that piggy lifestyles are vastly superior to what we’ve been seeing in the media at home.  I resolve to include an extra level of enjoyment to my enthusiastic pork consumption over coming days.
We also note with enjoyment the flint construction in the village of Guist. There are beautiful scenes along the way but not a lot of time or for that matter safe stopping opportunities.  Indeed I find that doing justice to the lovely Norfolk villages and landscape is something of a photography challenge. They have a charm and ambience that is very hard to capture.
In due course Tomtom has us turning into a low key industrial development and we have no problem locating Langham Glass.  We um and ah over the selection and to be honest our enthusiasm isn’t helped by observing that the glass shelves are covered in a pretty reasonable layer of dust.  I tell myself that this is irrational, but it really takes the edge of the appeal of the product. Eventually I opt for a kune kune pig as per daughter 2’s request, a whelk for daughter 1 who is really into the ocean and for myself a small Gloucester Old Spot pig and a cute hedgehog.  We are browsing for quite a while and there are a good number of people around who clearly work here but we are completely ignored. This continues well beyond the time when we place our selection on the counter to suggest we’d rather like to buy them. Finally someone deigns to turn attention to us and our transaction slowly proceeds.  We consider whether we should just post our purchases home, but it’s a weight calculation and it would cost rather a lot so we opt for taking them with us.  I have to say that Langham Glass really lets itself down on the visitor experience.  Quite disappointing really.
It’s only a half hour across to the coast and it’s a glorious day so we decide we’ll head on over there for a reccie before heading into Aylsham.  Tom tom is instructed and she cheerfully proceeds to direct us to the locked gate of what we think is an army facility.  It’s not in vain however because just off the road a couple of what I believe are corncrakes wandering about. :o)  We rudely ignore tomtom for a bit until she comes to her senses once we regain the main drag where we came in.
We enjoy meandering along the quiet country lanes.  Tomtom is doing spendidly. I have no idea whether she selected the most sane route, but she takes us through North Creake  and we appreciate it because North Creake is a very lovely flint village.
Along the way there is plentiful birdsong and we see our first pheasants which is very exciting!
At Holkam NNR the pay and display car park has lots of cars and a lot of people are in the process of returning to their cars and heading home. It’s after 4:30 but still clear and bright. One little girl is wrapped in a towel and has clearly been swimming.  Nice day but still quite cold and I guess the water would be cold too. People here are made of sterner material than me that’s for sure. There are birds everywhere and I bitterly regret not having remembered to pick up my binoculars when leaving for the airport. Sigh. Not to worry. We’re doing OK on the bird front anyway.  We decide to just walk to the beach lookout for today then head in to book into our accommodation before it gets too late.
The walk is pleasant and quick. The sea shines blue in the distance. Both time and knee demand we skip the rather lengthy trek to the water from here!

As we approach Aylsham we are struck by the contrasting character of the properties we pass, many of whom have large parcels of land and well tended grounds. Aylsham is presenting very nicely indeed. It doesn’t hurt that we drive right past Blickling Hall either. This positive impression continues and we easily locate The Old Pump House and get settled in with a warm greeting from our host, Marc.  A leisurely cup of coffee and cake for hubby (I display a rare moment of self restraint) then we’re off to Black Boys hotel for some dinner.
We are soon settled at our table in the dining room and hubby is being quizzed as to his beer preference. A long list is provided and naturally we’ve got no pre-existing knowledge of any of them. “What’s the one brewed closest to here?” I pipe up.  “oh, that would be Wherry”.  Wherry it is and again hubby pronounces positive judgement on the local drop.  Apparently he’s not the first to think well of Wherry.  Googling it to check the spelling it appears that this is an award winning beer.
We start with some complimentary breads for the table and chilled water.  We have been warned about portion sizes here but none-the-less we each order two courses.  I go for the Brancaster Moules Mariniere with accompanying bread followed by bangers and mash. Sides of steamed vegetables delivered separately.  Hubby has chosen Leek and potato soup followed by lamb shank and mash.
I won hands down on the entre front. The local mussels arrived in a veritable mountain. This proves not to be as big a problem as I first though. Each shell fish is small and tender and flavoursome. They have been cooked in what appears to be almost pure cream though wine is evident in the flavor along with onion and seasonings. It is totally delicious. Two thumbs up!  Hubby’s soup is also nice but it’s just not in the race with my daily special.
Main courses were also lovely in the meat and mash element. The accompanying sea of gravy was also very flavourful, but there was a gross excess of oil with it.  A strategy of constructing a moat from the potato to control the level of oil and gravy in each mouthful worked quite successfully. We’re too full for dessert.  This is apparently the norm.
It’s just a short walk back to the Old Pump House and we happily settle for the night. 

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