Tag Archives: pier

Cromer Pier

We manged to find a parking space within striking distance of the pier this time, though I decided not to go all the way down the ramp to the pier. Downhill walking isn’t good for bad knees – I know this from past experience. And then there would have been the problem of getting back up to the top.

I like Cromer, but I do think they could have built the pier in a more convenient place. Next to a car park, for instance. (This, if I’d known, was to become something of a motif over the next few days).

About 500 yards from the end of the pier a very strange shipwreck took place on 9th August 1888 when the paddle steamer Victoria  hit a church tower. Yes, that’s right, a ship sank after hitting a church tower. It actually wedged itself on the tower of the lost village of Shipden – originally lost to the sea in the late 13th century. Even then, it didn’t actually sink until they used dynamite to remove the tower and blew a hole in the bottom of the steamer.

That has little to do with the pier, but it’s such a great piece of trivia I felt you’d excuse me.

There have been a number of piers in Cromer. The first one known was mentioned in a document of 1390. Several have been destroyed – one by a storm and one by a ship. The current one was opened in 1902.

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Cromer Pier – a fine looking pier

It’s a fine looking pier, even from a distance, and a tribute to the owners (North Norfolk District Council) and the amount of work they have done to keep it up to standard. It’s recently been cut in half by a drifting barge (1993) and damaged by a storm surge in 2013.  Other people obviously like it too, it’s been Pier of the Year in 2000 and 2015.

It claims to be “One of only five UK seaside pier’s with a full working, flourishing theatre and home to the only end of pier show of it’s kind in the World!”.  I don’t want to get into an argument about it, as I don’t have any evidence one way or the other, or know what the definition of an end of the pier show is. I’m also suspicious about anything using the words “of it’s kind”.

Apart from the obvious problem of weasel words being used by a marketing team there’s the problem of apostrophe abuse. If they can get their apostrophes wrong, what else can you get wrong?

Even without the pier Cromer would be an interesting place. This is the Hotel de Paris. After photographing the pier all I needed to do was turn round and take this picture.

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Hotel de Paris – Cromer

It was originally opened in 1830 by Pierre le Françoise, who had come to England as a child when his family fled the revolution in France.  It was successful and several notable people stayed – including Edward VII and Oscar Wilde (though probably not together).

I looked it up on the Internet – prices seem quite reasonable. We may be back.

 

 

Hunstanton Pier

It looks good in the picture doesn’t it? What more could you want in a pier? Well, a bit of length wouldn’t go amiss – it doesn’t actually reach the sea.

Hunstanton Pier from the side - can you see the problem?

Hunstanton Pier from the side – can you see the problem?

l must have been going to Hunstanton for around 50 years, often unwillingly, as my parents forced me to tour Sandringham, Norfolk Lavender and a variety of other boring horrors. As a youngster all I required was sand and water, progressing to arcades and birds as I grew older. Stately homes, lavender and art sales did nothing for me.

It’s a nice place but not really an aspirational destination for anyone under 40. It has a sensory garden, a blue crab scheme (blue crabs stencilled by drains to remind you that pouring unpleasant things down the drains is bad for wildlife on the beach)  and a catering outlet called Tubbie’s. The grammar is confusing, maybe even dodgy but the food is cheap and stodgy, and, as it says on the side “Tubbilicious”. Four freshly cooked doughnuts and two very nice coffees cost £3.

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A very fine takeaway

Tubby, or Tubbie, is a well-rounded man, though Julia was not totally impressed. Let’s face it, she’s been a bit spoiled in that department. I’m not just Tubby, I look like I eat tubby men for breakfast.

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Four doughnuts for £1 – diabetes for free

The pier was opened in 1870 and was 830 feet long. By 1882 a steamer service travelled between Skegness and Hunstanton.

In 1939 the pavilion was destroyed by fire, and as there were more pressing things to do, it was never repaired. I imagine that the pier was breached in 1940 as an anti-invasion measure and after that it just deteriorated. They built a new arcade in 1964, which is the one I remember, though I’m not sure I actually remember the pier extending out to sea.

The pier was destroyed by a storm in 1978 and the arcade burnt down in 2002, which is when the new arcade was built. In 2012 an application was made to the National Lottery Fund for £7.5 million to build a new pier, but as you can see, it was not successful.

It was a pleasant few hours, and, as you will see in days to come, the town has a lot to offer.

For now I will leave you with a picture of the cliffs.

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Hunstanton Cliffs

Post Code Posts

I’m currently reading Mail Obsession: A Journey Round Britain by Postcode by Mark Mason. It will be reviewed in due course. First I have to finish it, then it has to come to the front of the queue. I have a copy, so I could have photographed it, but I’ve lifted it off Amazon because I’m lazy.

Mail Obsession: A Journey Round Britain by Postcode

 

This gave me an idea.

I’m already ticking piers off the list, and am committed to writing about it, but I need something else to do in the gaps. Something that helps me practice writing but doesn’t involve me in travel, as I don’t currently have the time or the money.

So, instead of travelling round Britain by postcode, I’m going to write posts based on the parcels I’ve addressed. It will be a bit hit or miss, as  it depends on how many orders we get, who packs them and how fast I go.

It’s not very adventurous, but if I want a life of adventure I’ll buy a bike and cycle to work round the Ring Road.

Today we start with GU 22, BS 20 and BL 5.

The town giving its name to the GU code is Guildford, and GU 22 is Woking. I’m sure I’ve been there in the past but a lot of those Southern places look the same to me. Woking is claimed to be the site of the oldest purpose built mosque in the UK (1879), and the oldest purpose built crematorium .

Apparently 13 holders of the Victoria Cross have been cremated here. And a horse. They burned the horse for practice in 1879 then waited for cremation to be declared legal in 1884. It seems a strange business model – building a specialist facility for something that isn’t legal.

BS 20 is next. BS is Bristol, and number 20 is specifically Portishead, North Somerset. I started to take an interest when I saw a reference to Portishead Pier, but it appears just to have been a working steamer pier. That’s a useful thing, but not as interesting as a pier with chips and amusements.

Time to get No 2 son to work now, so must shoot off.

The Piers of Lowestoft

There are two piers at Lowestoft – the South Pier and the Claremont Pier. The Claremont Pier is, I assume, named after something or someone named Claremont, but none of the published sources seem to mention who it is. Confusingly, the South Pier is, according to my map, north of the Claremont.

This called for some heavy-duty lucubration. (Yes, I’ve been reading that website again).

Things fell into place with a quick look on Google Maps. The South Pier, though North of the Claremont Pier, is actually South of the North Pier. The North and South Piers are the concrete breakwaters that form the harbour.

Like so many words, we expect quite a lot of it and it means at least three things.

This becomes clearer when you start to walk along the South Pier, which, in some ways,  isn’t a pier – it’s just concrete. There are no legs, no boards and no sight of the sea underfoot. Chris Foote Wood, in Walking Over the Waves, is considers that it isn’t really a pier at all. However, as he points out, the National Piers Society says it is, and they have the final word on the subject.

The South Pier is quite good, apart from the puzzling name and the lack of legs and stuff. When you drive up to it, it appears to be quite an elegant Edwardian building situated conveniently close to a large car park. As you park, you notice that the elegant pavilion isn’t part of the pier. It’s actually the East Point Pavilion and, according to the internet is only 25 years old.

Ah well!

The South Pier has a traditionally garish front (I speak only for my lifetime – obviously if I was Victorian I’d have a different idea of tradition) with plenty of amusements. It then has a concrete deck, a notice about lobster pots, a lifeboat shop and a trawler that is open to the public. We wondered about the lobster pots, and when we saw someone throwing what looked like a keep net into the water Julia asked him about it.

That morning he had caught prawns and shrimps (which I thought were the same thing) and some crabs. He does catch lobsters now and then, which was a surprise as I’d never thought of them being caught off the east coast. He uses bacon as bait. This would work for me too, as I’d be happy to crawl into a net for bacon.

From the pier you can see a massive crane on the other side of the dock. This, according to the internet, is based on the North Pier and is doing construction work.

Unlike many east coast piers, which had sections removed to stop them being used by the Germans (see previous comments) the South Pier couldn’t be breached, though it was damaged by German bombing. Around 20 bombs fell on the harbour, with one falling next to the pier and one destroying the reading room/pavilion.

Lowestoft was bombed 90 times during the war and suffered 261 fatalities. It isn’t much compared to the bombing of London or Germany, but it must have been a massive contrast to the holiday season of 1939 when the town was crammed with holidaymakers and the pier was full of happy faces.

The South Pier is linked to the Claremont Pier by a road train along the sea front. It’s based on Thomas the Tank Engine, though I suspect that Thomas is considerably faster – we used it and had trouble overtaking pedestrians. A pair of joggers actually overtook us.

I was surprised how many people waved at us as we went by. People aren’t normally that pleased to see me. The proprietors of “all you can eat” buffets are particularly not pleased to see me.

The Claremont Pier doesn’t have a buffet but it does host a selection of eating outlets, which mainly seemed closed. I suppose you have to do whatever pays the bills but restaurants that only open in the evening don’t really make for a cheery atmosphere during the day. Nor does an empty roller-skating rink, despite the flashing lights. It really isn’t my sort of thing (I last wore roller skates around 50 years ago, fell down a lot and ended up bruised and annoyed) so I didn’t feel inclined to have a go. That just leaves the amusements, and it was a bit hot for getting excited in a confined, badly ventilated, space.

The pier’s website shows photos of the eating places and bars, and it does seem to be a much brighter place to be when they are open. If I lived 150 miles closer I’d be seriously tempted by their Sunday Lunch offer, though “beef jus” isn’t really my style. I’m a gravy man. The menu for Scott’s, the restaurant that does fish and chips, looks interesting, and seems to be hammering the local Redpoll population. I notice they do that thing where they miss the £ sign off, as it makes food seem cheaper. Looking at their prices you can see why.  Note also that prices are for fish – you have to buy the chips as an extra. I was a bit miffed that the special at Sutton on Sea didn’t include tea. Guess what I think about chips being treated as an extra.

As part of a developing theme, the bulk of the pier is merely a seagull playground. It’s a shame, as the walk is often the best bit of the pier. It can be particularly memorable when accompanied by spongy boards and the fear of plummeting through the broken deck into the sea. Let’s face it, when you’re my size this can be a consideration even on a well-maintained pier.

Felixstowe Pier

The logical next step after Southwold seemed to be Felixstowe. We arrived, had fish and chips (to be covered later), visited Landguard Point, photographed a Martello Tower and, finally, parked by the pier. This was not because I had a plan to accommodate a lot of sight-seeing in one trip, but because I couldn’t remember how to get to the pier.

I don’t have overly fond memories of Felixstowe Pier. We used to go there when visiting Julia’s parents in Suffolk and my clearest memories are a stony beach and architecture that always makes me think of a barrack block in the 1950’s.

It’s all changed now. Apart from the beach – that’s still stony. I don’t mind stony beaches myself but they are cheerless places when you have kids, and I did ache a bit the morning after  I threw myself full length on Hastings beach to stop a shot on goal from one of the kids. Competitive? Me?

The new pier has been open less than a year and cost £3 million. It seems like a bargain for a lovely new amusement arcade, which includes a new carpet, with appropriate logo. Compared to the old Felixstowe Pier this is a magical place, but compared to Southwold it’s a bit basic. An Arcade, some food, a carpet and some railings cannot compete. Even the gulls on the fenced-off  section aren’t enough to raise the game – without people to walk the boards a pier is merely a method to collect guano.

It was once 2,640 feet long, one of the longest piers in the country. It had an electric tramway and a pleasure steamer service operated from the end of the pier, with services to Yarmouth and London.

All went well until 1939, when the Army took a section out of the pier to stop it being used by invading Germans. I’m not really clear why piers were seen as such an important factor in the German invasion. It was probably like the metal collections that resulted in the loss of my grandparents’ garden railings. Rumour has it that we didn’t need all that ironwork, but that it was a way of bringing the reality of war home to the population. The breaching of the piers on the east coast was probably similar, being a propaganda measure rather than a serious military necessity.

After the war the pier was never repaired.

The tramway never ran again and the detached seaward end was eventually demolished. The only reason there is anything running out to sea is because it is too expensive to demolish. Eventually I suppose the whole lot will fall apart, which will be a shame, but despite all the regeneration of the seafront Felixstowe seems destined to be more famous as a container port rather than a holiday destination.

There’s a picture on the internet showing a Short 184 seaplane on the pier after crashing in 1920. Having been a seaplane base in the war Felixstowe was no stranger to aircraft accidents.Though it’s virtually unknown these days the Short was a notable aircraft in its day, with a number of records to its credit.

Felixstowe also saw the crash of the Felixstowe Fury. Having missed the chance to fly the Atlantic non-stop when the Air Ministry decided to leave the attempt to commercial interests, the Fury was being prepared for a record-breaking flight to South Africa when it crashed in the sea off Felixstowe, killing the radio operator. At the time it was the largest seaplane in the world and the largest ever British aircraft. With a wingspan of 123 feet it was 21 feet wider than an Avro Lancaster.

I’ll leave it there because, although I’m fascinated by early aviation, it’s not really anything to do with the pier.

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Felixstowe Pier