As you wander along the seafront there are circles embedded in the pathway. Inscribed in these are comments about Cromer from famous people. From an eleven year old Winston Churchill comes the anguished comment, “I am not enjoying myself very much.”
Written in 1892, only seven years later Oscar Wilde took a different view, “I find Cromer excellent for writing, golf better.” Like most places some people will like what Cromer offers and some will wish they’d gone elsewhere. The people who shouldn’t come are those looking for glitz, bling, a bustling nightlife and a frenetic atmosphere. Those seeking a smaller seaside town with a good blue flag accredited beach, tea shops in abundance creating home-made pies and scones will like the town. It’s big enough to have things to see but not big enough that you won’t see it all. Using it as a resort one day and then as a jumping off point to see other attractions of north Norfolk would seem the best way to treat the town.
It has advantages as far as I am concerned. There is no Starbucks, no Pizza Hut, KFC or Burger King. It has few chain representatives. Most are local shops such as Digby’s which just happens to have rather good chocolate and sweets to buy. It even has its own, one-man-band boutique brewery, Poppyland, with beers like Smokehouse Porter, Winston’s Temper and Over the Hill. You won’t find these easily in other parts of our countries.
Whichever way you enter Cromer, the tower of the parish church dominates the landscape. Supposedly the tallest in Norfolk it is an imposing structure but so are other churches. The Methodist church is a mixture of flint and red stone; small but it’s hard to not to look at it as you pass by.
Most people will come to Cromer because it is a seaside resort. Perched atop cliffs, it looks down over a sandy, kilometre long beach which is broken in two by the Edwardian pier. Even in the middle of winter the beaches were scrupulously clean. Looking from the cliffs onto the pier the beach huts and the sand it did justify its “picture postcard” reputation. North of it there are cliffs coming down to the beach and, if your accommodation is here, be aware that the steps and pathways down are steep. here you’ll see multicoloured beach hits, some bearing names like Kittiwake and The Wendy House Mk II! On the south side of the pier the beaches are wider, sandier apart from the pebbles by the path and it’s not as steep although if you come up by the RNLI station, some might disagree with me.
The very first pier in Lowestoft dates back to 1390 and many more have been built since then. the present one is a century old and is being renovated at the moment so the sound of drills humming and men working will greet you. It will be finished in time for the new season – in fact by spring it is claimed. Nonetheless, you can still wander along it and past the Pavilion Theatre which has been running regular end of the pier shows for decades. It will be there again this year.
Just down from the pier is the Henry Blogg Museum. Most of you – and I was one – will never of heard of the man but when I tell that during his time as cox of the local lifeboat he won more awards than any other lifeboatman in history you will appreciate his life was somewhat special. In all he won the Georg Cross, the British Empire Medal, three RNLI gold medals and four silver ones for gallantry. But the museum is more than about him. It tells the story of the RNLI and the changes that have happened over its long service. Outside it on the beach are fishing boats reminding you that Cromer is still a working seaside town.
There is one other museum in the town, the local Cromer Museum. Small and found next to the tall towered parish church, it tells the story of the town but its prized exhibit is the fossil of part of an elephant which roamed over Norfolk thousands of years ago. If you travel to Cromer by train, show your ticket and the entrance fee is halved to £1.75.
Near the Henry Blogg museum is where the fishermen return. You can’t come to Cromer without trying the local delicacy – in this case succulent Cromer crabs which can buy dressed at different fishmongers, served in restaurants and cafes or you can tackle the job yourself. You’ll be bound to see people on the pier trying to catch their own.
Virtually just outside the town is the Amazonia, a south American attraction that isn’t really a zoo. It calls itself an experience but I must confess I don’t understand this tourist “speak.” It doesn’t matter either because as long as you enjoy yourself – and you will – what does it matter what it is called.
Only two miles away is Felbrigg Hall, a National Trust property
For those of you who are attracted by the railway lure then there a quite a few in north Norfolk. You could start at the end of the platform in Cromer where you will find an old signal box and a small fenced area in which old signals and other equipment can be seen. And in the summer months a train of sorts; all right a disguised vehicle called the Cromer Road Runner will take visitors around.
The nearest two are the Bure Vally and Poppy Lines. The Bure Valley 15 inch narrow gauge Steam Railway which runs from Wroxham to Aylesham is less than hour an hour’s car journey away or you catch the mainline train to Wroxham as the Bure Valley line is adjacent to the station. The Poppy Line runs from nearby Sheringham to Holt.
And if you’re going to Cromer in August remember the Cromer Carnival (www.cromercarnival.co.uk) which, this year, will take place from the 17-23rd of August. Slightly misnamed because in the weeks preceding the carnival there are also the widely known Children’s Weeks so, in the end, much of August is carnival time.
For more information about Cromer, click here.