East Anglia, Great Yarmouth and Not Many Holiday Memories

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The following morning the weather was surprisingly spectacular for mid May with a big burning sun in the sky and my plan was to see more of Norfolk and to stir up some dormant memories.

We started with the town of Great Yarmouth and I have to report that as we entered the town I didn’t even feel a twitch of nostalgia and I have concluded since that Great Yarmouth was probably not on my Dad’s holiday itinerary most likely because there were amusements and attractions and involved handing over cash.

My dad wasn’t mean it was just that he was careful with money and he wasn’t going to waste it in penny arcades when we could all visit a church for free.

I confess that I have inherited this from him and I too will go to great lengths to avoid such places, those that children are drawn to like bees to nectar but which I cannot wait to pass through as quickly as I possibly can. I especially dislike those pointless children’s rides that do nothing in particular and cost a disproportionate amount of money to the pleasure they seem to provide. I hate them outside supermarkets and in shopping malls and if I were Prime Minister the first thing that I would do is pass a law to make them illegal.

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We began the visit at the site of the old docks where there is a National Trust Museum called the Elizabethan House on what is now called the ‘Historic South Quay’ a name change that is representative of the lengths towns and cities will go to these days to make them sound more interesting and it seems to work because adding the description historic or quarter to a previously run-down area seems to successfully drag the visitors in.

Anyway, it was quite a good museum, quite small really with rooms restored to show how people lived in two important historic times – the Stuarts and the Victorians. It didn’t take long to walk around and I am glad that I didn’t have to pay to go in on account of the fact that my pal is a member of the National Trust and he sneaked me in using his wife’s membership card.

The best feature in the house was the conspiracy room where it is alleged that during the English Civil War the leaders of the Parliamentarians, including Oliver Cromwell himself, met one day and agreed on regicide and pre-determined the fate of King Charles I and there is even a copy of a signed document to prove it.

Across the road from the Museum was a fishing boat museum with free entry, my dad would have liked that and so did I so we made our way to the gang plank entry.

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This was the Lydia Eva the last working steam drifter that is seaworthy and working out of Great Yarmouth.  Now a tourist attraction, not a working boat.  A drifter was a fishing boat that steamed out to the fishing grounds and then turned off the diesel engine, lofted a sail and simply drifted through the a shoal of silver darlings and scooped them up. Simple. Eighty years ago it used to fish for herring in the North Sea but without modern day regulations and quotas and massive over-fishing the Lydia Eva and a fleet of similar boats the fishing industry in Great Yarmouth shot itself in both feet and within just a few years these efficient trawlers had landed so much herring, it is estimated at two million fish a year, that there was simply none left.

It is a similar story to the town where I live, the once great fishing port of Grimsby which was once recognised as the largest and busiest fishing port in the world. The wealth and population growth of the town was also based on the North Sea herring fishery but this collapsed in the middle of the twentieth century and so the ships diversified to distant water grounds fishing targeting instead for cod in the seas around Iceland.  The concessions that Britain made to Iceland as a result of the Cod Wars eventually put these fishing grounds off limit destroyed the fishing industry in the town.  To this day the people of Grimsby don’t particularly care for cod and have a preference for haddock which they consider to be a superior fish.

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Consequently the docks are a rather sad and forlorn place now, abandoned and decrepit, as though everyone left the place one afternoon and left it in a time warp of crumbling buildings, pot holed roads, streets of empty houses, redundant warehouses and a giant ice making factory which is now a listed building that no one cares for as it is slowly demolished by the passing of time

It is a sad story and it is said that many men who survived perishing in a watery grave at sea came home without jobs and drowned instead in beer.

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Anyway, back to Great Yarmouth.  Today the Lydia Eva wasn’t at all busy so I was fortunate enough to enjoy a personal guided tour by an ex-fisherman and sailing enthusiast called Malcolm who escorted me around the ship and introduced me to every single rivet in the boat. It was a very fine vessel, sleek and elegant and with more curves than Marilyn Monroe. It was so good that although it was a free visit when I left I felt compelled to leave a contribution.

We had almost finished with Great Yarmouth now and had an appointment in the nearby city of Norwich but there was an hour or so to spare so we found a pub called ‘Allen’s Bar’ which was run not by Allen but by a man called Gareth who just happened to originate from a town quite close to the birthplace of my Welsh pal so we spent an easy hour down memory lane before moving on.

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14 responses to “East Anglia, Great Yarmouth and Not Many Holiday Memories

  1. I don’t know a cod from a haddock, but the fellow holding the big fish doesn’t look too pleased. Or is that just the impression given the downward sloping mustache?

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  2. A classic line—he wasn’t going to waste it in penny arcades when we could all visit a church for free! Good to know you ended this trip in Allen’s Bar.

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    • A interesting and rather nice point about the visit to Norfolk was that the churches were all unlocked and open and welcomed visitors. In so many other parts of the country they are generally firmly locked!

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  3. You should go to Goose Fair in Nottingham some time. In an hour you can spend the price of a second hand car. Years ago, we had an interest in megaliths and stone circles and the like. They are always free and to be honest, absolutely stunning things to see. My best one was Pentre Ifan in Pembrokeshire. Looks like a space craft about to take off!

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    • I have only been to Goose Fair the one time, about 30 years ago – Never Again!
      A nice thing about visiting Norfolk was that all of the churches were open for visitors, they are not very exciting of course but at least they are free!

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  4. Very interesting account – my memories of Great Yarmouth are the smells of fried onions etc. I especially agree about children’s rides in shopping centres and outside in the street

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    • I visited the local Wednesday market to check out the local delicacy of tripe. My granddad used to eat tripe and onions, perhaps that is what you could smell. I didn’t buy any it looked offal!

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  5. I prefer haddock too but I don’t mind a nice bit of cod. 🙂 I remember that museum. I didn’t have time to go in and the boat was closed when I came back from my scout round. Nice memories, Andrew. I was there with my Dad.

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    • Northern folk know their fish Jo. I was telling the ship guide about the Grimsby preference for haddock but I could see that he didn’t understand why. I hope you have fond memories of Norfolk and Great Yarmouth!

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  6. Having spent the first two decades of my life in Norwich I have fond memories of trips to Yarmouth to watch the herring fleet in port and the Scottish women filleting the fish on the quay side at lightning speed in noisy, spectacular and incredibly smelly surroundings.

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    • It must have been quite a sight Richard, I would have liked to have seen that. Essouira is about the closest that I have come to seeing a proper fishing fleet at work. Hope you enjoyed your holiday!

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  7. Growing up in a rural area on the Canadian prairies going to fairs, rides and the like was a most unusual occasion. My parents would have been the same on wasting money. I’m afraid my frugal ways can be a testament to my upbringing.
    Sad to read about the fishing downturn of Grimsby and the disrepair the buildings fell to. As to church going I do get a bit twitchy in churches. Perhaps all that time spent in them in my youth. 🙂

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