A couple of years ago a good pal introduced me to the experience of modern caravanning.
I had taken quite a lot of persuading. I remembered staying in a caravan in about 1970 and I said that I would never ever to do it again. I have consistently maintained that I just do not understand caravanning at all or why people subject themselves to the misery of a holiday in a tin box with no running water, chemical toilets and fold away beds, I could see no pleasure in it whatsoever.
I am pleased to be able to report however that modern caravans are much improved and imagine my shock then when I tell you that I was so impressed with our holiday caravan accommodation which had all of the facilities of a modern home with central heating, hot and cold running water, a bathroom with a shower, electricity and a fully equipped kitchen.
I instantly became a caravan fan.
Earlier in the year my daughter invited us along on a camping holiday. Not being a fan of tents and not even willing to try it I turned the opportunity down but offered the alternative of a modern luxury caravan. She didn’t take a lot of persuading, it turns out that she is not such a big fan of camping either!
So, when the day arrived we packed the car and headed south to the county of Suffolk in East Anglia. Traditionally in England families took one week holidays from Saturday to Saturday and my Dad used to like to travel on a Friday to avoid the traffic so fifty years later we did the same. I thought that this was a good idea but it seems however that holiday habits have changed and now everyone travels on a Friday!
It was only a short journey of about one hundred and fifty miles but we had to use the A17 route which is a major English road which takes almost all of the traffic from the North of England into East Anglia and consequently some days it can become horribly congested. This was one of those days.
Find an easier way I hear you say but sadly there is no way of avoiding the A17 because of the topography of the region. To get into Norfolk from Lincolnshire it is necessary to pass close by to a stretch of water called The Wash which is a large chunk of water in the coastline of Eastern England that separates the north-east coast of East Anglia from the wetlands and the Fens of Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire. Building roads over bogs is difficult it seems.
Four major rivers flow into The Wash, The Witham, The Welland, The Nene and the Great Ouse and except for the most northerly, The Witham, which is relatively easy to get across, the other three are crossed by the single carriageway A17 and there is simply no sensible alternative route so all of the traffic converges close to Boston in Lincolnshire and then crawls along the A17 for about thirty miles or so until it gets past King’s Lynn in Norfolk. It makes for a dreadfully frustrating journey.
When you finally get past King’s Lynn the A17 ends and joins the A47 which is another horrible road which brings all of the traffic into Norfolk from the East Midlands and everyone going for an East Coast holiday from the cities of Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Peterborough so even though there are no more rivers to cross there isn’t a great deal of improvement in traffic flow.
As a consequence of this our journey into East Anglia took considerably longer than anticipated and we were about two hours behind schedule by the time we finally arrived at our first planned stop, a National Trust property called Oxburgh Hall which is situated into the village of Oxborough. I’m afraid I have no explanation to offer as to why the spellings do not match.
Oxburgh turned out to be a fabulous place, nice gardens, woodland walks and a moated Medieval House in a good state of preservation. So we walked the grounds and visited the house and looked out for the highlight feature of the property, a Priest Hole, open for visit and inspection.
A Priest Hole was a hiding place in Tudor and Stuart times for Catholic Priests during the religious persecutions of the Reformation. Several important members of the Nobility and their families remained defiantly but secretly true to the Catholic faith and in large important houses provided these hiding places for resident priests and various items of Catholic paraphernalia. The penalty for being discovered and captured was severe with the certainty of horrible torture (almost as bad as driving the A17) and the liklihood of painful death so these Priest’s Holes had to very cunningly designed and built.
A man called Nicholas Owen is famous for carrying out this work in a number of great houses and so crafty were they in their planning that even today it is suggested that they may not all have been found. At Oxburgh he came up with a sort of sunken pit concealed in the solid interior brick work of the house and with access through a false floor and just a tiny corridor.
The really interesting thing about this one is that visitors are allowed to go down through the floor and narrow entrance and go inside to have a look.
I sent Kim down first to check it out…
It is quite a tight squeeze but once inside it isn’t so bad although I wouldn’t want to spend a few days down there in the dark with no bathroom facilities.
Nicholas Owen was captured in 1606 and taken to the Tower of London where he was mercilessly tortured for ten days as the authorities sought to discover all of his Priest Hole stories. He never gave in and eventually died and all of his secrets went with him. Owen was canonised as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales by Pope Paul VI in 1970.
Today, Catholic stage magicians who practice Gospel Magic consider Saint Nicholas Owen to be the Patron Saint of Illusionists and Escapologists. His Feast Day is celebrated on 22nd March.
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