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How a Norfolk native discovered hidden gems by renting a Camper Van and taking the back roads

PUBLISHED: 06:30 26 September 2020

Emily Thomson and her partner, Rhett Butler, on thier North Norfolk staycation at Kelling Heath camping site. VW Campervan hired from Waveney Campers in Norwich. Photo: Emily Thomson

Emily Thomson and her partner, Rhett Butler, on thier North Norfolk staycation at Kelling Heath camping site. VW Campervan hired from Waveney Campers in Norwich. Photo: Emily Thomson

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Norfolk girl EMILY THOMSON thought she knew her county, until she took to the back roads in a campervan and spent a weekend exploring the North coast.

Emily Thomson on her North Norfolk staycation at Kelling Heath camping site. VW Campervan hired from Waveney Campers, Road Drifter Rentals. Photo: Emily ThomsonEmily Thomson on her North Norfolk staycation at Kelling Heath camping site. VW Campervan hired from Waveney Campers, Road Drifter Rentals. Photo: Emily Thomson

As my partner turned the ignition of our hired VW Camper Van we didn’t quite know what our weekend ahead would entail.

After carefully navigating our way out of Norwich city centre we rolled down the windows to feel the sun on our faces, while bottles of cider clinked in the cooler behind us.

Despite being the biggest vehicle either of us have ever driven, we soon got used to the Camper Van’s size, and it was plain sailing out of the city.

Although I have lived in the county my whole life, and with deep ancestral roots in North Norfolk, I am ashamed to say I haven’t really taken the time to venture out and enjoy what my home has to offer.

Emily Thomson's North Norfolk staycation at Kelling Heath camping site. Inside the VW campervan Photo: Emily ThomsonEmily Thomson's North Norfolk staycation at Kelling Heath camping site. Inside the VW campervan Photo: Emily Thomson

But as the pandemic forced many of us to swap our flights abroad for ‘staycations’, I couldn’t think of a better time to do it.

Camping or glamping?

As we arrived at Kelling Heath camping site, we were surprised to see so many people making the most of the last few weeks of summer.

As inexperienced campers, we parked the van at our pitch and attempted to set up our home for the weekend.

Emily Thomson and her partner, Rhett Butler, on their North Norfolk staycation at Kelling Heath camping site. Photo: Emily ThomsonEmily Thomson and her partner, Rhett Butler, on their North Norfolk staycation at Kelling Heath camping site. Photo: Emily Thomson

We struggled a little to put up the awning in windy conditions but a neighbour, who appeared to be a motor home veteran, came over to lend a hand.

Our ex-commercial converted VW Camper Van, hired from Waveney Campers, based at Norwich camping and leisure, had a roomy, modern interior with everything you could need including a fridge, stove, sink, pull-out bed, heating and electricity. I’m not much for ‘roughing it’, so it was perfect.

Another pleasant surprise was the site, surrounded by woodland trails, heather and stunning sea views overlooking Weybourne.

And with an on site restaurant, bar, indoor and outdoor swimming pool, gym, village shop, nearby toilets and washing facilities, we couldn’t have asked for more.

Emily Thomson's North Norfolk staycation. A bike ride to Sherringham along the coast. Photo: Emily ThomsonEmily Thomson's North Norfolk staycation. A bike ride to Sherringham along the coast. Photo: Emily Thomson

The healing power of nature

It’s been a difficult year for all of us and sometimes it can be hard to carve out time to relax.

But this little trip away really allowed me to unwind.

The stress of airports, flights, luggage and jet lag from an overseas holiday can sometimes make you feel like you need another week off to recover – but not this time.

Emily Thomson's North Norfolk staycation. A bike ride to Sherringham along the coast. Photo: Emily ThomsonEmily Thomson's North Norfolk staycation. A bike ride to Sherringham along the coast. Photo: Emily Thomson

As we finished setting up, we sat in our camping chairs, cider in hand, with all technology out of sight, and watched the sun set until thousands of stars appeared across the sky.

On Saturday we swapped the van for two wheels, and hired bikes from Kelling Heath’s on site cycle hire, and a staff member recommended a scenic route to take.

On an off-road track, located next to the North Norfolk railway and steam train, we cycled through fields filled with sunflowers and woodland tracks where we eventually reached the coastline.

Having grown up in Gorleston, I thought I knew Norfolk’s beaches, so I was blown away when I saw the calm turquoise waters and stony shores.

Emily Thomson on her North Norfolk staycation. A trip down memory lane to the village of Langham. Photo: Emily ThomsonEmily Thomson on her North Norfolk staycation. A trip down memory lane to the village of Langham. Photo: Emily Thomson

As we reached the highest point of the journey, overlooking the beach next to Sheringham golf club, we stopped to appreciate the stunning view.

Walking through the town, it was buzzing with life as families and dog walkers enjoyed a balmy September afternoon, and we sat and ate a hearty pub lunch at The Two Lifeboats.

Norfolk born and bred

It wasn’t my first time in North Norfolk, with my late great grandad Bill Massingham hailing from Langham, and since before I can remember my family would spend summers camping in the village.

Emily Thomson on her North Norfolk staycation, visiting Langham. Photo: Emily ThomsonEmily Thomson on her North Norfolk staycation, visiting Langham. Photo: Emily Thomson

Having not visited since I was a teenager, exploring the village felt like stepping in a time machine.

Sitting in Langham’s Blue Bell pub, I remembered playing with my siblings and cousins in the beer garden for hours on end.

And in the village church yard, as I searched for my great grandad’s grave, we lost count of Massingham headstones, some dating back as far as the 1800’s.

We finished the day with a stroll around Blakeney, where more memories came flooding back as the smell of the salty marshes reminded me of day trips crabbing.

Emily Thomson's North Norfolk staycation. Photo: Emily ThomsonEmily Thomson's North Norfolk staycation. Photo: Emily Thomson

I didn’t know what to expect on this ‘staycation’, but I can honestly say it was one of the most relaxing and enjoyable holidays I have had for a long time.

We take for granted the things we have on our doorstep, but it’s made me feel very lucky to call Norfolk my home.

Emily Thomson's North Norfolk staycation - visiting Blakeney. Photo: Emily ThomsonEmily Thomson's North Norfolk staycation - visiting Blakeney. Photo: Emily Thomson

Emily Thomson's North Norfolk staycation, overlooking Sherringham. Photo: Emily ThomsonEmily Thomson's North Norfolk staycation, overlooking Sherringham. Photo: Emily Thomson

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