Our 2007 UK and Europe Trip
Sycamore House, Shipdham
04 Oct 2007
Our exchange in Dorset was at an end and time to move on to Shipdham near Norwich. We had enjoyed our four weeks in Dorset immensely. We caught a National Express bus at Bournemouth but soon struck trouble on the A3 which had become a car park rather than a Sunday drive. Not only had there been an accident but now a very large mobile home had broken down in one lane and it took one hour to travel five miles. There were many worried looks on passengers as the destination for the bus was Gatwick and Heathrow airports. We arrived 40 minutes late at Heathrow to meet our mutual home exchangers, Colin and Sue. We knew them from February when they had stayed in our house when we went to NZ.
They had driven down from Norwich and parked at one of the many high-rise car parks at the airport. Car keys were handed over, directions studied and then farewells. Another thing you don’t do on a Sunday is drive out of Heathrow. Driving out of the car park was easy, and then the mistakes started. To get across to the lane for the motorway that we wanted, meant making your way over four lanes of traffic to the furthest lane, dodging cars and drivers who thought they were in the Gold Coast Indy race. Just an impossible move so we went up a lane on the left side through a tunnel and then around a block and a roundabout twice and finally asking directions at a car park, we made it onto the correct motorway after circumnavigating Heathrow Airport. But that wasn’t the last of it. After about an hour in the car we were in desperate need of a coffee, something to eat and a wee break so we stopped at a service area and when we got back onto the motorway some how or other we were going in the opposite direction. Off the motorway, ask for directions and finally back in the correct direction on the correct motorway.
Then Gary had a really good idea. We noticed a National Express bus on the motorway that had Norwich as its destination. We’ll follow that and we won’t get lost anymore. Wrong again. The four lanes became six at one stage and the bus took the lanes on the left and Gary followed only this time we were heading for Stanstead Airport as the bus was dropping off passengers. So – around the roundabout near the airport and back down on to the motorway – again.
Dear readers, we did finally make Shipdham which is a small rural village just 14 miles west of Norwich and our base for the next 8 weeks. The village is very old and mentioned in the Doomsday Book. The Doomsday Book was compiled by William the Conqueror in 1086 and very similar to today’s census. Thatched cottages are dotted through the village with the usual old church. We like the feel of the village as we do our new home. Sue and Colin have spent considerable time and money by the look of it renovating Sycamore Cottage into a lovely comfortable home. As Colin is a chef, the kitchen is a dream with every conceivable tool and gadget and a pleasure to cook in. The village has a small airport which was a base for a US squadron of bombers from 1942. The original control tower is still on the field. The area all around is as flat as a pancake and would have been very suitable for airfields during the war.
Our first day at any home exchange involves getting in supplies from Tesco and finding your way around the shops. Yesterday we decided to go out after lunch and drive around the little villages that our hosts had recommended. It was a typical autumn day with cloud cover and fog but we wanted to get out and see the villages. Hingham was lovely as well as Old Buckenham. We will get back to Wymondham on Friday as the light was fading quickly and not good for photos and it was getting cold. Much of the area around the villages is farmland. We stopped off at a farm for fresh eggs and veges and I am afraid part of the farm came back in the car on my boots. We did stop along the road and had a look at a farm that had free range pigs. They are out in the fields and have little houses or sheds for sleeping in or keeping out of the bad weather. They are quite tame as they come over to you when you call them, grunting away.
We have another squirrel resident in the garden. This one kept us amused for quite a time the other morning. There is a chestnut tree in the front garden and Mr Squirrel is collecting them for the winter. He picks one up, puts in its mouth, runs off with it, digs a little hole in the grass, buries it and places the grass back over the hole and repeats the procedure many times Very cute. When you walk on the grass you can feel the lump of the chestnuts under your feet. This little critter must drive people crazy if they are particularly fastidious about their lawn.
We have lots of plans for touring, a visit from the London mob again – so lots of news soon.