When I left Cromer I dropped in to see Susan Kydd, a friend of a friend I had never met before, who lives in Sheringham. She was so kind; we had a good chat and she gave me tea and biscuits and I had a wonderful Rose Geranium bath.
I felt sad to leave Norfolk with its cosy villages and vast seascapes. The flint buildings stop and brown ones, built from local carr stone, start somewhere around Brancaster. They're not unattractive, but the whole scene changes too. I was creeping round towards Lincolnshire and by King's Lynn the landscape is of huge farms; wide open countryside, flat as a board, the earth a rich, purple-brown.
It had been a long time since I got up to go fishing, and now I was late and didn't know where I would stay.
I wanted to find a place called Wingland where my great- grandmother's husband (Uncle Sidney) farmed in the 1930s. My mother and aunt had spent happy christmases there as children and said it was 'in the middle of nowhere, right by the Fens'. They were right.
Terrington St Clement is a one man and a dog sort of place, and nothing was stirring at 7pm. I went into a pub to ask if anyone knew where Wingland was. There was an uncomfortable quiet; six or seven people sat at the bar looking into their drinks. A middle-aged man in vest and shorts, with long hair and a baseball cap, pointed to a woman at the end of the bar. “Ask her,” he said. “Do you know where I can find a place called Wingland?” I asked again. She blinked at me and I am not sure if she had something wrong with her or was just the wrong side of too many pints, but I couldn't understand what she said. Towards S? Bridge? Her friend said yes, towards S?? Bridge and to go on the old road, not the new one. “The old road?” I said pathetically. Turn right out of here and keep going. (It was Sutton Bridge.)
|The house at Wingland|
I had become increasingly tired and apprehensive, and I hadn't seen a campsite for miles. If necessary I would just have to park in a lay-by and lock all the doors, but that vast open landscape, dotted with a few farm buildings and pairs of cottages, made me feel exposed and vulnerable.
After a couple of miles I saw a sign sticking out of the verge, pointing right...to Wingland! I knew the house was red-bricked and I could see one half a mile away and another to the right a bit further on. (You can see for miles in Lincolnshire.)
I approached the first one, and saw its name – it was Uncle Sidney's house! I drove in and a man in green overalls came across the yard. His family had lived there since 1971 and he knew about Uncle Sidney. His wife came out, and they couldn't have been nicer. What joy! One more favour, please may I park in your farmyard overnight? Yes of course I could.