On a very brisk day in November my family and I were on a mission to get out to the seaside, but more than that a surprise visit to see our eldest son who at the time was living in uni accommodation in Norwich. Great Yarmouth in Norfolk bestride the mouth of the River Yare, 20 miles (30 km) east of Norwich is usually bustling with families along the sea front and promenade.
The beach would be filled with holiday makers, it has been a seaside resort since 1760. On a very cold winter’s day with a bracing wind blowing up and rain clouds threatening it wasn’t so popular. Personally, I love these kinds of seaside moments, I find it fun to walk in the wind and explore an almost empty beach. In the Victorian era Great Yarmouth was a hive of activity with the construction of the new Winter Gardens, the people flocked to experience this beautiful creation.
Originally erected in Torquay, the building, an iron and glass construction was transported and reassembled in Norfolk in 1904, reportedly without a single pane of glass breaking. Today the grade ll listed seafront building is not looking its best but I still find it fascinating and captivating to the eye. In 2018 it was listed as one of the top 10 most endangered Edwardian and Victorian buildings.
The family trip was indeed a last-minute decision as are most of the day trips we take. A previous surprise trip saw us turning up spontaneously in Cromer, Norfolk where we met up with our eldest son previously. This was quite a similar story, only this time we arrived at his university accommodation unannounced and after a phone text conversation to discern if he was indeed awake, we tapped on his ground floor room window and told him to get some warm layers on because we were taking him to Yarmouth for the day. It wasn’t long before we were travelling to the seaside with a bewildered son for a day on the beach in November 2019 and lunch out, a treat on us.
We found a parking space quite easily especially since it was a quiet winter’s day on the Norfolk coast and the weather very cold and windy, I imagine it might put some visitors off. We were all wrapped up well for the beach knowing full well it would be colder still as the chill air blew up from the sea. Hats gloves and warm socks inside our boots. Yes, we came prepared. I watched as the waves crashed and receded and dragged the pebbles and loose sand back into the sea with it on each salty fresh wave while the tide took the flotsam back into the sea with it as it went out.
Great Yarmouth’s fishing industry was big up until the 20th century, mainly for herring, has almost completely diminished. North Sea oil from the 1960s saw an oil-rig supply industry and now offshore natural gas rigs. The offshore wind power and other renewables are now becoming increasingly more popular.
We all did our own thing, such as drawing in the sand, throwing skimmers across the water and counting to see who could skim the most waves, something we always try our hand at. A couple of games of dobby were had and some fun and games striking a pose while jumping in the air for photos too, all plenty of fun and kept us warm in the process. Beach walks have always been a wonderful experience for me whether having a Norfolk pause, a wander in Lincolnshire or a summer stroll in Belgium.
Great Yarmouth is a place where family fun has been around for many years, the usual seasonal fun of the seaside comes from the beachfront and the many arcades there. Bars and restaurants are varied through the town including an American style diner. There were still a few arcades open in the winter and that opportunity was made the most of too, as we wandered through town to find a place to stop for lunch. To our surprise there were plenty of shops offering bargains galore and icecream still for sale. The family were by this time working up an appetite so the hunt was on for somewhere to sit down and eat where we could warm up and chat over lunch.
Our time together was beginning to get shorter and of course being winter, the daylight was drawing in so after a good hearty meal and a catch up together we decided that it was right to start layering up again for a walk back to the car. We still needed to drive back to Norwich and drop off our eldest son Jono at his accommodation before the long drive home.
I really enjoyed the family fun and the chance to catch up, the very brisk walk along the beach was bracing and also a pleasure. I found the Victorian architecture really interesting there and the amazing Winter Gardens would have looked stunning back when it was in its prime.
The tourist industry had a big boost to attract visitors when the railway opened in 1844 and the following year the Wellington pier opened and the Britannia pier in 1858. The tourist trade began to thrive more and more, as holiday makers began to bring more income than many other industries. It was good to see the original architecture and history on our visit.
Great Yarmouth in winter was indeed a great location for a spontaneous family get together and a wonderful place to meet up for dinner and warm up after a beach walk, good memories were created on our Norfolk coast adventure.