|Sorry, but Cromer just didn\’t do it for me.|
We went to Cromer with no expectations, which was good because they would have been dashed. The first thing I noticed about the town was that the Christmas decorations on the street lights had not yet been taken down and this did not bode well. The town itself looked tired and the pier—one of its main drawing points—was something less than awe-inspiring.
Bergholt and Flatford—with its mill, surrounding buildings and canal locks—were home to John Constable (for those of you scratching your heads, Constable was a famous painter) and a surprising number of his paintings depict scenes in and around that small area. It’s easy to see why; it’s a stunningly beautiful place and, since having been restored by the National Trust—including a B&B, RSPB sanctuary, Field Studies Council Centre, art and environmental courses, guided tours, gift shop, restaurant and boat hire—it is also a stunningly lucrative place.
|You can rent a boat and row down the idyllic River Stour.
We opted to remain on dry land.
Don’t let that previous paragraph mislead you; the National Trust is doing a marvellous job of keeping the location tranquil and as true as possible to its origins. All those add-ons do not detract from the atmosphere, but operate in the background to enhance the experience. It’s not like in America, where a flashing neon sign would invite you to ride—if you dare—the terrifying Hay-Wain Flume or the Canal Cyclone, after which you could buy a corn-dog and some cotton candy at the Bridge Cottage Arcade.
|What it looked like in Constable\’s day.|
|What it looks like now. Notice the addition of a tea room.|
We spent several hours there, walking the trails, admiring the viewpoints of the paintings (helpfully marked in the guidebook) and enjoying tea next to the canal. It was a truly marvellous day.
|What Constable saw.|
|What we see today. Not bad, considering that if it hadn\’t been for the National Trust
and other conservation-minded people, you\’d most likely be looking at a high-rise
block of flats or an industrial estate.
Tomorrow we’re going to explore King’s Lynn and on Friday we’re going to Norwich, but unless they have a spectacular Flume ride or a really flashy arcade, they’re going to have a hard time living up to Constable Country.