Gorleston was a relatively recent discovery of ours. As a child, nine Sundays out of ten were spent at Wells-Next-The-Sea. Not that I have anything against Wells (as it is colloquially known), but when you have been subjected to the same beach so many times that you can mentally visualise every grain of sand it becomes a little dull. In fairness, Wells does hold lots of memories for me as we had family living there and it was the last beach we ever visited with my dad before he became ill quite suddenly and we subsequently lost him. Maybe that is part of the reason I avoid going back there? Who knows how my subconscious advises me?
My husband and I happened upon Gorleston (Gorleston-On-Sea to give the town its full name), having headed to another nearby beach and found it overly busy and with parking spaces lacking. Driving a few miles along the coast we had arrived in Gorleston. Of course, I had heard of it, living in Norfolk all my life, how could I not have? With its beautiful sandy beach, a promenade stretching out into the distance and a handful of shops and amusements this was clearly a much-loved venue indeed.
The first section of unspoiled beach is a no-dogs, lifeguard patrolled area. Situated near to the few amusement arcades and beach shops, just enough that they are not distracting, it also boasts a generous pond for remote controlled boating enthusiasts and an extremely shallow pool, currently under refurbishment, for toddlers to paddle and splash in while parents look on from the comfort of the surrounding benches.
Until very recently the beach also sported a generous inflatable play area where children could bounce, jump and burn off excesses of energy. Tragically, following a fatal accident, this area is now closed and, I believe, is still under investigation. It’s difficult to believe such a traumatic event could take place in such a beautiful location.
We discovered a fabulous beach cafe at the far end of the promenade. If you are prepared to walk for ten or fifteen minutes to reach it, or if you know the area well enough to drive to the parking spots close by, up on the clifftops then you will not be disappointed. The cafe is called Jay Jays and serves generous portions of delicious foods ranging from full hot meals to enormous salads, jacket potatoes and chips. The counter displays a most tempting array of cookies, cakes, savoury pastries and biscuits too. No trip to Gorleston is complete for me without at least a cappuccino from Jay Jays. It was somewhat quiet a couple of years ago, when we first discovered it but it is quiet no more and is most often heavy on customers, with chairs and tables spilling out onto the promenade and queues of customers prepared to wait for the delights on offer. If for no other reason, it’s worth a trip his to pop in for a coffee. The staff at Jay Jays are always friendly and genuinely appear to enjoy their work. They clean the tables non-stop and the place has a worthy 5/5 food hygiene rating.
The beach, more the promenade, is frequented by runners, skateboarders, dog walkers and walkers alike and there is more than enough space for everyone. We often go to allow my husband to fly his kites on the beach or clifftop depending upon the weather and not forgetting the all-important wind speed. This might be a good time to point out that during the great storm of 1987, Gorleston experienced the highest recorded wind speed in the UK, reaching 122mph! I am certain my husband does not have a kite capable of handling that much wind.
The most important thing about Gorleston is the peacefulness. While hubby is happily flying his kites, I can sit and daydream, read a book and write. If its breezy, he puts a windbreak around me and I cuddle down behind it with notebook and pen, in writing heaven. We pick a spot near Jay Jays or, very occasionally, at the busier family end of the beach, just close enough for us to buy drinks and ice creams and use the facilities.
Whether you want to ride your bike or skateboard, walk your dog, fly your kite, play on the beach or, like me, sit and watch the world go by while planning your next story or poem, Gorleston truly is a most beautiful, unspoiled place to choose.