Seven special beaches
We look at some of the quieter stretches of the coast
There is a lot of competition for the most bizarre bygone attraction and this one is well in the running for randomness – and sheer brilliance.
A show made up entirely of fountains spurting to different heights and lit in an everchanging rainbow of coloured lights. Tick.
Small taxidermy specimens in fancy dress, posed in household scenes. Tick.
A range of attractions, each manned by the same couple, and open on rotation with
They call it making memories today, but we didn’t use to have to work at doing memorable stuff - it just kind of happened. And forget the sepia tinge too. Days out were luridly colourful, writes ROWAN MANTELL
the operatives, pursued by the customers, heading from train to merry-go-round to mock village schoolroom with puppet show, to helter-skelter to waltzer. Tick. An olde-worlde saw mill. Tick. Tableaux of strange Norfolk stuff including a giant. Tick.
A haunted conservatory. Yes, a haunted conservatory. Tick.
Of all the magnificent attractions, and there were many, of supreme magnificence, this was my absolute favourite. Think Alton Tower’s Hex, but with the hi-tech special effects replaced by a couple of swaying benches and a barrel-like room, which is then wound, by hand, around the ‘riders’ on the benches so that the walls, floor and ceiling rotate. Tinies were utterly, utterly convinced it was a white-knuckle upside-down ride. I was a little bit convinced. This was a genuine Victorian piece of fairground fun and long after the
Bygone Village was closed and its amazing attractions auctioned off, the joy of that haunted conservatory continues to haunt me.
It was the only place in England with a 40 metre long, two storey high media wall. And a 180° projected panorama film. This was the year 2001, the start of a new millennium, in the building which only just escaped being called the Technopolis. In fact Origins did impress me much. It was the visitor attraction part of Norwich’s Forum building, all interactive and technological at a time when such things were still awesome. My 11-year-old daughter asked for a season ticket for her birthday. And after playing the machines to take a journey of discovery through the rampages of Romans and Vikings, the draining Dutch, and much more history, each visit ended with a ridiculously uplifting film swooping over the county’s loveliest landscapes, architecture and coast. It closed less than 10 years later, but lives on in my heart.
ICENI VILLAGE, COCKLEY CLEY
I have fond memories of the dishevelled huts and hairy mannequins which may, or may not, have been typical of the ancient and noble Iceni tribe – who may, or may not, have lived on land on the Cockley Cley Hall estate near Swaffham.
By the time it closed in 2014 the mock village was a mocked village, but I used to visit in the late 1980s, when I worked in Swaffham, and enjoyed the random nature of this visitor attraction. As well as the Iceni village and villagers there was a barn with horse-drawn carriages and fiendishly complicated 19th century farm machinery, and the site included some nature-y bits and a Norman church, which may, or may not, have been built on the site of a Roman temple.
Handsome Hunstanton Pier, complete with its own zoo and miniature steam railway, once stretched more than 800 feet out into the sea. The name still exists as a seafront family entertainment centre, but the pier itself has gone, destroyed by storm and fire.
The Victorian marvel opened on Easter Sunday 1870 and by 1882 holidaymakers could take a paddle steamer across the Wash from the end of Hunstanton Pier to the new Skegness Pier.
A pavilion was added in the 1890s and the pier was considered by many to be the finest in East Anglia. The last of the Ealing comedies, Barnacle
Bill, was filmed here in 1957, starring Alec Guinness. But 21 years after its big-screen role most of the pier was destroyed in a storm. Then in 2002 a fire ripped through the remaining shoreward sections.
For now Hunstanton has a pier in name only, but there are many who would love to be able to tread the boards out to sea once again.
A lot of places claim to be the Venice of the north, although you rarely hear the people of La Serenissima describing their breathtakingly beautiful city as the Birmingham of the east.
However, Great Yarmouth has its own Venetian-style canals – which were not only the height of mid-century holiday sophistication, but are also being restored and reopened.
From the late 1920s people would glide along serpentine canals through the pretty gardens of the seafront Ornamental Garden, Venetian Waterways and Boating Lake.
The attraction, dug and landscaped as part of a post First World War job creation scheme, included twisting channels, a lake, bridges, thatched shelters and rockeries.
At first the waterways were filled with sea water, but in the winter of 1929 they were refilled with fresh water, to allow the canals to freeze over. Pleasure seekers enjoyed rowing boats and pedaloes each summer and ice skating in the winter.
By the 1930s there were illuminations at night and a model of HMS Nelson floating in the central pool. A mock volcano erupted from the water in 1950 and later that decade the boats were transformed into gondalas with carved wooden animal heads.
Now Great Yarmouth Borough Council, which owns the Waterways, is working with Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust and the local community to restore the canals, funded by a grant of more than £1.7 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery. Preparatory work is underway, next spring the main engineering and landscaping will begin and the restoration should be complete by the summer of 2019 with work phased so that the park remains open. See you at the Venice of East Anglia!
Top Right: Steam traction engines at The Bygone Village, Fleggburgh in 1988
Bottom right: Fleggburgh Bygone Village
Top centre: Bygone Village, Fleggburgh
Cockley Cley Iceni Village early 1990s
Origins in the Forum
Above: Yarmouth Waterways in the 1950sLeft: Hunstanton Pier, before 1938