We woke up to a bright sunny day and Wells next the Sea calling to us, if you like you can find out what we did in our first day in Norfolk here. A day ahead off us that promised beach huts, more sand stretching as far as the eye can see, boats, seaside rock, followed in the afternoon by one of the UK’s most innovative play areas, red squirrels, flamingos and all sorts of amazing wildlife at Pensthorpe, the nature reserve where Springwatch has been filmed. To be honest either Wells or Pensthorpe would make a full day out, but it is possible to fit in both too!
After a hearty veggie-for-me breakfast at The Crown, and whatever bits and pieces of cooked and continental breakfast the others wanted, oh and tea in cups like my Gran used to have, we bid this amazing family and dog friendly hotel goodbye. I reckon it is definitely au revoir though, you will see us again soon enough – I can’t believe how rested and recharged we felt after one night.
The lovely thing about the crown, is it has plenty of space, for dogs and children to let off some steam on the green. After a play on the green, we decided to wander into Wells, the harbour is about 10 minutes walk from the hotel. Can never get them all smiling together, 2/4 isn’t bad!
The beach is a walk out from the harbour, about another half an hour with kids. With hindsight we would have parked at the beach car park instead, although we really loved the harbour walk too. There is a stretch of lovely pine forest before you get to the sandy beach, which is a real treat to behold! There is a little train you can catch too.
G met another fabulous greyhound on the beach who loved chasing sticks and digging holes. We are still building up our confidence with allowing Max, our greyhound off the lead, in unenclosed spaces – ex racing greyhounds are trained to run and to chase, they can reach 46mph, so you have to be completely confident they won’t just keep going and get lost, or knock people flying. When he is in racing mode, mentally and physically he is somewhere else completely. Max loves to play with tennis balls, and he doesn’t dig up the garden, I know which I prefer, but try convincing a 6 year old of this – he very nearly negotiated a dog swap with the owners, who had a great sense of humour, thank goodness!
I could look at beach huts all day, and had really been looking forward to snapping them, but sometimes, your family need you, your camera battery dies unexpectedly and you have to snap some phone pics instead. Plus it was still a bit grey. Gorgeous huts though aren’t they? The locals were telling us what a shame it is they are so often empty, they get passed down the generations, but people nowadays are often too busy to spend much time in them.
We stopped at Wells Beach Cafe for refreshment, of the canine and human kind. How impressive is this? Wells really is a perfect place to be a dog!
Our afternoon was spent at Pensthorpe, the kids faces when we drove in were brilliant. They could not believe the sight of Wild Rootz, the outdoor play area. Pensthorpe was the only bit of our weekend where dogs aren’t allowed in, but Max was worn out from our walk and very content to doze in the car.
We spent ages chasing each other around, under, through and over this wooden maze like structure.
I got the fear at the top of this slide, what an idiot, but you can see me going down the middle one in the video, the staff remind you it is built for grown ups too, which is brilliant.
The wholeWild Rootz play area is themed around encouraging children’s love of nature, if we don’t encourage them, who will look after it in the future? I loved the way the animals Pensthorpe works to protect, were hiding in the sand pit.
And beautiful playful sculptures which make playing about nature and not just equipment. Littler ones can roll or walk along this grass caterpillar, or climb through tunnels under mounds of grass like a telly tubby land.
The staff at Pensthorpe are brilliant, absolutely go out of their way to take time to talk about what they are doing. We saw Luke three times during our visit. When G wanted to know what he was digging, he took a break to explain why he was cleaning out the pond. When we saw him by the red squirrel enclosure he told us all about Pensthorpe’s successes with reintroducing them into the wild in Anglesey, one of the squirrels has had 50 babies! Luke even tracked us down as he wanted us to see a hedgehog who lives on the site.
Luke gave us such a lovely welcome, I feel bad he got cropped out in favour of the hedgehog! But look, what a sweetie!
When L was a baby we came to Norfolk for a week with my parents, and I vividly remember watching barn owls together from a hide near Holkham beach. It was the most amazing thing and a day I will never forget. I will always associate barn owls with North Norfolk, so it was amazing to spend a few moments next to one.
The Red Squirrel enclosure is amazing, after talking to Luke I am now really keen to see them in the wild.
Red squirrels really are pretty, like they just stepped out of a Beatrix Potter book. I just wanted to stroke that gorgeous red fur!
The Wensum Discovery Tour, on a trailer pulled by a land rover, was perfect for us, as by mid afternoon we were getting tired. So we snuggled up together under coats and listened as the ranger took us on a tour of the reserve and pointed out loads of really interesting things, like deer hiding in the trees, the place where the otters play, the bat boxes, the Kestrel’s nest, the owls box, the badger’s home, the hare’s hang out. It really was like being in a Beatrix Potter book now, even if we didn’t see all the wildlife, you could really imagine how much wildlife was hiding our there and calls the reserve home. We ticked off a huge amount of wildlife on our list and the kids were really pleased to get a prize for taking part.
We took a walk through the wildlife garden, and it was really incredible to come so close to some of the seabirds, some of which we had seen on our walk the day before. I have the patience for bird watching, but the rest of my family don’t yet, so being able to get this close is wonderfully inspiring for kids.
The Wildlife Habitat garden was the perfect place to start conversations about helping build habitats for animals, and to get ideas for our own garden.
To finish our perfect day we had a pre booked afternoon tea in the cafe. It must have been all the fresh air, but we absolutely found room for it all! The kids looked on in amazement as a platter of sandwiches, a stunning slate of cakes and a cake stand of scones appeared.
Followed by steaming cups of hot chocolate and marshmallows.
It was the perfect finish to an outstanding weekend.
Don’t just take my word for it, see it all in glorious technicolour here. The video captures the fun we had and the extent to which we all bonded, so much better than words and pictures. It was everything you could hope of, and more from a family weekend. Nobody felt like they had had to compromise, or do stuff they didn’t enjoy for the sake of keeping the peace. It was everyone’s perfect weekend, kids, dog, parents. We talked, we laughed, we all enjoyed each other’s company and we made some great plans for the future.
Check out the post before this here.
We stayed at The Crown, Wells Next the Sea
We visited Pensthorpe
For more great ideas of what to do in Norfolk, check out Visit North Norfolk