Archive for March, 2011

Wells next the sea & Wells Town FC

North Norfolk Day Six:

In the early 1800’s Wells-next-the-sea was the principal port along this stretch of coast and as recently as the 1990’s handled as many as 200 large vessels a year. Today the traffic on channel between the harbour and the sea – some two miles away at low tide – consists mainly of pleasure craft and small crabbing boats.

A large embankment, built in the early part of the last century, protects the channel and provides for a road out to a mobile home park, beyond which is a large stretch of sand and many colourful beach huts. I can’t say that I’ve ever hankered for one myself but am impressed with the care that is taken in their maintenance and decoration. Many a stretch of otherwise uninteresting coast is enhanced by clusters of these upmarket sheds.

Also running out along this embankment is the Wells Harbour Railway, a narrow gauge affair that can be boarded (in the summer season) at a stop adjacent to the home of Anglian Combination Football League side Wells Town FC.

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Sheringham & Felbrigg Hall

North Norfolk Day Five:

Following on from yesterdays ramble about coastal erosion Sheringham is a town that takes the problem very seriously, and has hidden itself from the seas behind a huge concrete wall, its original wooden sea defences having been washed away by storms in 1953. The concrete wall is fronted by a system of armoured groynes and huge blocks of natural rock. Once a fishing village the town flourished with the arrival of Midland and Great Northern Railway in the late 19th century. The line was one of many in East Anglia to get the axe under Dr. Beeching’s rail reforms in the 1960’s but the stretch from here to Holt survives today as the North Norfolk Railway (but more on that later in the week).

This afternoon was spent at Felbrigg Hall one of the finest – according to the National Trust – 17th-century country houses in England. Mrs Extreme Grounhopping was most taken with its large kitchen and shiny array of copperware, which reminded me, momentarily, of the huge amount of DIY waiting for me at home including a complete refit of our own much humbler food preparation area.

Hunstanton & Weybourne

North Norfolk Day Four:

The stratified red chalk limestone and white chalk cliffs on the beach at Old Hunstanton are, quite simply put, stunning, particularly with the tide out and the rocky beach exposed too. You’d have to go some to beat this geological beauty. The cliffs make way for shingle beeches and sand dunes as you head east around the coast until the cliffs rise once more at Weybourne, although here they are not quite as colourful. Made up of a mix of shingle and sand deposited here during the ice age they offer little, if any, resistance to the erosive forces of the North Sea that slowly eats away at some stretches and deposits the eroded material further down. Communities that were once on the sea are now some distance inland while for many others the reverse is true as coastal defences are constructed to prevent them from disappearing altogether.

Cromer & Cley next the sea

North Norfolk Day Three:

Over the last few years substantial investment has been made in repairing and improving historic buildings in Cromer including the remodeling of the pier forecourt with commemorative stonework that celebrates the work of the town’s lifeboats and crews, not least of whom was Henry Blogg who, as coxswain for fifty years, helped save more than 870 lives.

The pier is an impressive and well maintained structure which, from its seaward end, gives a great view inland of this seaside town. The church is easily the tallest of Cromer’s buildings (it has the tallest tower of all of Norfolk’s churches) but it is the redbrick Hotel de Paris (originally a private residence) that dominates the view.

Add to this the narrow streets of the old town, dozens of brightly coloured beach huts and even a lighthouse tucked away somewhere and the effect is quite pleasant. Cromer first became a holiday retreat with the arrival of steam locomotion in the 1890’s and is still a very popular resort today (having managed to avoid the tackiness of nearby Yarmouth and other ‘traditional’ English seaside towns).

Equally as charming is the village of Cley-next-the-sea and its beautifully restored and maintained windmill. Cley marshes are a twitchers paradise home as they are to huge numbers of migrating birds including (and here I’m quoting direct from some RSPB blurb) Avocet, Bittern, Spoonbill, Black-tailed Godwit, Teal, Brent Geese, Mallard, Shoveller and Snow Bunting, to name but a few.

The coast here is a veritable mix of dunes, windswept sands, creeks, salt marshes and ever shifting shingle spits. Not as dramatic as, say, the Cornish Coast but a place of great diversity and a pleasure to spend time in. My parents have holidayed here for many years and it is easy to see why.

Muckleburgh Collection & Baconsthorpe Castle

North Norfolk Day Two:

A few fields over from our cottage is the site of the one time Weybourne military camp. Now occupying part of that site is the Muckleburgh Collection, a private military museum which first opened its doors to the public in 1988. Brought up on a diet of WWII footage in All Our Yesterdays and the exploits of comic book heroes such as Matt Braddock and Sergeant Bob Miller in The Victor for me this was a must see.

The initial couple of rooms in the museum didn’t do much for me (collections of medals, pictures and other military ephemera) but you then reach the main exhibit halls and the big stuff: Armoured cars, artillery, battle tanks, tank transporters, missile launchers and other military hardware. My favourite piece of kit was a Czechoslovakian Bridge Layer – basically a tank with an hydraulically operated bridge strapped on its back. The one in the collection is from the cold war period but the Czech’s used similar equipment at the siege of Dunkirk to quickly reestablished logistics routes when normal road bridges had been put out of action.

In the afternoon we headed for Baconsthorpe Castle a moated and fortified 15th century manor house whose extensive ruins can be found a few miles to the south east of Holt. The inner part of castle and gatehouse were built by Sir John Heydon during the Wars of the Roses while later generations of the Heydon family continued to extend it by adding a further gatehouse, a man-made lake and a walled quadrangle that would have contained a range of domestic and service buildings. During the Tudor era this part of the castle became a wool processing factory. After the Civil War the castle fell into disrepair and parts of it were demolished and the stone sold off to clear estate debts.

Fakenham Town 1 Gorleston 1

26-03-2011: Fakenham Town 1 Gorleston 1 (Ridgeons League First Division) Clipbush Park, Fakenham, Norfolk

North Norfolk Day One:

As the previous few days in Suffolk had been rather pleasant it was with high hopes of continuing good weather that we headed off earlier today for a spot of R&R in North Norfolk having rented a cottage in the costal village of Weybourne for the week. However, as we crossed the Suffolk-Norfolk border at Thetford the clouds began to roll in, it began spitting with rain as we drove through Swaffham and by the time we reached our first stopping off point of Fakenham it was fairly tipping it down.

Mrs Extremegroundhopping had very kindly agreed for me to attend the Fakenham Town v Gorleston fixture at Clipbush Park, while she stocked up with holiday provisions at the adjacent supermarket, however, arriving some two hours or so before kick-off we had time to kill and nothing is harder to do than that while the heavens are open.

Still we had a nice fry up at a town centre café, bought a few plants for the garden at an art and crafts bash in the parish church, and having pretty much done everything that this nice market town had to offer in a spring deluge decided on a quick drive out to the ruins of Creake Abbey before returning to Fakenham for the match.

Fakenham Town

At Creake Abbey the rain had let up slightly and we enjoyed a stroll around the remains of this one time Augustinian Abbey. Various disasters have struck the place since it was elevated from priory to abbey in 1231 including a major fire, a deadly epidemic and of course the Protestant reformation. Despite all this many of the walls still stand to a decent height and there are sufficient window arches, doorways and other architectural features remaining to give a feel for the place as it would have been in its prime.

Back to Clipbush Park and the game went ahead after a late inspection of the rain sodden surface, the referees whistle signalling the start of the game and almost immediately a further bout of torrential rain. Fakenham have struggled at the wrong end of the table this season, while Gorleston are pushing for promotion, but the home side – ‘The Ghosts’ – belying their lowly position controlled the first half and had more than enough chances to head for the dressing rooms at least a goal to the good.

But they didn’t and where made to pay six minutes after the restart. A corner was cleared as far as the edge of the penalty area and a speculative shot skidded along the muddy surface eluding ‘the keeper and his right-hand post to find the back of the net. A late late equaliser – some five minutes into injury time – for the hosts brought some semblance of fairness to proceedings. The ball was hoofed into the Gorleston area, their defence failed to clear, and a Fakenham player was on hand to prod home from the edge of the six yard box.

Well we’ve now located our cottage in Weybourne and, with the rain now stopped, have just completed a short walk along the beach which is just a handy 10 minutes stroll away. Expect more on our adventures as the week progresses.

More pictures here.

Chicago Power 12 Dayton Dynamo 5

23-02-1992 Chicago Power 12 Dayton Dynamo 5 (NPSL) Rosemont Horizon, Rosemont, Illinois

I’ve been banging on in recent posts about indoor soccer and in particular the Chicago Stings exploits in the NASL Indoor League and the MISL, and l here I go again. In 1988, two years after I last saw them in action, the Sting folded but the city of Chicago had been without an indoor soccer side for no more than a matter of months when along came the Chicago Power.

The Power joined the NPSL as an expansion franchise for the 1988-89 season, playing at the 14,500 seat Rosemont Horizon, in the north Chicago suburb of Rosemont. Under player-coach Karl-Heinz Granitza – who had won two outdoor NASL Championships with the Sting and was quite easily the Stings best ever player – the Power made the playoff finals in their very first season losing the best of five championship series to the Canton Invaders by three games to two.

Two years later, and prior to the 1990-91 campaign, Illinois businessman Ron Bergstrom purchased the team and together with new player coach Pato Margetic – another former Chicago Sting fan favourite – assembled a squad that would finish the season as Champions. Margetic was named the league’s “Coach of the Year” as the Power made a clean sweep of the championship series against the Dayton Dynamo with three straight wins.

Attendances at the Horizon for the championship run-in hovered around the 4,000 mark and the Power were hoping to pull in around 5,000 a game the following season, the one and only time I saw them in action. I don’t know whether they reached that target but here is the commercial they were using to woo potential fans…

Shortly after my visit, and a 12-5 win against the Dayton Dynamo, the Power made the playoffs again but were unable to retain the Championship going out at the semi-final stage. The following season – 1992-93 – they couldn’t progress beyond the first round of the play-offs and a slow decline began.

They failed to make the playoffs in any of their three remaining seasons winning just six of their forty games in 1995-96 and were by all accounts pretty woeful managing to lose one game by a 35-5 scoreline. Bad even when the NPSL’s scoring system is taken into consideration (see below).

In the close season they were bought by Canadian entrepreneur Peter Pocklington and relocated to Edmonton, Canada where they became the Edmonton Drillers, and survived for just a further four years.

While I really took to the indoor game I’m afraid the one thing that spoiled it for me was the scoring system that the NPSL adopted. A scoring system not that dissimilar to the one used by basketball. A goal is a goal as far as I’m concerned but the American public enjoying high scoring sports and the following system was used to keep them happy I guess.

“Natural goals” and goals struck from the penalty spot were worth two points, power-play goals (a term used to describe a goal scored while an opposition player is confined to the sin bin) were worth one point, while goals scored from 50 feet or more were worth three points. So it would be possible to be two goals – sorry points – down with seconds to play and still win a game with a speculative shot from your own half of the field.

In the every changing world of professional soccer in the USA, Chicago have in latter years been represented in the indoor game by the Chicago Storm (formed in 2004 but on hiatus since the end of the 2009-10 season) and the Chicago Riot (formed in 2010 and still active).