WHO WENT Vanessa Hardy, 34, partner Si, 36, children Freddie, 8, Rosa, 5 and Beatrice, 2, plus grandma and grandpa and their dog Bertie
WHERE WE WENT A Norfolk Cottages self-catering holiday home in the picturesque village of Docking
THE JOURNEY We decided on Norfolk for February half term because it’s only a two and a half hour drive from Essex, where we live, while for mum and dad, who live in Huntington, Cambridgeshire, it’s even closer – just over an hour. The journey was fine, with the children only getting a bit fractious towards the end. We also had to make an impromptu pit stop in a remote country lane for poor Bea to relieve herself as she’s still getting to grips with toilet training!
THE HOUSE We’d arranged to meet mum and dad at the property at 4pm when we could collect the keys from the lovely Chris who looks after things in the owner’s absence (after our visit, realizing we’d left a phone charger behind, she kindly returned it, so big thanks for that). As we pulled up the gravel drive we were immediately impressed with Mill House’s charming façade. An elegant, white Victorian building with a distinct canary yellow door and ivy clambering up the front, it looked huge from the outside and didn’t disappoint once in. The cosy living room, complete with wood burning stove and over-stuffed sofas, is definitely the hub of the house, leading on to a conservatory, a large utility/games room with a snooker table (suffice to say Si and dad became very competitive) and a well-equipped farmhouse-style kitchen. Also downstairs was a dining room, where we all ate together most nights, and a double bedroom en suite that was perfect for mum and dad. Upstairs, we bagged the big double over looking the sheep in the field behind, while the girls took the bunk beds (Rosa on top), while Freddie had the twin room all to himself, so was chuffed to bits.
THE LOCATION Docking itself is a beautiful little village (pop 1,150) with a delightful pond and medieval church at its centre. It’s also brilliantly serviced with a pub and supermarket within a stone’s throw, while just a short drive away are some of the country’s most spectacular saltwater marshes, estuaries and beaches. Bertie, who somewhat appropriately is a Norfolk terrier, was in doggy heaven. The children and adults, were pretty happy too (especially as the sun came out to play), taking immense please in simply walking along large stretches of sand (us), jumping from dunes (children) and tucking in to huge, doorstop sandwiches we’d prepared earlier (everyone). The sky too was breathtaking, and in certain lights, you could almost believe you were in Africa – it was that vast.
THINGS TO DO If you only do one thing in north Norfolk, go and see the seals at Blakeney Point. Okay, so it necessitates a rather early start (our boat from Morston Quays departed at 9.30am sharp), but it is so worth it. Watching grey and common seals loll around contentedly on the shore from our small boat was mesmerising, but the highlight was definitely when around half a dozen brave pups decided to get in the water to see what us strange humans were up to. As their handsome heads bobbed up beside us, the children squealed with pure glee.
WHILE YOU'RE THERE...
... why not experience these other fun family activities
• Head to the quaint seaside town of Sheringham to board a wonderful old steam train and ride along The Poppy Line, one of the country’s most scenic heritage railways. The train goes to the picturesque villages of Weybourne, Kelling Heath (a request stop) and Holt, where we enjoyed a hearty pub lunch. A family ticket costs £39 and allows you to hop on and off.
• For a traditional bucket and spade day out, head to the town of Cromer, famed not only for its crabs (utterly delicious) but also its Victorian pier. We strolled along to the end, where we stopped for a warming cuppa and some cheeky biscuits in The Pavilion Bar and sat and admired the stunning views. Evidently there’s been a pier or jetty in Cromer since 1391.
• Both Rosa and Bea are horse crazy so we couldn’t resist a trip to the Redwings Horse Sanctuary in the market town of Aylsham. The children loved petting the horses and ponies and the staff were so friendly and helpful, answering all of their horsey questions. There’s also a well-equipped play area and café. What’s more, entry is free.
ESSENTIAL INFO A stay at Mill House, Docking, through Norfolk Cottages starts from £557 a week. Short breaks are available, with price upon enquiry. For more information on Mill House or a wide range of holiday rentals covering the whole of Norfolk visit norfolkcottages.co.uk or telephone 01263 715779
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