A day trip to Walsingham – from Derby to Norfolk by public transport

Julie and I have dissertations to write for our MA course at Derby University. Mine is on pilgrimage by rail to Lindisfarne and Walsingham, and I need a day in Walsingham to do some research for the dissertation. I could have driven to Norfolk and back in a day, but decided a day by public transport would be fun – Thursday 2 May. The first train across to East Anglia starts at Nottingham – and an advance single was a good price (£16.10). Unfortunately it doesn’t stop at East Midlands Parkway, and the first train from Derby is behind it – so I drove to Loughborough for 0511. They opened the shutters as I arrived!

We left on time, the trolley arrived, and I sat and worked on my diary as we trundled round the Syston Curve (which avoids Leicester), through Oakham and Stamford, then Peterborough and across the Fens. Not a lot has changed (except for the wind turbines). I waved at Manea station where I spent an hour sat in the sun in the summer of 1983 waiting for the mobile library to pick me up for a day’s work touring the villages and pumping stations of the Fens.

At Ely there is change – now the bypass is open the level crossing has been closed (though the lights are still in place). I remember the station signal box and the lad whose job it was to open and close the gates.

Up the line to King’s Lynn – Downham Market in its Network South East colours, and Watlington still up for sale (it was when we had the holiday here last summer). I arrived in Lynn at 0803, and walked from the railway station to the bus station – it is rather frustrating that the 0900 bus to Fakenham is missed by the next train which arrives at 0902.

It gave me time for a decent breakfast in a little café, and I then caught the bus – there were about 5 of us on board. There’s a £10 ticket valid on all the Coastline buses, so that was a bargain. At Fakenham I had time to photo the outside of the church and wander round the market, then the Fakenham-Wells-Hunstanton bus stopped behind the one I’d got off (a ten minute connection). A short journey to Walsingham, passed the Slipper Chapel (the one religious site I haven’t got to yet). This bus had rather more passengers. We arrived in Walsingham at 1015.

I walked up to the station (the Russian Orthodox Shrine) and had a lovely day going through all the files on Pilgrimage and railways, finding some lovely bits of text, copying photos, and getting some pilgrimage dates sorted so I can have a look at Working Timetables etc. Two fascinating posters – and I have never photoed a urinal before. We sat in the garden for lunch, and I finished working about 3.15.

I went up into the Village and had a quick look round the remains of the Abbey itself and the small museum. The rain just about held off. The bus came at 1614, about a minute early, and I continued north. Anyone else would have gone home the same way as they came, but I am different.

Up to Wells, and a connection to the Coastliner to Cromer – they arrived together, so all I had to do was cross the road. A great journey east on a bus I think was lost – through Blakeney, Cley and Sheringham. Lovely Norfolk churches I want to visit. Normally I would have changed to BR (that dates me) at Sheringham, but the branch from Cromer is closed for platform extensions. There was further to walk from bus to train in Cromer than I expected, but I had plenty of time before departure at 1800. My advance single home was £11.80.

It was a nice ride south, through all the stations I used to know so well (I can still recite you the list of stations from Cambridge to Sheringham in the right order), then into Norwich. As we passed Crown Point depot there are the new trains for the main line and the branches – it will be interesting to come back soon. The 1857 through to Nottingham is quite a fast journey – Thetford, Ely, Peterborough, Grantham – and there was plenty of space. No trolley though – seems a bit daft to have one at 0515 but not at 1915 on a busier train. Shame to see all the signalboxes lying derelict between Norwich and Ely. A coffee at Nottingham, then back on the same unit, and down to Loughborough. The car was there, so an easy drive home.

That was a fun day, and less tiring than driving. It is somewhat ironic that it cost me more to park the car (£12) than travel all round Norfolk on a bus. It was pointed out to me that I could have got public transport from Derby to Loughborough for 0511 – on the night bus via East Midlands Airport. That would have meant leaving home about 0230 …

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