The day has started grey but it may brighten later as it did yesterday. Of more concern is that we both had slightly upset stomachs yesterday evening, with the usual consequences. Let’s hope that will not affect us today.
We took a bus to Wymondham. Ignore the "mo" and pronounce it "Wind’am".
The plan was to have a look around, perhaps visit the museum, and take a ride on the steam railway. Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite according to plan – Norfolk is turning out to be a rather frustrating place.
We followed the sign for the steam railway but either we misunderstood or someone had turned the sign around. Either way, we ended up at the current railway station where we learnt that the steam railway was at Wymondham Abbey station, on the other side of town, and that we would be too late for the 10:30 departure.
Wymondham station is itself quite pretty and we had tea in the Brief Encounter Cafe, which is decorated in period style and with railway memorabilia.
We then visited the small Wymondham Heritage Museum (where photography is allowed) and then went to enquire about further travel in the tourist information office that is upstairs in the market cross.
We asked about going to Thetford. They said "It can’t be done". They tried to get us to spend the day in Wymondham (“Lots of people stay here all day”) but we had had enough of the place and wanted to move on.
I don’t know what the people in this part of the country have against Theford (some dispute dating from medieval times perhaps?) but it is true that you cannot go there by bus. Not from Wymondham; not from Norwich. By National Express, yes; by train, yes; but by bus, no. Why not? Another piece of Norfolk nonsense?
I am told the unofficial motto of Norfolk is "Do different". I think it should be "Do cack-handed", as that would be nearer the truth.
Back at Norwich bus station, we decided to play bus bingo. A bus arrived for Fakenham and so we went aboard.
The bus ride was long but provided some interesting views. We reached Fakenham just after 2 pm and started looking for lunch. It turned out the most places stopped serving food at 2 pm. They must have seen us coming.
Fortunately, the owner of Becky’s Cafe is made of sterner stuff and we were able to get a meal there. We were even able to compose our own meal, not strictly according to the menu.
Fakenham is a pleasant enough little town with a few features of interest. Unfortunately, by the time we had had our late lunch and looked around the antiques market in a disused church, the town was beginning to close down. Shops close at 4:30, for goodness’ sake.
According to the timetable at the bus stop, there would be an X29 back to Norwich at 4:30 pm. So we went there and waited. And waited. And waited. Buses came and went but none was ours. Then the driver of one of the buses reported that there had been a bomb alert at Kings Lynn bus station, causing it to be closed for 3 hours and delaying many of the buses.
I might have been sympathetic if we had received good service up to this point but as we have in fact been let down consistently by both the trains and the buses over the previous 4 days, I saw this just as another piece of bungling incompetence.
As if to underline this point, shortly after we received this information, an X29 did arrive. It let off its passengers and, then, as we all moved to board it, the driver closed the doors, changed the sign to "Sorry, not in service" and drove off… Norfolk seems to be in need of training in customer service.
At 17:34, another X29 turned up and we were allowed to board this one.
Back in Norwich, we took a bus to the station and then walked along the river bank opposite where there are quite a few restaurants. We found one called Artorios that served "Mediterranean" food, including a good selection of vegetarian meze.
Although we managed to explore a little and see two towns, this was another day of frustration because of poor performance by the bus companies. Even the first bus we took this morning was late to arrive.
I have grumbled about the early termination of bus services in Cornwall and described bus timetables in Wales as works of fiction, but I have never encountered bus services as shambolic and unhelpful as those here in Norfolk. Not only is there no integrated timetable, making it hard to plan journeys, but late running and failure of advertised services to appear make travel a nightmare.
On the other hand, bus drivers were usually polite, amiable and helpful, often giving us the information that was not available where it should have been.