Saturday, October 19, 2013

England, Day 4: On the Coast at Hunstanton

Hunstanton was the second stop in our fourth day in England. I had hoped, as I said in yesterday's post, to go to Dover. My husband and I wanted to see "the white cliffs of Dover" and the place that played such a large role in the evacuation of Dunkirk during World War II. But we did not have enough time for that journey. I still hoped to see the English coast, as my mother sometimes talked about trips to "the seaside" during her childhood. Les suggested we go to Hunstanton; Swaffham was on the way there anyway, and his family often went there when he was young. He thought my mother had gone there as well.

Instead of main roads, Les used his GPS to take us along small country roads from Swaffham to Hunstanton. It was a beautiful drive, and gave me something I wanted so much to see: the English countryside away from more settled areas. We passed through many small villages, historic buildings, and peaceful fields. Hedges divided the fields; villages were comprised of houses built of stone and brick with the occasional half-timbered building. There were barns and pubs, little traffic and much beauty. These photos are still on my phone--my camera battery began to die on this trip, and the spare was back at Les' house, so I used my phone. I have not yet had a chance to unload those photos, so I will have to post them later on.

I did, however, get some photos with my camera before the battery went, while we were at Hunstanton. The beaches were lovely, little populated on this cool September day. Established intentionally as a resort area in the mid-1800's by the LeStrange family, Hunstanton today has hotels, pubs, and rentals and is a busy place during the summer season.


 The little beach huts are used for changing and storing beach items, not really for staying in overnight. They nestle down in the dunes, snug against the winds.


 The clifftop lighthouse is no longer in use as a beacon,  but you can rent it for your holiday!It sits on top of the cliffs made of white chalk resting on top of red chalk, which rests on a reddish brown stone called Carstone (I also found this spelled as Carr Stone). This stone was used in the construction of some of the buildings in the area. Many fossils are found embedded in these cliffs. And one archeological dig found evidence from the Neolithic age here. Talk about old.



There are legends connected with this place, as there seem to be with many places in England; no surprise, given the age of the civilization on the island. According to one legend, Armine Le Strange became mistress of Hunstanton Hall and all the treasures this wealthy and well-known family had amassed over the years.

She grew particularly attached to a carpet given to he family at some point by the Shah of Persia. Her son and heir was a wastrel, to use an old word. He gambled, partied and generally frittered away much of the family fortune. On her deathbed his mother made him promise not to sell or trade off the old carpet. He promised and had it nailed up inside a crate, which he stored away. Later another LeStrange came to be master of the house and brought with him an American bride. She found the old crate and cut up its contents into smaller rugs to give to the poor in the village. When she returned she saw someone watching her from one of the windows; later that day she recognized that the face at the window was the face of Armine LeStrange, long dead but apparently concerned about her carpet. The new mistress gathered up the pieces and had them sewed back into one rug, but after that Armine was still seen occasionally, and her footsteps heard in the hallways until a fire all but destroyed the house.

Another legend concerns an early East Anglian king and purportedly first Christian martyr, Edmund. After a bloody death and beheading at the hands of the invading Danes in the 800's, Edmund's supporters recovered his body for burial and then searched for his head. It was found in the forest, being guarded by a great wolf. His relics were later moved to Bury St. Edmunds. You can read a much more detailed account of the fascinating if gruesome story here.

P.J. Wodehouse stayed at Hunstanton Hall and wrote at least one of his books there. You can read what he had to say about the old hall here--apparently the family was in straitened circumstances by the time of Wodehouse.

If I ever get savvy enough to get my photos from phone to computer, I will post more of our journey, including our visit to the site of a crumbling castle.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

3 comments:

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Your mother would certainly have been to Hunstanton, Sue; it was where everyone from Cambridgeshire went as there was in those days a direct rail connection. They weren't given the name LeStrange for nothing! Funnily enough my blog will be taking you to Bury St Edmunds in the near future. Have a good weekend.

Granny Sue said...

After reading more about Hunstanton and St. Edmund, I wanted to go to Bury, so you will take me there, John. Excellent! I enjoy the way our posts are weaving together.

hart said...

Susanna,

You probably know this poem
http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-white-cliffs/

It is my mother's favorite. She loaned out her copy and after many years found another in a used bookstore and began to cry.--Jane

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