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Wells-next-the-sea (England)

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Wells-next-the-Sea, known locally simply as Wells, is a town, civil parish and seaport situated on the North Norfolk coast in England.

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      03.05.2001 23:19
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      Wells-next-the-sea is a picturesque fishing port on the North Norfolk coast; to the east is Sheringham and Cromer and to the west is Hunstanton. In the past it boasted thriving fishing and boatbuilding industries. It is still a fishing port but nowadays mostly crabs, mussels and shellfish are caught. Fishing boats still attract a lot of attention from tourists when they bring their catches into the harbour. Wells is a busy, yet still unspoilt holiday resort. Tourists start to arrive from around Easter, but the six-week summer holiday period is the most popular time of the year for visitors to descend on the town. And descend they do, altogether about 10,000 of them. Many of them coming back year after year. ~a little history Guella, which means well or spring was given to what was principally a Danish settlement in around 865AD after a large-scale invasion. It was later given the name 'next-the-sea' to differentiate it from other towns called Wells in Norfolk. Sea and sea-faring life have always been a prominent part of life in Wells. In the 13th Century ships ran aground at Holkham and Wells and their cargoes disappeared never to be seen again. Malting and fishing were the two main industries. In 1639 cargoes coming into Wells included salt for the fishing industries, sugar, brandy and coal. By 1854 the principal imports were coal, timber, rape, salt and linseed with exports of corn, barley, malt and oysters. ~The Beach The sea wall, which was built in 1859 by the Earl of Leicester, runs from the Quay to the beach. Walk past the Harbourmaster's Office and the Wells Museum; follow the sea wall northwards towards the Lifeboat Station. This is a very pleasant walk and you may see little terns diving for fish in the main channel. If you prefer to take your car, there is a public car park near the beach backed by pine trees. Alternately, a narrow guage railway operates from
      the Harbour Station and the Pinewoods Caravan site to the beach starting from Easter until the end of September. The beach stretching from Wells to Holkham and beyond is one of the most beautiful of beaches in Britain. The landscape of sky, sea and sand is breathtaking. Pine trees, which back the beach, were planted to prevent sand blowing onto farmland. This area of natural beauty is managed jointly by English Nature and Holkham Estate and wildlife is carefully protected. One part of the beach, near the beach huts, is turning into saltmarsh. It is very muddy, but you will be able to see some of the saltmarsh plants including Marsh Samphire which can be eaten. The colourfully painted huts are privately owned, but are occasionally available to rent. ~Shopping The main shopping area is situated in Staithe Street. It is a narrow street, closed to road traffic between 10am and 5pm, where there are some very nice little speciality shops including one selling kites, another binoculars and birdwatching equipment, another dollshouses and miniatures, a good little secondhand book shop, and a delicatessen situated on the Quay. You will find most things you need in Wells - there is a pet shop, a small supermarket and freezer centre, a greengrocer, shoe shop, fitness studio, ladies dress shop, newsagent, chemist, butcher, dog grooming parlours, art gallery, electrical stores, etc. etc. However, it has been known for the newsagent to sell out of the local paper in the height of the season and the grocer has been known to run out of the most popular foodstuffs. But if you are desperate, Fakenham (and Safeway etc.) is not too far away. The Maltings Community Centre, situated next to the Tourist Information Centre, hosts a number of activities including Craft Fairs, Antique Fairs, Book Sales, Charity events etc. The petrol filling station closed in 2000; if you run short of fuel Burnham Market has the nearest ga
      rage. Or you can visit Fakenham which is about 10 miles away. ~Money Matters There is only one Bank, which is Barclays and there are no Building Societies. Barclays Bank in High Street does have a cash dispenser if you run short of money. ~Eating Out And I really mean eating out....... tourists can often be spotted eating their fish and chips whilst sitting on the quay wall (said to be the largest and most popular outdoor restaurant in Norfolk, if not England!). There are three fish and chip shops situated along the Quay and if the weather is hot, wash your fish and chips down with a glass of cider obtained from Whin Hill Cidery, located in Stearmans Yard, where cider and apple juice is made locally using traditional methods. For a special occasion visit the Crown Hotel; this is a famous coaching inn dating back to Tudor times, it is set in peaceful surroundings on the Buttlands. The Buttlands is a rectangular green surrounded by lime trees. It was used for archery practice im medieval times. ~And Drinking.... Apart from the Crown Hotel, there are several public houses including the Edinburgh Hotel in Station Road, a friendly pub where you can also get a good meal in the 'Shipmates' restaurant. The Ark Royal situated in Freeman Street is a lively public house, which also provides excellent meals in the restaurant. Sit outside on the wooden benches on a warm summer evening and watch the world go by. ~The Albatros The Albatros is a Dutch Clipper ship, which can often be seen moored in the harbour. This 2-masted vessel was built in 1899 and was used for transporting grain from Wells to Holland. In recent years, it was used by Greenpeace for the purpose of training young people in environmental issues. In 1997, it was converted into a passenger ship. If you fancy a cruise on this magnificent vessel, day and weekend trips are planned from around Easter. A weekend
      cruise will set you back £195 per person, whilst if you wish to charter the boat it will cost you around £2000 (I shall start saving my pennies!). ~RNLI Wells-next-the-sea Lifeboat Guild was established in 1969 by the RNLI for the purpose of promoting and fund raising locally. Numerous events are organised throughout the year. One of the largest events is the Annual Lifeboat Service, which is held during August. The Lifeboat is moored in the harbour whilst local Ministers conduct the Quayside Service. It is a very moving occasion ending with the Lifeboat going out to sea to the sounds of 'Abide with me'. A Craft Fair in aid of the RNLI is being organised by the Wells Crafts Group on 13th and 14th August 2001 and will be held at the Maltings Community Centre in Staithe Street. Crafts on display will include calligraphy, fabric cards and pictures, bead jewellery, silk scarves, flowers, cushions, semi-precious jewellery, decoupage pictures and cards, ladies knitwear, stained glass, woodturning, baby knits and sewing, and local books. The Wells Maritime Museum is a treasure trove of information on the varied history of the port of Wells. It covers the floods of 1953 and 1978, the fishing industry and the history of the RNLI. It is situated on the western end of the Quay behind the Harbourmaster's Office. ~And now for the most popular activity in Wells..... Gillying Shore crabs "Gillies" are common crustaceans, which have to break out of their shells when they grow and find bigger shells. At high tide in the harbour, gillying is a very popular traditional pastime for children. To participate you will need a crab-line; a bucket and some raw bacon cut into pieces to use as bait. Picture this: a hot day last summer - four adults and two little girls aged 8 and 10. We attracted a large crowd of onlookers - in one bucket there were about 50 crabs and in the other about 60 crabs -
      there was a lot of hilarity with "I've got more crabs than you" and "No, I've got the most crabs!". The reader of this opinion may think that this was the two little girls talking. WRONG - this was my husband (aged 49) and my stepson (aged 30) who completely took over the gillying from the children. We had a great time though and the children did get a turn (eventually). ~Carnival Week Carnival week is an annual event, which this year will take place from Sunday 5th to Saturday 12th August. The event opens with the Grand Carnival Fete on the Beach Road Playing Field featuring the crowning of the Carnival Queen. On Saturday, 11th August fun starts at around noon on The Buttlands with a parade of carnival floats following their customary route around the narrow streets of Wells. Numerous events and competitions take place during Carnival Week including a Carnival Craft Fair on Sunday, 12th August. ~Wells to Walsingham Light Railway I have read that this is the longest 10-inch guage railway in the world. It is an 8-mile return journey along the old Great Eastern track. It is a very pleasant journey, noted for its wonderful display of wild flowers and butterflies. The main station and Car Park is situated on the A149 Coast Road East and is open 7 days a week from Good Friday until the end of September. Walsingham was famous in England during medieval times. Since 1061 pilgrims have visited the Shrine of Our Lady. Even if you are not religious, it is worth a visit to see the striking Georgian timber-framed buildings. A Guided Tour of Walsingham taking in the Priory, the Shrines, the Georgian Courthouse, Museum and Prison will take around 2 hours. ~Trips to see the seals Grey and Common Seals can be found on the North Norfolk coastline, and occasionally rare seals have been sighted, such as the Hooded, Harp and Ringed Seal. Boat trips are available from Morston
      Quay and from Blakeney and generally last around an hour. ~Accommodation There is a wide range of accommodation in this popular resort, most of which is available throughout the year. This ranges from small B & B accommodation with homely touches to comfortable holiday cottages and caravans to top quality hotels. If you intend to visit in July or August, it is advisable to book first. A list of accommodation is available from the Tourist Information Centre. ~Closures fue to Foot and Mouth Precautions At the time of writing this, although there are no cases of F & M disease in Norfolk, some of the bridleways and public footpaths that encompass cattle-grazed farmland are still closed to the public. Holkham Hall re-opened to the public on 2nd July 2001; however, the Park is still closed (please see my opininion entitled Holkham for further information). Lady Anne's Road and therefore Holkham Beach re-opened on Good Friday. I have tried to write about places to visit around Wells that are unaffected by this disease and should remain open to the public. ~ Dates for your diary (2001): 5th to 12th August Carnival Week - for further details please visit www.wellscarnival.co.uk 5th August Annual Wells Lifeboat Service at the Quayside 7.15pm 12th August Carnival Craft Fair 13th to 14th August Craft Fair in aid of the RNLI 19th August Harbour Day: Norfolk's annual waterside event. ~And finally If you have read to the end of this opinion and are still here, you may have realised that I live in Wells-next-the-sea and have done so for the past five years, so I may be slightly biased, but I love the place.... Husband (he has not been here quite as long as I have) says people come here to die! We do seem to have a large resident population of people aged 60 years or more. It is completely different in the winter months (said to be desolate
      by some!). We don't very often get severe frosts, but we do get bitterly cold winds, so if you visit the town in winter, wrap up in warm clothes. For further information on Wells-next-the-sea visit http://members.aol.com/Wellsonsea/ janna 3rd May 2001 Updated 15th July 2001

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