Well I thought Donkey rides had died out years a go, how wrong was I.
On the seafront at Yarmouth it has made a comeback.
The kids seem to love it and the donkeys seemed to be enjoying it too.
It looks very well managed and the donkeys look very fit and healthy.
The kids safety is also looked after with helmets available if they wish.
- Family Travel
Meet the sharks
The seafront area of Yarmouth (I never did understand the 'Great' bit) has had a number of new tourist developments plonked upon it in the last few years.
One investment has been the Sea-Life centre. The centre is part of a chain of such attractions dotted around the coast, with a National one (very odd this) sited in Birmingham.
They all all pretty similar, displaying a range of fish, shellfish, octopus, jellyfish and the like along with the inevitable sharks.
At 11.50 entry for adults (and nearly the same for any child over 2) it is way over-priced and represents poor value for money. There are far better, and cheaper, aquariums all over the globe.
At least the 'themeing' of the place is well done with the pirate cove section much appreciated by my three year old (OOH arr, shiver me timbers etc.. ad nauseum)
On the plus side, each sea-life centre specialises in a particular area. At Hunstanton (also in Norfolk) they have a seal sanctuary, but in Yarmouth they have a Seahorse breeding programme. Quite how you do you encourage them to breed ? I have no idea. Seahorse porn perhaps, although arn't they hermaphrodite ?
Shiver me timbers
My three year old son would like to compliment the good folk of Great Yarmouth for the amount of Pirate related "Stuff" lying about the sea front area. It seems that every other mini-golf course or amusement arcade had a Jolly Roger flag or Captain Blackbeard fiberglass dummy on it somewhere. Even Harry Ramsden's fish and chip shop was built to look like the back end of a Spanish Galleon.
- Family Travel
The piers of Yarmouth are not peerless
Seaside piers are very much a feature of the British Seaside experience. Pier building in the Victorian era had much in common with the race to build skyscrapers in 1920's America.
Each resort wanted to have the longest, most ornate and most piers to it's name. Great Yarmouth has been left with two - the Britannia and the Wellington.
Neither of them, although protected, could be seen as great architectural gems.
The Britannia is nowadays a garish mix of fairground amusements, arcade games and a theatre that seems to be enirely populated by acts that could best be described as 'has-beens'.
The Wellington features a 'Winter gardens' at its entrance, which at least makes it look a bit more upmarket. The glass 'Crystal palace' like structure was bought from a failed enterprise in Torquay at the start of the 20th century. Nowadays it houses not ballroom dancing and classical orchestras - but tacky bars, amusements and a giant childrens play area. Keep the kids amused and get P***ed - how very British.
A Classic roller-coaster
The Rollercoaster at the pleasure beach in Great Yarmouth is a veritable old thing, it is over 70 years old !
The pleasure beach itself is nothing to write home about - a fairly tawdry collection of fairground rides sited on the blustery east coast.
You don't therefore visit this coaster for straighforward thrills. It certainly give 'airtime' and rattles and creaks along in an entertaining and slightly disconcerting way - but it is unlikley to deliver a packet of white-knuckle adreneline.
See it more as a 'museum' piece and it begins to make more sense. It appears on the American coaster clubs's list of 'Classic' rollercoaster, and they point out it should actually be referred to as a 'scenic railway'. It has to meet a number of criteria for this award - so don't expect headrests or other such new-fangles safety devices - this is the real thing.
Just one last point - I can't understand why it is given an American 'theme'. The whole structure is covered in Uncle Sam's stars and stripes, but the ride originated at a Colonial exhibition in Paris before being transported to Norfolk. Perhaps a gallic rollercoaster would put people off riding on it ? who knows.
- Theme Park Trips
hurrah for the broads
In my usual fashion, I could make lots of 'off-colour' jokes about the broads of Norfolk, but I shall refrain.
'The Broads' are in fact an area of wetland that lie roughly within an area bordered by Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth, Wroxham Norwich. They now have the status of a National park due to their importance for wildlife (mainly nesting sites for birds) and rare plantlife .
They are at their most attractive from the waterways themsleves, being relatively flat a featureless from terra firma. This is perhaps the reason that it took a long time before they were given National park status.
Great Yarmouth is thus one of the main marinas from which thousands enjoy eith day trips by boat or hire a boat for a few days pottering around the interconnected lakes, rivers and other waterways.
Merrivale Model Village
This is a model village in miniature built amongst landscaped gardens. The website mentions you can wander around the maze of paths, but we found out you can follow the single track in one direction, since the track is quite narrow. It seems to me some models need a bit of care and attention: some of the figures are leaning to the ground, some of the colours are fading etc But perhaps I'm being to critical! If this is the first model village you visit, perhaps you won't notice this and enjoyed it as much as my friend did! Entrance costs 4.50 pounds for adults, 3.50 pounds for children. Entrance times vary a lot so check the website below for more information.
Pleasure Beach is an amusement park with some very old rides such as Gallopers - "the most exciting parade of galloping horses" - built in 1901. Such a lovely and well kept attraction. They also have a historic roller coaster, operational since 1928 and in its present location since 1933. Ok we confess: we went to Great Yarmouth just to ride this small wooden roller coaster! It was great fun! Something interesting about this old ride: each train carries an operator who control the brakes. He uses a giant lever to grab the cable and slow the train down.
Please visit the website for more information about the rides and opening times. There is no entrance fee to the park, you just pay the rides you want to enjoy. Have fun :)
Great Yarmouth, for such a cultural desert, has a couple of impressive connections with the world of Literature.
Great Yarmouth was the birthplace of Anna Sewell who most famously wrote the book 'Black Beauty', which is apparantly about a horse that didn't end up the local glue factory. She was born in Yarmouth, and spent nearly all of her life up to about the age of 12 inside the family home where her mother could ensure a strictly moral upbringing. The family moved to Stoke Newington (north London) in her teens. The house in Yarmouth has now been converted to an upscale restaurant due to open later this year.
The Royal Hotel, on the seafront, has connections to Charles Dickens. It is said that he was a regular vistor to the town and completed most of 'David Copperfield' in a hotel room there. The Hotel has kept up the connection with naming its public rooms and bars after the man himself and even running 'Dicken's evenings' where you are served food from Dickensian times. I bet several people always come out with the line 'Please sir, can I have some more ?'
AS you approach Great Yarmouth from the land side across the flatlands of Norfolk, it looks as if there is a wind farm situated right in front of the town. As you get nearer, you realise that the giant turbines are, in fact, situated in the sea behind the town.
I think they are quite graceful in their way, gently churning out supplies for the National Grid, as they stand on a sandbank two and half kms offshore.
I suppose they could also use they to 'wind-up' people who havn't seen one before. Perhaps you could argue they were created to provide nice on-shore breezes during the heat of the summer (this would only work as an 'april fool' in the winter) or alternatively the coucil put them up as a device to keep the vermin Seagull population down to a manageable level.
So absolutely terrible - it's good.
Madame Tussauds is a well known tourist hotspot in London, and they charge you well to see around the displays. But how many know that Madame had an idiot offspring by the name of 'Louis' ? There are other 'Houses of wax' with the same name in other locations - but nothing else matches up to horror that is "Louis Tussauds house of wax in Great Yarmouth".
At least you only pay three quid (2007 prices) to see around the motley collection that has been widely rerided on websites, on viral e-mails as one of the worst museums in the world. It even featured in a 'Have I got news for You' programme when the pannelists tried hard figure out who some of the wax work heads were supposed to be.
The whole place is apparantly in a 1980's timewarp - the last time they cleaned the place. All the 'celebrities' stem from that era, so most people uder the age of 20 might struggle to recognise such entertainment gods as Jim Davidson or Samanatha Fox (I guess her model cost a bit extra in wax).
I must admit that I havn't been to it yet, but it is a must the next time I visit.
In the meantime, take a look at the photo - you must surely recognise this pair.
Worst Musuem in the world ? Reason enough to visit in my book !
UPDATE 2014 : Appears to have finally shut, although some mysterious Czech businessman bought the figures - so they may be resurrected yet !
Yesterday's world is a private musuem that has operated for several years out of a building in battle, the site of the battle of Hastings. In 2007 they made the decision to open a second musuem here in Yarmouth. At seven pounds for adult entry it is reasonably priced, although very similar exhibitions could be seen for free at any good provincial publicly-owned museum.
Yesterday's world concentrates on putting together a series of interiors from Victorian and Edwardian times of various shops and other businesses. The 'Victorian street' was especially well done witha small train station (with sound effects & steam), a baker, chemist , cobbler and the like. Their shops or worshops stuffed with authentic pieces from the time.
Upstairs there were a number of 'tableauxs' of Victorian life, akin to a mini-Madame Tussauds. Queen Victoria and other members of her family entombed in wax cheerfully explain their life on a continous loop whilst nect door Frankenstein and Jeykell / Hyde make an appearance.
On the ground floor, a highlight is an authentic 'Gallopers' carousell (you know the type - horses on poles). A ride on it was included in the price.
The building itself is also of interest. Orginially a religious chapel, and for many years an amusement arcade, you can still see some orginal windows and around the entrance door a tiled sign and twin female figures (from it's incarnation as an amusement arcade).
The mix of exhibits may well be a bit of a weird mix, but the place is well worth visiting and is capped off with a good shop and a tea room that avails itself of a fine collection bone china cups !
- Museum Visits
Great Yarmouth's greatest asset has long been it's miles of 'Golden sands'. It's just a pity that stuck out here, desperately clinging to the eastern coast of England, that the weather isnot 'golden' to match it. Hence the old joke about "It was 28 degrees in Yarmouth yesterday ! - 14 in the morning, 14 in afternoon !"
Still, if you like uncrowded beaches, even in the height of summer , you will have plenty of room to sit around on sands.
Another neat little thing to notice around here is that an area of beach just of Yarmouth called 'Calafornia', approached via 'Calafornia road'.
The beach has lifeguards, and sometimes gets a blue flag award - just don't expect muscle toned hunks and Pamela Anderson look-a-likes soaking up the rays.
Merrivale Model Village
A village of model houses, little people, shops, pubs, hospitals etc etc. Little trains running through the village. Illuminated after dusk.
- Family Travel
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