Along the trail
You can dip in and out of the Bacton Art Trail as you like. We are a motley crew and quite spread out so, this year, we thought it would be helpful to join the dots by highlighting some examples of creativity that you encounter along the way. After all, art and creativity are not the exclusive preserves of us self-confessed artists. Everyone makes decisions about their environment that reflect aspects of their personality - some more idiosyncratic than others.
And, just to keep you on your toes, we'll do this backwards, starting out from Amelia Mills' space where she will be showing her 'sea and sky'-inspired paintings, prints and works in resin at the Walcott end of the trail.
The KIngffisher Cafe with Harland Miller's Deckchairs
Of course, since you have only just started, it will be far too early to stop for a cup of tea and a cake but do pop your head in at The Kingfisher Cafe along the Walcott Corniche.
If you are already familiar with his work, you may be surprised to stumble across a selection of Harland Miller’s deckchairs on the interior walls of The Kingfisher Cafe. Harland, who lives locally, is an internationally renowned author and artist whose huge paintings of book jackets (and I mean HUGE!), with their tongue-in-cheek subversive titles are more likely to be found in a major London gallery than a seaside cafe, but what better setting could you wish for? His paintings bear some similarities to Pop Art but unlike, say, Andy Warhol’s mass produced screen prints, Harland’s work undoubtedly shows the hand of the creator with his adept painterliness. The Jasper Johns’ paintings of the American flag are perhaps closer in tone; both artists draw upon the large-scale paintings of the American Abstract Expressionists, though Harland’s wry use of the well-turned phrase will probably draw more smiles. Make what you will of the deckchair motif. Personally, it makes me think how we tend to use holidays as a time to catch up on all that reading. So both the holiday-maker and the book are framed by the deckchair - just as they are here.
Continuing along the Walcott Corniche, a raging sea can produce its own tumultuous ever-changing version of a Jackson Pollock abstract painting whereas a calm sea can induce a zen-like state with the gentle undulations.
As you wander, you may well find yourself thinking: “What a wonderful expanse of wall. It’s crying out for a mural.” I think you might be right…maybe something along the lines of the procession to that mass rave of the 15th Century: John Paston's funeral. What? Never heard of the Lord of Caister’s funeral? I’ll come back to that at the end.
The ornamental wall
Now, turn your heads away from the sea for a moment and you will notice the most extraordinary menagerie of ornamental figures mounted along an unassuming brick wall.
Joy moved here from Hertfordshire four and a half years back and has set about creating a spectacle for all the world to enjoy. These stone animals all come from Drakes in Ridlington and now stare out to sea, night and day, silent witnesses to all that pass. Joy tells me that people are drawn to them like magnets. She will occasionally look out from her window and see someone standing there just stroking one of the animals. They are a wonderful example of how a person can stamp their individuality on their surroundings even by using bought-in decorations. If ever there is a mural along the seawall of the procession to Bromholm Priory then these creatures will be the spectators.
The Bear Garden
Further along, just before you reach The Poacher’s Pocket, you might notice some bears lurking in a front yard. Just a few years ago, as you can see from the picture below, this garden was a veritable Garden of Eden but recent events have turned it into an arid wilderness; an unintended metaphor for climate change and a total headache for Colin, who lives in the mobile home here. The floods of December 2013 caused a lot of damage along the seafront with residents being evacuated and houses having to be rebuilt. Then, more recently, the storms and high winds just after the sandscaping turned the corniche into a scene reminiscent of the Sahara: sand dunes appeared in the middle of the road rendering it impassable and parked cars were buried for weeks. The sand that is proving so popular with holiday makers destroyed over a thousand flowers in a single night and the constant presence of sand blowing over from the beach has killed all the grass. Colin’s family have lived on this spot for many years. They even had to contend with the great floods of 1953 when the road used to run where now there is sea.
The Bear Garden before the tidal surge
Though the weather has always been prone to throwing up catastrophes, Colin argues that the current insurmountable problems have been exacerbated by North Norfolk council’s decision to use the finer sand from off the shore near Great Yarmouth rather than the originally intended, but more costly option of importing heavier sand from further up the coast in Lincolnshire. I am told that there are now a number of residents in dispute with the council over damage to property and with regard to health issues that have been brought on by the constant presence of the fine sand in the atmosphere.
But, regarding the bears, they are something of a family tradition for Colin. His mother used to make teddy bears; a very large one, now over seventy years old and in immaculate condition, occupies pride of place in his living room. The trio in the front yard were created by the incredibly versatile Arnie Barton using a chainsaw - you may have encountered Arnie exhibiting his wares in the lay-by just the other side of Cromer on the road to Holt. There is another, far larger creature, often mistaken for a bear, but is actually a wookie (though at the time of writing he has been dismantled while the renovations are taking place). This garden has been a delight for many people over the years; so much so that Colin used to have a collection box to raise money for charity from the people taking selfies with the bears.
So, for the present, the bears have donned their hi-vis jackets and look on in admiration as Colin sets too once more in his mechanical digger to reinvent his surroundings. Watch that space and wish him well if you are passing.
The Bear Garden
There is plenty to look at as you continue away from the sea for a while: the allotments on your left just past the turning up to Ridlington and the various architectural details of the older houses that border the road. When eventually you reach the small parade of shops, you may well be tempted by Carmel Cafe, Bacton’s very popular vegan cafe. This has now extended into the area once occupied by the North Norfolk Crafts and Gift Shop. This latter has had to upsticks and is now well rooted in Mundesley and doing very well in significantly larger premises.
Opposite the little road leading to the remains of Bromholm Priory, you may encounter paintings by Phil Wills, an occasional member of our trail. Further examples of his work as well as some by Nick are on show at Watson’s, Bacton’s other eatery opposite the Eden Garage.
The turning to the left opposite the village hall leads you up Church Road where you will find Nick White and Cindy Gidney showing in the barn at The Old Vicarage up the lane leading to the church. If you have made your journey here by car, please park in the church car park just behind The Old Vicarage. A better approach is to go first to Maggie Simmons on Kimberley Road near the Chinese restaurant and then use the footpath across the field to the church.
Maggie Simmons/ Cindy Gidney/ Nick White
A quick detour into St Andrews church might be worth your while. It lies on The Paston Way and its tower is home to a large colony of jackdaws. They spend their day elsewhere and return in the evening, usually meeting up in the poplar trees next to the churchyard before they retire for the night. There has been a fair to-do of late with the recent arrival of the magpies from the top of Sandy Lane and occasional forays by the seagulls blown inland by the strong winds on the coast.
The church is constructed of flint, freestone and brick. The earliest visible part of the building is the stoup in the south nave doorway, which dates from Norman times. The remainder is mainly 14th century with a 15th century tower and a 15th or early 16th century south porch.
There were also alterations and restorations in the 19th century, evidenced by finds from this period made during a programme of archaeological monitoring and recording in 2012.
Inside, there is a 14th century font and 16th century wall paintings. The list of earlier incumbents makes for interesting reading and there are two fabulous photographs. One of EJ Moeran, an Anglo-Irish composer from the early part of the twentieth century, sat on the knee of his grandfather who was a vicar here; the other is of James Capes, a local bell-ringer who, one-handedly(ish), rang all the bells through a clever construction of ropes and pulleys - though, in truth, he looks more like an over-optimistic escapologist.
The churchyard has many interesting gravestones, including an Art Nouveau memorial dating to 1924 and two that feature tractors.
So, having had a wander around The Old Vicarage barn and having seen the work on show at Bacton House, it is time to head off along the road to Edingthorpe. It's a bit of a trek but you can always admire Nick Alexander's Gloucester Old Spots on your journey and keep alert for the buzzards that are circling overhead, ready to make off with one of those chaffinches that you can hear in the bushes. You might even spot a muntjac - their strange barking sound can be quite unnerving when you first hear it.
As you go round the second double bend - the one after the new houses - you descend into Edingthorpe. There is a footpath to All Saints' Church on your right and it is well worth a detour, though you will miss out on trying to spot the modern house that is cleverly disguised as a 15th century cottage just past the large Rectory.
All Saints' Church
The route to the church leads along a dirt track up a slight hill and the churchyard itself is bordered by trees and is a haven for wildlife. You enter through the Lych Gate built in memory of a Rector's son and his comrades killed in World War One. Somewhat fittingly, Edingthorpe was the location of childhood holidays for the poet, Siegfried Sassoon and he revisited it again in the 1930s.
The tower of this late Saxon or early Norman church was rebuilt in the 14th Century - possibly in anticipation of the arrival of a large IKEA store as it bears a remarkable resemblance to an oversized allen key. The interior has a beautiful minimalist simplicity that shows the fragments of wall paintings to great effect. Whoever it is that takes the responsibility for looking after this church does it with a wonderful deftness of touch.
All Saints' Church
You return to the main route by turning right out of the Lych-Gate, past the car park and down the hill turning left at the bottom. This brings you up to the crossroads where you make a right turn and continue to the next junction at the stables. Go straight across onto...
...the footpath where you might come across Chris, a jeweller from North Walsham, taking his horse for a walk in search of some lush green grass. There is quite a network of paths around here and one moment you might be striding across a field and the next you are suddenly hidden from view in an ancient hollow way. You will even discover some of those rare Norfolk hills. However, since you are heading to Edingthorpe Green, don't stray too far from the path and you will soon arrive at Hennessey’s Loke where Mary Richardson and Jo Arnold are to be found..