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Pier Pressure 2016

Day 5 - Tuesday 16th August 2016

Skegness to Ipswich - 223 Miles

Today was going to be the busiest pier visiting day of the trip so far, with 7 piers on our list for the day. This meant an early start (even earlier than normal).


Looking out of our bedroom window Skegness looked very quiet and slightly less neon than it had the night before. Once again the weather looked like it was going to be dry and fine.

Whilst the rest of the hotel guests were still tucked up in bed, George, Ruth, Alex and myself were down in the hotel bar having breakfast by around 7:30am.

As arranged the night before, Andy turned up at 8:00am in his dark blue Sidewinder. A few moments later there was the unmistakable sound of a second buggy as Gordon arrived in his LWB Black and white striped FF buggy. Andy and Gordon kindly taxied us to Andy’s mom’s house to pick up our buggies and just 15 minutes later we arrived back at the hotel to collect Ruth and Alex. Also now waiting for us was Simon and family in his Blue Rat, returning back after their short cruise with us the previous evening.

It was good that Gordon had arrived as he had set up a GLYMPSE App group on his mobile phone, whereby people could track our exact location at any particular time. We had been made aware of GLYMPSE before starting Pier Pressure but due to my somewhat Luddite approach to mobile phone technology, it needed Gordon to show us how to set up the app on my phone and log on.

A few minutes were needed to pack up the two pier Pressure buggies before the 5 buggies headed off towards our first meeting of the day at Hunstanton. When planning Pier Pressure and talking about it on Beachbuggy.info, the UK’s beach buggy online forum, we had an offer from one of the forum members, Stephen, whose family own a seafront business in Hunstaton. Stephen kindly offered to supply us with tea and doughnuts if we passed that way on this leg of Pier Pressure. Andy offered to take the lead to Boston as he knew the roads and for only the Second time on the Pier Pressure trip I was actually following George.  

The first 25 miles went quickly and before we knew it we were retelling in Boston, before crossing the river Witham and heading along the A17 towards Kings Lynn, before crossing the very robust Sutton Bridge over the River Nene.


I had had a message from Stephen saying he would meet us just as we left Kings Lynn, in a layby near to the Hospital. However on our approach to Kings Lynn we pulled onto a dual carriageway and literally cruise up behind Miles in the inside lane, in his LWB Volksrod. It turned out that Miles was on his way to meet Stephen and we just happened upon his journey there. We were now 6 buggies and the Pier Pressure day 5 cruise was growing.

As we left Kings Lyn and approached the pre-arranged layby, Stephen was true to his word and was waiting in his red SWB GP. Unexpectedly, but very welcome, he was also joined by Chris Jordan in his yellow LWB Doon. As we approcahed the guys were already fired up and ready to go, pulling out into the traffic as we arrived. In fact they had been watching our approach on GLYMPSE, which proved invaluable to us as the trip went on. So without the cruise having to stop, we were now 8 buggies and in the hands of Stephen at the head. Amazingly at that moment in time we were bang on our proposed schedule for the day


Already that morning we had travelled over 71 miles from Skegness, with only a slight traffic delay on the way into Hunstatnton before we arrived at the village green on the sea front and were allowed to park right in the middle of the green, which is normally a no go for vehicles. As we arrived we were joined by a local guy in his Baja bug, but unfortunately I never got his name and he didn’t cruise with us after this break, so whoever you were, thank you.


Stephen had arranged a meeting with the major and the local rag, which resulted in a quick interview and photos on the green. The mayor turned out to be a petrol head who owned a classic MG. Behind the green was the remains of the old Hunstanton Pier which burnt down a good few years ago, leaving an amusement arcade where it used to start. After our latest paparazzi moment, Stephen as promised, supplied tea and donuts for us all.


Unfortunately, we only had a short time at Hunstaton and what felt like just a few minutes after we had arrived, the 8 buggies on today’s cruise hit the road with the tea only half drunk.


Our next planned stop was at Cromer, another 37 miles around the East Aglian coast. The last time I had ben in Cromer was around 2003 when all it did was rain, although at that time we did luckily find the local beer festival to hold up in. Therefore I was truly looking forward to returning to Cromer in the sunshine.

After contacting Cromer Pier before the trip we had been invited to park up and meet the local councillor responsible for tourism and a representative from the pier trust, along with the local press once again. The only issue was that we needed to be there no later than 12:15pm to fit in with other ‘acts’ on the pier promenade. We were to be led at walking pace down the promenade to the pier as the Cromer carnival was on that week and there were several things going on around the pier and promenade that day.

Between Hunstaton and Cromer lies Wells Next-to-Sea. The last time I was in this town was to film an episode of KINGDOM in which my buggy was filmed alongside Stephen Fry. Hence I really wanted to pass through the seafront at Wells Next-to-sea once more for old time’s sake. Now I am not a regular sat nav user and I certainly cannot stand the spoken commentary, which to be truthfu can’t be heard anyway in a buggy. I had, however, realised early on that a sat nav was going to be a necessary evil for our Pier Pressure trip. Consequently I did have some issues with following the Sat Nav throughout our trip.

Today I made two big cock ups with my navigation, the first being at Wells. I missed the turn to take us along the sea front and tried unsuccessfully to use the next road to double back. Trouble was the road didn’t double back and suddenly I had 8 buggies stuck in the narrow back streets in Wells. Unfortunately, in the melee I managed to lose Chris Jordan who turned left as we turned right – I am really sorry Chris for that.

The next cock up came just a few short miles further on where, in a small village, I took a wrong turning which took us away from the coast road and into the local countryside. In a way, this actually turned out pretty well for us as we managed to avoid the traffic and congestion on the coast road that day, which allowed us toy arrive in Cromer bang on 12:15pm. Waiting for us at the side of the road was Dave in his LWB yellow Doon Buggy. Dave had Hudge in the passenger seat as his Hudge’s own buggy was poorly and couldn’t make the trip that day.


PIER 16 - CROMER


Cromer Pier was accessed down a steep narrow ramp and then a couple of hundred yards along a promenade that was normally reserved just for pedestrians. Waiting at the top of the ram as we arrived were two of the carnival event staff in yellow jackets, who lead us all the way to the pier front at walking pace. Amazingly, just before we headed down the ramp, Chris managed to catch back up with us after we had lost him earlier in Wells, which was great.

The pier had a lovely feel to it and retained much of its Victorian charm, with a nice long wavy stepped entrance, a restaurant at the entrance and a traditional pavilion theatre at the end. It wasn’t overlong but very well maintained and just how a Victorian pier should be. Thankfully there were no tacky amusement arcade frontages here.


The weather was still being very kind to us too with blue skies and loads of sunshine. As previously arranged, the 4 of us we met up with the local cabinet member for tourism, the head of the pier trust and the local press for more photos and interviews. We were starting to feel like minor celebrities today with our second photo call in as many hours. Whilst we were doing the press stuff, Dave and Hudge took it upon themselves to shake the collection tins in front of every face they saw which brilliantly helped swell our ever growing donation pot. A great big thank you guys from us, for all your help.


I really enjoyed our short time at Cromer and it still remains one of my favourite piers we visited on the trip. We were made very welcome and there were large crowds around to add to the buzz. We also had a great line up of 9 buggies right on the promenade outside the pier entrance and the walkways up the cliffs made for some great high level photos.


It was at this point looking down on the buggies and taking a pleasant five minutes to myself for the first time today, I realised that today we had on our cruise three of the UK’s current buggy kit manufacturers; Gordon who owns the FF moulds, Miles who owns the Volksrod moulds and myself with the Doon moulds. This proved to me what a great friendly community we belong to and what support we were being given to our challenge from across the whole of the buggy world.



It had now just gone 1:00pm and Cromer was just the first pier of 7 we had to visit today, so with some hasty farewells we hit the road again and set off for Great Yarmouth. However our quick getaway was somewhat thwarted by an inconsiderate delivery driver who had completely blocked the top of the access ramp for 10 or so minutes until someone found him. At this point Simon, Miles, Stephen and Chris had to leave us sadly, but this still left 5 buggies to carry on cruising around the East Anglian coast.

I couldn’t recall ever visiting Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft or Southwold so I was looking forward to the next few hours of our trip. We made good time heading the relatively short 33 miles down to Great Yarmouth, whilst at the same time Hudge had a great time hanging out of Dave’s Doon taking some great ‘action’ shots.


PIER 17 - GREAT YARMOUTH BRITANNIA


There were 2 piers in Great Yarmouth for us to visit. Our first stop in the town was at the Britannia Pier which had a lovely wide paved area out the front just right for parking and displaying 5 buggies. We had had no reply from either of the Great Yarmouth Piers to our pre-trip communication, but we had no problems just rocking up and parking up outside. In fact everyone in any form of uniform or staff attire seemed happy to see us there.


The pier itself was a typical billboard encrusted entrance with amusements and pub, leading out to a more traditional theatre out to sea at its end. By the look of it the theatre was thriving, advertising some well know acts over the summer.


It was getting warmer by the minute, so we took time to roll out the banners and even more time to chill out a little and take lunch ( a Hot Dog and Tea – typical normal Pier faire). Whilst taking in the rays, George unexpectedly met up with an old friend who had come to make a special visit to see us which made for a pleasant surprise. Dave and Hudge continued on their two man crusade to ensure everyone around threw a coin or two in the rattle cans. Once again thanks for the commitment to the cause, gents.




PIER 18 - GREAT YARMOUTH WELLINGTON


After 45 minutes at the Britannia, we simply popped a mile down the seafront to the Wellington Pier, Great Yarmouth’s smaller of the two piers in town. Unlike the larger pier, the front outside of the Wellington was far more compact and we just about managed to squeeze the five buggies out the front, near the main entrance. This time we had to be careful of the promenade train and horse drawn carriage lane, particularly when stepping back to take photos.


The Wellington Pier looked very much like many others we had already seen, with an amusement arcade bolted to the front, a wooden pier out to the beach with a large restored pavilion out at the sea end. However this time just behind the amusement facade, there was a large Victorian winter garden structure that was in desperate need of repair and could potentially have been fantastic again. However this appeared to be the way with a good number of the piers we had already visited, where an injection of funds would be more than welcome but the cost involved was making this almost impossible without Government grants or active pier trusts and donations. This is such a shame as most Victorian Piers are now protected listed buildings.





To try and say a little time we didn’t stay at the Wellington for the full 30 minute allotted time, as it was far less busy than the Britannia Pier up the road. Therefore it was time for a quick fuel stop on the edge of town and comfort break before heading off to our next port of call at Lowestoft, just 10 miles south along the coast.

PIER 19 - LOWESTOFT SOUTH PIER

Lowestoft, like Great Yarmouth before, had 2 piers to visit and within just 30 minutes we were pulling up outside of South Pier.

By now we had become quite adapt at getting the buggies as close to the pier entrances as possible, some with permission and some just ny being confident and bold. South Pier was very much of the later in that we hadn’t heard back from Pier when we have done our pre-trip communications.

To get to the promenade and pier entrance, this time we had to drive down a small block paved service road, cut across the corner of the floor fountains timing it between jets of water being sprayed and squeeze between the bollards designed to stop people driving on the promenade. Finally we managed to get the five buggies through the urban assault course without getting wet up before pulling up right outside the main entrance on the pedestrian promenade.

Thankfully we were met by a great bunch of really happy staff from the pier, who had their own cameras out before we had even got out the buggies.


It was now pushing passed 4:00pm and we still had 80 miles to drive and 3 piers left to visit that day. Thankfully the next Lowestoft pier, the Claremont, could actually be seen at the other end of the promenade less than 1 mile away. Ironically it was directly south of South Pier, along the coast,

We resisted the urge to drive the whole way along the pedestrian promenade and tip toed our way back out onto the road, facing the street fountain roulette game once again. As we all headed off to the next pier, Dave Doon made a small detour to drop Hudge off home (as he was a local Lowestoft resident), before catching up with us again at the Claremont.


PIER 20 - LOWESTOFT CLAREMONT

Lowestoft Claremont Pier was accessed down a little side road that was blocked by a barrier to stop people driving on the promenade (seems our choice at the last pier to not drive along the Promenade was a wise one).


Whilst we set up for our obligatory buggy and pier picture against the barrier, Ruth went and used her charms on the nearest member of pier staff. The pier retained some of its 1930’s charm and although there was amusement arcade on the front, it was far more subtle than most and the hence in this case the front was dominated more by outdoor café seating than neon and tackiness.


Then Ruth returned with some fantastic news and before we knew it the barrier was opened and we were granted access to the promenade, slipway and beach by the side of the pier; what a great welcome and brilliant support by the Clarence.

The weather was still playing ball with a lovely Simpson’ style sky. This meant we got some great pictures down by the beach and the side of the pier and even Andy Robinson managed to get his tyres sandy again – that was twice in 2 days.

Gordon and myself also took the opportunity for some nice beach pictures too.


We were also meet at the pier by some old friends (Mags and Colin) who live in Lowestoft, which was an unexpected, but welcome bonus. Andy even treated everyone to an ice cream before we had to say goodbye to Lowestoft and head off to our next stop at Southwold. We had now visited 5 piers already and there were just 2 more left before the day was over.

It was just another 12 miles down the coast to Southwold and by now it was late afternoon.


PIER 21 - SOUTHWOLD

Southwold Pier has a lovely Art Deco frontage which was built in the 1930’s to replace the original playhouse entrance (which more than likely burnt down).There was limited parking to the frontage, with a large car park to the side. Surprisingly for the time of day the car parks were very busy, although it did also serve the sand dunes which stretched for miles away from the pier.

George and myself managed to sneak our two the buggies right against the front doors in the ‘no parking’ zone for a quick shot. Before we all headed off to the right hand side of the pier onto the perfectly sized pedestrian promenade for some nice late afternoon photos.


I did like the look and feel of Southwold although by now, despite the busy car park, the were actually very few people milling around. Amazingly we were just about 15 minutes or so behind schedule at that point. We had planned a 45 minute stop at Soutwold to catch an afternoon snack but we all decided we should curtail the stop to about 30 minutes to try and help us get to our hotel on time for once, at the end of the day.

We had just one more pier left to visit today and the time had just pushed passed 6:00pm as we drove away from Southwold. At this point Andy R took his leave and finally headed for home. We thanked him deeply for all his help over the past 2 days and especially the help from his extended family in Skegness. This left just 4 buggies now to carry on along the coast to rendezvous with our next pier.

Our final and 7th pier destination for the day was at Felixstowe, some 40 miles south of Southwold. To be truthfully honest this was just a 40 mile slog along the A12 and I really don’t remember too much of it, other than it was lovely English country side with mile after mile of flat fields and tall hedge rows, punctuated by the odd village every now and then.



PIER 22 - FELIXSTOWE

Our pre-ordained travel schedule had us arriving at 7pm and bang on 7 pm we arrived at Felixstowe Pier. We had now travelled over 200 miles and visited 7 piers that day and the sun was in its final throws before setting for the night.

Felixstowe pier wasn’t one of the prettiest we had visited on the trip, being basically an uninspiring amusement box stuck on the front end of a relatively short pier. The front was accessed through the back of a public car park and through a gap in the promenade wall.

George and myself ventured our buggies onto the promenade at the side of the pier, to get our ‘proof of visiting’ photo whilst Dave and Gordon stayed on  the car park as space was limited around the industrial wheelie bins.

The only people now around were groups of teenagers visiting the arcade and they tried desparately to get a seat in the buggies – ‘Bet I could drive that wicked mate’ said one ‘and I know you won’t’ I replied sarcastically.

As there were very few other folks around and the evening was getting on, we decided that for the first time since starting the Pier Pressure challenge some 5 days before, we would pack up early and drive the last 17 miles to our hotel for the night. So at 7:15 we left Felixstowe and headed off to find food.


Only afterwards did we find out that a reporter from the East Anglian Times had turned up at the pier at 7:30 to do an interview and take pictures. Unfortunately they had not contacted us previously to say they would meet with us, so we didn’t know they would be coming along, else we would have waited.


As we were now in Dave Doon’s home patch he took on leading us towards Ipswich to find food on the way to our hotel. The sun was now setting and the temperature was quickly dropping. Gordon had already arranged to stop the night at the same hotel as us and was going to join us on our adventures the following day. Dave thnkfully led us to a Hungry Horse pub on the outskirts of Ipswich before heading home himself for food. This left Ruth, Alex, George. Gordon and myself eating at the pub and getting a nice decent meal.




The time had passed 9:00pm when we finally jumped back in the buggies to finish off the last 10 miles for the day. Our Travel Lodge for the night was in Capel St Mary right on the side of the dual carriageway that is the A12. The post code was set in my sat-nav and off we set, crossing the Orwell Bridge on route. I religiously followed the sat nav as it was now dark and eventually we pulled off the A12, passed through a small village, rejoined the A12 and pulled off on at the next slip road into a BP Garage. And there it was, the Travelodge, well lit and quite obvious. The only trouble was the hotel was 4 lanes away on the other side of the dual carriageway – Doh!!. This was my third sat-nav failure of the day.

Thankfully Gordon came to the rescue and by using his phone he correctly directed us to the Travelodge car park. It turned out when we had left intially left the A12 for the first time, we were only about 150 yards from the Travelodge access. Have I said before how much I hate sat-navs? The Travelodge at Capel St Mary was a cut above the others we have stopped in so far as it didn’t share its site with a 24hr McD’s or a Subway. Instead is was served by a Costa Coffee so at least breakfast tomorrow would be sorted.

We checked in and then all retired to the Chadwick’s room for a quick chat and customary warm canned beer. Gordon then disappeared and materialized a few minutes later with some nice new cold beers bought from the nearest petrol station. Finally the lads retired for the night and I was left setting the sat-nav route for day 6 as well as trying to keep up with the social media side of things. It turned out that our GLYMPSE app journey, set up by Gordon at the beginning of the day, had become some kind of cult hit and many people were now following our route, including both my extremely digitally Neanderthalic sister and my work’s media team.

Day 5, (now technically day 6 as it was well past midnight), had been a long long day in the saddle, with 7 more piers visited and another 240+ miles travelled. We had also meet some very new and some very old buggy friends. We were now half way around our challenge, had covered around half of the planned 2500 miles, but had only visited just 22 of the 57 piers on our list. This meant there were some very busy days ahead, although little did we know at that time just how busy Day 6 was going to be…


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