Review: Fancy a holiday next Christmas? Why not try neighbouring Norfolk for a short festive break?

Group hug. Andrea Powell and her dogs

Group hug. Andrea Powell and her dogs - Credit: Archant

This was the first time we had been away at Christmas-time, writes Andrea Powell.

Doing what he does best � Marley fetching the ball

Doing what he does best � Marley fetching the ball - Credit: Archant

An opportunity presented itself to take the dogs up to the north Norfolk coast... and so, well, we were off!

In some ways it was always going to be bittersweet. This time last Christmas our beloved Jack was ripping open his presents with far more finesse than me, to be honest! And Jack loved Hunstanton – and a beach. So our choice to take new dog Marley (and Jess, of course) to an “old haunt” was bound to unearth some difficult emotions.

Still only 18 months old, Marley found all this new and overwhelmingly exciting. As we began to pack he took pride in tripping us up, prodding our neatly folded clothes into a messy heap, narrowly avoiding getting his nose shut in the drawers and generally not helping much.

As we heard Father Christmas outside and ran to the door to see Rudolph (a tradition I have upheld since I was a kid), Marley took the opportunity to nudge open the spare bedroom door and help himself to a bag of Mini Cheddars. Not for the first time on this holiday did I fondly wish Jack were here!

The Christmas Day charity swim at Hunstanton

The Christmas Day charity swim at Hunstanton - Credit: Archant

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As Jess took it all in her stride – she had seen it all before – Marley was puzzled as to why he had to sit on his duvet in the car. Still, this was just an opportunity to commandeer the middle of the back seat and look out of the window – he was now so high up in the car.

We had taken Marley to Hunstanton just once before. The sheer delight on the little boy’s face as he saw sand and space and more space, and friends to chase about with, and the sea and more space in which to fetch his favourite tennis ball. We knew we would be onto a winner staying here.

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However, we were not expecting the yelps that began about two miles out. OK, so those who are cynical might just tell me he needed a wee, but I know I saw the excitement and anticipation of knowing where he was. I smiled. Marley was learning. It was like having Jack in the back of the car again.

Tired, wet, sandy and windswept – and that was just Hubby and I – we spent a great day in Hunstanton before heading off to our cottage just a few miles up the road in Docking. The cottage cosy and warm, we settled into an evening watching TV – listening to the dulcet tones of two contented dogs snoring in their baskets.

The Christmas charity swim at Hunstanton

The Christmas charity swim at Hunstanton - Credit: Archant

I foolishly assumed this would be “it” for the night. But no. It appeared that, with lights out, Marley turned into some doggy equivalent of a naughty little schoolboy.

Deciding he had slept quite enough for now, there was simply too much to investigate in this new house.

Tap tap tap tap tap on the laminate flooring above. (I realise it might seem like a good idea in a house – and it is, really. Just not at midnight, when some dog is above your head as he investigates his surroundings!)

“Marley,” I bellowed.

Cley and the windmill

Cley and the windmill - Credit: Archant

“Erh, what, who, what’s up?” Hubby had clearly been in a deep sleep.

“Sorry,” I mumbled apologetically.

Tap tap tap tap tap.

“Well, I can’t go,” I argued successfully. “I haven’t got my lenses in, so I’m bound to fall over.”

Begrudgingly, Hubby knew I was right.

Reaching for his dressing gown, he was off to find the little scallywag.

Peace restored, we all settled down again.

For 10 minutes.

Tap tap tap tap tap.


“Guess that’s me again then,” replied Hubby, in the absence of a reply from our dear little Puppy.

At about one in the morning, and about four instances later, we hit upon the alternative use for a cool box.

It makes a great wall to prevent dogs going upstairs!

Exhausted, I thought once again about how much Jack could have taught our little lad!

Christmas Eve, and Brancaster beach this time. Another spectacular beach, and most of it dog-friendly all year round. This coast really is the best doggy playground for those who love a beach – Marley and Jess amongst them, judging by the big smiles and lolling tongues!

We had planned a visit to Burnham Market and the Christmas Eve Christingle service. However, we were unsure if Marley and Jess would be welcome. Personally, I quite fancied a service something akin to the Vicar of Dibley, where all the animals from the village mingled easily with the congregation, but I guess not everyone shares my views.

So instead we settled for a quick wander around, browsing in the quaint, brightly lit local shops, before heading back for our Christmas Eve dinner at the cottage.

That night went off without incident. I must admit, Marley was a quick learner – as was Hubby with the cool boxes – and we had no repeat of the first-night antics.

Christmas Day, and before heading back temporarily to Ipswich to be with family, it was off to Hunstanton to see the Christmas Day charity swim organised by the local Round Table. Quite a renowned event, this was definitely something not to miss.

Arriving early so we could have our Christmas walk along the beach first, Hubby and I paused for a moment as the rainbow in the sky made us think of those coming down from up above to be with us as we walked.

We threw a stick into the sea for Jack; Marley duly fetched. He may not have known the significance for us, but he enjoyed his treat for being a good boy anyway!

It took us a moment to realise the Christmas music we could hear was not coming from some annoying local blaring out Christmas songs from his car radio, or even music being beamed down from up above, but rather that the Christmas swim event was now in full swing.

Normally one who would have quite detested such noise, I found it really rather fitting and enjoyable listening to the Christmas stalwarts as we walked.

Quite a crowd had assembled. And quite a number of participants – over 175, apparently.

Although it was warmer than for many years, I am sure it was still something I would not have fancied! And with the tide so far out this year, the parade down to the water’s edge was a good 500 metres plus.

As Santa and Rudolph and Star Wars and elves and innumerable other characters made their way to the start, Marley decided he was bored, yelping and trying to leap over the sea wall. We left our position on the prom and headed down to the beach to watch the official start.

Maybe foolishly, it was just easier to let him off the lead to make his own way onto the beach.

Spotting balls and friends, Marley was off. Whilst not deliberately trying to trip people up, he was just focussed on the ball that had been thrown into the sea. Calling in vain, I knew he would come back when he had finished. As the dogs splashed about beside the swimmers, I knew Marley was in there somewhere! Sure enough, after a few minutes this shaggy, sopping-wet, smiley face appeared – some other poor dog’s toy in his mouth. He was literally having a ball.

Although sad to be going home, he was highly delighted when he returned that evening, if not a bit confused.

And so the holiday continued. Cley, with its iconic windmill; Blakeney with the seals (not that we went – neither of us fancied being responsible for Jess!); Wells-next-the-Sea and the Burnhams with the beautiful flintstone cottages, to name but a few.

As he sat on his duvet again in the car, I knew Marley realised he was going home. Not before a visit to Sandringham Woods, though. (I did try to tell him there was no way he would meet the corgis, but I think he just thought I had not bothered to sort it for him.)

Back on his sofa at home, along with Jess. We did not hear a peep out of either of them that night. The sign of dogs having had a great holiday – peace at last!

As for me, well, I got on with what I like to do most – planning the next trip, of course!

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