By good fortune the Guvnor’s significant birthday fell on his day off, so we wheeled out our speedy motor and headed across the fens and along the north Norfolk coast to Wells. The weather was grey and indifferent, but we found a harbourside café for lunch and strolled along the quay. We even found the miniature railway to the beach (north Norfolk is adept at tucking its beaches out of sight), but there was no train in view and we needed to be elsewhere for another train.
On the A149 east of the town there can be found the longest 10¼ inch gauge railway in the world. This is the Wells and Walsingham Light Railway which operate two superb little Garratts over a line about 4 miles long. They also have a rather nice signal box.
We rode behind Norfolk Hero. The Guvnor’s luck ran out here : the two engines work alternate days and his big day was not Norfolk Heroine’s. Heroine is the newer locomotive which we have not seen before and yesterday only glimpsed darkly at the back of the forbidden shed. We’ll have to go back! Oh dear. Maybe next time we can see the beach railway as well.
The WWLR line is along the trackbed of the old Great Eastern from Wells to Walsingham. It is entirely rural, running alternately in shady cuttings and across rolling cornfields. The gradients give the locomotive the opportunity to show its paces, and the trackside is bright with wild flowers.
Yesterday the management had a problem with an owl; a juvenile owl apparently, which not only hadn’t got to grips with being nocturnal, but had chosen as its favoured haunt a spot far too close to the line for comfort. The train had to approach it cautiously, and we saw it lying doggo at the edge of the ballast. One hopes that it will grow up to be a wise owl, but if so it will have to learn pretty soon not to play chicken on the railway.
On our return we had a welcome cup of tea and scone at the signalbox tea shop. In defiance of the weather forecast the sun came out; we sat outside enjoying the warmth and watching Hero being watered for the last run of the day.