This is an account of my trip to recce the first swim on my journey, at Gorleston, just south of Great Yarmouth, on Saturday 7 May 2016. This is where the A12 starts, and my swim journey starts too. I came here as a child, and family friend and artist Bridget Heriz lives here now.
In 2016 I did a swim journey to remember my parents and raise money for charities related to their deaths, at places relevant to the family threaded along the A12 Road. Round up and charity info in post: A12 swim journey June 2016: I did it!
The A12 road runs from London linking it with Essex, Suffolk and a corner of Norfolk, and has followed a similar route for a long time (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/A12_road_(England)) as a wonderful 1776 map shows (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/A12_road_%28England%29#/media/File%3ALondon-Harwich_1766.jpg). The old road bypassed Lowestoft, going via Beccles, and many bypasses have been built, but it is essentially an ancient road.
Great Yarmouth is a big town (over 90,000 people) with a lot of history, a vibrant cultural scene, and all the traditional and modern seaside attractions and glorious sandy beaches you could ask for. (https://www.visitgreatyarmouth.co.uk/visitor-information; www.greatyarmouthlocalhistoryandarchaeology.com; https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/21067503.gorlestons-seaside-photographers-remembered/; https://www.facebook.com/GreatYarmouthArts/ (in 2016 this was due to be on just before my trip)
Gorleston is a particularly lovely place to swim as it is sheltered by the harbour walls and has a sandy shallow sloping beach, with lifeguards at busy times. There are enough ice cream and fish and chips places, and free parking, unlike Yarmouth. (www.great-yarmouth.co.uk/explore-the-area/gorleston-on-sea.aspx; www.lovegorleston.co.uk)
I remember coming here as a child on school and village outings up the A12 from Sweffling. After our local rivers and stony beaches it seemed very exciting.
I went up to collect a painting from the lovely Skippings Gallery in King Street in the cultural quarter (www.great-yarmouth.co.uk/Great-Yarmouth-Skippings-Gallery/details/?dms=3&venue=0094864), at the end of a show of paintings by Audrey Pilkington (www.audreypilkington.co.uk; and https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/nov/15/audrey-pilkington-obituary, see also https://www.facebook.com/groups/AudreyPilkington/ (private group)). Audrey was a family friend from way back when she and her family ran an art studio at their home in Bruisyard. The exhibition was curated by one of her daughters, the wonderful artist and sculptor Bridget Heriz (http://bridgetheriz.co.uk). Bridget has been based in Great Yarmouth for many years, and when she first moved there my parents and I visited.
Anyway, during this glorious spell of unusually warm weather for early May, I walked across the warm sand with an ice cream, and after a chat with the friendly RNLI lifeguard (https://rnli.org/find-my-nearest/lifeguarded-beaches/gorleston-beach)
I braved the sea without a wetsuit for the first time this year. I was slow to get under the water, but encouraged by a small girl who was popping in and out of the water saying “it’s warm once you are in” I finally did, and it was wonderful, though still a bit chilly. The water here is calm, shallow and warmed by the sun and the white sandy beach I was soon warm, dry, and ready for fish and chips.
It might be a bit different at 6.30 am when I swim here on 4 June, and there won’t be many so people around. I hope one or two hardy friends might come and cheer me on my start, or perhaps even brave the water too. (It was! Foggy and cool, but two friends supported on the day, one in the water. Read A12 swim journey June 2016: I did it!)
(If joining me in the water, please read the OSS swim responsibility statement, http://www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com/swimming_tips/responsibility)
(I invited those who could come to consider lingering in town to see the Great Yarmouth Arts Festival Carnival 4 June – the route will be down Marine Parade and then into town along Regent Road and on to St. George’s Theatre along King Street, starting at 11am.)
Read about the June A12 swim journey: A12 swim journey June 2016: I did it! And see also A12 swim journey 2016: 33 FB POSTS and Swim Journey 2016 Day 1 places and significance. This and the other stories were written in 2016 just before or after the swim journey and updated December 2022.