There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.
Today I’m welcoming Terry Tyler, a friend I’ve known online for many years, and had the great pleasure in meeting and getting to know her in real life at Barb Taub’s writing retreat on Arran, a few weeks ago…
First, thank you to Judith for inviting me to this nostalgia-fest on her blog!
When told about the feature, I immediately wanted to write about the place we used to go on holiday when I was a child. It was a holiday rental bungalow called Barn Piece in Eccles-on-Sea, Norfolk, complete with a genuine gypsy caravan in the garden, which we loved. We went there from about 1966 to 1976.
Behind us are you can see the dunes, leading to the beach.
The ancient village of Eccles-juxta-Mare, as it was once called, vanished into the sea over a hundred years ago, and by the time we started going on holiday there, in the late 1960s, the only indication of its existence on the map was the location of Eccles beach. In the 1960s it consisted of a few private houses down overgrown lanes; they fascinated me, and I loved to peer through the untended foliage and wonder who lived in them. The Pyghtle and Smee Cottage; they were the two I remember.
Then there was a sandy track past shabby chalets to a grocery shop where Julia, Eddie and I would go to buy sweets, buckets and spades, postcards and other stuff that children used to spend their holiday money on in those days; I always spent all mine within a couple of days, whereas Julia made hers last.
The bungalow had such a ‘we’re on holiday’ feeling about it, a home from home as we went there for many years. By the beginning of the second week, I always felt as though my real life was there, not back at home. Barn Piece was large and light and shabby and a bit musty-smelling, and we loved it. This photo was taken by Dad back then; the gypsy caravan was just to the right of the washing line
Our dog was called Susie; she was with us for ten years and remembered the place whenever we arrived there, too. She would hurtle up the sandy slope to the beach without being told where to go.
Eddie said to me the other day that he can still remember how the gypsy caravan smelled—I can, as well.
Here’s a picture of Julia and me cleaning it out! Why we chose to do this on such a brilliant, sunny afternoon, I have no idea!
The last time I went there on holiday was in 1976, when I was nearly seventeen, and my best friend Ruth was invited to come with us so that I didn’t kick up about going on holiday with my parents and twelve-year-old brother! The one of me (right) is two photos exposed together, but I’ve always liked its ghostly feel …
… which brings me to the eerie bells of the lost church, a victim of the coastal erosion so prevalent in that area. I’ve found a couple of articles about it, which give more information than I can put here, or this post would be far too long!
Now and again we’ve gone back there to take a look—my parents went there in the winter of 1990, when the ruins of the church had become visible once more.
This photo on the dunes (that’s Mum in the grass! – Barn Piece down to the left), taken the same day, shows how wild the place feels—and you can see Happisburgh (pronounced Hays-borough) lighthouse in the distance. Happisburgh is fast becoming a lost village, too. In 2005 I spent a weekend at a beer festival there—just a few years later, the field in which we camped had crumbled into the sea.
From 2000-2009 I lived in Cromer, further up the coast; around 2001, when my parents visited, we made the pilgrimage to Barn Piece.
I went back in 2007, too, but it had changed so much. Smart holiday cottages and chalets were everywhere, and the new sea defences meant that I didn’t recognise the beach. The sandy slope up the dunes that we used to run up as children, excited about our first glimpse of the sea, has gone; the dunes themselves had flattened into little more than a small hump. Barn Piece, though, was still there. Fifteen years on, I don’t know whether it is or not; I’ve googled it, but have come up with no results. I’ve googled Eccles-on-Sea, too, and all those empty fields appear to have been built on.
Happy days. Mostly, I’m so glad that my mother was like me, forever taking photographs—thank you, Mum, for all these memories!
Terry Tyler writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian and dark psychological fiction, available on Amazon. She loves quiet, wild places, and still gets as excited about going to the seaside as she did when she was a child. Aside from writing, she enjoys reading, telly binges, long walks, and wasting time on Twitter. She lives with her husband in North East England.