The penultimate post in my Pensthorpe series, dealing with the Explorer ride.
This is the fourth post in my series about my part in the West Norfolk Autism Group excursion to Pensthorpe on Saturday. This one looks at the trip on the explorer which showed as the stuff we could not get on foot.
AN INFORMATIVE JOURNEY
With the explorer due to leave at 12:00 I was ready for it by 11:50, and I got an excellent seat, at the front left of the trailer (most of the really interesting sights are off to the left as one travels, so sitting on the left side of the vehicle is a good idea). Our driver/guide gave us extraordinarily wide ranging information of everything from present arrangements at Pensthorpe, to the effects of WWII on the land (food shortages meant that every last ounce of crop had to be extracted from the land, which meant that the soil was hugely overworked and took a long time to recover), to the history of human settlement at Pensthorpe, to details of Pensthorpe’s position at the southern edge of the northern ice-sheet during the last era of glaciation and the effect that that had on the local landscape. There were also details about oak trees, and how the three survivors of the great storm of 1987 could be proven to be such (oaks don’t produce acorns until they are 40 years old or more, which means that an acorn bearing oak dates from 1983 at the earliest, and all three trees are acorn bearing), nesting boxes of various kinds (three different species of owl were catered for, plus bats (specifically pipistrelles, a tiny species about the size of a human thumb) whose boxes were organized in a group of three at different angles, as bats don’t like to be warm, so need to be able to move out of the sun), and other nesting platforms. The ecological importance of the Wensum, as a chalk river, was also stressed. One part of our route had once been a railway line, transporting goods (it never had a passenger service), which fell victim to Dr Beeching 60 years ago.
It was a cold journey due to the weather, which is one reason why I did not go round a second time, but it was very enjoyable in spite of the conditions.
The journey on the Pensthorpe Explorer was very scenic, and the guide provided excellent commentary. There was stuff about the area’s wildlife and things Pensthorpe do to encourage said wildlife, some local history and an explanation of the significance of the River Wensum which flows through Pensthorpe.
There were a couple of parts of the route that made use of an old railway line (aeons go part of the Midland & Great Northern, colloquially referred to as the Muddle & Go Nowhere – East Anglia was home at one time to a vast number of railway companies, with in addition to this one the five companies who ultimately amalgamated to form the Great Eastern Railway) which added to the interest of the experience.
The Wensum is of special significance because it is a chalk river, of which there only about 200 on the planet (although about 170 of those are right here in the UK, including another significant Norfolk river, The Gaywood). Unfortunately the bunch of clowns who are collectively known as Norfolk County Council are hellbent on building a new road through the Wensum valley which among other things will damage two important bat colonies (we are talking rare species of bat here). Also, as to the notion that building a new road will ease congestion, I give you one letter an two numbers appropriately arranged: M25. There is a campaign group doing their best to prevent this ghastly project from going ahead, and you can view their twitter page and also sign a petition they are running. The biggest problem that Norfolk has is not with its roads, but with the frankly scandalous state of public transport in the county, which causes people to feel compelled to drive, which in turn feeds into the county council’s ‘cars are everything’ agenda. Green Party representation is increasing in Norfolk, which provides grounds for hope that eventually the county council’s make up will change and it will move into the 21st century.
The trip on the Pensthorpe Explorer was a splendid end to a splendid day.
Here are the pictures from this section of the day: