Sandringham is the much-loved country retreat of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth ll and has been the private home of four generations of British monarchs since 1862. An unassumingly beautiful architectural building, the House is set in 24 hectares of formal gardens which in turn are surrounded by over ten times that area of Royal Park, much of which is wooded with stately and beguilingly upright conifers, interspersed with the occasional venerable oak of considerable girth and age (a bit like me, then) – thrown in for historic context, aesthetic balance and good measure.
So, that’s the blurb bit sorted – what else do you want to know? We surprised ourselves by enjoying our visit to Sandringham – the Royals certainly know how to satisfy their loyal subjects, with typically British quirkiness (evidenced by the occasional pale-green, unoccupied sentry-box dotted around the grounds); an historic pedigree the envy of the world – and a presumed army of talented grounds-people imparting a good, stiff upper lip (and a Latin label) to almost everything in the landscape at which we cared to cast our eyes.
We didn’t do the interior of the Jacobean house – and became smug with that decision as it became clear from our glimpses through ground-floor windows that a shuffling, slow-moving, blue-rinsed throng was ambling genteelly amidst Her Majesty’s goods and chattels, unable to see much besides the backs of other ticket-holders’ heads bobbing frustratingly in front. Similarly, we elected to also avoid the queue for the famous Church of St Mary Magdalene which had built-up in anticipation of its sixteenth-century doors being opened on the Royal dot of twelve noon.
Exit through the gift-shop (Sandringham Kitchen Chopping Boards a snip at £99.00) and onwards, in a now Royally-endowed Knumptywagen, whence another short jaunt brought us to the padlocked gate of our chosen holiday campsite; sited in a church field just above the large, trendy village of Burnham Market, and with spectacular views towards a very distant North Sea. An artistically poised windmill draws the eye to the middle ground, presumably to detract from the fact, (soon to become apparent to us newly-arrived, naïve visitors) that the sea is bloody miles away ALL ALONG this north Norfolk coast. (Even when we reached a sandy beach after a goodly stretch of strong walking, the actual sea itself appeared to have headed to Norway for a day-out of its own.)
Undaunted, the Chief Pioneering Researcher Of Wild Camping Fields Throughout North Norfolk And Its Environs alighted the vehicle with a lightness of step suggesting that she was in possession of the secret padlock code. In we drove to take up a carefully considered pitch with aforementioned view of picturesque windmill – and a thin grey strip of distant murk iced with an edge of white beyond. The hedgerows trembled as the wind blew through; anoraked children gambolled like lambs through the mown grass and our fellow campers sat out stoically in puffer-jackets and woolly hats, clutching steaming mugs of tea to enjoy the seasonal August Bank Holiday weather.
The Knumptywagen had landed.