Straight up!

PUBLISHED: 10:39 16 May 2013 | UPDATED: 11:03 16 May 2013

Volkswagen Golf test drive along the Acle Straight.
Picture: James Bass

Volkswagen Golf test drive along the Acle Straight. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2013

Some roads you never tire of driving and one of my favourites is the Acle Straight – the main road to the east coast of Norfolk and the holiday resort of Great Yarmouth.

Volkswagen Golf – facts and figures

The leaner, greener seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf offers more for less – more miles per gallon, space and safety with lower emissions and pricing.

Despite offering more room for passengers and even more advanced technological features, the latest Golf is up to 100kg lighter and up to 23pc more efficient.

Priced £16,285 to £24,880, the all turbo engine range sees 85PS and 105PS 1.2 TSI, 122PS 1.4 TSI and all-new 140PS 1.4 TSI petrol, the latter with active cylinder technology which can shut down two cylinders under light loads to return up to 60.1mpg with CO2 emissions of 110g/km. The two diesels are 105PS 1.6-litre TDI, with up to 74.3mpg combined and 99g/km, and a new 150PS 2.0-litre TDI. All engines have a stop/start system as standard to save fuel and cut emissions when stationary, along with battery regeneration.

The new car’s excellent safety and security features contribute to insurance ratings up to 13 groups lower than the models they replace.

The new Golf is longer, wider and lower making it more spacious inside, particularly in the back. Luggage space is also boosted with the boot growing 30 litres to 380 litres.

Initially available in S, SE and GT trims, GTI and BlueMotion will follow. All include seven airbags, anti-lock brakes and stability control, electronic differential lock, colour touchscreen, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth and semi-automatic air conditioning. SE adds standard adaptive cruise control with automatic emergency braking systems, a driver fatigue monitor and a safety feature which tensions seatbelts and closes windows and sunroof if it detects a potential crash.

Big-car options include high beam assist, lane assist, park assist and adaptive chassis control.

It’s a road I travelled daily as a young reporter based in the town and living near Acle. Despite decades of traffic snarl-ups, delays and the frustration of thwarted dualling campaigns, it is a stretch of road that shows so much that is great about Norfolk and must leave lasting impressions of the county with the thousands of holidaymakers to the coastal holiday hotspots.

The seven and a half mile single-carriageway stretch of road between Acle and Yarmouth is level and dead straight apart from a long bend at the Stracey Arms drainage mill where a side road goes up and over the railway bridge to the village of Halvergate.

While drivers need to keep their eyes on the traffic on this busy road if you are able to take in the surroundings you will see so much that Norfolk is famous for, starting with the flat landscape and the wide, open and often moody skies over the wildlife-rich marshland which is also home to horses, sheep and Fresian cows.

Picking up the Acle Straight at the village from which it takes its name, everything seems to run parallel and straight – the thin strip of Tarmac across the marshes, the line of telegraph poles – with their bracing wires after they were laid flat all the way to Great Yarmouth in the 1987 hurricane – and the railway further away to the right.

Over to the left is the village of Stokesby where you can clearly see the Ferry Inn where I spent many a happy hour canoeing from the slipway in my younger days and refuelling in the pub afterwards.

And talking of pubs, the one on the curve of the Straight by the Halvergate turn-off will always be the Stracey Arms to me although in more recent times it has been an American diner and is now a tapas restaurant.

Many, many years ago my wife and I considered buying the house by the mill, an iconic landmark on the Acle Straight, but decided it might not be the best place to bring up children. Having the River Bure on the back doorstep was most attracive given how much time I spent canoeing and sailing but the busy main road at the front doorstep was the sticking point.

At high tide in the holiday season from the road you can see the tops of Broads cruisers the other side of the bank and further along the river the sails of yachts in the distance – key ingredients of the Norfolk recipe.

Carry on along the Straight and also in the distance on the left you can see 14th century St Peter and St Paul church at Runham which became famous when a hapless Frank Spencer disappeared through a hole in the roof during a 1970s Christmas episode of Some Mothers Do Av Em. The church has now been restored.

I also like the way the views from the Acle Straight are always changing – even if the road remains single carriageway – with the loss of the chimney of the old power station at Great Yarmouth and the arrival of the offshore wind turbines near Scroby.

Journey’s end is the town of Great Yarmouth – buzzing in the summer, more bearable in the winter but, like the Acle Straight, never boring... no matter how many times you travel there.

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