Today I walk from Hunstanton to Thornham. This is not a long distance, 8 miles or so, and my intention is to avoid blistering and walk a further 8 miles tomorrow.
I drive to Thornham, a pretty seaside village, and park my car at the Lifeboat Inn, where I have booked a room. Then on go the walking boots and my little rucksack. I walk to the main coastal road and wait at the Coast Hopper bus stop. Within 5 minutes a bus arrives and I buy a single ticket to Hunstanton.
The sun is shining and Sunny Hunny is buzzing with people. I buy lunch (sausage roll and Americano coffee) and sit eating it on a bench, watching the world go by. Then I walk Northwards along the sea front. This walk is along the top of cliffs. The cliffs are crumbly and we are kept away from the edge by a fence and, in some places, 3 fences. The coastal path has clearly been moved a number of times, further inland, as the cliff erodes. Along the fence are warning signs. And various charities have placed various signs here too – “Choose Life, not death…” – that sort of sign.
There is a strange lighthouse, now a house, and then the path leads alongside a carpark. Here there are a cliffs – a unique sight on the Norfolk coast. There are families, pushchairs, dogs… and the path leads beside dunes. There are people on the beach. Kites are flying. The sun is shining down. The coastal path is separated from the beach by a line of beach huts. In places the huts are 2 or 3 deep. The inside layer of huts don’t even have a sea view. They are brightly painted and make compelling photographic subjects. I take far too many photographs.
The path is sandy and the going is difficult. I try to avoid getting sand in my boots – I understood from the boot-seller lady in Millets that sand in walking boots is bad and can lead to blisters. There are signs up saying private property, this area is leased to the golf club, but the coastal part continues through and is well marked. I pass alongside a golf course.
Eventually the golf course stops and the path continues through Holme Nature Reserve. The path is firm here and this makes the journey easy. In places there is a wooden walkway. To my left is the beach and, despite the distance from a car park, families are dotted around the beach. The nature reserve has attracted “twitchers”. They wear camouflage trousers and carry huge binoculars and telescopes. I ask if they are here for a reason – maybe a rare bird has been reported – but they tell me this is just a great time of year to see birds.
A group of young men in ordinary shoes are trying to get onto the beach. They discuss taking a short cut to the beach across the marshland that separates this part of the path from the shore. I advise them against this and direct them back to Old Hunsanton Beach, where there is easy access to the sands.
The path here is lovely, with water on both sides and a warm mellow sun.
I reach Gore Point, the farthest northward point of the reserve. There are signs asking us not to disturb feeding birds on the shore. And not to disturb the fragile sand dunes. The path is running along the top of a sandune that is 150 years old. I meet a young German couple and they wait for me to take photographs before continuing. I sit on the edge of the path and eat a banana, oranges and chocolate. I check my feet. Two new blisters but nothing serious.
The path passes through a small pine wood. There is a visitors centre here and this section of the beach is populated with families. Then the path turns southward, following the coastline as it is indented by an estuary. There are birds everywhere here. Wading birds with curved beaks look particularly striking. The sun is slanting across the fields and the air is soft with summer sun. A wonderful day. I phone home to share the moment. The only sounds around are calling birds and the crashing of the sea on the shore.
Walking towards Thornham is a joy in this magical light. The estuary has small boats, far sands, and lots of water. I take even more photographs. Will I have any battery power left for tomorrow? Who cares.
Thornham looks attractive and I can see the white building of The Lifeboat Inn. The coastal path heads off to the East, but I continue towards Thornham and end up back at the carpark.
What a fantastic day. I can’t wait until tomorrow ….
Vital stats: 8 miles. no new blisters.