It is May bank holiday weekend. Another weekend – another walk. This time, my long-suffering husband is coming with me.
We pick up the Norfolk Coastal Path at Burnham Deepdale. We walk past house boats stranded in the mud, along the raised sea bank. The sun is shining and people are out walking. There is a stink, which I think is coming from the marshes, until we discover a decomposing seal carcass. The bank stretches ahead of us in a slow, lazy curve. There are sea marshes to the left and fresh water marshes to the right. Birds are everywhere.
The bank curves in a southerly direction and we can see Burnham Overy across the water and mud flats. Now there are boats everywhere, lying on the mud or bobbing on the water. We have to leave the sea wall (new grass seeding) and then the path leads over a farmers field, close to a picturesque windmill. We join the road for a short distance and come across The Hero pub. Time for lunch. We sit outside in bright, warm sunshine. The meal is good, but only standard pub fare and overpriced. I enjoy a cold, cloudy cider.
Now we are in sand dunes, and the path leads over a rise and – wow – here is a fantastic stretch of beach. Light sands, bright sea, sunshine and a few people, this beach stretches as far as the eye can see. The sea is blue. The horizon is clear, no haze. We walk out towards the sea – which is some way off – and then walk eastwards along the beach. The sand is firm in places, but soft and boggy in other areas. We are walking along firm sand some way from shore. I keep an anxious eye on the sea. The tide could easily cut you off quickly. People die here.
Behind the dunes are pine trees. This is a welcome change from the flat and open marshland. An area of the beach is fenced off. Signs tell us that little terns are nesting here. They nest in the sand and it is easy to tread on birds or eggs. We hear them calling, but they are hard to spot.
We reach a place where Lady Anne’s Drive leads to the beach. Families are here. The ground is marshy and people are struggling with pushchairs and young children, heading through the soft marsh to the beach beyond. We can remember coming here with our own children.
Now we follow the path inland, through pine trees. I am worried we are leaving the beach behind, but this is the route of the Norfolk Coastal Path. A wide open track leads behind the trees, running parallel with the shore. There are seats at regular intervals and there are cyclists on the track. The sun is getting low.
We begin to see signs of a holiday centre. Pleasant looking static caravans are parked adjacent to the path and we walk past a boating lake and crazy golf. Family groups are walking slowly in the late afternoon sunshine. We cross a large car park and reach the sea again. Now we climb a ramp up onto the sea wall again. Looking westward, in front of us is a large lifeboat station, beyond that the bay and an island in the distance. I recognise the island. We have been here with the children, years ago. I painted that island, in a howling gale, in watercolour – a quick sketch while the children played. The painting still hangs on a wall at home, with grains of sands stuck into the paper.
The sea wall leads southerly, in a straight line for about a mile, towards Wells-Next-the-Sea. People are walking, with dogs and children, along the sea wall and the path that runs a little below it. The wind is fierce and cold. There are boats moored and Wells looks lovely in the slanting sunlight.
We stay at The Shipyard Cottage, in Wells. This delightful B&B is situated on the Coastal Path as it runs along the quayside in Wells. The owner, Janet Beckett, is warmly welcoming and our room has wonderful views across the sea. Shipyard Cottage does not have a website and is a secret treasure. If you are planning to do this walk, I can’t recommend this place highly enough – give Janet a ring on 01328 710 679.
Things I have learned
- Walking with someone else is more fun.
- 10 miles a day is enough for me – at the moment.
- A few minutes spent on blister prevention really is worth it.