Monday is a bank holiday and, in keeping with the British tradition of foul weather on a bank holiday, the sky is threatening and the wind is whipping across the coast from the north. We drive to Cley, where we leave the car and pick up the coast path.
We walk along a raised bank heading towards the sea and into the furious wind, turning up our hoods for protection. In the distance, ahead, I can see the white tips of waves.
I have been looking forward to walking along the sea shore instead of marshes, which have grown a little boring. But, when we reach the shore, we find the sea is far from welcoming.
The beach is shingle and stretches on either side for as far as we can see. Huge grey breakers are crashing. The water roars and the wind howls.
The path sometimes runs on the edge of the beach, sometimes on the raised sea bank and sometimes behind the bank. When it runs behind the bank, the ground is grass instead of shingle and we have some shelter from the wind. But the tide is high, and this area behind the bank is often flooded with what appears to be sea water that has seeped through the shingle.
In places the bank appears non-existent, with the shingle beach leading straight down to the low lying marsh land. The tide is very high and the waves appear to be only a few feet below the level needed to breech these defences and flood this area. I am reminded of how very fragile this coastland is and what little protection we really have from the force of the sea.
We pass a couple of bird watchers. They are struggling against the wind to get back to the car park. We continue onwards.
For a long stretch we walk along the top of the shingle bank. This runs a few meters above the height of the beach, while the waves crash beneath us and spray fills the air.
Conversation is impossible.
To our right is Salthouse Marshes. After several miles, we reach a place where a track from Salthouse Village reaches the coast and ends in a car park behind the shingle bank. There are people here, struggling against the wind to get over the bank and to spend a few minutes braving the gale, looking at the sea.
A small van serves beautiful fresh coffee from a proper coffee machine. We buy a cup and carry it up the shingle bank to a small bench. We sit with our backs to the wind, facing inland. The coffee cools quickly, but is warming and comforting.
We continue along the bank as this rises into a hill, Gramborough Hill, with grass instead of shingle and a few gorse bushes. We have a good view of the beach, stretching ahead. We still can not see the end. The sky is darker now and threatening rain. We walk on.
Landwards, we pass the edge of Kelling Heath. This area of the coast is National Trust property and is called Kelling Hard.
A group of youn people have cycled down from Kelling Heath and are balancing on an old pill box (a remnant of our old WW coastal defences) which has been partly submerged by the sea. Clearly enjoying the huge waves splashing around them, they raise their arms and pretend to fly into the wind.
Beyond Kelling Hard we walk along the edge of a fenced off area of land. The map shows of this area marks a “wireless station” and airfield. It looks like an old army base. An army truck drives past in the distance. Signs say “Private Property” and “Keep Out”.
Here there are a few fishermen on the shingle beach. They stand looking cold, while their lines stretch into the sea.
When we reach the car park that marks Weybourne Hope we meet a few people braving the sea wind for a Sunday morning outing.
We turn inland, with the wind blowing behind us for a change, and follow the road into Weybourne to find a pub for lunch. On the way, the rain suddenly lashes down and within a few minutes the back of my trousers are soaking wet.
It is 12 o’clock and we arrive at the pub in a bedraggled state. Luckily there is only one other lone walker in the pub to witness are dishevelled look. We are hungry from the effort of our windy walk and order a large platter of food – one of the pub “specials”.
Luckily it has stopped raining by the time we leave. We walk along the main road for a few minutes and then rejoin the coastal path by going down a track, passing beside another windmill that appears to be converted to a private dwelling. There are a few cottages at the end of the track, standing bravely near the cliff edge.
We turn right to walk along the raised cliff, with the sea below us to our left. The cliff edge is made of soft, red, crumbly soil. The edge is eroding and signs warn us to keep away from the edge. In places the path has disappeared altogether, lost into the sea. This area is open parkland. We meet a few other coastal walkers, the first we have seen all day.
The clouds are dark in the distance and we see a band of rain, racing across the sea towards us. We turn our backs as the squall hits. The rain is so hard and sharp against my back, I swear it must be hail. We shelter behind a small gorse bush. Within 5-10 minutes, the rain has passed and we continue.
Now we can see Sheringham in the distance. The path runs along the edge of a golf course. A few golfers are out, swinging at balls, or sheltering in the gorse bushes.
Ahead of us the path rises steeply up Skelding Hill. We are overtaken by a youngish woman walker in a bright blue anorak. How does she walk so fast? I am sure I have seen her photo on a walkers blog somewhere, but cannot be sure. We struggle up the hill, legs tired now. At the top there are benches and we sit and drink water and I eat all my remaining chocolate bars. The view is beautiful. We can see the path we have walked along, stretching back into the distance, as far as the eye can see, with no end. The sea is covered with a patchwork of light as the sun shifts behind racing clouds.
It feels as if we have achieved a huge trek today and it is refreshing to have a change of scenery, now we have left the flatlands of the marshland country behind us.
We walk down into Sheringham. We are the only people on the promenade, which runs above the beach. Shafts of sunlight light up the sea. Groynes stretch out protecting the shore below. The wind is still howling.
We turn inland to find the bus station. It is a relief to lose the wind. We see shops and people walking. Then we see a Coast Hopper bus on the street ahead of us, and sprint to catch it up at the bus stop.
Back at Cley we pick up the car.
Another great walk finished. This stretch of the coast was lonely, wet, wild and windy. The crashing sea and the relentless wind were at once awesomely beautiful and powerfully threatening. And the constant battle against the elements was exhausting. I am glad I had my husband with me.