[This walk was completed on the 9th June, 2021]
The ferry is running this morning! I am cycling through West Lynn, past the ferry car park, when I notice there are several cars parked there, and then I see a lady hurrying up the steps to the ticket office.
I hastily chain up my Scooty bike at a rack in the car park, and run after the lady – just in time to buy a ticket and catch the next crossing.
The lady and I are the only passengers. Turns out she is from Australia, and has made the trip over to the UK to visit her ailing father, who she hasn’t been able to see for over a year due to Covid restrictions. When she returns to Australia, she faces a long stint of isolation in a designated hotel, and says she is suprised how lax the quarantine regulations are over here.
After a brief chat, she realises she knows the ferryman, who is an old school friend from the days when she lived in Kings Lynn. Quite a coincidence.
After waiting in vain for the ferry at 7pm yesterday, I assumed it wasn’t running at all due to Covid. Apparently it stops at 6pm. (Either the printed timetable was wrong, or I read it incorrectly.) The ferryman explains the ferry is usually crowded with commuters during the rush hours, but fairly quiet at other times.
My original plan was to cycle into Kings Lynn and leave my bike at the car park where I ended yesterday’s brief walk. The unexpected ferry trip adds an extra 1/2 mile to my walk today, because now I must retrace my steps along the waterfront. Worth it. Can’t resist a ferry ride.
Beyond the paved waterfront, the river bank becomes a mess of graffiti-covered walls and marshy grassland, along with the skeleton remains of abandoned boats. A sign, half buried by tall grasses, warns, “DANGER. Tidal Land”.
I fight my way along an overgrown footpath to gain the water’s edge, and take a photo looking down the river – the Great Ouse. I was hoping to see the distant sea, but the river curves gently and its mouth is hidden from view.
After leaving the marshy area, a tarmac footpath/cycleway runs along the bank of the river, towards the nearest bridge. It looks like a newly created route – long, straight, and rather boring, to be honest. A signpost tells me this is part of the the “Fen Rivers Way”.
I soon reach the bridge, which is crossed by a quiet road and is called the Free Bridge, according to the OS maps. Possibly it replaced an older toll bridge.
Just a 100 feet, or so, up the river is the much busier bridge which carries the A47 over the river. The view is dominated by an enormous, windowless building, with the words “Palm Paper” on one section of its wall. A paper mill, I presume.
I cross over my Free Bridge, and head back down the opposite bank of the Great Ouse. Such an ugly name for a river, but this bank is really very pretty. The grassy slope is covered in a carpet of oxeye daisies.
When I reach the bank opposite King’s Lynn, I stop to take photographs of the waterfront. There’s the Customs House, the fishing boats, and the converted wharf buildings. Very attractive in the sunshine.
Further along the bank, a paved walkway appears, along with a weird looking shelter. More at home on the sea front, or as a bus stop, it seems very out-of-place on this deserted bank.
Anyway, the sun is hot, and I’m grateful for a spot of shade. I sit for a few minutes, enjoy the view, and have a quick drink and a snack.
The concrete walkway becomes a raised causeway along the marshy bank. Ahead is a building… ah, it’s the ferry terminus.
At this point, I must leave the river wall. I walk through the ferry car park, saying “hello” to my Scooty bike in passing, and then out onto a road into West Lynn. A faded sign tells me this is the start of The Peter Scott Walk. It’s hard to read, but if I follow the walk for long enough I should reach Peter Scott’s lighthouse.
Peter Scott was the son of the ill-fated Antarctic explorer, Robert Scott. He became a worldfamous ornithologist and helped found the WWF. I expect the walk to be full of bird-life and I keep my camera ready.
It’s hard to find the start of the walk, because I can’t see any official signs. I follow an arrow that points vaguely up a residential street, and from here I can climb back up onto the river wall.
I leave West Lynn behind, and follow the river bank. Long and straight, it runs due north.
A hedge appears in front of me. I could either walk on the landward side, or on the river side. Of course, I choose the river side…
… which I soon realise is probably not the official Peter Scott path. I am stumbling along an uneven bank through tall grasses, following a very narrow trail.
Still, it’s better than walking on the other side of the hedge, with no view of the water at all. I’m sure Peter Scott would want you to see the birds… oh, hang on… apart from a few ducks, I don’t see any birds, which is a bit disappointing.
The trail along the bank disappears altogether. I move down to walk along the muddy shore, because that looks the easiest route. But that turns out to be a big mistake – the mud is very sticky and slippery, and soon coats my shoes in a gloopy mess.
I struggle back to the bank, and continue to force my way through shoulder-high grass and nettles, until I reach the end of the hedge. It’s a relief to climb back up the bank and to be walking along the proper route on a flat surface with short grass.
Ahead, I see two faint figures. As they grow larger, I realease they are serious walkers with back packs.
They look immaculate in their walking gear, while my trousers are covered in grass seeds and my boots are coated in mud. Oh, dear. We pass each other with friendly nods.
I come to another hedge, but this time I stay on the landward side. I can’t see the water, but at least I can make rapid progress, and there’s a nice breeze blowing from the west.
Unfortunately, the nice breeze brings with it an unpleaseant smell. A sewage works, just off to my left. I pick up my pace, hurrying to leave the stink behind.
As I near a gap in the hedge, I’m surprised to hear voices, and look down to see a couple of young ladies sitting on the river bank. They’re enjoying a picnic, and are both holding glasses of wine.
The sight makes me feel hungry, and I’m hot and thirsty too. I can’t see any shade to sit in, but I find a slope of short grass, close to the path, and overlooking a pumping station. There’s no stink now, and the gentle breeze feels nice against my skin. Oh dear, I think I might be sunburnt.
While I’m eating, the two ladies pass me. They must have finished their picnic. I wonder how they manage to look so cool and elegant, while I’m hot and bothered, and still covered in grass seeds and mud!
After a long rest, I set off again, and soon reach a point where the river bank bends away from the water. Oh, what a shame. I was hoping to get a good view of the mouth of the Great Ouse, but it’s still some way ahead.
After my previous experience in the long grasses and the mud, I’m not keen to strike off across the marsh, so I stick to the raised bank.
Just round the curve is a pond. I spot the young ladies again. They’re close to the water of the pond, crouching down among reeds, grasses and, I suspect, quite a bit of mud. One is wearing a pale pink dress. I wonder if they’ll get as dirty as me?
I continue on along the bank, which soon forks into two. Check my map.
Straight on is the “New Sea Bank”, which also forms part of the Clenchwarton Parish Walk. That is the quickest route back to my van. But the Peter Scott Walk follows the bank which bends round to the the right.
Since the Peter Scott Walk is the closest to the water, this is the route I now take, following the outer bank as it curves round to run roughly parallel with the New Sea Bank. (Presumably this bank is called the “Even Newer Sea Bank”?!)
I have to confess this last mile or two of my walk is really very boring. It’s sunny, which is a bonus. But I can’t even see the water of the Great Ouse now. Actually, the river has probably become the Lynn Channel at this point.
The tide has dropped, and all I can see to indicate there is water out there are a few yellow towers carrying shipping lights, and the mud of the far bank.
Onwards. The sky is a blue dome overhead and I’m surrounded by greeness. Arable fields on my left. Marshy grassland on my right. The horizon is a distant line. I read somewhere that in the flat lands of the fens, you can see for 7 miles ahead, which – in the absence of other features in the landscape – really does make for pretty boring walking.
I look across the field to where the New Sea Bank runs parallel with my bank. I’m approaching an area called Ongar Hill. It’s a very misleading name. Where is the hill?
Ah, there’s my van – parked in the RSPB car park… dead centre in the photo below.
I stop and turn to take a photo across the marshes. On full zoom, I think I can just make out the mouth of the river, where the Great Ouse (now called the Lynn Channel) empties into the Wash.
From here, a footpath leads from the sea bank across to the end of the road at Ongar Hill. (Yes, I know, there is no sign of a hill.)
I head along the footpath, which forms a pleasantly clear route across the low-lying fen, and am pleased to reach my van without encountering any more mud.
It was a short walk today, only 7 miles, but it feels really good to be back on the coast and continuing my trek. I’m glad I made the decision to come back to King’s Lynn and walk backwards.
Ferry rides = 1
Interesting sea birds spotted = 0
Miles walked today = 7 miles
Total around coast = 4,529.5 miles