Steve Clark: North Norfolk Coast Path

NORTH NORFOLK COAST PATH

And a little bit of the Peddars Way

With Betty

 

We made our own ways to Hunstanton on the Saturday morning. I left Northampton about 6am so I could do a bit of bird watching before I met up with Betty later that afternoon. I stopped for a fry up about 30mins before I got to Cley Marshes NNR (Norfolk Nature Reserve). When I left the café I passed a sign saying Sculthorpe Moor Community nature reserve, run by the Hawk and Owl Trust. I had to take a side trip and have a look. It looked interesting so I paid my £4.00 and walked around the reserve for about an hour and a half. I got some nice photos of a Nuthatch from a tree hide, where I stopped for half an hour. 

Ready to move on I got back to my car and headed for Cley Marshes NNR. I have not been to Cley Marshes before. There was a large car park and an excellent visitor centre with everything you could possibly want for a day’s bird watching, including a restaurant. I bought yet another bird book and got a map of the reserve and off I toddled through the marshes and out to the sea shore. Lots of waders to be seen on the mud flats and even a seal in the sea. It took me about 2 hours to go right around and I wanted to visit Titchwell Marsh RSPB before I made my way to Hunstanton and the Balmoral Caravan park where we was going to stay for the week. Loads of twitchers and birders and bird watchers around all looking hopefully into the tree tops and out into the reed beds looking for a rarity. Apparently there was a Yellow Browed Warbler around so everybody was looking up the same tree in the same place, at the same time hoping to add it to their list. I didn’t stay all that long at Titchwell, I stayed for around an hour then left and headed for Hunstanton where I would meet up with Betty.

It was about 4pm when I arrived at the Caravan Park, and I got a phone call from Betty to say she was about there, we decided to meet up and go in together, which turned out to be a bit of a joke. By the time we did actually find each other, trying to pinpoint each other by observations of what was around us, it turned out that we were only a couple of hundred yards from each other all the time. We drove into the caravan park and found our caravan which I have to say was a beauty, twice the width of a normal caravan, and two double bedrooms. Betty texted the owner and he came over to greet us and tell us a few things we needed to know about the caravan. After he left we settled in and made ourselves comfortable for the week, Betty of course bagged the bedroom with the en-suite bathroom. 

Tomorrow we would start the North Norfolk Coast path and walk from Hunstanton to Burnham Overy Staithe, a total of 14 miles. We were only going to Burnham Deepdale, but that was 12 miles total and we wanted to a few more. We took a drive out to Burnham Overy Staithe on the Saturday afternoon after we had settled in to find a suitable parking place to leave a car for the day, we found a place right next to the shoreline and overlooking the mud flats. So with car parking sorted for the next day we went back to the caravan, had a few beers, watched some telly then we hit the sack.

 

Sunday-Hunstanton to Burnham Overy Staithe.

Up and showered Sunday morning and a bacon and egg sarnie down my throat we drove to Burnham Overy Staithe and left Betty’s car there and then parked mine in the car park in Hunstanton for a price of £4.20. The start of the coast path was just a few minutes away at a war memorial so, rucksacks on our backs, off we went. Well, it wasn’t sunny but it wasn’t raining. We walked away from the hustle and bustle of Hunstanton and it was not long before we took to the beach and had a very easy walk along it, looking out for the church at Thornham. We spotted a church which I thought was Thornham and found a path going towards it, only to be told by other walkers on the path when I asked them about the church that it was Holm, not Thornham. They pointed us in the right direction and we headed for Thornham, in the opposite direction. They also told us that the big white house in the distance that we would walk past was a very nice café. Morning tea break here we come. As we arrived at the café it started to rain so we sat inside. While we had a coffee it chucked it down and everybody was coming in drenched. 15 minutes later it stopped and never returned. Didn’t we fall lucky? 20 minutes later we walked through Thornham where we had to take an inland route because there was no safe route on the coast. We got back to the sea front at Brancaster just a couple of miles further. There we had a beer and a coffee then moved on to Burnham Deepdale, a place familiar because we stayed at the hostel there a couple of times on a group weekend. We didn’t stop but carried on to Burnham Overy Staithe where we had left Betty’s car that morning. We had a great walk on the first day and the mud flats were full of waders, we decided to drive to Stiffkey, our next day’s finish point before we headed for home to find the best place to park a car for the next day so we didn’t have to faff around the next morning wasting our time looking for a parking place. We found one on the coast that we didn’t have to pay for, then we headed back to Hunstanton to pick up my car at the car park where I’d left it. As we drove into the car park Betty said, “You’ve got a parking ticket”. No way, I’d paid £4.20 for 5 hours and over.  Oops, it was for 5 hours and that was it, it was a short stay car park. OH ****. Back at the ranch and a glass of wine it was time for dinner. Betty had bought a couple of steaks so I scoffed one of those with another glass of wine and Betty sorted herself out.

 

Monday-Burnham Overy Staith to Stiffkey. Next morning after breakfast we headed for Stiffkey and the car park that we’d found the previous day. I left my car there and we drove back to Burnham Overy Staithe and the car park where we finished the day before to start our hike to Stiffkey. We soon got out onto the sandy beach and walked about 4kms along the beach before heading inland to enter woodland at Holkham Gap. While we were on the beach the lifeguards were patrolling the beach on a hovercraft obviously looking for something. We never found out what, but what the ‘eck. We entered the woodland and walked on to a large car park with a café, where we stopped for a brew and a meat pasty. On the way to the car park there was a lot of bird life flying around the woodland, and I managed to spot some Gold Crests and a few of the Tit family. The sun was shining till we reached the café but as we left and headed for Wells Next the Sea right in front of us it started to rain. It didn’t last long and the weather soon got better again and we got to Wells Next the Sea in the sun. We walked past the familiar shops that we’d been to on a previous trip and carried on to Stiffkey approx. 4kms ahead of us. The walk to Stiffkey was a delightful one along the side of mudflats where there was plenty of waders to be seen. We got to Stiffkey and the car around 3pm. We sat there for about 20mins looking out across the mudflats then headed for Salthouse Flats to find a parking place to park a car the next day, which we did. Then back to Burnham Overy Staithe where Betty had left her car then headed back to the caravan after another good day on the trail.

 

Tuesday-Stiffkey to Salthouse Flats. Up and a bacon and egg butty down my throat and Betty had breakfast too, we headed for Salthouse Flats where we left Betty’s car. Then headed for Stiffkey again to start off where we left off the day before. Off into the marshes we went on a sunny day heading for Blakeley, lots of bird life all around, there was always lots of boats in the marshes dotted all around, some colourful, some not. After a while we started to head out towards the sea and Blakeney Point, then back in towards Cley with the windmill of Cley standing out on the sky line. When we reached Cley we had to go onto the road and walk through the village itself because of a new sluice gate to aid the new sea defences and stop the houses of Cley getting flooded. Walking through the town of Cley was a bit of a confusion but soon found our way, through some back street paths and right underneath the windmill, then back out onto the path on the other side of the windmill and sluice gate. Betty took a different route through the village and was sitting waiting for me as I got back on the path. We followed the path through the mud flats and on the shingle beach to Salthouse Flats, where we were to call it a day. Cley was where we left the mudflats behind, from now on we would be walking on cliff tops into Sheringham, then on to Cromer.

 

Salthouse Flats-Cromer (The finish).  Our last day to Cromer was a wet one. Driving to Salthouse Flats the sun was shining for a while, then it started to pour. We found a car park at Cromer for £4.00 for the day, left Betty’s car there and then parked up at Salthouse Flats just as it stopped raining. Off we trod, only to walk about 20mins and it started to rain again, so on went the rain gear and there it stayed on our backs for the rest of the day. We had a bit more shingle to walk on, but we soon walked out of that and on to grassy more solid ground heading for Sheringham. At Sheringham we stopped for coffee and a tea cake, and then pushed on to Cromer only a few miles further on. We followed the acorn all the way as the book did its own thing because it was a little out of date, and as we closed in on Cromer we could see the pier where the North Norfolk Coast path terminated. Reaching the pier we had another coffee took some photos then it was back to the car, drive to Salthouse Flats, pick up my car then back to our caravan. Betty went straight back but I took a trip back to Stiffkey Flats for another looksee, but it started to rain again so I left the Flats and headed for a pint in a local pub on the way back to Hunstanton.

 

All in all we had good weather on the coast path, it tended to rain during the night but it always turned out good for the day except our last day which turned out to be a bummer. I’m just glad that we walked through the mudflats in good weather. 

The North Norfolk coast path was a complete contrast to the Pembrokeshire coast path, the latter was more a dramatic plunging coast line, in and out of picturesque fishing bays and inlets and the former was more flat, walking through reed beds and mudflats watching the waders probing the mud for grub. 

After the coast path we did a few sections of the Peddars Way. The Peddars Way runs from near Thetford to Hunstanton, which is where the North Norfolk Coast Path starts. We decided to catch a taxi to Fring then walk back to Hunstanton on Thursday, then park a car at Fring then drive to Gt Massingham and walk back to Fring on the Friday, both about 10 miles. The Peddars Way is a complete contrast to the coast path because it is all inland and just about as straight as a dye. We were hiking down a track and some large artics kept coming past us, they were going to a local farm to be loaded up with silage, I stood and watched one being loaded for about 15 mins then off I went  to catch Betty up, or so I thought. 10 mins later and no sign of Betty, suddenly I hear my name being called behind me. It was Betty, how the ‘eck did she get behind me. Apparently she followed the track around to the right, when the Way carries straight on. Ooops. We had another great week and it was bags packed on Friday afternoon ready for home on Saturday.

Photos at – www.flickr.com/photos/131244540@N07


Stevecee x