Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Norfolk Coast Path day 1

Saturday, 22nd October, 2011

Up early to walk the half mile to the main road in Wells to catch the 8.15 bus to Hunstanton. It was a lovely sunny morning with just a slight nip in the air. The early light was so lovely over the harbour. It had been pitch black last night when we arrived at the caravan so I hadn't seen any of it.

Early morning light over Wells harbour
The boat where we later ate pea soup

The bus arrived and we bought 3 day passes for £15 each. This means we can hop on and off the coasthopper buses as much as we like. The journey took us through some lovely villages and it seemed a shame that because of having to do the walk in 3 days instead of four, I wouldn't get time to explore them. Ah well, just have to come back then.

We got off the bus at the lighthouse in old Hunstanton, then realised we should have been in the main part of Hunstanton about a mile up the road. We walked along the road to it and hunted for the sign to mark the beginning of the walk. The best we could find was a rusty old way marker. It was so inauspicious we really weren't sure we were at the start and so walked further back along the coast to make sure we'd definitely included the start.

Soon after the leaving the town we had the chance to walk along the beach below some dramatic stripey cliffs. The stripes are white limestone, red limestone and carstone. We chose to do this even though the route took us along the tops. We walked for ages along the beach, all the time being aware of the saltmarsh that kept threatening to cut us off from the mainland and the path. We kept seeing paths through and so didn't worry too much until it was too late and we could get no further. We either had to cross a fairly deep channel to continue on the beach or pick our way through the marsh to get back to the path. We opted for the marsh and pulled off our boots and socks so we could wade through it barefoot. Each way we tried the mud got too deep and gooey to continue. We ended up having to backtrack even though the path was so close. Frustrating, but we'd had fun doing our 'barfuss' walking in the marsh.

By this time we were ready for lunch and so perched on a sewage drainage thingy at the edge of the car park to eat our sandwiches. Not the nicest of places to sit on a nice walk, but there was a distinct lack of places to sit down and this was the best we could do.

The path then took us inland through Thornham and across the busy A149. It climbed (yes, I know this is Norfolk, but it really did climb) up away from the coast and we walked inland for quite a way before dropping back down into Brancaster. We wended our way along narrow lanes and paths through farmers' fields and got some quite good views of the coast and the wind farm out at sea.

Narrow boardwalks through the marsh
From Brancaster we were back to walking along the coast, through saltmarshes on a boardwalk. It took quite a bit of concentration as the boardwalk was narrow, generally only two planks wide, and had some drops of at least a foot on either side straight into the bog. It was strange to see boats stuck in what looked like fields, but what we knew was really marsh and would get flooded at high tides.

At Burnham Deepdale we came back to the road and stopped for a coffee at the White Horse pub. This doesn't look much from the road but was lovely inside. At the back was a verandah with a half-height glass wall. We sat here with a really good cup of coffee, looking over the small harbour and feeling completely sheltered.

After our coffee break we were on our last stretch of the day. The path wound over sea banks in a big loop away from the road. We felt like we were on this stretch for ages, though it was probably only felt like this because it was the end of a long day and we were getting tired. We could see the windmill which was on the road just before Burnham Overy Staithe and knew we were heading for it. For a long time it never seemed to get any closer. Finally, with fading light, we made it and walked alongside the road into Burnham Overy Staithe to catch our bus back to Wells.

As we knew that once we got back to the caravan we wouldn't want to come out again, we stopped for dinner whilst we were in Wells. There's an old sailing boat in the harbour which has been converted into a pub. It's owned by a Dutch guy and has a large pancake menu, and Dutch pea soup on offer. It was getting a bit chilly to sit on deck so we went down the very steep steps to sit inside. It's very basic with a tiny bar with 3 small beer barrels sitting on it. There are a few tables and benchs and the walls are papered with old maps.

We spent a really nice couple of hours here eating the best pea soup ever and of course we had to have a pancake. I didn't think much of the Norfolk beer though. Maybe it's something to do with the water which is really horrible. If I'd known I'd have brough a car load of Manchester water down with me.

Finally we walked the last half mile back to the caravan in complete darkness. Luckily I had my head torch in my pack. My body felt like it had seized into postion which I blamed on all the flat walking. It might seem easier than hills, but it's a whole different impact on the body to just keep doing what is essentially the same step over and over for a whole day. A hot shower and bed helped to sort me out though and I felt fine the next morning.

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