The Norfolk Coastal Path is a national trail covering a large section of the Norfolk coast, running from Hunstanton in west Norfolk to Hopton-on -sea in the East.
The majority of this walking trail runs through the dramatic landscape of the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and covers an impressive 84 Miles.
As a regular visitor to the area I’ve walked various short sections of the trail but with my imminent Isle of Wight challenge I decided it was time to tidy up some sections of the path and cover some distance.
Having previously completed the Norfolk Coastal Marathon I’ve ticked off a solid section between Weybourne and Sea Palling. On this occasion I’m sticking with convention and settle on the very start of the trail in Hunstanton.
An early start *shudder* and with the hint of some decent weather, my family drop me off in the seaside town. My husband checks if I have a map, err only about 5 on my phone, and anyway how difficult can it be keeping the sea on your left?
[Spoiler] A little bit.
And so I’m setting off from the official start (a cheeky geocache first – one has to take advantage of an empty car park, always best to look like a weirdo without an audience.).
I always find the official start of a trail a little underwhelming.
Slightly disappointing to find no fanfare or cheering crowds waving me off on my epic quest.
Without a soul in sight I simply plod on my way, alone.
A mere 400m and I’m already making my first stop of the day – a toilet block! Woohoo!
Yeah TMI but it was a long drive and I do get very excited to actually see a toilet on a walk. *Shrugs.*
Penny spent 😉 and I’m back on the road. The route from Hunstanton to Old Hunstanton takes you along the cliff top, some nice enough sea views…
However being a regular visitor I’m aware of the dramatic scenery below on the beach.
A pitfall of following a set route to a deadline, little time to explore and appreciate.
As I Reach Old Hunstanton the landscape changes from cliffs to dunes, and I quickly spot a familiar bunch leaving the beach. It’s my family.
The cheeky gits invite me to join them for a Full English in the beach cafe. I wish I could but with so many miles ahead I dutifully head on.
The path cuts to the top of the dunes, along the edge of the golf course. I’m not the biggest fan of golf course walking, a few dubious encounters have left me a little wary but thankfully these are a well-behaved and friendly bunch, my only disappointment is that nobody is hitting a ball into a revolving windmill.
The path becomes a little more challenging, with fresh spring growth on the gorse bushes.
looks like this…
But it definitely feels like this…
As I dodge my way to Holme (sadly not home), I spot an adjacent path closer to the shore which spares me further bloodshed. Phew!
In Holme I’m greeted by an amusing sight.
For the record, there’s a lovely beach at Holme. But I don’t get to see much of it, The path winds its way through a nature reserve, with lots of birds to see and hear – should you be feeling a bit twitchy. A short wooded section, and a shiny new boardwalk an absolute delight to walk on, especially as the sun is now out and the temperature rising.
As I head towards Thornham the scenery becomes increasingly marshier, and muddier.
Due to these marshes I now need to travel inland a little, first into the village itself.
Checking my map (Don’t tell my husband. 😉) I spot the route has a significant (3.5 mile) detour. I summarise that this is to avoid the A149.
The main coastal road, traffic is heavy and fast. I consider taking the road anyway, however from what I remember many sections of this road have steep verges which would be ridiculous to navigate on such a busy route. I reluctantly follow the official diversion.
With the sun in full force I’m walking uphill (Albeit a small Norfolk version.) on a narrow, national speed limit road. Can you tell I’m not impressed?
After a mile or so the path finally starts to head in the right direction and cuts across fields before returning towards the village of Brancaster.
In my opinion there is nothing to be gained from this section of the walk, except blisters. Checking this section on the way back home I can confirm there is a narrow footpath the whole way. Isn’t hindsight a marvellous thing…
In Brancaster I need a dose of fun and so treat myself to stopping to find a cache and changing into a fresh pair of socks. I certainly know how to have a good time. 😁
At long bloody last I’m heading back to the coast.
Brancaster, again another lovely place to stop and explore, although I don’t have time today. With the remains of a shipwreck and a petrified forest which can be found on the foreshore at low tide, although I’m not entirely sure what scared it… 😉
My path however takes me once again through marshes and reeds.
A boardwalk makes for easy walking and I pass Brandodunum, a roman settlement. I stop to take a look. A quick summary: A grassy field, with a few small bumps, you know the score I’m sure.
As I walk I spot several of these sunning themselves on the boardwalk, not concerned at all by my company.
‘These’ of course being a subspecies of things. I admit I’m rubbish at this kind of stuff. Common Lizard? *Shrugs* Educate me people…
At Brancaster Staithe, things get a bit more boaty. The village being home to a harbour and sailing club. It’s a welcome distraction photographing the boats and my surroundings.
I really do mean distraction, as I miss the concealed pathway between two buildings. oops.
I continue snapping away anyway as a nearby boaty type shouts out ‘You lost love?’
Ha! As if I’m going to admit that. I reassure him I’m just taking a few photos, whilst I covertly check my maps. Again.
keeping the sea to my left clearly a quite ridiculous strategy, but luckily I quickly spot the alleyway I need and head towards Burnham Deepdale.
A real low point of the walk for me. Just over halfway in terms of mileage. A long section of walking on grass, navigating salt marshes and freshwater meadows. My boots are hurting and energy levels plummet. I can see a windmill off in the distance which I know I must reach, but as the path hugs the coastline it seems to be getting further away. I’m sure I can even hear the faint sounds of a melancholy violin somewhere nearby…
The wall has been hit. It breaks me. My goal has been for the last mile or so to just make it to the next bench. One doesn’t appear though so I settle on the next best thing, and the only thing which isn’t grass. I find some concrete steps to collapse onto.
Oh what fine concrete steps.
I ditch my boots, thankful that I’d shoved a pair of manky old trainers in my bag. I allow myself an indulgent 5 minute sulk whilst I stuff my face with flapjack. I’m sat right next to another cache but not even some grubby tupperware can cheer me up right now.
Anyway I’m stubborn, It’s time to pull up my tough girl pants and get on with it.
At last I reach Burnham Overy Staithe and I’m grateful to head towards some differing landscape. I’m too moody to bother stopping for an ice cream, no doubt the sugar would have done wonders for me, but apparently I never learn. 😬
The dunes as I head towards Holkham are a welcome sight, walking through them admittedly difficult so I head right down the beach to wet sand and easier walking.
The scenery change dramatically improves my mood, a vast wide beach which I know stretches all the way round to Wells Next The Sea – my destination for the day. Yay!
The weather now pretty changeable means the beach is wonderfully quiet, wild and windy – just how I like it.
The woodland at the edge of the beach becomes denser and I realise I’ve reached Holkham. It’s where my family are spending the day and it’s just the boost I need to cover the last section of my walk.
I’m tempted to take advantage of the low tide and follow a direct, shorter route to Wells across the beach, my energy has completely gone and my feet are pretty wrecked. My stubborness rarely lets me down though and so I stick to the official route, well, kinda.
Paths aplenty run alongside each other so I switch between dunes, woodland walking, and dull but easy pathways.
It’s not long before I’m close enough to Wells to be able to summon the family to our arranged meeting point.
Tired, hungry and sore, I’m left feeling slightly concerned over my forthcoming Isle of Wight stroll, at 70 miles it’s certainly going to be a challenge when I’m this knackered after 22.
For now though I enjoy the enthusiastic welcome of my children and make the most of sitting down as we drive back to Hunstanton for fish and chips. I find myself once more at the coastal path official starting point.
All that effort and still no bloody fanfare.