We are all about the sunsets this weekend! For anyone up here these last two nights we have had two amazing evenings of different types. Yesterday was all about the colour but today is all about the calm. We went out on the kayak again as high tide (another biggie, complete with submurged cars) and sunset were within 15 min of each other. So, just to relive the moment, here are a few memories.
The circular Blakeney to Morston route was a great adventure this evening. It was a big tide! 3.5m at the quay, which is pretty big around here. We rode the rushing tide inland from the quayside towards Morston through marshland. It was lovely and sheltered back there. Then we had to work against the tide to get out in the harbour, but at least the rush had slowed.
Out in the harbour the wind picked up and there was water everywhere. The tide almost completely covered the marsh and the usual channel wall was an island surrounded by water.
As we came back into Blakeney, Bonzo – our +1 – was put to work, jumping out of the kayak, taking the painter in his mouth and pulling us up on to the shore. Extra biscuits for him.
It was a good evening adventure followed by a fantastic sunset; among the top 5 of all time since we moved here. The circular route needs a tide height of 3m or more at the quay to get through reliably. Try it!
Back to the lovely village of Heydon, Norfolk. This time we are going for a spot of tea and cake at the fantastic Heydon Village Tea Room.
Tis is a very traditional tea shop with gingham, florals, and a large picture window overlooking the picturesque green. Today was bright sunshine and several people were picnicking on the lawn across the way as we entered. On the menu were scones in many unusual flavours and I went for the fig and apricot, which had a hint of all spice. Marek went for a large wedge of one of their many cakes as usual. The decor was sweet and modern and their shop in the back was full of local delights. Definitely worth a visit to this little hamlet for tea and a tour of the church and grounds.
On the bank holiday weekend in early May we set out on a hike along the Norfolk coast path, with the hope of camping and finding adventure. We tried to keep a diary. Episode one can be found here, episode two here and below is episode three, the final installment…
We woke again before sunrise to the magnificent, orchestral sound of the dawn chorus. There was such variety in the calls that you could just lie back and try to decipher all the different layers of sound.
We dozed for a while and then I ventured out to explore the woodland in the golden sunshine and found the little dell where we’d pitched the tent was framed by a tree arched over to form an almost heart shaped outline. I brewed apple mint tea for us on the camping stove and we drank it in the tent, with Bonzo snuggling under the unexpected treat of my down sleeping bag, which I let him borrow in a moment of weakness.
We cleared away the camp, leaving no trace but the slight shadow of where the tent had been pitched on the bare earth and wandered back into the village just in time for the opening of the village shop, The General Store. It was already a hot day and we wanted water and supplies before setting off further south on the Peddars Way, where villages to stop and refuel would be less frequent.
The shop was a warren, with rooms and alcoves spread across two levels, selling everything from gifts and pet food to a fine selection of local ales and freshly baked croissants. We ate ours, and some bananas, on a bench in the sun, where Bonzo’s rucksack continued to attract attention from the locals. One lady, a very country sort of a person in a sleeveless wax jacket, armed with a whistle made from bone and a lively Jack Russell terrier, was sufficiently moved to offer him a treat from her pocket.
From Ringstead the Peddars Way can be seen running south as a dusty golden trail through green fields, rising up and down the gently rolling hills. It felt different from the coast path, with the heat of the day arriving quickly and no fresh winds from the sea to blow it away. We walked for about an hour at a time, stopping to give Bonzo water and a rest. Despite the attention it was garnering, he clearly did not relish walking with his rucksack and was starting to drag behind, looking questionably at his paws as if to imply they were no longer working.
We started to carry the rucksack for him, but he was still lagging behind and Michelle’s feet, bad the night before, were getting worse.
The Peddars Way feels like an old trail. To either side the fields stretch for miles and occasionally it cuts through a green tunnel beneath a copse of trees.
We decided Great Bircham would be our end point before heading home and turned east from the Peddars Way, down another long sandy lane, towards the village. We found the Kings Head Hotel on the High Street and enjoyed a fine lunch. The portions were generous and the food delicious. We sat on their patio, Bonzo absolutely sound asleep under the table, and listened to the first few songs of the acoustic guitar band which was playing for the afternoon.
This was a journey to find new experiences within the known bounds of our local area, something we have been eager to do ever since we moved to the area last year. It taught us two things. Firstly, that this is a coastline of beautiful variation, from pine forests and dunes to open marshes and gorse heaths, all within the space of a few miles. Beneath the golden sun and blue skies of the bank holiday weekend, it felt like the finest place to be. Secondly, that the pace of journeying by foot affords you the opportunity to discover new richness in a familiar landscape – an experience which refreshes deeply, as a holiday should.
If you missed them first time around, you can find episode one here and episode two here.
On the bank holiday weekend in early May we set out on a hike along the Norfolk coast path, with the hope of camping and finding adventure. We tried to keep a diary. Episode one can be found here, below is episode two, and episode three is here.
It would be inaccurate to describe it as a comfortable night. The bird life for which this coast is renowned gave us a rousing chorus of dawn song, or rather pre-dawn song. So we woke at first light and struck camp at about 06:00, before the first walkers were out. We met the first early bird hiker as we walked around to Burnham Deepdale. She said her son worked for Coastal Walker magazine and, when we told her of our plans, she warned us the Peddars Way was closed further inland.
We arrived in Burnham Deepdale at about 07:30 and, predictably, found nothing open yet. We decided to wait for the cafe to open at 08:30, rather than risking a long walk to unknown breakfast prospects further on down the trail. It was a good decision. Breakfast was of waffles, coffee, bacon and muesli at the Deepdale Cafe. We sat outside, but the inside was brightly coloured and bustling. A great place for breakfast – an underrated and under-utilised meal at many cafes.
The next section, from Burnham Deepdale to Brancaster, was beautiful. It took us along a raised boardwalk through the marshes, surrounded by butterflies and admiring the gardens of the big houses which overlooked the sea. Looking North, appearing almost to float in the marshes, we could see the pub right at the harbour entrance.
At Brancaster we turned inland for the first time, in a big loop that would take us back to the coast at Thornham. Just before we joined the trail there was a stall selling homemade cakes outside someone’s house and we bought soft almond biscuits and excellent muesli bars.
The trail started to climb as it went inland, giving a wonderful view of the sea behind. Camped alongside the path was a gypsy caravan. It was somehow reassuring to see this way of life continues.
We found the farm shop at Thornham, called The Village Deli, and, a world away from travelling caravans, had salad and hummus with a balsamic glaze. How the outlook can change in the space of a few short miles.
The trail from Thornham to Holme makes a loop through the pine woods and sand dunes along the beach. It would be our last taste of the sea before turning inland down the Peddars Way, south towards Castle Acre. It was at this point we also realised we’d been labouring under the misunderstanding that it was called the Peddlars Way and only realised our mistake when we double checked the map at Holme.
We would be leaving the sea behind, so went down to the water and paddled. After our miles along the coast path, the cool water felt amazing on the feet.
At Holme we looked for a B&B to no avail, it being the bank holiday weekend. After a drink at the White Horse, we decided to walk on to dinner at the Gin Trap in Ringstead and camp out on the open access land nearby. The Gin Trap was a good meal, with fish and a rather immense club sandwich followed by sorbet for dessert. It was just the thing after a long days hike in the heat.
The plan was to buy supplies and lots of water at the local shop the following morning, before setting off down the Peddars Way.
The landlord of the pub warned us the game keepers nearby were notoriously trigger happy, so as we sat in the Gin Trap digesting, reading, writing up our journal, looking at photos and waiting for dusk, we hoped we would not be mistaken for poachers.
Walking out from the pub in the late evening light, we made for a wooded area of open access land we’d seen on the OS map, on the outskirts of the village. I’d noticed a poster on the village noticeboard as we’d walked into Ringstead, asking for volunteers to help with turning the local chalk pit quarry into a public garden. We found this on the edge of the open land and chose a spot in a glade of beech trees, tucked out of view.
Inland and away from the sea breezes it was a much warmer night and it was some time before sleep came.
If you missed them first time around, you can find episode one here and episode three here.
As a break from our grand adventure, I thought I would just mention a local haunt, and one right next to the subject of another post, The Art Cafe. The Birdscapes Gallery is a gallery entirely dedicated to wild birds and wild places”. They exhibit a wide variety of media from painting to sculpture, and my favourite, prints. And, as it is right next the The Art Cafe, it makes a good destination to while away a few hours.
On the bank holiday weekend in early May we set out on a hike along the Norfolk coast path, with the hope of camping and finding adventure. We tried to keep a diary. Here is episode one, episode two is here, and episode three is here.
We are lying on a grassy bank beside the coast path at Burnham Deepdale, warming in the sun, listening to the birds and waiting for the cafe to open for breakfast.
Our adventure started yesterday, walking out from our front door in Blakeney on a fine spring morning. Friends had stayed the night before and we breakfasted on the cake they brought, some fruit, toast and cereals – a big breakfast to see us on our way.
We met some of the neighbours in the driveway as we left. Bonzo’s rucksack, into which we stowed his food, was much admired. It was presumed to be American and attracted a great deal of attention. This theme was to continue throughout the day.
Bonzo, however, seemed less impressed and decided the rucksack disabled him such that he could no longer trot around and sniff as usual, but rather must march behind wearing an injured look.
The first section was familiar territory, taking the coast path to Morston, with a strong south westerly on the nose, big clouds and breaks of blue sky. The sky seems to draw the eye to the size of the landscape when it is defined by such clouds, giving a sense of scale that is absent when it is simply clear and blue.
From Morston we walked on to Stiffkey and, passing the little bridges on the marshes, found ourselves on new ground for the first time. The section between Stiffkey and Wells feels as much rural as it does coastal, with a wide grassy path and cow parsley replacing the yellow gorse.
On a couple of occasions Bonzo slipped out of his rucksack, but gave the game away by bounding enthusiastically down the path, thereby alerting us to his new found freedom. We told him to go back down the path to fetch it and duly re-shackled him.
We arrived in Wells with the tide and realised we had never seen the harbour with water in it. It sprang to life as it filled, with the larger yachts starting to come and go, while the sailing club launched sleek, varnished, wooden dinghies.
We bought ham, tomatoes, olives, apples and spiced broad beans for lunch from the Arthur Howell Delicatessen on the high street. The rain came just as we reached the shelter of the eaves at the Harbour Office. We sat, very English, watching the rain and the tourists eating their fish and chips. It was the only rain we saw all day and the sun soon returned.
Indeed, as we walked alongside the Beach Road towards Holkham Pines, Michelle remarked it looked ‘almost tropical’.
We took the trail through the pines rather than along the beach, as we had not walked that way before. Just before turning into the woods, we sat and watched the boats in the new outer harbour, built to supply the offshore wind farm.
The pine woods ran alongside the marshes. The reeds and pines were both dappled with afternoon sunlight. It was yet another different environment in the space of the 10 or so diverse miles we had traveled along the coast path. The wind sighing through the trees was a novel and relaxing soundscape.
We had tea and the last of the cake, which Bonzo had kindly carried for us in his saddle bags, sitting on top of a small hill in a sunlit woodland glade. We sat beside the path for a while before we set off again, resting in the sunshine and watching the weekend walkers coming through.
Rejoining the beach at the Holkham Gap, we walked barefoot across the vast expanse of sand. Bonzo was relieved of his rucksack and, no sooner was it off, than he found new reserves of energy and ran in circles, digging his paws into the soft ground as he likes to do.
Making for the gap in the dunes where the path leads into Burnham Overy Staithe, we walked through some our favourite sand dunes and down to The Hero for dinner. It was our first visit and we were impressed by the soup and bruschetta with ricotta for starter, followed by a fish pie and a game pie (complete with lead shot, as any good game pie should).
Our decision after dinner was whether to press on towards Burnham Deepdale, another few miles through the marshes, or go back on ourselves and camp in the sand dunes near the beach. We decided to forge ahead and were rewarded with the most beautiful pink, orange, purple and blue sunset out in the middle of the marshes between Burnham Overy Staithe and Burnham Deepdale. There isn’t a more Norfolk view than a windmill overlooking backlit reeds, with the sea air in your nose.
Night was falling as we pitched our tent right on the path in the middle of the marsh and Bonzo fell fast asleep, almost as soon as we were snuggled down inside. In the middle of the night the stars were out, spectacularly bright away from any light pollution, and a red crescent moon hung low in the sky.
Biking, running and walking along the North Norfolk coast is accompanied by the delicious smell of coconut at the moment. The bright yellow gorse flowers are reaching their peak and have this wonderful scent, like suntan lotion and summer days on the beach. On a warm, breezy day it wafts as you run past or cycle down the lanes.
The best places we’ve found so far are Wiveton Down, near Glandford and the Art Cafe, (also has great views of the sea), or the coast path between Morston and Stiffkey.
We often visit the Pink Foot Gallery in Cley when we’re out walking along the coast. Gallery owners’ Sarah and Rachel’s selection, from sculpture to water colours, is always a pleasure to explore – and frequently refreshed.
Time and again I find myself drawn to the paintings they have by Jo Lawrence. The one above, in particular, seems to capture the diffuse feeling of coastal light which occurs when the haze is backlit by a low sun. It reminds me of times I have walked down the Blakeney Harbour at low tide, or kayaked over to the sea bank near the Watch House on the Point and swum in those remote waters.
It is rare to find your own imagination captured, unknowingly, on canvas.