A diary of hiking the Norfolk coast, pt. 2

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.

Only one of us had a good night's sleep
Only one of us had a good night’s sleep

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.

The crab shack at Brancaster harbour
The crab shack at Brancaster harbour
Church at Brancaster
Church at Brancaster

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 old boat barn (for sale!) at Thornham
The old boat barn (for sale!) at Thornham

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.

A last dip in the sea at the Holme Dunes
A last dip in the sea at the Holme Dunes

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.

Camp near Ringstead
Camp near Ringstead

If you missed them first time around, you can find episode one here and episode three here.


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