A day well spent

The Saturday Map, a day well spent

Maps should tell a story. This one is the tale of our Saturday. If you know these places, you’ll perhaps also understand why it wouldn’t be at all bad to spend every Saturday like this.

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Longest day of the year: sunset hike

Well, June 21st is an exciting day for us, but for different reasons. For me and my sun-worshipping, it is the day with the most daylight hours. For Marek, who loves all things wintery and bleak, it marks a turning point to when the days become shorter. Whatever the reason, we both found it a day to celebrate. And what better way than to experience the sunset on a hike.

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We took the last Coast Hopper bus from Blakeney to Sheringham, and there had the best fish and chips on the coast at Straights, followed by a visit to Ronaldo’s of Norwich ice cream shop (monster cookie and chocolate hazelnut, if you were wondering).

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At 7pm we set out along the golf course and walked the coast path back home. Here are some highlights.

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For more of the story in photos click here for the Flickr gallery.

Video: a squall on the Norfolk Coast

 

Walking along the coast path from Blakeney to Sheringham, I could see a squall chasing us from West to East along the Point. It swept the sea and sky into a single white cloud, racing along the beach. We (the dog and I), took shelter in one of the cave’s in the Weybourne cliffs and watched it roar past. It took about 10 minutes to go from sheets of rain and wind to bright blue sky (the video is sped up x20).

Walk in the frost

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Is there a finer time or a finer place to walk than a frosty morning, when your footfalls crisp the ground, across low hills overlooking the sea? A photo from Wiveton Down this morning, walking from Blakeney to Glandford.

An evening walk on the marsh

Evening sky glow over Cley Marsh

The wind was in our faces and blowing from the West as the sun, shrouded in cloud, fell below the horizon. We were walking yesterday evening through the marsh from Cley back home to Blakeney. The sky, which has provided some spectacular sunsets over the summer, was in a different mood, but no less beautiful. In place of the classic orange disc melting into the harbour waters, Nature provided a maleable feast of shifting hues: colours you would not imagine possible in the sky, from cherry pink to luminous orange.

Set against a stage background of soft blue, grey clouds, these lights shone with intensity.

A few ducks, the vanguard of the larger migrations yet to come, flew fast across the face of the wind. Out on the sea bank, the Watch House stood dark against the dusk, a reminder of how small two little humans are in this wide landscape of marsh, sky and sea.

Late summer days on the marsh

Blue sky over Blakeney Harbour on a late summer day
Blue sky over Blakeney Harbour on a late summer day

There’s a quietness now, as if the summer is mellowing after climbing towards a peak for the August bank holiday. Walking around to Cley this morning with the dog, it was the epitome of a late summer day: deep blue sky defined by just a few light wisps of cloud and butterflies floating over the last wild flowers lining the path through the marsh. With barely a breath of wind the sun felt warm and away in the fields the tractors were baling hay. We stopped at Cley for fish from the smokehouse and then along the road to Blakeney, sampling the first ripe wild plums of the season. If ever there was a day for an evening swim…

Late summer flowers going to seed on the marsh
Late summer flowers going to seed on the marsh

A diary of hiking the Norfolk Coast

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.

Bonzo, before he realised how many miles we were walking
Bonzo, before he realised how many miles we were walking

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.

Channel into Wells Harbour
Channel into Wells Harbour

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.

The Holkham Pines behind the dunes
The Holkham Pines behind the dunes

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.

The beach between Holkham and Burnham Overy Staithe
The beach between Holkham and Burnham Overy Staithe

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).

Evening in the harbour at Burnham Overy Staithe
Evening in the harbour at Burnham Overy Staithe

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.

Sunset over the Burnham marshes
Sunset over the Burnham marshes

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.

Episode two is here, and episode three is here.