Our walk from Lyme Regis to the Norfolk coast stalled at Thetford for nearly a year, which seems a very long while but is mainly due to the weather. We don’t usually walk when heavy rain is forecast as I’m a bit of a fair weather walker (why plod along in driving rain with your head down if you can choose to walk on a warm, clear day when you can see the glorious landscape?) and Summer 2012 was so wet that there was always farm work to do on fine days.
But with the recent fine weather and farm work up to date, we found our walking boots, dusted off the maps and set forth to explore Peddars Way, which runs north from the end of the Icknield Way to join the Norfolk Coast Path. We usually drive to the start, walk for the day and then catch a bus back to the start, but searching the bus timetables I became despondent. Either the search returned a “no option available” or there was no bus after midday or the twenty mile journey involved a variety of buses and trains and a four hour travelling time. So we cheated. We did some circular walks that involved sections of Peddars Way, we drove along some of the many road sections and one day we abandoned Peddars Way altogether to visit a Whisky Distillery.
Day 1 Holme Next the Sea to Burnham Overy Staithe (13½ miles)
Peddars Way behind us, we joined the Norfolk Coast Path at Holme next the Sea feeling a little like characters from an Enid Blyton story, with our rucksacks packed with pork pie, fruit cake and bottles of ginger beer – OK, water not ginger beer – as we strode off towards the beach at Holme next the Sea.
The sea becomes more distant as the path veers behind the dunes, through a nature reserve and then turns inland with a bit of road walking.
Leaving the road, with a break for lunch sitting in the shade of the trees, we followed the track alongside fields, crossing sandswept roads, turning back towards the sea as we headed into Brancaster. We skirted Brancaster Marsh along a boardwalk, which must have cost a fortune to install, but made easy walking over wet ground, giving us a good view of the toads wallowing in the water alongside.
We lingered a little at Brancaster Staithe, debated whether to stop at the pub for a drink but decided to push on to Burnham Overy Staithe and get something there instead. The path runs along the sea bank, which was a bit windswept but sunny, though after a couple of miles got a bit boring. Eventually the rooftops of Burnham Overy Staithe appeared ahead. Phew, I thought. Nearly there. But then the sea bank does an enormous U-turn, which was a bit disappointing. Eventually we made it to Burnham Overy Staithe, only to find the pub was closed, the shop that sells drinks was closed and we had an hour to kill before the Coasthopper bus was due. We had an interesting conversation with a man of 93, who used to walk six miles and swim in the sea every day until he fell off his bike a few weeks ago and cracked some ribs and told us the village wasn’t what it used to be, we ate the rest of our lunch and sat on a wall kicking our heels until the bus arrived.
Day 2 – Burnham Overy Staithe to Wells Next the Sea (6½ miles)
Suitably breakfasted the next day, we opted for a morning walk rather than a whole day, so that we could explore a little of North Norfolk away from the path. So, back to the sea bank with saltings on one side and reclaimed grazing and arable land on the other until we reached the beach where we walked, switching between beach, dunes and woodland path for a little variety, until we left the beach at Holkham Gap.
The quiet and isolated path through the trees soon gave way to hoards of dog walkers, cyclists and pushchairs as we emerged near a boating lake and then suddenly found ourselves at the seaside, which was a bit of a shock. Beach Road was thronging with walkers and cyclists enjoying the sunshine as we made our way into Wells-next-the-Sea and the end of our morning’s walk.
On the way home we stopped at Holkham Hall. This was just one section of the glasshouses in a 6½ acre walled garden. Mightily impressive.