If ever you want to go walking in England, choose a fine, sunny day in May when everything is gloriously green and verdant, when wildflowers poke through the grass, arable crops outstrip the weeds, birds sing above and there seems to be a new smell at every turn from the unmistakable tang of the sea, the scent of bluebells in woodland to the glorious sweet coconut fragrance of the gorse flowers. Should you be undecided about which walk to take, although my favourite walk is the Greenwich Meridian Trail, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Norfolk Coast Path, if only because it’s so easy to jump onto a Coast Hopper bus at the beginning or end of the day’s walk.
Having completed the first section of the Norfolk Coast Path, we returned to Wells next the Sea, and headed for Blakeney along the edge of the salt marsh, threading our way along paths that cut between gorse bushes. After a quick stop for lunch, we walked along the top of the sea bank as it curved out seawards and then inland to the village of Cley next the Sea where bird watchers massed, standing with eyes and binoculars to the skies.
We headed for the beach and hoped our boots were waterproof as dipped our hands in the sea and walked along the sand, then trudged through the shingle. Boy was that hard work. We walked one side of the shingle bank, then on top, then the other side but whichever route we took it was a slog and I was more than happy to cut across the fields to Salthouse. One of the delights of a walk through villages of pretty flint cobbled cottages is that the resultant tourists mean there’s usually somewhere to buy food and drink so that the walk soon became punctuated with an ice cream here and a drink there. At Salthouse we ate Cromer crab and stocked up with local fudge tucked into the rucksack for Ron (later on).
Next morning we waited for the first Coast Hopper bus of the day with a crowd of who all seemed to know one another; some were going on a jolly to Hunstanton while one couple were on a booze cruise, planning to go to the far end of the bus route and work their way back on the bus, stopping at every village for a drink. It was standing room only as we travelled west, with no space to pick up passengers waiting at the bus stops, much to their obvious discontent. Most of those waiting seemed to be friends of people already on the bus and there was much cheering and waving as we passed them, followed by phone calls to arrange a meeting place when they finally managed to catch a bus.
Jumping off the bus at Weybourne we walked down to the beach, the shingle (thankfully) gave way to grassy clifftop and the ground rose steadily as we walked towards Sheringham, a steam train passing by en route.
As we climbed Skelding Hill we looked back at the curving coastline, sheltering small rural villages and ahead to the seaside towns of Sheringham and Cromer. From Sheringham the path cuts inland, past innumerable caravan parks and uphill through woodland to the highest point in Norfolk, followed by a swift descent past yet more caravan parks and into Cromer where we walked down to the beach in front of the pier, ending our 400 mile walk (albeit done in several stages) from Lyme Regis on the south coast along the Wessex Ridgeway, Ridgeway, Icknield Way, a little bit of Peddars Way and the Norfolk Coast Path to the east coast and …
… well, that’s always the problem at the end of these long distance walks. There should be a brass band playing or at the very least a button you can press to play a little fanfare but there’s nothing but a bit of an anti climax. All around us, people milled about eating fish and chips, licking ice creams, sitting on benches or leaning on the railings staring out to sea. I wanted to punch the air and do a little dance but we just smiled at each other and said “we’ve done it”. Then there seemed nothing for it but to celebrate with some fish and chips and a beer. And of course, plan the next walk.