North Norfolk is the closest part of the North Sea coast that can be reached by driving east from Trentham. However, we only discovered its pleasures later in life. This was mainly because our favourite destination in that direction was Walberswick, further south in Suffolk, which my wife had visited a number of times with her parents.
As with the Sefton Trail, it was our interest in following a waymarked walk that brought us to the area. We started from Old Hunstanton Beach, close to where the coastal path joins another of Norfolk’s walks, ‘The Pedders Way’ (follow link for a sketch map and further information about both paths), and eventually finished at the Beeston Bump, close to Sheringham and Cromer. Individual sections of our journey were completed over several visits and were not sequential because of where we chose to base ourselves, which took into consideration other places of interest that we decided to explore. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to find parking places, usually at harbours (or Staithes as they are known locally) along the way.
As the picture above shows, Hunstanton is a seaside resort famous for its ‘striped cliffs’ but, as the path turns out of the Wash and follows the north coast of ‘Nelson’s County’ the path becomes increasingly separated from the open sea by both salt and freshwater marshes, which is why the Staithes need to be connected to the sea by channels and means that to rejoin the coastal path usually involves a picturesque a walk like the one shown above at Burnham Overy Staithe. This habitat is the setting for the RSPB’s reserve at Tichwell, where the Bittern, a rare member of the Heron family, can be sighted (if you are very lucky), as well as Avocets, the RSPB’s emblematic bird, and other waders.
The mid-point in our route was Wells-next-the-Sea (the town is actually a mile inland and joined to the sea by a channel) but Holkham Hall and its Beach are deservedly popular destinations nearby. Travelling further east, Blakeney Point, which is managed by the National Trust, is famous for its seal colony (pictured above) and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve at Cley was the birth-place of that charity and the oldest of its kind in the country.
From the car park serving Beeston Point, which is connected to the coast road at Cley, the trail follows the beach but Sheringham (pictured from Beeston Bump, to the right) is the first seaside resort to be reached since leaving Hunstanton .