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Saturday, 23 July 2011

Walk 39 Sea Palling to Mundesley

Walk 39          Sea Palling to Mundesley (Norfolk)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 134 and 133
Distance: about 10 miles
Difficulty:  moderate – some of the walking on sand dunes can be very tiring.
Terrain: paths, pavement, beach
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Very few buses - best done by car/taxi
I did not walk the section between Winterton-on-Sea and Sea Palling. It looked fairly featureless to me and would involve a lot of walking on the sand. However, if you are interested in seal spotting speak to the National Trust warden at Horsey Windmill who told me where you can find them on this stretch. The mill is interesting in itself and there may be some written information about the seals at Horsey Common.

At Sea Palling a lane from the village leads on to the sandy dunes. Offshore reefs can be seen here – they have been built to help prevent the regular threat of floods. The walk to Eccles on Sea can be along the road and cycle route or along the sands depending on the tide. Holiday homes and caravan parks are very common in this area.

Eccles comes from ‘ecclesia’ meaning church and this indicates that it was an early Anglo Saxon Burial site.It is mentioned in the Domesday Book as a thriving fishing village. Today it is mostly occupied by an estate of bungalows. From here it is only a short walk to Happisburgh which is probably best reached along the cliff top via road and paths.

It is useful to know that this settlement is pronounced ‘Haisboro’ rather than Happysborough which had a local nearly wetting himself with laughter when I asked for directions to the lighthouse. A look over the edge of the cliff reveals clear results of erosion and failing sea defences which have been worn away. Many students were here when I went, they were busily studying the changing coastline. The formidable sands have caused many shipwrecks on and off shore. In 1904 there were so many that Trinity House (responsible for coastal safety) blew them up. The local church yard has many graves of sailors including the 119 men of HMS Invincible which was wrecked here when sailing to join Nelson’s fleet at Copenhagen. The area is renowned for its ghosts including a decapitated smuggler – you have been warned!

The lighthouse, which is a little inland, was built in 1791 and operates automatically now. It was built after a ferocious storm claimed 70 ships and 600 men. The lighthouse is a popular film location including for the TV series Jonathan Creek and Kingdom.

A cliff path leads to Walcott (beware some of these paths may well be diverted or closed now due to erosion). The area has been populated for hundreds of years and has a 13th century church. The front is a popular stopping place for cars – some are out on the beach, others looking out to sea with a Thermos of tea. From Walcott it is beach or road walking through Bacton and on up to Mundesley.

A few red brick hotels at Mundesley are testimony to the efforts made to develop the town as a fashionable watering place after the railway was built here in 1898. Unfortunately, this never took off but it is still a pleasant spot. It was once an important port on this bit of coast. Look out for the small maritime museum topped by a coastguard station. Alongside this is a (presumably) replica green bomb which tops a memorial to the many Royal Engineer Bomb Disposal personnel killed while clearing British landmines from the Norfolk coast between 1944 and 1953.

Snaps show: maritime museum at Happisburgh; memorial for bomb disposal engineers at Happisburgh; sands at Sea Palling; Happisburgh lighthouse; example of cliff erosion in this area.

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