Total Pageviews

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Wak 42 Stiffkey to Burnham Overy Staithe (Norfolk)

Walk 42     Stiffkey to Burnham Overy Staithe (Norfolk)

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

Map: L/R 132
Distance:  about 11 miles or 17km
Difficulty:  fairly easy, mainly flat with some sand walking which can be tiring
Terrain: paths following the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coastal Path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Coasthopper bus runs in the summer to both ends.

Take the path north out of Stiffkey to rejoin the Peddars Way/Norfolk Coastal Path. The path follows along the edge of the marshes but is rather exposed as I found out to my cost when a violent thunderstorm erupted.

It is about 6 miles to the outskirts of Wells-next-the-Sea. This attractive resort with a bustling front is known locally as Wells. It derives its name from the spring wells which rise through the chalk. The North Sea is over a mile away because of the silting up of the harbour. Nearly all the whelks sold in Britain originate here. The attractive quay was much used in the past to load up with malt, corn and barley. The granary store is a prominent landmark on the quayside it retains the original exterior but has mostly been converted into flats. The extended top floor allowed sacks to be loaded directly on to the boats. There were once three brewers and four maltsters in the town satisfying the demands of the (then) forty local inns. It is recorded that some of the workers in the maltings were occasionally paid in beer. The area around here was regularly used for locations in the TV series Kingdom starring Stephen Fry.

On the west side of Wells the path goes northwards out towards Bob Hall’s Sand (could not find out why it is called this). However, during the season when the Wells and Walsingham Light Railway is functioning, it is well worth catching the train for an enjoyable ride alongside the path. Purists might say this is cheating. The 10.25” gauge railway was completed in 1982 due to the enthusiasm of one local man – Lt Cdr Roy Francis.

The sands along this section of coast are extensive - the tide goes out for over a mile. Beware – I was warned that the water comes in very quickly and there is a serious danger of getting stranded. Check the tides before going as much of the walk is along the shore. The walk heads inland from here to Holkham Gap and passes among a large number of pine trees. These trees were planted at the end of the nineteenth century in an attempt to stabilise the sand dunes (once these were sandy islands called 'meals') and protect reclaimed agricultural land. In later years, birch, oak and willow have been planted to provide a better environment for birds including the rare yellow browned bunting.

At Holkham Gap the walk continues along the sands – it is a matter of guess work where the path goes and I walked some time before finding the correct track inland to the east of Gun Hill. There appears to be no path markers on or near to the beach. I understand that the walk along the sands is particularly attractive in autumn as the dunes turn red with samphire – a plant which can be eaten and is sold in local shops as a delicacy.

The walk now goes inland alongside the River Burn towards Burnham Overy Staithe. The Staithe (a loading wharf) was probably established at the end of the middle ages when it was no longer possible for ships navigate the river into what is now Burnham Overy town. Look out for signs of Lord Nelson including a pub called The Hero. It is likely that Nelson took his first sail near here having been born in nearby Burnham Thorpe.

Snaps show: The sands near Wells; Stiffkey Marshes; Wells sea front; the small train to Wells Beach.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Walk 41 Sheringham to Stiffkey (Norfolk)

Walk 41          Sheringham to Stiffkey (Norfolk)

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

Map: L/R 133 and 132
Distance: about 12 miles
Difficulty:  easy with a small amount of fairly easy cliff walking.
Terrain: paths following the Peddars Way
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Coasthopper bus runs in the summer to both ends.
Start the walk at Sheringham following the Peddars Way in a westerly direction. The Peddars Way gets its name from the Latin 'pedester' meaning on foot. The path is about 46 miles long and follows the route of an old Roman road.
From the coast it is possible to see the steam trains of the North Norfolk Steam Railway chugging in and out of Sheringham. The path passes alongside a golf course and goes precariously close to the cliff edge – a diversion may be in place now. Good views along the coast can be had near Deadman’s Hill – an area owned by the National Trust.

The path descends in to Weybourne Hope, a number of small boats were being launched here when I visited. The area offers seaborne traffic both the shelter of the cliffs and deep water close to the shore. It was feared that this could be used by an attacking force especially during the time of the Spanish Armada. A verse of the time said:
            He who would old England win
            Must at Weybourne Hope begin.

The stretch of coast between Weybourne and Salthouse has a series of, what I assume are, military buildings tucked up a small cliff behind barbed wire and ‘Keep out’ notices. They emit rather sinister beeping noises and nearby graffiti has obscene comments about the military.

Salthouse is an attractive village which can be seen across the marshes. The stone cottages are dwarfed by a prominent church. The marshes have gradually spread since the 17th century silting up the old port and cutting Salthouse off from the sea.

The path follows is alongside coast and marshes until cutting inland towards Cley-next-the-sea (Cley rhymes with eye). The area around here is Cley Eye (‘eye’ is old English for island) and the surrounding marshes are very popular with bird watchers. A system of dykes ensures an essential supply of fresh, clean water. Avocets and bittern are just two of the 275 species that have been recorded here. The village is now separated from the sea by half a mile of marshland disguising the fact that it was a flourishing port 400 years ago. A significant landmark is the windmill which was built in 1713 and is open to the public. Walking northwards from Cley is a long beach, owned by the National Trust, which stretches to Blakeney Point– seals can often be seen here if you fancy a bit of shingle-beach walking. If not you could catch a boat from the small harbour at Morston to Blakeney Point – Morston is a couple of miles further down the coast from Blakeney.

Follow the Peddars Way into Blakeney village. Flint or red brick cottages and large elegant houses overlook the creek with its sandy beaches. Floods overwhelmed the village in 1953. Continue through Morston and alongside Stiffkey (pronounced Stewkey) Marshes. The area is famous for its cockles known as ‘Stewkey Blues’. Nearby Stiffkey Hall which is partly in ruins was built by Sir Nicholas Bacon father of philosopher Francis Bacon. Stiffkey had an interesting rector in the 1930s. The Reverend Harold Davidson became known as the prostitutes’ parson – he spent much of his time reclaiming souls in Soho, London. Subsequently he was defrocked and ended up in a barrel on Blackpool sea front as a one man show berating the church. He then moved to a Skegness amusement park where he sat among lions until one ate him! 

Snaps show: across the marshes to Salthouse; Windmill at Cley next the sea; path out of Sheringham next to the golf course; a steam train on its way to Sheringham. Bottom group: Sheringham front; Cley marshes; Sheringham beach huts; wall art on Sheringham front; Weybourne looking towards Cley next the sea.


Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Walk 40 Overstrand to Sheringham (NE Norfolk)

Walk 40          Overstrand to Sheringham (NE Norfolk)

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

Map: L/R 133
Distance: about 8 miles
Difficulty:  easy to moderate – some walking on sand - fairly easy cliff walking.
Terrain: paths, pavement, beach
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Regular service from Overstrand to Cromer (5) and Coasthopper service runs in the summer from Cromer to Sheringham. Check before going.
The stretch between Mundesley can be walked on the beach providing .there are no erosion problems near the cliffs.

Overstrand has suffered badly from erosion and continues to do so. A submerged village out at sea has become known as Understrand and a hotel that was once on the cliffs fell into the sea in 1950. This was originally a small fishing village but in the late  nineteenth century became known as the village of millionaires. A London journalist, Clement Scott, came here and nicknamed the area Poppyland. Many of his pals from London society moved up here and bought property.

When I was here the cliff path was closed and I had to walk out of the village to take the path across the golf course which joins up with the cliff top path (see OS map). Another option may be to walk along the beach. Look out for the octagonal lighthouse on the cliff top. It was built in 1833 and is a classical reference to the lighthouse at Alexandria. Approaching Cromer you walk through an area called Happy Valley which is treasured for its wildlife.

Cromer is an attractive place. On the walk into the town along the promenade there is a memorial to Henry Bloggs a local life boat hero - his exploits can be read about on the plaque. In the near distance is the church of St Peter and St Paul which has the tallest church tower in Norfolk. The area around the church is surrounded by fishermen’s cottages and quaint streets. The pier sticks prominently into the sea. It has been rebuilt twice after damage in the Second World War and then after flood damage in 1953. There has been entertainment on the pier since 1901. A newly refurbished pier was opened in 2004 by Stephen Fry who recalled working as a waiter at a local hotel called the Hotel de Paris. Past guests in include Oscar Wilde and the then Prince of Wales.

Cromer Lifeboat station has been of huge importance in the area because of the proximity of sandbanks. They were so feared by sailors that they became known as The Devil’s Throat. Horses and carts carrying coal were once pulled up the gangway that leads to the lifeboat station. Later on, bathing machines were pulled up the same route to be stored during the winter months.

The walk along Cromer promenade is very pleasant. If you have time stop off to try the world famous Cromer crabs. Originally, these were caught off Cromer all year round along with lobsters and herring; today the focus is on crab and lobster. The crabs were caught in hoop nets until the 1870s when the crab pot was introduced. These could be left out overnight and greatly improved the catch.

The walk continues to the West Cliffs which have been planted with wild buckthorn to prevent slippage. Further along are attractive gardens, a bowling green and public open space. Continue along to East and West Runton – I chose to walk along the road but it looked possible to go via the beach instead.

A famous fictitious resident of the area is 'Thee of Thieves' who is a mythical character from local folk tales. Bizarrely, there is a true tale of a local blacksmith who chopped off his own infected toe and cauterised the wound with a red hot poker! A plaque at a pub in West Runton recalls a concert once given there by the Sex Pistols. A nearby shire-horse centre is popular with visitors.

The path cuts into Sheringham from the road and onto the coast - the start of The Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path. Colourful beach huts are on the east promenade and a mural produced by local secondary school children adorns the wall. No graffiti was evident in the area.

There are two distinct historical divisions in the town. The top part was agricultural and the lower thrived on the fishing industry. Sheringham is now a bustling holiday resort. Since 1780 the town has had a reputation for lobsters and a small amount of fishing still takes place. The North Norfolk Steam railway terminates in the town. It runs frequently during the summer (check website for time and events), covers 10.5 miles through country side and is run mainly by volunteers.

Snaps show: a view of Overstrand; Cromer Pier; another view of Overstrand beach; Cromer lifeboat station.