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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.

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