Total Pageviews

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Walk 43 Burnham Overy Staithe to Brancaster (Norfolk)

Walk 43    Burnham Overy Staithe to Brancaster (Norfolk)

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

Map: L/R 132
Distance: about 6 miles or 10 km.
Difficulty:  easy, flat
Terrain: paths mainly following the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coastal Path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Coasthopper bus runs in the summer to both ends.

Rejoin the walk at Burnham Overy Staithe. The path goes north for a bit before turning westwards alongside Trowland Creek. To the right, across the marshes is Scott Head Island a National Trust reserve. As the walk continues, to the left, inland, the village of Burnham Norton, birthplace of Nelson, can be seen in the distance. The track along this stretch is reputed to be a route used by smugglers.

Before reaching Burnham Deepdale I saw a derelict houseboat which looked as though it would be still OK for restoration – would be interested to know if it is still there. The Domesday Book listed seven Burnhams in this area, of which five remain - the three mentioned so far plus Burnham Thorpe and Burnham Market. All of these are small unspoilt villages typical of North Norfolk.

It is only a short distance to Brancaster Staithe. Two hundred years ago this village would have been surrounded by industry and activity. There are a number of dilapidated buildings to look out for on the walk through. The calm, quiet quayside was once occupied by an enormous malthouse built in the 1700s. In his 1929 History of Norfolk, John Chambers described it as one of the most remarkable curiosities in the county. The building was 100 metres long and stretched into the village, it was demolished between 1850 and 1870. Up to 120 tons of grain were processed into malt here each week but no malting takes place now. The quay was used by fishing and cargo boats until the 1900s. Fishermen now use a newly constructed quay which can be seen on the walk through – their catch includes mussels. The mudflats and saltmarshes around this area are protected by the National Trust. In Roman times a fort existed here garrisoned by troops from Dalmatia (now Croatia and Montenegro).

Further along reeds can be spotted growing near to the footpath. There is a history of reed cutting going back centuries in this part of Norfolk. It played an important part in the local economy providing much needed employment at harvest time especially when seas were rough and dangerous for fishermen. Most of the reeds are used for thatching.

The path continues to Brancaster. I feel it is worth breaking from the coastal path here to walk along to Brancaster Beach – a path follows the road for most of its length (I would not recommend the narrow road in busy times!) The vast expanse of sands becomes more impressive at low tide when the sea goes out a mile or so. To the west of the beach crabs can be found living in the fossilised remains of an ancient forest. About 1800 years ago the area was a Roman naval base. At that time the soldiers mainly collected oysters whereas local fishermen now mainly catch whelks and mussels.

The walk back to the village of Brancaster could finish with a welcome pint in The Ship Inn – named after the Victory and local hero Nelson.

Snaps show: Burnham Overy Staithe; Brancaster Staithe; Old boat and dilapidated buildings.

No comments:

Post a Comment