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Sailing from the Shiant Isles to Loch Torridon, Knoydart peninsular walk, May 2017

We left the Shiant Isles in fog and rain.  The basalt cliffs felt even more mysterious and eerie than they had the previous day.  We had to return to Mallaig by the end of the week so sailed around the far side of Skye.  We had seen the island on and off for several days.  The skilful skipper goose winged the sails so they were on either side of the mast, the main sail on one side and the jib on another.  When the sails were no longer goose wing, and there were two reefs in the main sail, I was asked to take the helm.  There was a strong wind and a little turbulence from side to side and I was steering, rather badly, using a combination of a compass bearing and trying to find a dark grey shape on the horizon which was land instead of the lighter grey shapes on the horizon which were cloud formations.  Did I take the boat off course a little?  I think I might have done.  This was only my second time on the helm, soon after my first attempt, several days earlier, we had spotted dolphins swimming across the bow of the boat and someone had kindly taken the helm from me so I could kneel down near the bow and watch the dolphins.  The water was so clear that I could see them swimming under water.  Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me that day. Loch Torridon, village with a pub!

We had a long sail to Loch Torridon.  The skipper’s wife is a talented cook and made apple cake for everyone while we were sailing.  It was delicious.  On other days she had made bread and soup while we were sailing.  On one of those days the boat was heeling over a lot so the bread hadn’t fully risen, but it was still very delicious!  After a long sail in oil skins we saw a change of scenery.  Instead of the angular edges of the basalt cliffs of the Shiant Isles, the Torridonian rocks created a much gentler, more rounded landscape.  I was delighted to see that we were anchoring close to a village with a pub, but because of being sea sick on my first long sail, decided not to drink while I was on holiday.  We anchored near a small island, and there was a wonderful sound of birdsong.  I spent a lot of time on deck looking through my binoculars for sea eagles and otters as I was told that they lived near the island, but didn’t see any.  I went ashore in the dinghy to the pub instead!  On shore a tiny canon was pointing at the boat.  I tried to take a photo but the camera on my phone didn’t work.  After several days on the boat I was used to the rocking motion of the sea.  The land felt as if it was moving slightly.

The following morning was hot and sunny.

Loch Torridon, Island

Island in Loch Torridon

There was very little wind and we used the engine.  It was hot and we didn’t need to wear oilskins to protect ourselves from cold wind. We anchored near the Knoydart peninsular agreeing that in the sunshine Scotland is the most beautiful place in the world.  We went ashore by dinghy, up a vertical ladder on a small jetty, divided ourselves into groups of runners and walkers.  I joined the walking group.  I was surprised how much effort I seemed to need to walk up the road, but after a few minutes of walking turned behind to look around and realised how high we were.  My camera battery was flat.  We walked on the very quiet road for three hours, walking slowly because it was so hot, and the views were stunning.  A woman driving a post van passed us twice but we only saw a handful of other vehicles.  Around every corner were more stunning views.  What a gorgeous place the Knoydart peninsular is.  There were small streams which my companions drank from, the water looked clear.  We walked past white houses, passing a jetty to which the boat was moored, and to the busy pub.  The holiday was coming to an end, this was to be our last night on the boat and I had had a wonderful walk. DSCN0391

 

Featured

Thursday 12th January 2017

I had two days off work and went to the closest coastline, Hunstanton in Norfolk.  I parked near the swimming pool on the sea front and, noticing wooden boards across the gaps in the wall closest to the sea realised that there was likely to be a very high tide.  I moved my car up a slope away from the sea, paid for a full day’s parking and set off.  It was very windy and cold and bracing, but lovely to be at the coast.  On the sea front sea shells and seaweed were strewn across the path.  I’d never noticed this before at Hunstanton and wondered if they’d been left by a high tide.  I walked onto the beach which looked a little different to how it usually does.  White stones were strewn around the beach and a man was throwing them into a pile at the foot of a cliff.  The large boulders which form a grid pattern and are usually covered in bright green seaweed in summer looked bare.

The sea was out and the metal outline of a shipwreck was showing.  This has been there for decades and is only visible at low tide but I always enjoy looking at it.  Further along the beach, past the cliffs with their dramatic horizontal stripes, was a line of sea weed and a red wellington boot.  There were pieces of wood and a rope with a recently frayed knot on one end and the other end wasn’t attached to anything.  It looked as if there had been a very high tide.  I had a cup of tea in a pub at Old Hunstanton, talking to a woman with a dog.  I returned past a golf course, along the top of the cliffs, past the warning signs if you feel lonely please ring this number, past the white light house and bought a cheap, oversized man’s waterproof coat from a charity shop.  There weren’t any women’s ones.  It was going to be a stormy week end and I’d left my waterproof coat at home.  I also bought a hat I could tie under my chin, perfect for walking on windy days.

When I returned to my car, my parking ticket had blown away.  Stuck to the windscreen was a parking fine.  It would be halved if I paid it promptly.  So much for spending £5 on 24 hours parking. I drove to Wells-next-the-sea to spend the night at a B & B.  Flood defences were being put up, a storm surge and a very high tide were expected.

 

 

 

 

Seals again, south Norfolk beach! 9th December 2017

Norfolk seal pupIt was a lovely cold winter morning, with a blue sunny sky and frozen ground.  I nearly slipped on black ice on a pavement walking away from a car park.  I returned to where I had walked a few weeks ago to walk with a few other people. We walked across a field, a few weeks ago this was full of cows, but was now empty. Then we turned onto a path bordered by reeds, towards the line of high dunes.  I was impatient to see the grey seals, but didn’t have to walk far to the sign pointing to the seal viewing platform and the wooden steps leading up to it.  At the foot of the steps was a blackboard updated on Thursday, stating that there are now 1700 adult seals and 1420 pups! The number of pups has increased. On 23rd November there were 1144 adult seals and 665 pups.  The beach was full of new born seal pups with their mothers. One seal had climbed to the top of the dunes so we walked away from it.

DSC02166DSC02165It was wonderful to see all the seals and their pups.  The sea was stormy, whipping up foam in places. High waves were breaking at the edge of the beach. Perhaps it was high tide as the seals were high up the beach, close to the foot of the dunes.  Then I reluctantly walked down the steps back onto the Coastal path below.  The pull of the seals were too great.  We walked for a while then climbed some dunes, and saw an even higher density of seals! Young pups were suckling their mothers, and male seals were fighting each other.  Fights seemed to start with two male seals facing each other, opening their mouths very wide, arching their necks and roaring.  One seal ran away immediately, rolling on his side, as if he realised that his rival was far too large to fight.  Others seemed to act quite aggressively towards each other and towards the females.

seal and pupIt was nice to reach a café by the beach, a lovely wooden building which served a wonderful fish pie, with salad, probably enough for 2 people who hadn’t been for a bracing walk, or one hungry person who had! The walk back to the car park, back along the same route, seemed much quicker.  The light was starting to fade and the sun had gone in.  We walked along the tops of the dunes, still enchanted by the seals.  Near the seal viewing area a seal warden warned me that there was blood on the path, but no seals were injured, this was due to a seal giving birth to a pup a few hours earlier.  Ropes and posts had been put around the new born seal and its mother to keep walkers well away from them.  I walked through the thigh high marram grass on the top of the dune, around the path where the seal had given birth.  The young pup was a yellowish white, very tiny and extremely cute! The seal wardens do a wonderful job, out in all weathers, protecting these wonderful mammals and helping the seal colony to increase. New born seal pup and mother seal

 

Return to the Norfolk seals, Thursday 23rd November 2017

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I returned to South Norfolk on a crisp Winter’s day to visit a beach I’d been to earlier this year to see seals. I don’t want to write the exact location, but a wonderful group of local volunteers work hard to protect the seals. There are wooden steps to climb up to the tops of the dunes to view them, and this local organisation ropes off other areas, to keep people off the beach.  DSC01975 - Copy

DSC01976 - CopyI parked at a car park, followed other walkers to the beach, and saw the new born seal pups and their mothers lying on the beach. It was a wonderful site. I between two viewing platforms. Writing on a nearby blackboard showed how many hundreds of seals had been counted that day. I spent a long time watching the seals then walked through a nature reserve to a café. The last time I’d walked there was with a handsome friend, who was a little impatient with my slow walking pace. This time I was on my own. I recognised the distinctive landmarks and remembered that the last time I’d been there my friend had spoken to a woman about her dog being bitten by an adder as there are snakes in the dunes. DSC01974 - Copy

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I reached a café by a beach, enjoyed a hot drink then headed back to the car park. I’d spent too long looking at seals, too long in the café, and I was running out of daylight to find my way back. Just before leaving home in the morning I’d grabbed a torch. I ended up walking through a field of cows in the dark with my torch and the light of a new moon and a star lit sky. I could hear the cows eating grass in the dark, and they looked surprised to see me with my torch. I was relieved to get back to my car and find that the carpark was still open. When I return with my friends I will leave home much earlier in the morning to allow more time to walk in the daylight. My camera doesn’t have a very powerful zoom lens. I told a friend about the seals. She visited them yesterday and has taken beautiful, close up photos of the seals. You can see them in wonderful detail, a young pup suckling it’s mother, seals frolicking in the waves, seals lying on their sides and on their back asleep, looking as it they are smiling. She has captured the seals in all their wonderful beauty, the soft, fluffy white newly born pups, the large wide bodies of the pregnant sows, and the bull seals with their mouths wide open roaring at each other. I haven’t been able to capture any of this in my photos, my camera wasn’t powerful enough, my seals look little more than blobs on the sand.  You can see wet, grey skin with dark spots of the parent seals in her photos, seal tracks across the sand. The seals in my photos are barely more distinguishable than the boulders on the groynes.

 

 

 

 

Lowestoft to Southwold on the beach, Tuesday 31st October 2017

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This was a bracing walk, as fast as I could manage. The last time I did this walk was on April Fool’s day and I walked too slowly, spent too much time chatting to passing walkers with dogs, and had to do most of the walk inland.  I was with a walking group who were all much fitter than me, 20 milers not slow 10 mile walkers like I am. The days are short since the clock’s change, it’s dark by 4.30 pm. I set off a few minutes after sunrise, soon after 7 am, a couple of hours before the other walkers. There are wonderful sunrises over the sea from the most easterly part of England. The sky was flooded with a gorgeous golden light, which was wonderful to experience.  There were walkers and runners about on the promenade near the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht club. There’s a public car park nearby where I parked and walked parallel to the beach on the flat path.  It was close to high tide. Lowestoft sunrise

 

Cornucopia, Lowestoft

Lowestoft sunrise

Lowestoft to Pakefield

Pakefield

I walked to Pakefield, walking on the sandy beach, passing up turned boats, and seeing a church and houses nearby.  Off the tarmac path I hoped to be on sand for the rest of the walk, but decided to keep checking the time and to head inland if I was going to arrive in Southwold after high tide.  The cliffs are very crumbly, sandstone and would be dangerous to climb. They’re not high, but it would be very dangerous to risk having a ton or more of sand falling on you.  The tide comes in quickly and it would be dangerous to be trapped between a tide and a cliff. Kessingland, crumbling cliffs

I stopped for a few minutes at Pakefield to have a drink of water.  I was still making good time, but that could quickly change.  I kept checking my map, in case I needed to take the inland path at Benacre.  The tide wasn’t quite low enough when I got there to walk around the outside of the stone groynes, so I took a path for a little way over some heathland.  There aren’t many places where you can take the inland path after here and I was unsure if I could do the rest of the walk on the beach.  I carried on to the nature reserve at Benacre, spending a lot of time looking at the remains of the trees.  Just before I reached them I had to cross the channel leading to the nature reserve.  It was much narrower than when I was here in April, it was at a different stage of the tide.  I managed to hop across, getting one foot wet.  What was alarming was how much my feet suddenly sank into the sand just before I reached the channel.  The sea has made the trees smooth and they look very sculptural. Tree roots hang over the edge of the cliff. I couldn’t see the ruins at Covehithe from the beach.  Perhaps I didn’t look up at the right place. Birds' nests and graffiti on the cliffs, Kessingland

Just before turning the corner, Kessingland

Benacre, trees on beach

Benacre, cliffs crumbling, trees on beach

Benacre nature reserve

Benacre, remains of a wood

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I walked on, as quickly as I could.  Soon I rounded a corner and could no longer see the wind turbine at Lowestoft in the distance.  Instead, I could see Southwold pier in the distance. I had estimated that low tide at Lowestoft was at 12.30.  What I’d forgotten to calculate was the difference between the tides at Lowestoft and Southwold.  What if low tide was earlier?  Close to some shale and sandstone cliffs it briefly seemed as if the tide was starting to come in.  I walked as fast as I could, looking for low areas between cliffs which could be possible escape routes if the tide came in.  I couldn’t find my map in my rucksack.  I continued to walk towards Southwold pier as quickly as I could on the sandy beach, but it didn’t seem to get any closer.  I was still miles away.  Every twenty paces I could see a flash of light from Southwold lighthouse.Southwold pier, visible for miles before you reach it

Sea defences, Southwold

Walking over the sand as quickly as I could the pier seemed larger and I could make out the outlines of the different buildings on it. A couple with a dog walked towards me and I asked them how I could get off the beach at Southwold.  They advised me to carefully climb up the groynes onto the concrete sea defence, which were very slippery. The sea still covered the edge of the groynes so I couldn’t walk past them. I only had to climb over three concrete blocks and did so carefully, sitting down and kneeling.  It was nice to be on the concrete sea defence, and after a few minutes of walking I found some steps which led to a car park.  A crane was lifting beach huts into the car park, perhaps to give them some protection in the winter from being too exposed to stormy seas.  I walked onto the pier, relieved to be there, but I had enjoyed the walk.  It was still an hour until high tide.  I will never make this mistake again of doing a beach walk and only working out the times at one of the places I’m going to.  I need to know tide times everywhere along the walk.  Southwold beach huts being lifted inside sea wall for the WinterSouthwold beach huts

Southwold beach huts

Southwold lighthouse

Southwold pier

Southwold pier

Waterclock, Southwold pier

Amusement machine on Southwold pier, to turn a oin into a medal

When I’d had a long rest the walking group sent me a text message.  “Did you lose your map? We’ve found one!” and “We’re on the beach, will be there soon.”  I showed them the row of mirrors on the pier which can make you look tall, short, wide, slim, or just how you really are! We had a slow saunter around charity shops and pie shops in Southwold and I removed the small stone from my right boot which had been annoying me for miles but I hadn’t wanted to take off my boot and slow my walking down.  Halloween had come to Southwold in a very genteel way, like everything else about this town.  We then walked out of the town towards Walberswick, but not across the heath path which leads to the ferry.  Sadly for my friends the rowing boat ferry had stopped a couple of days earlier.

Water tower near Walberswick

Instead we walked down a minor country road, past an old water tower and a more modern looking one, which looked as if it belonged in a 1960’s sci fi film.  I was a little bit concerned how much more distance these fit walkers wanted to add to the walk, but was very relieved when they reached a lovely old pub next to the river, with a high sign outside marking the height of a flood in 1953.  They gave me a lift back to my car in Lowestoft and I drove home in the dark, pleased that I’d seen the sunrise.DSC01889

 

 

Holkham Gap to Morston, Saturday 14th of October 2017

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Months ago my friends agreed to go camping with me in October.  I was worried that it might be cold and we went glamping instead, near Holkham beach, staying in a safari tent on a small campsite. We were well prepared for cold weather with a log burner inside the tent and a fire pit outside it.  What I hadn’t expected, was a mini heatwave (for the time of year) and temperatures in the early 20’s Celsius. We didn’t need the log burner and it was warm inside the tent at night time.  We used the fire pit for cooking and experimented to see if we could warm up croissants in foil dishes over the fire, cook potatoes and sweet potatoes wrapped in foil over the grate, and between us experimented with cored apples stuffed with blackberries from a nearby bush, held in place with a marshmallow, then wrapped in foil and baked on a grill over the fire.  All the food was delicious.

DSC01594The walk on Saturday was from Holkham Gap to Morston. We left a car at Morston and drove to the carpark at Holkham beach turning right from the carpark to walk a mile and a half along the back of a pine forest towards Well-next-the-sea. At the end of the pine forest we turned right to walk the straight mile towards Wells harbour, along the sea defence.DSC01597DSC01598DSC01599

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We walked under the granary, once a warehouse but now luxurious flats, along the Norfolk Coastal path across the creek from the mudflats towards Stiffkey.  DSC01615DSC01635

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Grey cloud was pushed away but fast moving warm air and blue sunny skies. DSC01624DSC01603DSC01641

We reached the café at Morston 10 minutes before it closed and sat at a table outside looking at the boats and eating ice cream to cool down.

The following day we returned to Holkham to walk along the beach in the opposite direction, away from Wells. DSC01664DSC01662DSC01690DSC01691DSC01636DSC01692DSC01655

 

 

Shotley peninsular walk to Pin Mill, Saturday 30th September 2017

DSC01473 - CopyThere was free parking next to St Michael’s church, Woolverstone, but I went inside the church to leave a donation.  An old tractor was parked outside the entrance. The church is built of flint, inside it has white walls, a font with huge wooden carvings, and some stained glass windows.

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Near the church was a sweet chestnut tree, I saw several on this walk. DSC01474 - Copy

There are several footpaths near the church, but I took the one to Woolverstone Marina, passing the Royal Harwich Yacht Club.

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Royal Harwich Yacht Club, on the River Orwell

 

A sign nearby explains that this area was the location of Arthur Ransome’s book, “We didn’t mean to go to sea” that scared me as a child, and still gives me some fear as an adult when I’m sailing and sleep on a boat moored at anchor, just in case the boat drifts out to sea and no one realises!

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Signs warn would be trespassing walkers to keep to the path and not stray onto the grass in front of the yacht club.  This is not a problem.  I would prefer to walk by the boats anyway.  You can see the Orwell bridge in the distance.  I watched it being built as a child, it’s an angular, functional bridge, but it isn’t elegant and I preferred its appearance when it was incomplete and the sections didn’t join across the river.

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Looking towards the Orwell bridge from Woolverstone Marina

 

 

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Woolverstone Marina

Past the boats is an inviting looking path near the edge of marshes.  I tried to walk along it a little way before turning around.  It was muddy, this is a tidal river and I was there at low tide.  DSC01491

 

If you don’t want muddy boats take the footpath on the far side of the yacht club.  This goes through a narrow strip of woodland and runs parallel to the river.

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DSC01502DSC01503DSC01494I often did this walk in Autumn, when my father’s boat had come out of the water at Pin Mill nearby, and I couldn’t stand the small of antifouling paint on my paintbrush, painting below the waterline of the boat, the hull and the keel, I’d stop painting and go for a walk, filling my lungs with clean air.  Before long I saw a houseboat moored to a pontoon, and nearby lots of masts and buildings at Pin Mill.

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Barge moored near Pin Mill pub

 

I reached a very smartly painted pub, the Butt and Oyster, looking much smarter that it used to when I was a teenager, but I was pleased to see that the sign still had a lot of character. DSC01549I had enjoyed coming here as a teenager, for the occasional meal. Being able to get out of a dinghy in wellies and wearing them inside the pub with the other sailors.  People looked much smarter, although they were casually dressed.  I didn’t notice anyone in wellies, or anyone carrying a lifejacket.

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I had a bowl of soup and a pot of tea.  Then I walked up the familiar sloping road away from the pub. DSC01554

I climbed a few steps at the start of the footpath on the left hand side, passing two horses in a field, towards Pin Mill cliffs. DSC01555

There are no mountains or high hills in East Anglia.  Cliffs are just land that is slightly higher than the sea.  A narrow band of woodland runs along the cliff top towards Clamp House.  Through gaps in the trees are tantalising views of houseboats moored to pontoons and then of yachts sailing along the river. DSC01562DSC01563DSC01570DSC01573DSC01574

Then I turned round and walked back, through the wood where chestnuts kept falling from the trees and squirrels ran through the dried leaves to collect them. Passing boat moorings where my late father’s boat used to be moored, back into the Butt and Oyster for sticky toffee pudding, wishing I was on a boat, but happy that the next best thing to sailing is watching from the shore other boats sailing past.

Saturday 19th August 2017, Holkham Gap to Wells-next-the-sea through the pine forest, on towards Stiffkey and back to Holkham on the beach

Cattle, Holkham, August 2017

This was a short walk of 6 to 7 miles.  The storm from the previous day had passed, and early in the morning the sky was blue and cloudless.  I started walking from Lady Anne’s Drive car park near Holkham beach. The car park is about half a mile long and leads to the beach. Early in the morning there were not many cars parked there, and no one had arrived with a horse box early on. Lots of people enjoy riding on the beautiful wide sandy beach at Holkham, and I’ve often seen horses galloping over the sand and at the edge of the sea. A boardwalk leads on to the beach.
Holkham Gap boatd walk, August 2017
This is the widest stretch of sandy beach I know in Norfolk but a pine forest runs along the side of the beach. The shade of the forest is wonderful on a hot day, and the smell of the pine trees is lovely too.  I walked to the top of the boardwalk to look at the pale sandy beach and the sea in the distance, before turning back to walk along the side of the pine forest.

 

It is only 1 1/2 miles to walk to the edge of Wells-next-the-sea, and another mile to walk to my favourite street near the harbour.

The path is easy to follow and leads to a car park and a café near the lifeboat station.

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Then there’s a mile of walking along a straight sea defence towards the harbour.  At low tide the boats moored in the channel leading to the harbour lead on their keels in the sand and mud, but at high tide they all float in sea water.  I wanted to visit my favourite café again, the Albatross, the beautiful wooden tall ship in the harbour, but it doesn’t open till 12 o’clock.  My walking companion suggested continuing along the Norfolk Coastal path a little way and turning round so we could get back to the café when it opened.

We walked passed the yacht club and onto the footpath towards Stiffkey.  On an overcast winter’s day earlier this year, this part of the Norfolk Coastal Path had seemed bleak.  In the summer sunshine it was wonderful.   Near the boatyard a group of adults and children were taking alpacas for a walk.

Back at the Albatross in the harbour and I treated myself to an apple pancake.

The Albatross, Wells-next-the-sea August 2017

I walked back to the coastwatch station near the lifeboat house, onto the beach passing the beautiful beach huts, walking along the sand to Holkham Gap.

Norfolk Coastal path to Wells-next-the-sea beach August 2017Norfolk Coastal Path from Wells-next-the-sea harbour August 2017

 

Beach huts, Wells-next-the-sea August 2017

Beach huts, varied, Wells-next-the-sea August 2017

Holkham GapI turned round to have one final glance of this magnificent beach before walking back along the boardwalk to the car park.

 

 

 

 

18th August 2017 Wells-next-the-sea, Norfolk, short walk to avoid storm, YHA to the beach and back

I arrived in Wells-next-the-sea on Friday afternoon, parking near the Youth Hostel and walking through the very quaint, narrow streets, passing rows of cottages made out the local flint.  The street slopes gently upwards and it wasn’t long before I reached the main narrow street with small shops and cafes, and bunting across it.  It slopes gently down towards the harbour and you can see the harbour wall and the mud flats beyond it.  I stopped to look at the Albatross tall ship in the harbour which is a café serving Dutch pancakes and has a bar below.  It is difficult to resist them!

Harbour Office, Wells-next-the-sea

I walked past the Harbour Master’s office, and place nearby where the depth of water was being constantly measured in January during the high tide and possible storm surge, when the shops had had flood defences across the doorways.

Wells-next-the-sea, harbour

The path to the beach is a mile long, and straight, on a sea defence.  Just across the road a small train takes families to the beach at a very slow speed.  From the top of the sea defence I could see a very dramatic cloud formation above the pine forest in the distance.

It was very hot and sunny on the beach but there was an anvil shaped cloud formation out at sea, and when I heard thunder I decided to shorten my walk and return to the town. Wells-next-the-sea lifeboat station

Beach huts, August 2017, Wells-next-the-sea

 

 

Storm out at sea, Wells-next-the-sea beach, August 2017

Storm clouds, Wells-next-the-sea beach 2017

Beach, Wells-next-the-sea

The storm clouds seemed to be following me and it gradually got much darker, but didn’t stop a woman from paddling a SUP.  I got back to my car 5 minutes after a hail storm started.

Thunder storm, seen from Wells-next-the-sea harbour, August 2017Wells-next-the-sea storm, flowers and bike August 2017

Storm behind yachts, Wells-next-the-sea August 2017

Storm view, Wells-next-the-sea August 2017