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.
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.
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.
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.
I turned round to have one final glance of this magnificent beach before walking back along the boardwalk to the car park.
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!
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.
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.
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.
I met up with friends in one of the car parks, a grassy field close to beach huts in the morning at low tide. The Strood, the road leading to Mersea Islands across the marshes is covered with sea water during high tide for about half an hour. Markers at the side of the road mark the depth of the water. A friend told me about the annual sailing regatta, a race around the island and sailors have to either carry their boats across the road and wade through mud, or put the boats on trailers to take them across the road. We walked in the opposite direction to the way I’d walked several months ago, towards the boat houses on the mud flats and circling back when we realised we couldn’t cross the deep mud, back to a boardwalk leading to a path. We saw an oyster bed, like a small swimming pool near wooden shacks, a seafood restaurant, past a row of beautiful wooden houses, and out of West Mersea, the large village where most of the inhabitants of the island live. Away from the buildings we sat down near fields and mudflats to drink water and eat some fruit. In the distance we could see cars driving across the Strood.
For a short distance we had to walk on the B1025, which felt unsafe, hopping on to the grass verge when cars came towards us. This was the only unpleasant part of the walk, near The Strood. We were soon able to turn off, safely in fields, and a black Labrador was swimming in a ditch.
We walked past Maydays Marsh, Reeves Marsh Looking towards the Pyefleet channel where yachts were racing and sat on the sandy beach to eat our packed lunches.
We were much closer to Brightlingsea on the mainland, and close to my favourite part of Mersea Island. Just around the corner there was a sign warning about snakes.
It started to pour with rain just before we reached the broken sea defences, which we skirted around. After walking on the beach, looking at empty oyster shells, we had almost completed our walk and were near the beautiful, pastel coloured beach huts.
There was one final surprise, just before the carpark, beautiful agapanthus and red hot poker flowers growing near some beach huts.
Pakefield, just outside Lowestoft, in Suffolk, a few miles away from the Norfolk border, has a row of pastel coloured, striped beach huts facing Eastwards across a wide sandy beach, facing the sun rise above the sea, and long shadows in the evening when the sun sets.
A row of wooden beach huts in Cromer, just beyond the pier, on a sandy beach sprinkled with shingle, are painted in a brighter, glossy paint and also have a lot of character.
Southwold is a beautiful town. Everything there is beautiful. The beach huts are tastefully painted, but perhaps lack some of the character and sense of use that the Pakefield and Cromer beach huts have.
At Wells-Next-the-Sea the beach huts are built on stilts, with several steps up to them, unsymmetrical, some are smart, some are shabby. They are sheltered by a pine forest and face a huge expanse of beach in front of the sea. They are my favourite huts, built to be used, not just to look gorgeous. Last summer I saw a middle aged couple decorating a beach hut with a marriage proposal for their son to propose to his girlfriend. After the storm on January 13th this year the beach huts turned white and so did the beach in the snow. I was cold, my camera didn’t work properly, and there was a very strong wind. It was one of the few times that I was glad to get off the beach.
I stayed at a lovely B and B in Cromer, not far from the promenade. I was walking towards the pier when I heard an engine revving, and a splash and realised that a lifeboat had been launched from the station at the end of the pier. By the time I’d switched on my camera it was heading out to sea, followed by a smaller inflatable lifeboat. I walked to the Tourist Information Centre to find out information about Norfolk and while I was heading away heard three people talking about the lifeboat and one of them said she had to ring the bells. By the time I’d had a cup of tea in a café facing the church the bells were ringing.
By the time I had reached the pier the lifeboat was reversing up the slope and the smaller lifeboat was on the beach. A crowd of people inside the RNLI station were watching the large lifeboat as it returned.
I sometimes sail and am very grateful to the brave people who work for the RNLI, who put their own lives at risk to rescue other people. The entrance to the pier is a tribute to them and engravings on lines across the pavement list the number of lives saved from different boats.