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

 

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.

DSC00760

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

 

Back to Norfolk, Old Hunstanton to Burnham Deepdale walk and Blakney boat trip to seals, June 30th 2017

Happy seals, Blakney July 2017
Grey and common seals, Blakney Point

My plan to walk around the UK hasn’t gone quite to plan and distracted by the promise of good walks and the best cheesecake in the world, I went camping with my friends in Norfolk. We pitched our tents at Burnham Deepdale at the camp site we went to last year.  It seemed posher and much more popular this year, and instead of a well-ventilated shower block, where the wind blows through the door, there is a brand new shower block with wet rooms, hairdryers and insulation from the outside air.  I preferred it before, although the new showers are wonderful.  With a lot of help I assembled my tent and went to the Jolly Sailors pub, and watched my friends eat fish and chips, while I tried to stick to my diet.  We walked back to our tents before the heavy rain and wind started.  I had a short walk in the dark in the middle of the night to the shower block wearing jeggings, a dress over a nightie, a fleece, a waterproof jacket, shoes and a Cath Kidston umbrella.  My tent survived the wind and rain and the rain had stopped by morning so I could cook beans on my camping stove.

We caught a bus just before 9.30 am to Old Hunstanton, where I first started my walks in January.  We got off the bus at the post office and walked towards Le Strange Arms hotel, the lifeboat station and the café on the beach, passing the beach huts and walking onto the beach.  The weather was mild and I soon had my coat tied around my waist.  We walked along the sandy beach flanked by dunes and a golf course on the right hand side and a sandy beach leading to the sea on the other side.  I remembered the metal gabions on the beach full of flints and the time I visited the beach in January after the storm surge when I’d found a red wellington boot washed up on the beach.  It was much easier to walk in this milder weather.  I also remembered walking from Old Hunstanton with two other walkers and a dog in January.

Further along the beach the sand was replaced by mud and someone found samphire and sea lavender.  We missed the turning towards the golf course leading to Holme Dunes Nature Reserve.  I was looking for a tumbled down shed and a sign on the beach pointing inland.  Instead I saw the timber frame of a new shed and a slightly worn path, but there was no sign on the beach.  We walked on, the walk was very pleasant, but realised we couldn’t cross a creek and I noticed buildings inside and people near a footpath by them.  We spoke to a walker going the other way who suggested we could paddle across a shallow part of the creek with a sandy base, but we weren’t keen to do that and retraced our steps, back to the path leading to the nature reserve at the bottom of the golf course.

The walk across Holme Dunes Nature Reserve is wonderful in the summer and winter, but the winter view is less obscured by trees and brambles.  It is wonderful to be on slightly higher ground than usual, with a view of breaking surf beyond the marram grass.  There was a group of wild Konik ponies grazing together in the sunshine.  My friends found a circle of tree stumps under pine trees so we stopped for our picnic lunch. It was lovely to sit in the shade. My friend who’d organised the walk explained that we had only done 1/3 of the walk so we didn’t stop for long, but she had made a delicious tea bread which was lovely to eat. We walked on to Thornham , walking up a hill near the end of the village, looking for the footpath sign.  It was very hot walking up the road and there wasn’t much shade.  I was pleased I had brought 2 litres of water with me, but by this stage was trailing behind the others, and kept stopping to drink water.

When I’d done this walk in January with a handsome man and a woman with a lovely dog, we’d had problems finding the footpath, wondering if it was before or after the brow of a hill, then just when we were about to give up, the wooden Norfolk Coastal path sign appeared.  It was the same today, but in very different weather.  The cold in the winter had made the walk seem like a challenge but the heat of today was also challenging.  When we turned off the footpath we were under the shade of the trees, and the cold was delicious.  We sat down to rest and drink water.  Soon we were in the open again, walking next to fields, to a large agricultural building and then turning left towards the coast again, passing the vans that looked as if they were being lived in and a row of washing hung between trees.

We reached Blakney!  I remembered the sign pointing to a beach half a mile away when I had discovered a lovely sandy beach in January which I had never been to before.  I remembered my handsome friend eating chocolate buttons on a bench at the end of a walk before catching the Coasthopper bus back to Old Hunstanton.  However, today was different.  My friend who had organised the weekend was continuing the walk back to our campsite at Burnham Deepdale.  This is part of another walk I thought, last time I couldn’t have walked any further than this.  We didn’t go to the sandy beach but instead followed the footpath, partly on a boardwalk, passing reeds and the site where a Roman Fort had once stood, towards. Near a yacht club something strange happened.  In heat I saw an ice cream van, selling Italian ice cream.  My friends were all ahead of me on the opposite side of the path to the ice cream van.  I walked towards the ice cream.  “Come away from the van” they all shouted, ignoring what I was saying, “go on ahead of me, I’ll catch you up, I know where I am!”  They knew I was on a diet and were trying to help me!  What I didn’t know was that one of them had decided to stop for an ice cream if I had one too!

We walked on, back to the camp site, and after hot showers, had a wonderful barbecue with salads and garlic bread and wine.  It didn’t rain, although it was windy.  My little tent withstood the wind and felt cosy and comfortable.

The following day we went to Morston and walked a short way across the marshes to a jetty where two wooden boats were moored, each like a giant rowing boat.

Boats moored ready to visit seals, Blakney, July 2017
Morston

Each boat held almost 50 passengers.  We climbed from one boat to another and sat down. I enjoyed travelling up the creek, looking at the boats and the marshes.

Wooden boat, Blakney July 2017

It was lovely to be at sea again. View towards Blakney from sea, July 2017

We had the mainland on one side and Blakney Point on the other. Blakney Point, July 2017, location of nesting turns

The skipper explained that this is a site of Special Scientific Interest and that small birds called turns nest on the beach.

It is also home to grey seals and common seals.

The boat turned around so we could take more photographs of the seals.Happy snappers, Blakney seals, July 2017

Other boats also went past so other people could take photographs.  The skipper said that it is only possible to visit the seals for 5 hours a day because of the tides.  I wondered if the seals prefer it when they don’t have visitors.

Inland detour to Strumpshore Fen, Norfolk 29th April

This was a departure from my coastal walks to visit a peaceful nature reserve, inland in Norfolk near Norwich with friends. We saw bluebells, Chinese water deer, a heron, a marsh harrier, highland cattle and we heard a cuckoo. It was a lovely day out.

Memories of last summer, Cromer to Weybourne walk on the cliff tops

Coastal path signThis was a walk in the summer of 2016 with two friends on a sunny day.  Later on there was a thunderstorm out at sea but by then we were safely inside a café.  The weather was hot, and there was a meadow of wild flowers on the cliff top.

This is a wonderful place to be on the Norfolk Coastal Path, so I’m keeping the exact location a secret, but if you walk from Cromer towards Sheringham you will find it!  A sign warns walkers to stay away from the edge of the cliff.

Field near RunctonsA field was being harvested and it was wonderful to be outside.

Looking towards Beeston's BumpOn the path to Beeston’s Bump.

At the top of Beeston’s Bump a triangulation point, and a sign showing the role the area had played during WW2.

Looking down on Sheringham

Looking down towards Sheringham.  It is a little easier to walk from Cromer to Sheringham than in the opposite direction.  It is easier to walk towards Weybourne, down the slope towards it instead of up.

My favourite beach huts

Pakefield beach huts 1Pakefield, 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.

cromer-chalets

Southwold pier 2

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.  Beach huts Wells-next-the-seaLast 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.chalets-in-snow