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.

Knoydart to Mallaig under the Skye road bridge, May 2017

It was hot and sunny, with very little wind, poor weather conditions for sailing, but perfect for the end of a wonderful holiday.  Someone used the windlass to pull up the anchor, and I was pleased not to be asked to stand in the dark room with a whiff of diesel, helping to coil the anchor chain so I didn’t get snagged.  Instead I sat on the boat with a cup of tea and some toast, looking at the breathtakingly beautiful scenery.  I have never been to Skye, just around it by boat.  I want to return sometime to walk there.

As we approached the Skye road bridge I wondered if the mast would fit underneath it.

Of course there was plenty of room!  Soon afterwards someone spotted a sea eagle flying from Skye towards the mainland.  It flew high in the sky and fast.  I wouldn’t have known it was a sea eagle, the wing span was huge, but it moved very quickly.  There are far worse things to do than to admire beautiful scenery from a boat on a hot sunny day.

When it was too soon, we were back in Mallaig.

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Mallaig harbour

I went for walks around Mallaig, waved goodbye to new friends who travelled on the Jacobite Express old steam train, and sat on a stony beach to watch the sun set over Eigg and Rhum.

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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

 

Mersea Island, one of several islands I love, 11th May 2017

Mersea Island beach 1Joined to the mainland by a road which can flood at high tide, and marked by height sticks (6 ft or 2 metres), Mersea Island is a gorgeous egg shaped island of sandy beaches, beach huts, osyters and on a sunny day is a wonderful place to be.  I wasn’t well prepared, arrived much later than I’d wanted to and didn’t have a map. Instead of walking around the island, as I did with friends a few years ago, I just walked from the West to the East of Mersea Island and back.  The West is the most built up, with shops, restaurants and houses.  I parked on a car park down a dead end road, paying £3 for all day parking.  I had the sea and boats on one side, and houses with lawns sloping gently down towards the sea on the other.  The land is flat, walking is easy, but some of the walking I did was on shingle, some on a beach and some on footpaths.

I parked near a yacht club. There was a lovely view of boats on the water nearby, and boats on the marshes, beautiful house boats, a large shack called the Oyster Bar.  I heard people talking about ordering lobster.  Nearby a man was washing a large bag of oysters outside a shed.   I passed a board walk leading to a beach, but didn’t walk on it, then on to the Monkey Steps, steps leading to a footpath near the shore.  It was close to high tide, and I walked on shingle past some huge houses which faced the sea. There was a beautiful, large pink tamarisk bush outside one of them, shingle on the beach.

Further on was a sandy beach, rows of beach huts, sometimes in two rows.

 

Mersea Island beech huts 2

Just off the beach surfers attached to kites were travelling through the water.  One had a hydrofoil blade under their board and it raised up in the water and travelled fast.  A windsurfer was on the water and there were yachts in the distance.

I came to my favourite beach huts, a row of pastel, rainbow coloured huts.  I walked on a foot path a few metres above the sea, through some bushes and grass.  There were holiday homes, well spread out, with gardens around them, one had rocking chairs on a veranda overlooking the sea.

I walked onto a quiet beach with small trees on it, some looked charred as if someone had lit them for a barbecue.  In the distance I could see land on the far left. The path was diverted inland because of coastal erosion.  I turned round and walked back the way I’d come. The plan had been to walk around the island, but I didn’t have a map with me.  It’s a small island, but I know from when I’ve walked it before, when you go inland you walk next to flat fields, and I preferred to be on the beach.  The tide was much further out.  I was wondering how much the lobster was in the Oyster Bar, but when I reached it, nearly back at my car, two men were sitting on the steps outside saying they were sorry but it had just closed.  I walked back to my car on the picturesque car park and drove home, telling myself it wouldn’t be long before I returned to walk around Mersea Island with a map, and also to explore the Roman and Iron Age town of Colchester.  I like small islands, Cumbrae off the West coast of Scotland near Largs, Mersea Island, and the only two Channel Islands I’ve visited, off the coast of Brittany, tiny Sark, and the larger Guernsey.

Mersea Island car park

I sailed to Sark last year, unlike the coastline of East Anglia it has steep rocky cliffs, the only transport is by car, horse or tractor.

 

A walk of towers; The Naze, Walton-on-the-Naze, Frinton-on-sea to Clacton-on-sea, Sunday 7th May 2017

A three tower walk ending near Clacton pier.

Clacton pier helter skelter

 

I met a friend in Clacton, parked my car there and she drove me to The Naze, in Essex to a cliff top car park a few seconds walk from a tower.  The Naze tower, a tall, lanky tower, was built in 1720, according to a plaque on it, as a navigational aid.

Although I had a map with me, we didn’t need one for this walk next to the sea, and the majority of the surface, was a flat, level hard surface, suitable for someone in a wheelchair.  We walked past a sandy beach and I was surprised to find terraces of beach huts.  As my friend pointed out they’d all have a view of the sea as they were in rows, but they seemed very close together.

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We didn’t go on the pier in Walton-on-the-Naze, it was a cold day and we wanted to carry on with the walk.

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On the drive from Clacton to Walton, my friend had told me that she thought that railway gates separated Frinton-on-sea from the area around them. The grassy area wasn’t called a common, or a green, instead it was called the Greensward.  I thought she was teasing me, but looking at my map I realised that she was telling the truth.  We stopped on a bench to have a drink and I photographed an odd looking building which I later discovered was a toilet block with a thatched roof!

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There were strong sea defences there but the beach huts were on the seaward side of them, built on stilts, looking a bit like boats, and at high tide the sea was under the huts.  Briefly they reminded me of Amsterdam, boats near pavements.WP_20170507_10_57_48_Pro

Away from Frinton there were lovely stretches of sandy beach, wind surfers and yachts sailing, and I liked a sea defence shaped like giant slabs of chocolate.WP_20170507_11_41_22_Pro

There was very little gradient for most of the walk, and we were next to but not on beaches on tarmac or cement surfaces for most of the walk.  Then it was on to single rows of beach huts, and a distant view of Clacton pier. WP_20170507_13_01_55_Pro

The pier gradually became closer.

We walked to a Martello Tower, built in the early 1800s, with thick walls, during the Napoleonic wars.

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Close to the sign was a notice board about a Butlins holiday camp built where some modern houses now stand.  The holiday camp had only stood for a few decades, near the Martello Tower, but the ancient tower had outlived it.  I had walked on the pier the day before.  I remember going to Clacton as a very young child and remembered that I had loved being there, but not why.  I wonder if it was because of the sandy beach, the pier and the amusements on the pier, or because I used to love sliding down helter skelters? Perhaps it was because of mini golf and palm trees?

 

Southwold to Dunwich via a rowing boat 15th April 2017

 

Southwold pier

 

 

I met two lovely walking friends in a car park at Dunwich early in the morning.  They parked there and I drove them to Southwold.  My last walk had ended near the pier at Southwold so we began our walk there, passing a giant mural of George Orwell whose eyes seemed to be staring down at us from the wall, in a sinister way, although they eyes were also smiling.

George Orwell Southwold pier
Mural of George Orwell

My friend wanted to show me the water clock on the pier, a wonderful creation with water trickling down from a person in a bath to two people in a bathroom below and then to flowers underneath it.  We went to see the amusement arcade on the pier which is very amusing and created with a lot of wit, even the no smoking sign. It shows a row of happy people, but the man in the middle looks unhappy.  The people’s heads swing around and the happy people become cross, the unhappy man smokes, a no smoking sign comes down, and a few minutes later the heads switch over and the man isn’t smoking, looking unhappy but the other people are all smiling!

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No smoking sign, humour

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Southwold pier no smoking 2
No smoking sign, humour

I love the humour in the amusement arcade, and chose not to walk a dog called Dotty on a treadmill, preferring to lie down on a bed for a full body workout, which my friend kindly paid for.  £1.00 to get a perfect beach body seemed a bargain.  It didn’t work, but I exercised a lot of muscles walking.  A mock up of a fitness video played while the arm rests slowly moved my arms up and down for a minute, then it was suggested that I lie down to relax after the warm up.  It was very funny, and there were many more laughs when a friend chose to on a ride (another treadmill) simulating what it is like to cross a road with a zimmer frame aged 80, 90 or 100!

From the pier there are lovely views of beach huts and Southwold lighthouse. Southwold pier beach huts

We walked through Southwold, to a footpath through Havenbeach marshes, and a friend suggested catching a ferry, which was a rowing boat, rowed by a woman across to Walberswick with half a dozen other passengers.  This shortened our route, as we didn’t have to walk next to a river to cross it at a sluice.

We stopped in Walberswick near a narrow lane, to drink water and tea from our flasts and spent an entertaining 10 minutes watching a delivery van reversing and blocking a narrow road.  Then we walked towards Corporation marshes, watching people on a bridge catching crabs with bags of bacon, before turning inland to follow the Suffolk Coastal Path on the northern side of Corporation Marshes.  We walked on a wooden boardwalk through reeds, next to a river.  My friend searched for the name of the river, Dunwich River.

In the midst of the reeds was a beautiful disused building, marked on the 156 Landranger map.

Water pump and reeds 2

Above the reeds we could see islands of yellow gorse in the distance.  The coastal path took us to Dingle Great Hill where we could smell the coconut scented gorse.

The path goes through Dunwich Forest and the bluebells were starting to unfurl. They’re opening very early this year, but the weather has been very hot recently. It would be wonderful to see the bluebells in full flower in a week or two.

Bluebell

It was lovely to walk with a friend who had worked out the route so I didn’t need to follow my map.  The walk had varied scenery of beaches, woodland, healthland, reeds and a river. Next to a bridle path were some beautiful Konik ponies.

Konik pony Dunwich

My friend told me about Dunwich as a large, very important port in Mediaeval times and we looked at the ruins of a 12th century leper hospital in a church yard.  Over the years Dunwich has lost a number of churches and houses due to erosion.

Dunwich ruins of mediaeval lepper hospital

It was a wonderful day and I am very grateful to my friend who arranged the walk, and to my other friends for paying £1 for me to get the perfect beach body! The car park was full when we got back to it, but the café was still serving pots of tea, the perfect end to a lovely day.

 

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.