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.
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.
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.
It was lovely to be at sea again.
We had the mainland on one side and Blakney Point on the other.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve had a week’s break from coastal walking, by sailing around the Hebridean Islands. A friend advised me to travel by train from Glasgow to Mallaig as the scenery was so beautiful. It didn’t disappoint. There were small patches of snow on some mountain tops and provided hours of spectacular scenery. It also crossed the Glenfinnan viaduct, which features in the Harry Potter films.
I broke up my journey by staying in Crianlarich Youth Hostel, next to Crianlarich railway station and knew how stunning the scenery would be. I went on a short, early morning walk before catching the train. A short walk from the SHYHA leads to stunning scenery, and early morning mist was rising above it. It was a short walk, with minimal effort to see beautiful mountain views. I bought a freshly made delicious looking cheese and pickle sandwich at Crianlarich station, put my sandwich bag down to make a phone call. When I was on the train and it was uncoupling carriages I couldn’t find my sandwich and remembered it was on the platform. I spoke to another passenger ad soon the people sitting near me were encouraging me to collect my sandwich. There wasn’t time and the train moved out of the station, past my white paper sandwich bag, with the other passengers laughing as I pointed at it.
Mallaig is a town with a beautiful harbour and views of Rhum, Eigg and Skye. I stayed at the Bunkhouse almost opposite the station, paying £22.50 for a single room with a washbasin, free Wi-Fi and use of showers, a kitchen, a living room and a balcony overlooking the harbour. I found a café which sold local langoustines, and the waitress explained to me how to eat them. I didn’t want to try to eat them the way Mr Bean did in the film “Mr Bean’s holiday”. They were delicious. I removed them from their shells, ate the butter sauce with them, wiped my hands lots of times and dipped them in a bowl of water and lemons.
The boat I was sailing on was moored in Mallaig harbour. A beautiful wooden boat with a bow sprit it was to be my home for a week. I went on board the following day with my oversized bag. I can’t travel light. I had my own small cabin, which was separated from the main cabin by a curtain. I like to be on the coast, either walking beside it or on a boat. I’ve wanted to go to the Hebrides for a long time, and had a wonderful sailing holiday much further south, on the west coast of Scotland, from Largs four years ago, when I sailed around the isle of Arran and to Bute and Lochearnhead.
Joined 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
The pier gradually became closer.
We walked to a Martello Tower, built in the early 1800s, with thick walls, during the Napoleonic wars.
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?
I had wanted to continue my walk from the previous day from Boyton, near the Butley Ferry (a small rowing boat) to Shingle Street. However, the kind friend who had helped me find my way along the inland stretch of the Suffolk Coastal Path the previous day was unable to walk with me and there was no public transport where I wanted to go. Also, this was a remote area to walk in and I was reluctant to do this on my own. It was also cold and windy. Instead I chose to go to Felixstowe, thinking I could always catch a ferry from there and walk to Shingle Street. I understand it is a very bleak place, but has a mysterious past and myths and legend surround bodies being washed up on the beach during WW2.
I walked along the sea front, passing large houses which reflected the past and current prosperity of this important sea port. A fun run was taking place with hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, two runners were dressed as Spider Man, another as Pricess Leia. It was a cold, windy day but it was nice to watch the runners and spectators having fun.
Foam was whipped up by the waves and there were white crests on the tops of the waves out at sea.
The pier wasn’t open, construction work was taking place on it.
Rows of pastel coloured beach huts faced the sea and behind them were beautiful Victorian terraced gardens.
Next to the gardens daisies were growing on the sea defences.
I came to the end of the sea front as the tide was in so I was unable to continue along the beach to the Martello towers and the ferry so I walked back, but spray was splashing over the path from the sea.
I stopped at a café for a bowl of soup and walked to the sea front place I was staying at. When I tried to check in I realised that my purse was missing. I made several phone calls and with a heavy heart returned home. I had not planned to spend a bank holiday on the A14 but at least I was early enough to beat the rush hour traffic. Road signs warned of the speed limits for different types of vehicles, for traffic leaving the large ferries. I was unable to spend two days walking, catching small ferries to Shingle Street in the north or to Harwich in the south. Colleagues at work had bought me some vouchers for my favourite shop, which sells maps. The vouchers had been in my lost or stolen purse. They had joined me on my adventure, but I had been unable to buy maps with them. This was very sad, but I am very grateful to all the kind people who bought the vouchers for me.
Update: 10th June 2017. I had a visit to my dentist’s surgery this week. The following day his receptionist phoned me to say that she had just had a phone call from a woman at the Pavillion Theatre box office in Felixstowe saying that she had found my purse in the lost property box! Someone had found it and had handed it in! I phoned up and arranged to collect the purse today, pleased that after several weeks I was reunited with all the cards (even the cancelled ones) in it, and the voucher from my work colleagues. I bought a delicious raspberry sorbet from the theatre restaurant It was a hot, cloudless day and I had an enjoyable walk along the sea front. I’d probably not tell my dentist and his employees that I bought chocolates for the woman who had phoned me about my lost purse!