The Norfolk Coast Path: Day 1 – Cromer to Blakeney

(Walked on 24th April 2015 – 15 miles)

It was a wrench to leave the holiday home and walk the walk.

Hares

I could have stayed put all day – happily reading, eating and looking through its large windows at hares

Hare

galore;

Barn owl

waiting for a glimpse of barn owl;

Stoat

or enjoying the antics of resident stoats.

Marsh Harrriers

I saw hunting marsh harriers too but they didn’t come close enough for a decent photo.  It was only after we returned to Sussex that, within an hour of our departure, these rare raptors perched for long minutes in a tree right beside the same window.  That annoyed me.

But we had come to Norfolk to ‘do’ the Norfolk Coast Path.  So, tugging myself away from the garden’s wildlife, Jim and I walked into nearby Burnham Market and climbed aboard the very handy Coasthopper bus.  (This service runs back and forth along the coast between King’s Lynn and Cromer: it proved perfect in carrying us to and from our daily walks).

Cromer

Post breakfast – going by the clock

At 9.30 on that sunny, bright morning we arrived in the seaside town of Cromer and first things first, and feeling peckish, ploughed into a café for a slap-up feed;

Cromer Pier

before strolling down to the pier

Cromer to Blakeney (1)

and the official start of our walk.

Cromer to Blakeney (2)

Dodging giant killer crabs, we walked through the town and maddeningly away from the seafront.  (I had no guide-book and relied on the most recent 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map.  This showed the path diverting inland for a few miles from Cromer.  I didn’t realise at the time that a new coastal exit from the town had opened six months before).

Cromer to Blakeney (3)

Jim leads the cherry-blossom way

The weather was perfect for spring-walking as we dived into the Norfolk hinterland on our unnecessary diversion;

Cromer to Blakeney (4)

with spot on timing for flowering Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) and blackthorn froth.

Cromer to Blakeney (5)

More flowering blackthorn

Early spring is my favourite time of year for going on an adventure:

Cromer to Blakeney (6)

with bright sun hopefully, but still cool enough to make traipsing a real pleasure.  I did find it odd though to be starting a long distance footpath without a large, heavy rucksack and not wearing my usual all-black, latex walking outfit.  But carrying a small, light, knapsack was a delight; as was having Jim along for company (despite his incessant chatterings).

Cromer to Blakeney (7)

After a long haul up through woodland to Beacon Hill (at 103 metres the highest point in Norfolk), another Alexander-lined path took us directly back down again and toward the sea

Cromer to Blakeney (8)

on this rather pointless if charming diversion.  At least I got a close-up of a male goldfinch in small exchange.

We passed a massive horse sanctuary with mounts enough to carry a cavalry regiment or two, crossed the main rail line and at last returned to what we had been promised – the coast.

Cromer to Blakeney (9)

Beeston Bump

As soon as we re-met the North Sea, we faced another climb up the very nicely named Beeston Bump.

Despite what you might have heard, Norfolk has bumps: it isn’t as flat as a pancake.  Bits of it are pretty damn flat but if there are no very big hills, it is a softly contoured county and we had plenty of ups and downs this day, if nothing very taxing.

Cromer to Blakeney (10)

Unlike some of my walks, this was no empty-of-people landscape and we walked accordingly: speeding up to pass dawdlers; slowing down to allow faster noisy folk to pass on by; all with lots of mutual nodding and smiley hellos.

Sheringham

I’ll introduce you to the distant windmill in just a sec

In no time, we were above the little town of Sheringham – a former little fishing village –

Cromer to Blakeney (11)

where, after a quick snooze (but then that’s The Telegraph for you),

Sheringham (2)

we hunted down another café.  It had been at least two hours since breakfast so, feeling peckish, time for our elevenses.

Sheringham (1)

Temporarily sated, we carried on along a road to the lifeboat station and, frighteningly quick on the uptake, I realised immediately that we’d gone wrong.  We ought to have been up there on the cliffs, not down here on the beach.  Up there.  There.  A back-track, a stiff climb, some muttering from junior members of the team,

Cromer to Blakeney (12)

and our fearless party of two regained the true, righteous route westward.  Isn’t that an inviting path?

Cromer to Blakeney (13)

And it was good; with pink thrift (Armeria maritima) in flower – enough to brighten up anyone’s day.

Cromer to Blakeney (14)

If Alexanders marked the early stage of our day, gorse took over flowering duty for the afternoon:

Cromer to Blakeney (15)

Jim leads the gorse-flower way

great golden splodges of it for mile after mile, filling the air with the scent of almonds.

Cromer to Blakeney (16)

The way back

I ignored the golf course (as is only right) and kept my eyes on the way ahead, the way back or out over the North Sea.

Weybourne Mill

Near the village of Weybourne, and feeling peckish, we left the path and headed inland in search of lunch.  We passed the handsome converted windmill I mentioned a moment ago;

Weybourne Priory (2)

to arrive at ruined Weybourne Abbey.

Weybourne Priory (1)

Even though we hadn’t eaten for over an hour, we paused dutifully to read the information board, educate ourselves and nod sagely before – dropping all pretence at deep interest – we hurried on and flopped down in the beer garden of The Ship Inn.

Cromer to Blakeney (17)

1699!

With my belly contented once more – and Jim a little tiddly after his first alcohol in several months – we followed the scent of salt north via a stunning flint and brick-built farm.  (I’d have to re-instate that window).

Cromer to Blakeney (18)

We had six miles ahead of us still; mostly alongside and on shingle.

Cromer to Blakeney (19)

A lone, still body on the pebbles concerned me and, grabbing a stick with which to poke it, I went closer to check that she was alive.  As I approached, her hands lifted and folded up behind her head.  Relieved she was no corpse, I retreated and left her to enjoy a moment in red.  Which is a little tale almost worth recounting.

Cromer to Blakeney (20)

Jim leads the way

We pressed on.  Jim continued to chat away merrily until I unkindly brought up the subject of his pension provision which, as ever, shut him right up.  Temporarily.

Cromer to Blakeney (21)

Need a picture of a dejected looking cow paddling in mud?  Here you go.

Cromer to Blakeney (22)

The shingle stretched on for miles:

Cromer to Blakeney (24)

tedious to walk on and sapping too.

Cromer to Blakeney (25)

The gorse still shone but the sun faded away,

Cromer to Blakeney (26)

and in that flattened light, I almost missed a well camouflaged male wheatear.  Maybe, he didn’t see me either … or else he was an extrovert.  Either way, he allowed me to get pretty close.

Cromer to Blakeney (28)

Jim leads the way

We were both tired now, and feeling peckish, as we trod at the foot of a great wall of shingle on soft, spongy marsh.

Cromer to Blakeney (29)

To our left the extensive marshland kept buildings and development at bay and I wondered whether we might see any interesting bird life.

Avocet (4)

Phwoar

And then we did.

Avocet (3)

The avocet has been at the top of my must-see list since I was a little boy.  It has been the emblem of the RSPB since 1955 but I for one had never seen one and thought them/think them terrifically special.

Avocet (2)

Which is why, trembling with excitement,

Avocet (1)

I continued to photograph this beautiful, little bird until after there was really no need.  During the next half hour I saw another half dozen.  A lifetime’s bounty.

Cromer to Blakeney (30)

High on avocets, weary of marsh, we struck out on faster-walking substrate along the foreshore … on an unfulfilled hunt for pieces of amber.

Cromer to Blakeney (31)

This was a smashing day’s walk.  But you know how it is.  Towards its end, and having seen a bloody avocet even, if no amber, I was ready for the finish.  And feeling peckish.

Cley Next The Sea (2)

We turned inland for the final time and an approach to the fabulously, succinctly named Cley-next-the-Sea,

Cley Windmill (1)

and our second perfectly

Cley Windmill (2)

preserved windmill – with added higgledy bits.

At Cley, we shook the NCP from our boots and leaving it behind for the day, trudged along the road for a mile or so to a bus-stop on the outskirts of Blakeney.

Cley Next The Sea (3)

Carving of St George, Cley – I liked this enough to reach for my crowbar

The reliable Coasthopper bus was right on schedule; and a bit sweaty, a bit salty, a bit achy-legged, a bit peckish, we climbed aboard for the journey home and a hot date with a glass of wine and a couple of stoats.

9 thoughts on “The Norfolk Coast Path: Day 1 – Cromer to Blakeney

  1. So what have we learned? (1) Norfolk’s a beautiful place and (2) you’re perpetually hungry. But I become even more mystified. You, like Charles, have a walking companion from whom you seem to wish to be separated; indeed you moan that your companion dares to open his mouth to say anything. And, like Charles, you seem to have a fetish for taking photographs of the back side of your companion as you follow along behind. if you and Charles ever walked together it would end in fisticuffs as you both fought for the right to be in the rear. Do you play crib, by any chance?.

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  2. Reading this has made me a bit peckish. But then I have only had a piece of toast today and a banana and its nearly 7pm, whereas you appear to need to eat all day. I do hope you carry suitable provisions in your pack for emergencies. But what I really wanted to know was how come Jim had not had an alcoholic drink for months? Love your bird pics, as ever.

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    • A piece of toast and a banana? All day? You poor thing, Charles. I shall organise a whip round and post out a box of groceries at once. We must fatten you up.

      Jim went dry at New Year 2015 (I did too if only for January) but a sunny pub garden in Norfolk proved too much of a challenge and he succumbed to a pint of bitter. He often goes months without a drink but then he has willpower. I do not. D

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  3. Hi – Wondering if you can help me – I’m thinking of writing a blog about some of my trips – highlighting great places to stay and my own experiences etc.. Do you use a blog site at all, I’m not particularly IT literate, Facebook etc is fine, but anything else and I get out of my depth. I need to be able to upload photos etc as you have done with your blogs, so, do you use a blog site or just go it alone? Just been reading your piece on Hadrian’s Wall – bringing back memories of doing chunks of it years ago.. Great reading material.

    Any advice that you can give would be much appreciated.

    Thanks

    Marie Brooks

    ________________________________

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Marie, I use WordPress.com which I can thoroughly recommend. You can set up your own blog very easily using the instructions on their site and free of charge too. You may then play around with it and see whether it is something you’re comfortable using. There’s a link in my latest post on theanxiousgardener.com to a free ebook produced by WordPress. It has lots of useful advice too.

      I’m very happy to provide more help if needed or point you in the right direction for further advice. Do let me know how you get on.

      Pleased you like the HWP account – it is probably my favourite piece on this site and I’m itching to go back one day.

      Best

      Dave

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  4. Yet another gorgeous, varied walk and fun write-up. Three cheers to you and Norfolk. Avocets are long enough in the leg that you’d think they’d look out of proportion, but somehow they don’t. Such beautiful birds, and then they’re called avocets to boot. Even before I was mildly interested in birds I loved saying the name. Enjoyed the post, Dave. xS

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