What is it about hostels? There is always a loud snorer. I booked a double room to myself yet still heard somebody sawing wood next door in the night.
Disturbed sleep is the least of my problems. My right knee isn’t going to take me to Wells today. So much for all the planning but I’ll have to make the best of my circumstances. After porridge (somebody in my cafe ordered mussels for breakfast!) the ironically named Coast Hopper (you could say the same about me) bus service has me back in Hunstanton in 20 minutes where I can pick up my car & drop off the rucksack.
A brief tour of Sunny Hunny as it is optimistically known leaves a favourable impression. Despite the ubiquitous charity shops there are plenty of small local business – butchers, bakers, stationery, electrical etc – and few chains. My favourite is the Norfolk Deli where I pick up some spicy winter squash soup to go.
The drive south back down the A149 coastal road is dotted with tempting diversions including farm shops, delis, fresh fish and welcoming country pubs with open fires. There are also several shops selling telescopes and binoculars which makes sense with RSPB Titchwell and other bird watching spots in the vicinity.
There’s lots to see enroute. The Tower windmill is rented out as holiday accommodation by the National Trust. It’s a surprise not to have seen more windmills so far. Or is that an East Anglian myth?
Onwards to Burnham Overy Staithe, synonymous with local lad Nelson who learned to sail here. This famous little harbour has a strong presence to it, sail boats beached on the brown muddy banks under a charcoal sky.
A fellow photographer enthuses about the light here. He prefers the peace at this time of year to the hectic summer months.
Burnham Market inland fully merits its reputation as a little Chelsea. The are no charity shops to be seen here, just fashionable clothing outlets, estate agents and premium cars more typical of West London. It’s undeniably pretty but at what cost?
I’m drawn to a quirky book shop – labyrinthine in layout and run by a charmingly eccentric lady. I like the idea of books more than the practice of actually reading them but some of the 100+ year old titles would have me glued cover to cover.
The sun sets as I pull up in Wells Next The Sea (one supposes Wells A Mile From The Sea was rejected by the town committee).
My bed tonight will be below deck on the former Dutch merchant vessel Albatros moored permanently in the harbour.
It’s not exactly comfortable inside but it will be memorable. In the 90s I stayed on a sailing vessel called AF Chapman in Stockholm harbour. The fond memories remain so for me there’s something special about sleeping over water.
I order a perfectly kept pint of Woodfords ale from the Albatros bar and enjoy half an hour chatting in the sole company of the deck hand who shares his gap year dreams with me.
I’m likely to be the only customer tonight but he assures me that the weekends can be very busy.
Landside the harbour is utterly silent under tar black skies, so much so that a distant barn owl echoes down the Staithe Street as I search for a worthy eatery. The Golden Fleece serves great food. In the absence of WiFi or a phone signal the Dereham & Fakenham Times comes to my rescue.
The news is dominated by a predictable shortage of affordable housing. In other news Bradenham Reserves went down 7-2 to Gayton Utd, there will be refreshments and plentiful parking at Hindolveston craft fair and Shipdham Wives Group listened to Richard Dawson talk about his life with bagpipes.
One of the reasons I like to walk is to discover things at a human pace. While that may not have been possible the day has been full of discovery. Today I have followed the footsteps of Nelson, walked with owls and will sleep aboard Dutch maritime history. Not bad for a Plan B.
Here’s today’s failure to walk in point form…
In a nutshell
– you can’t walk when only one knee works
– soaking in the still night in Wells with only an owl for company
– realisation that I wouldn’t be able to walk
– maybe a short walk, knee permitting…
The route I was meant to take…