Norfolk Coast Path #2 – bus, car and boat

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.

Roadside curiosity
Roadside curiosity

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.

The perfect escape from the daily grind?
The perfect escape from the daily grind?

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?

In the footsteps of Nelson
In the footsteps of Nelson

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.

Perfectly peaceful
Perfectly peaceful

A fellow photographer enthuses about the light here. He prefers the peace at this time of year to the hectic summer months.

Tis the season to put lights up
Tis the season to put lights up

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?

End of an era
End of an era

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.

Car maintenance 1915 style
Car maintenance 1915 style

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).

Home on the water
Home on the water

My bed tonight will be below deck on the former Dutch merchant vessel Albatros moored permanently in the harbour.

Spacious by London standards
Spacious by London standards

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.

Shiver my timbers, etc
Shiver my timbers, etc

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.

Bar in the cargo hold
Bar in the cargo hold

I’m likely to be the only customer tonight but he assures me that the weekends can be very busy.

Silent waters
Silent waters

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.

Pubs gearing up for Christmas
Pubs gearing up for Christmas

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

High point
– soaking in the still night in Wells with only an owl for company

Low point
– realisation that I wouldn’t be able to walk

Looking ahead
– maybe a short walk, knee permitting…

The route I was meant to take…

Norfolk Coast Path #1 – Hunstanton to Burnham Deepdale

Today’s the day. It starts with a B&B full English breakfast of remarkable mediocrity. Fuel not fun. I have a bone to pick with all those B&Bs claiming to have the best FEB. Only one can be the best so statistically you are all lying. I wouldn’t mention any of this if the landlord hadn’t crowed about his when it comprised the cheapest ingredients cooked badly. Enough said.

My hosts are nice people though even if they think my walking plans are mad. Landlady tells me of a deceased adult seal washed up on Hunstanton beach this week. It reminds me there are now supposed to be many newborn seal pups flopping over the sands at Blakeney Point down the trail.


Outside its tipping it down. I mean those huge raindrops that individually soak you. Dressed for the weather I stroll down to the sea front. There’s scant visibility. The Norfolk coast path soon heads off into the dunes where a village of locked up wooden beach huts conjures up faded dreams of summer.

Until next year...
Until next year…

The regulation convoy of dog walkers dries up and it’s just me, the rain and the sound of the surf carried on the wind. The sea becomes increasingly distant as an expanse of wetlands forms a wedge between us. I can hear a lot of bird chatter but I’m not seeing that much.

Watching the watchers
Watching the watchers

Whenever I come across a group of bird watchers they always appear to be in an agitated state of excitement as if witness to a dodo. I ask what they have seen but it’s routine stuff. Then I ask about the sparrow sized bird I saw with a white underbelly. Everyone turns and focuses on me…  Did it have white wing tips?! No. There’s a collective sigh and eyes return to lenses.

Cromer - 4 days walk or 45 minutes by car
Cromer – 4 days walk or 45 minutes by car

At Holme the Peddars Way national trail links up with my route. The coast path is well signed although “Cromer 44 miles” isn’t heartwarming. It’s easy walking though and as the sea “returns inland” I can see what looks like a fine sandy stretch of beach.

Miles of sand
Miles of sand

The Wash gives way to the North Sea and the path deviates inland again on a man made embankment that has for some reason angered the weather gods.

A gauntlet of wind and rain
A gauntlet of wind and rain

A host of new bird activity heralds the return of the mudflats. It’s here that I see various waders including a curlew that pokes an improbably long bill into the shallows in a hunt for food. Would that hold currency with the bird watchers?

Another charming sign
Another charming sign

I can smell Thornham before I see it. When I get closer the warming aroma of smoke from an open fire is seen to originate from a fittingly quaint cottage with the year 1682 emblazoned above the door.

Movable feast?
Movable feast?

The rain has finally ceased and in the absence of better options I break for lunch in a bus shelter noting how quickly I could reach my destination if I simply jumped on the next one.

Sandwich consumed the post-lunch route takes a disappointingly superfluous detour inland a mile south, east and then north. A seemingly vast tract of farmland is broken only by the odd pile of harvested root crops.

Crop surplus
Crop surplus

Normal service resumes at Brancaster. Duck boards make for dry feet and far reaching views of reeds that I believe are harvested for roof thatching.

Keeping my feet above water
Keeping my feet above water

It’s not far now to my overnight stop. Brancaster Staithe Quay used to be a major port for malt shipments. Today it serves as a base for shell fishing vessels.

Looks better than it smells
Looks better than it smells

There’s a stench of rotten mussels but that won’t put me off eating them later.

Waiting for the tide
Waiting for the tide

Brancaster is renowned for mussels. A couple of outlets on the main road sell the days catch.

Fresh catch
Fresh catch

Burnham Deepdale backpackers lodge is a modern professionally run outfit. After a shower and change of clothes I’m human again but at a physical cost. Aside from the deep cut in my thumb obtained while slicing parmesan for today’s lunch (a decidedly middle class walking related injury) my right knee doesn’t want to bend. This is a worry – I need it tomorrow!

Until then I can only hope that ibuprofen, Brancaster Mussels and Brancaster Brewery ale at the White Horse will have a remedial effect…


Here’s today’s walk in point form…

In a nutshell
– A walk through the wetlands, kingdom of the birds

High point
– When the rain stopped

Low point
– Aches & strains that could become a problem

Looking ahead
– A drier hike to Wells

Daily Stats
Stage  1 – Hunstanton to Burnham Deepdale
Distance  12.5 miles Speed  2.9 mph
Lowest  0ft Highest  318ft
Ascent  600ft Descent  705ft

The route…