Norfolk Coast Path #3 – Wells to Cley

Sometimes you just know it’s going to be a good day. I slept remarkably well as solo guest beneath the decks of the Albatros and a breakfast of Dutch pancakes with Apple, cinnamon and maple syrup is amazing!

View from the wheelhouse
View from the wheelhouse

Genial captain Ton Brouwer informs me that despite a permanent mooring the ship remains seaworthy, requiring just a days work to prepare her for ocean going duties.

Capt Birdseye ready to take her out
Capt Birdseye ready to take her out

If he ever wants a skipper I’m available. The Albatros is a beautiful craft from a more aesthetically pleasing time.


With any meaningful walking still out of the question my first stop today is the tiny village of Morston to join a seal watching boat trip. It’s perfect timing with
record numbers of grey seal pups reported this breeding season.

On course for Blakeney Point
On course for Blakeney Point

Buried under 5 layers I’m able to stay warm as the Temple Seal Trips boat Four Sisters chugs away from the quay out into the harbour.

Lucky for some, number 7. Shout when you have house...
Lucky for some, number 7. Shout up when you have house…

A commentary explains how the process of longshore drift has led to a massive expansion of the dunes at Blakeney Point over the years. This is the flip side to the coastal erosion we tend to hear more about.

Curious visitor
Curious visitor

In no time we have the company of inquisitive mature seals! I find them adorable despite the maintenance guy on the Albatros telling me what brutal savage hunters they are.

Can I take one home? Pleeease?
Can I take one home? Pleeease?

We get as close as we can to the dark grey adult seals without disturbing them but the real stars are the new white pups laid out further up the beach in the soft dryer sand.

More formidable in the water
More formidable in the water

The adults have more energy than the pups. These massive creatures look incongruous out of water as they follop along the shoreline gouging out deep channels in the sand behind them.

A safe haven for breeding birds
A safe haven for breeding birds

It is easy to forget that this is a very special place for birds. They also breed in the dunes and the area is restricted for human access in order to protect the eggs.


Following a fine lunch at the popular Anchor pub I decide that, despite my injured knee, I’m going to attempt some sort of walk dammit.

Roadside mussels for sale
Roadside mussels for sale

With no rucksack to carry and a short flat stretch of coast path to negotiate I set off back to Morston Quay knowing that I can bide my time and catch the Coast Hopper bus back once I’ve reached my limit.

Marsh to the horizon
Marsh to the horizon

The raised embankment commands good views over the salt marshes in spite of a grey haze that gradually dissolves the horizon into the skyline. This well maintained stretch of path is speckled with flint so valued by our ancestors.

There are so many birds to be seen and heard. I’m no expert but can identify terns, linnets and oystercatchers as they wade into the silty shallows.

Heading for warmer climes?
Heading for warmer climes?

Huge flocks of geese create amorphous shapes overhead, splitting and rejoining the main pack in a mercurial dance.  How this mesmerising spectacle culminates in the inexplicable feet of migration is beyond me.

Erect any post and a bird will land on it
Erect any post and a bird will land on it

Blakeney materialises from the haze after a mile and a half. My knee is stiff and sore but manageable so I’m going to soldier on. There’s a pretty little inlet here with craft of all sizes.

Just how high was the tide when this was moored up?!
Just how high was the tide when this was moored up?!

It’s hard to understand how so many boats have ended up so completely stranded away from any navigable water. The marshes appear to be breeding area and graveyard for them as much as for the birds.

End of the boat life cycle
End of the boat life cycle

Cley (pronounced Cly) windmill dominates the skyline as the coastal path heads inland from Blakeney Eye. A great expanse of rushes fill the foreground – this must be a tremendous sight beneath a golden sunset.

Like an image from a writer's imagination
Like an image from a writer’s imagination

The windmill is a hotel and you can dine there by candle light! Less prominent but equally unmissable is the Cley Smokehouse in the high street where you can pick up a tempting range of smoked fish.

The acceptable face of pebble dash
The acceptable face of pebble dash

Most of the buildings in Cley are attractively clad with large round pebbles, a tradition I assume stems from an excess of available stone plus the need to robustly weatherproof buildings in these parts.


My knee really isn’t happy. I’ve walked 4.5 miles at a decent lick and will have to be content with that. The Coast Hopper returns me to my car and I drive back to The Three Swallows pub in Cley for an evening of recuperation.

Further walking tomorrow remains highly doubtful but I got to see seals today! Norfolk continues to surprise and delight.

Today in point form…

In a nutshell
– Seals, a windmill and even some walking!

High point
– A seal watching trip to Blakeney Point

Low point
– That knee at the end of the walk…

Looking ahead
– Walking seems unlikely but there’s plenty to see on the way to Cromer

Daily Stats
Stage  3 – Wells next the Sea Morston to Cley next the Sea
Distance  4.6 miles Speed  3.0 mph
Lowest  30ft Highest  100ft
Ascent  141ft Descent  128ft

The full route (I only walked from Morston to Cley…

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…