Norfolk Coast PathMy Peddars Way adventure ended with me ensconced in the Bed and Breakfast in Hunstanton, contemplating the rather ruinous state of my feet and my swollen ankle…

My next challenge was the 47 mile Norfolk Coast path, which I had decided on walking in just two days… but after slogging it along the Peddars Way for the past three days, with constantly wet feet rubbing blisters and twisting my ankle for good measure, the future of the walk was in serious doubt. I had decided to concentrate on getting a good night’s sleep and dealing with tomorrow as it comes…

The next morning I reinforced the compeed dressing covering my blisters with zinc oxide tape and headed down for a hearty breakfast. I was joined by a couple who told me that this was their fourth visit to the Bed and Breakfast; their first coincided with a hotel inspector’s visit, and they were rather perturbed when he pulled out a metal probe and proceeded to check the temperature of his breakfast sausage!

The owners had kindly dried my shoes for me, and as my comfy socks were still wet I had to put on a pair of the new ones, hoping that the dressing would keep them from rubbing too much. As I took my first tentative steps, the blisters and the ankle didn’t feel too bad, and looking at the sky I hoped I was going to be able to keep my feet dry today!

I reached the signpost marking the start of the Norfolk Coast Path and my next adventure began;

The start of the Norfolk Coast Path... the adventure begins!

The start of the Norfolk Coast Path… the adventure begins!

The first thing of interest I passed was the lighthouse and the remaining wall of St Edmunds Chapel. St Edmund was the Christian king of East Anglia from around AD855, whos kingdom was devastated by Viking raids. Captured by the Danes in battle, he was tortured and executed, and according to legend he was beheaded and his head hidden so that he would be denied a Christian burial. His followers, searching for his head, heard the cries of a wolf shouting ‘Here, here!’ and found the wolf guarding his head.

The wolf

The wolf

The wolf has been immortalised with a wooden statue; not a creature you usually come face to face with in these parts!

The chapel ruins and the light house

The chapel ruins and the light house

I now faced retracing my steps to the end of the Peddars Way at Holme-Next-The-Sea, and, recalling the agony of crossing the dunes the night before, I toyed with the idea of trying to find an inland path, but being a bit of a purist ended up just walking the signed path- the dunes weren’t quite so hellish with dry feet and a night‘s rest behind me!

I was glad to see the now familiar sign post marking the end of the Peddars Way, and stopped to fill my water bottle before heading away over the dunes on a track which soon became a boardwalk.

The track followed the line of the dunes and sea defenses, past Gore Point to a small copse of fir trees, where I bought an ice lolly from the Nature Reserve. From here the boardwalks led through the mud flats near Thornham, a popular haunt for twitchers. I saw a couple of oyster catchers which you may just be able to make out below;

Oystercatchers... honest!

Oystercatchers… honest!

Thornham used to be a thriving port before it silted up and became un-navigable, and the old wooden posts and parts of jetties can still be seen rising out of the marsh like the ghosts of a prosperous past.

The old port at Thornham

The old port at Thornham

After Thornham the route turns inland, as there are no proper paths by the sea, and follows a surprisingly busy road uphill for over a mile, before turning left through fields. It was dry but rather dull, and I must say this was the worst part of the day for me as it was so boring and I didn‘t have the sea to look at. I caught up and passed three walkers and eventually reached the pretty village of Brancaster. My feet were aching and I could have really done with a coffee, but was not yet half way so was determined to press on for as long as I could.

It was good to be walking near to the sea again, and I felt my spirits lift a little as I strode along the boardwalk over marshy ground at the back of Brancaster. This runs all the way to Brancaster Staithe and is quite narrow in places, so gets interesting if you meet a group of people coming the other way;

Walking the boardwalk

Walking the boardwalk

As the route passed by the Roman fort of Branodunum I decided to forget my sore feet and take a look at this unique slice of history. Unfortunately there was not a lot to see- just a field and an information board. My body decided to take this opportunity to remind me that, yes, it was actually really tired and getting a little fed up with this walking malarkey… I pushed on to Brancaster Staithe but my pace was getting slower and slower.

Brancaster Staithe appears to have a working port and boasts a cluster of run down sheds, a ‘crab shack’ selling freshly caught seafood and a jumbled collection of old boats and lobster pots.

Brancaster Staithe

Brancaster Staithe

It also has a service station and cafe, so as I was struggling to put one foot in front of the other by this point, I crawled in, feeling like a wreck, and treated myself to a jacket potato and hot chocolate.

I left 30 minutes later, passing the three walkers I had walked past earlier who were obviously doing the same route as myself. I felt so much better, and even had a spring in my step, which was quite lucky as I had to run back to collect my route notes I had left on the counter at the cafe!

The next part of the route follows the giant curve of the sea wall around Deepdale Marsh to the village of Burnham Overy Staithe. I was treated to the flat horizons and big skies Norfolk is famous for, and could see the tiny figure of Overy Windmill in the distance. I could also see the golden sands of Holkham beach; my next destination. It seemed tantalisingly close, yet is separated by a treacherous stretch of marsh land which can’t be crossed safely. My initial spring in the step had worn off by the time I reached the outskirts of the village, and I was forced to buy a Feast lolly from a handy ice cream van to keep me going.

N

Burnham Overy Staithe

The Coast Path now traversed the vast expanse of Holkam Beach; this was the part I had been dreading all day. I was really tired, my ankle was throbbing, my feet were really starting to protest that they had done quite enough now, thank you, and I now faced a two mile stretch over soft, shifting sand- lovely!

Burnham Overy Staithe Windmill

Burnham Overy Staithe Windmill

The official route follows a path through the dunes, but I did as my guidebook suggested and stuck to the tide mark where the sand was wetter and more compacted. Apparently part of this beach is a designated naturist reserve; luckily it was too cold for anyone to get their kit off and all I saw were a couple of dead seals and, strangely, a portaloo (which I took advantage of!)

In fact, it was quite deserted and desolate, and by the time I reached Holkham Gap I just wanted to finish so very badly. Although I have walked the next part, the track by the pine woods to Wells, many times with family, it seemed to take forever today. It had also started to rain so I was not a happy camper when I finally reached Pinewoods Caravan Park.

Overall I had made pretty good time, and completed my intended 23 miles, but although the blisters were only voicing mild concern, my ankle was far from happy. In fact my mum took one look at the swollen mass that used to be a nicely turned ankle and suggested that maybe walking another 24 miles on it tomorrow would not be the best idea, and that maybe I should consider postponing the final day. She suggested a day in Sheringham instead, and although I knew that I could complete the walk if I really wanted to, I also knew that it wouldn’t be fun, it would be very painful and a real slog, with the possibility of doing more serious damage to the ankle and being out of action for months. I  was also particularly concerned that I would not reach Cromer before the last Coast Hopper back to Wells at 5:40pm, so gave in to the fleshpots of Sheringham and its pretty shops and coffee houses…

So although I have not actually completed my objective of walking the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path in one go, I did completed the Peddars Way and have completed half of the NCP. As the second half starts from Wells, I figured I could go back down at any time and complete it.

We did have a nice day in Sheringham, shopping and having lots of coffees (real hard work!) but rather annoyingly it was really sunny and hot! Typical… it was probably a good thing I chose to rest my ankle though as it was sore for around a week afterwards and I had to ice it each night to reduce the swelling. In fact I could still feel it weeks later.

So although I didn’t quite achieve my objective, I have not failed, but merely postponed…

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