Tuesday 6 May 2014

Norfolk Coast Path - Day 2

Burnham Deepdale to Morston - 17.50 miles

Next morning we were back at Burnham Deepdale by 8.30am, ready for the next stretch. It was slightly overcast, but the rain was holding off and the forecast encouraging.

Sail boats and abandoned barge

Heading out round the edge of Deepdale Marsh, we could see the low bump of Scolt Head Island (another National Nature Reserve) ahead.

Looking towards Scolt Head Island NNR

The path here, as in many places, follows the top of a raised bank, making for easy going and giving good views over the marsh. We swapped greetings with the occasional dog walker or jogger, otherwise the early morning quiet was interrupted only by the sound of wildfowl and the swish of Goretex. 

Windmill near Burnham Overy

After leaving the embankment, we crossed a field to reach the road at Burnham Overy Staithe, and found this rhyme chalked on a board beside the Hero pub. These words come from the poem Linden Lea, written by 19th Century poet William Barnes and subsequently set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams. It encapsulates a perfectly reasonable view on life.

Verse of the day #1

Linden Lea by William Barnes

Within the woodland, flow'ry gladed,
By the oak trees' mossy moot;
The shining grass blade timber-shaded
Now do quiver underfoot;
And birds do whistle overhead,
And water's bubbling in its bed;
And there for me the apple tree
Do lean down low in Linden Lea.

When leaves, that lately were a-springing,
Now do fade within the copse,
And painted birds do hush their singing,
High upon the timber tops;
And brown-leaved fruit's a-turning red,
In cloudless sunshine overhead,
With fruit for me, the apple tree
Do lean down low in Linden Lea.

Let other folk make money faster;
In the air of dark-room'd towns;
I don't dread a peevish master,
Though no man may heed my frowns.
I be free to go abroad,
Or take again my homeward road
To where, for me, the apple tree
Do lean down low in Linden Lea.

With no dread in our hearts for masters peevish or otherwise, we moved on through the village and down to the harbour, where we sat and watched the world go by and let other folk speed about their money-making. 

Burnham Overy Staithe

Looking back over the Okavango Delta, pods of Hippos browsing water plants
among shallow pools, and herds of Wildebeest roaming the vast plains.
Or is it the view across Overy Marsh?

Moving on, we headed out into Holkham NNR along a causeway path. The sun was gradually breaking through, but it was still cool in the brisk breeze. Before long, we reached the dunes, climbed to a low crest, and there it was: the Actual Sea!

The Actual Sea!

The next couple of miles or so to Holkham Gap simply followed the beach: blue skies, fluffy clouds and a landscape capable of reminding humans about their place in the Universe.

Big sky country, small people

Four horsemen: no immediate threat of apocalypse

Today is obviously literature day. This verse by Algernon Swinburne is definitely evocative of the landscapes of north Norfolk.

Verse of the day #2

From Holkham, the path followed a line on the land side of the dunes. The sun came out. With the increased shelter from the dunes, the temperature climbed, so we stopped to shed layers and eat lunch.

Behind the dunes

The next section, through Wells-next-the-Sea, was busy. Understandable, I guess, on a sunny Bank Holiday, but even though the path is not necessarily characterised by solitude it came as something of an intrusion. We followed the long straight path into town. This section, exposed to the full blast of the northerly breeze, was freezing, but that didn't stop us from passing a trail of under-dressed families heading the other way: in typically British fashion, it was sunny and they were near the sea, and they were damned well going to wear the T-shirt and shorts they had optimistically packed. 

Looking back to Wells-next-the-Sea

But soon we had negotiated the scrum, and were heading past the salt marshes towards Stiffkey. It's an unusual name for a village, but thankfully not pronounced as written: in local parlance one of the consonant sounds is unvoiced (stop sniggering at the back) and it is pronounced "Stoo-kie".

Our walk for the day ended a couple of miles further on at Morston, where we caught the bus back to Wells. Tired after a long day, and still in need of rest after several busy weeks, we scoffed a quick Chinese meal before heading back to the hostel, and were both fast asleep by 8.30pm. 

We were rudely awakened later on, though, when the fire alarm went off. In pitch darkness, bleary-eyed, and with boots flopping on our feet and fleeces hastily thrown on against the cold, we stumbled downstairs to assemble outside for roll-call. Fancy being woken in the middle of the night! 

It was only slowly that we realised we were the only ones out there in pyjamas, and everyone else was fully clothed. Surely they hadn't stopped to get dressed before evacuating the building? No: that was when we found out it was actually 9.45pm .........

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