Despite a broken night's sleep, another early-ish start found us back in Morston for around 8.30am, suitably wrapped against the chill and sporting full waterproofs. A breakfast-time deluge had more than hinted at an uncomfortable day ahead, but there were only a few last drops in the air as we re-joined the path, although the skies remained leaden.
From Morston Quay, we skirted the edge of the salt marshes for the mile or so into Blakeney. For some reason, I seemed unable to shake the rhyme about The Scarlet Pimpernel (Sir Percy Blakeney) from my mind, although to the best of my knowledge there is no link between village and character.
|"They seek him here, they seek him there .... "|
After a brief stop, we continued along the NCP with the Blakeney National Nature Reserve off to our left. Apart from the odd marker or tidemark of loose reeds, this was the first point at which the damage caused by the previous winter's flooding became evident. Sections of the path had been completely washed away, with breaches the causeway allowing high water to flood through.
|Looking back towards Blakeney, damaged path visible |
in the middle distance
Repairs to the path and the sea defences are ongoing, but much has been done during the spring. Boardwalk has been laid, and the path re-routed in places to avoid the worst bits. Tourism is a key employer and source of income to the area, with walking and (especially at this time of year) birdwatching being two of the major attractions, so the efforts made so far are having a positive benefit for both businesses and visitors.
|Further section of damaged path|
Cley-next-the-Sea is an attractive village, slightly quaint, with a great-looking deli, crafty shops and a showcase windmill. It's quite touristy, as you might expect, and it's the only point on the whole walk we got lost! Not our fault, I hasten to add: the path had been re-routed slightly compared to that on the map, and not particularly well signed, so we missed it on the first pass.
|Windmill at Cley|
What Cley also has is a great visitor centre for birdwatchers, wildlife enthusiasts and cake-lovers alike, and we took a short detour to sample all three. For those of us a little hazy with our coastal bird ID, there's plenty of information on recent sightings to help, a huge picture window from which to watch, and enormous scones of both the greater spotted (fruit) and golden (plain) varieties to be twitched. Birdwatching. In comfort. With cake. What's not to like?
Cley Marshes Nature Reserve is one of the best spots on the entire coast to watch birds, and we spent a little time indulging. Not that we needed to look too hard: there were birds in their droves, just waiting to be seen. My day was well and truly made by coming across this chap for the first time ever.
Nor was it was the last one we spotted. They were all over the place, along with numerous other birds. Over the course of the weekend we notched up multiple sightings of Avocet, Snipe, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Brent Geese, Greylag Geese, Shelduck, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Coot, Moorhen, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Skylark, Sand Martin, Swallow and .... Pigeon (the little blighters get everywhere, don't they?). Oh, and a Marsh Harrier, too, just for good measure.
The beach on this section is shingle, and the going quite slow. Like most unconsolidated substrates, the correct gait and pace has to be found to make much in the way of forward progress without unnecessary waste of energy. The breeze was still chilly, so we hunkered behind a shingle "dune" to eat our sandwiches - a nice way to spend an Easter Sunday lunchtime.
|Part of the beach was cordoned off to protect the nesting sites of |
ground-nesting birds. I wonder what these will hatch into?
Cold and breezy it may have been, but in compensation there were some sizeable rollers breaking on the beach. The wind whipped spray from the crest of the waves, driving it into our faces, and the noise and power were an impressive reminder of just how elemental a force the sea can be.
|Give us a wave|
The four-and-a-half mile stint to Weybourne follows the narrow shingle spit, with the sea close at hand to the left and Cley and Salthouse Marshes to the right. Sandwiched between to two, the path eventually picks up an arrow-straight course along the top of the shingle bank.
|Keeping on the straight and narrow|
We had thought about ending the day at Weybourne, but we had made good time, and just as we arrived ... the sun came out! So it only took a moment or two to decide to carry on, and we were soon climbing up on to the cliffs for the next three miles into Sheringham.
|Looking down from the cliffs|
We arrived in Sheringham at a pace. Not because we were fighting fit and still full of energy, but because we suddenly realised we were likely to miss the last bus, and we didn't know where the bus stop was! Panic over, we arrived with three minutes to spare.
It was another great day: plenty of variety, and lots to see. It seems this walk knows just when to offer up a change of scenery, so interest is always maintained. And the birdwatching today was superb, with a couple of first-time spots to add the icing on the cake. Cake and icing in the day and eggs for Easter Sunday, so obviously Fish and Chips for dinner was a necessity. Good job the walking had earned us a few calories.