Sunday 27 April 2014

Norfolk Coast Path - Day 1

Hunstanton to Burnham Deepdale - 13.00 miles

We first hit on the idea of walking the NCP after a very enjoyable weekend visit to north Norfolk last summer (details of which can be found HERE). We were much taken by the area, and made the decision there and then to return and do the full coast path sometime in the future. 

Often such promises take a while to fulfil, if indeed they are fulfilled at all. But, only eight months later, we found ourselves alighting the Coasthopper service at Hunstanton bus station, and making the acquaintance of some of the locals. 

Not sure if you can park there? 14 chicks on a visit to Hunstanton bus station

We'd set off early: a pre-6.00am start this time signalling the beginning of something exciting for a change, and not work. Arriving in Burnham Deepdale, we parked the car and had time for a coffee before catching the bus to Hunstanton. The plan was to walk the path from a base at Wells-next-the Sea, using a mixture of car and Coasthopper service to link the beginning and end of each day's walk. Even allowing for the reduced service on Sunday and Bank Holidays, it was an arrangement that worked very well, allowing a good deal of flexibility to each daily schedule.

The official start: gardens above Hunstanton cliffs

The official start is only a couple of minute's walk from the bus station, and - despite blue skies - there was a brisk, chilly wind blowing and a hint of rain in the air: think "looks like summer, feels like winter" and you won't be far off.

Sandy paths behind the beach huts

Soon, we left the cliff-top behind us, crossed a parking area and picked up a sandy path running behind the beach huts near Old Hunstanton. Despite the chill wind and blustery conditions, there were a fair few people about: some hunkering for shelter behind stripy wind-breaks, others making and altogether different use of the conditions.

One way of enjoying the conditions: a great day for windsurfing

Near Holme-next-the-Sea, the Norfolk Coast Path connects with the Peddars Way and together they form one of the 15 UK National Trails that tempt walkers from far and wide. The name hints at it's walking past, and is said to derive from the Latin pedester meaning "on foot", whilst the route itself runs arrow-straight for 46 miles to Knettishall Heath, near Thetford, following the route of a Roman road (although one school of thought suggests a pre-Roman origin, possibly an extension of the Icknield Way ancient route). 

Junction of the Norfolk Coast Path and the Peddars Way

Beyond Holme, boardwalk led the way through the dunes, helping to prevent unnecessary erosion and providing easy walking. As we were to discover, dunes form an important part of both the coastal ecosystem and sea defences: grasses bind the dunes together and prevent the sand from simply blowing away, although over time dunes can and do migrate.

Near Holme-next-the-Sea

Of course one of the key attractions of north Norfolk is the bird watching, with numerous sites of national and international significance to be found along the coastal fringes. The area is home, temporary or otherwise, to a huge variety of wildfowl, waders, sea birds and the like, and it wasn't long before we were reaching for the binoculars as we passed through the Holme Dunes NNR near Thornham. Over the course of the 4 days we were to encounter a number of unfamiliar species (including a couple of new ones - of which more later).   

Little Egret

Beyond Thornham, the route heads inland for a few miles. The countryside it passes through is nothing more exciting than archetypal agricultural farmland, and of no particular note. I suspect it is because no feasible route exists close to the sea, and it needs to skirt the Titchwell Marsh Nature Reserve. However it does make a change from sticking entirely to the coast, and adds to the surprisingly varied scenery encountered along the way.

Heading inland: offshore wind farm visible on the horizon

Just visible on the horizon is one of the numerous offshore wind farms to be found hereabouts. Interestingly, they all tend to be rather poetically named "shoal" or "array" (eg: Sheringham Shoal) as if calling them an offshore wind farm is somehow an embarrassment ... 

Arriving in Brancaster

The inland loop describes three sides of a square, and after around three-and-a-half miles brings you out in Brancaster. The route crosses back to the north side of the A149, then follows a line behind the houses along the edge of Brancaster Marsh.

Reeds against the skyline

By now we were nearing the end of our day's walk. The blue skies of earlier in the day had been replaced by solid overcast grey, and there was a threat of rain in the air. Not perhaps as much as during the recent winter, when rain and bad weather conspired to wreak devastation to some parts of our coastline, not least round here.

An indication of the damage caused during the winter floods

Finally we reached Burnham Deepdale, and popped out on to the road to collect the car. We'd covered 13 miles - not too bad considering the relatively late start - and found a bit more variety than we'd perhaps expected.

That evening, we made short work of a fish and chip supper, then hit the hay before the sun had set.


  1. The bus service is one of the great things about the NCP. We camped each night but the bus makes it possible to pick a base (+ safe car park) and do the path in sections.

  2. It looks lovely, especially the stretch along the dunes. Class!

  3. Thanks, both, for your comments. It is simple and easy with the bus service, and very picturesque.