208. Cromer to Salthouse

August 2007

I was looking forward to this walk because it promised to follow a beautiful stretch of coast line along a good coastal path (The Norfolk Coast Path, a National Trail).

Logistically the northern part of the Norfolk coast is much simpler than the southern half because at the time there was a good quality bus service (The Norfolk Coasthopper) which ran every half an hour or so between Kings Lynn and Sheringham meaning I could walk as far as I wanted before getting the bus back in time for my train home (it doesn’t run the whole way any more).

Cromer has a railway station so this time I’m travelling from home by train. I had booked a bargain £6 single ticket from London to Cromer and another £6 single back from Sheringham to London.

I took the train to London Waterloo, the tube to London Liverpool Street, the train from there to Norwich and finally a local train from there to Cromer. This latter train was rather crowded but at least getting on at the start at Norwich, meant I’d got a seat.

The station in Cromer is not in a glamorous location, jammed into the corner of the Morrisons car park. I walked through the car park then followed the roads to the cliff top, overlooking the pretty pier and promenade.

Cromer Pier

I was actually doing this walk earlier than the previous walk I wrote up (from Happisburgh to Cromer). This time some work seemed to being done to the end of the pier by the lifeboat, though what I’m not sure.

It had just been raining when I arrived and below me, a tourist road-train made it’s way along the promenade though it being a cloudy and overcast day it seemed to be devoid of any passengers.

Cromer

I headed down to the pier and promenade. Cromer is a pretty and colourful town which I liked a lot.

Cromer

Cromer Pier

The weather had clearly put people off, as the beach was largely deserted.

Cromer

Before getting going, I walked to the end of the pier.

Cromer Pier

I should mention at this point that since I’ve not walked the coast in order, this was actually the first walk I did in Norfolk. In fact I must confess I think it was the first time I had ever even been to Norfolk. I had expected to find a flat county, with sandy beaches backed by dunes. So when I looked west, I was surprised to see cliffs.

Cromer from the pier

It seems my assumptions were wrong and Norfolk does indeed have hills, though I could also see that it had caravans.

Cromer from the pier

Looking back the other way there were also hills and cliffs stretching into the distance.

Cromer from the pier

At the end of the pier I reached the lifeboat station. It is nice to see that the pier still has a useful function to play too, it is not just for leisure use.

Cromer Lifeboat station

I returned from the end of the pier, it was time to start my walk. I initially followed the flat promenade, below the cliffs but above the beach.

I soon passed a small and temporary looking funfair “Kiddieland Cromer” which seemed to be devoid of any customers too. Considering it was August, I was surprised at how quiet the place seemed.

The promenade at Cromer

I continued along the promenade where the yellow and red flags were flying indicating it was an area covered by the lifeguards but there were still only 4 people I could count on the beach.

The coast west of Cromer

I continued along the beach, passing a row of beach huts and then reaching the end of the promenade.

The coast west of Cromer

At this point I realised my mistake. The official coast path goes along the cliff top and now I’d reached the end of the promenade there was no way up, other than to return to the town centre.

However I could see plenty of people on the beach ahead and at the large caravan park ahead I suspected I’d find access from the beach to the cliff top, so I could join the path there. So I continued along the beach. It looked like the tide was going out, so there was plenty of firm sand though mixed with a few pebbles and occasional areas of shingle.

The coast west of Cromer

I was enjoying being beside cliffs, they were tall but looked very soft with evidence of land slips and grass having slipped down from the cliff tops.

The beach west of Cromer

It was about this point I spotted this pair of idiots.

Madness

They were trying to climb up the face of these soft cliffs. OK I admit I would have liked to have found access to the cliff tops too, having realised that is where the coast path went, but I wasn’t stupid enough to try climbing the face of the cliffs in order to get there, like these two.

Zooming out you can see how high they are (they are just over half way up the cliffs below).

Madness

I couldn’t watch, and I I left them to it, hoping they made it up safely. Experience has taught me such people won’t be told that what they are doing is dangerous (and they are clearly old enough to know better), so there seemed little point in trying to stop them.

Onwards, the beach was now really beautiful, lovely clean sand and no people about now.

The beach near West Runton

Soon I was approaching the caravan park and began to see people again, suggesting I was right there would be access to the cliff top. The beach began to have areas of pebbles again too.

The beach near West Runton

As I neared the caravan park I passed an old World War II pill box, now embedded in the sand and some distance from the cliffs which it would once have stood on top of – another indication of the rapid coastal erosion on this part of the coast.

The beach near West Runton

I was also pleased to see that after the overcast and cloudy morning, the sun was now coming through. As I hoped, there was access from the beach to the cliff top at the caravan park. I was also surprised to see a few people surfing (or at least, attempting too), not something I expected to see in Norfolk.

However having found there was access to the cliff top, I decided not to use it. I had enjoyed my beach walk so far and I could see that the coast path ahead from here ran along the A149 for a while, which didn’t look fun. So I decided the beach walk was preferable to the road and in any case I could see from the map there was further access to the cliff tops at West Runton, about a mile ahead.

The beach near West Runton

The beach walk was becoming a bit harder now as there were areas of shingle and pebbles to get over, but they were not long and there were areas of sand between them. I enjoyed watching the patterns the waves made in the stones and pebbles, as they receded.

The beach near West Runton

The cliffs had interesting geology too, with lovely soft yellow sand stone, and they were getting really high now.

The beach at West Runton

At the rocks ahead there was only a few metres between me and the waters edge. I was glad when I rounded the corner to find the beach widened again so I would be able to get around to West Runton.

The beach near West Runton

The cliffs showed the effects of erosion, with soft sand at the base of the cliffs, which I presumed had been blown from the soft sand-stone rocks above by the wind and collected at the base of the cliffs. In fact I could see the channels through which the sand was flowing, perhaps also washed down by the rain.

The beach near West Runton

I also came across this puzzling stone.

The beach near West Runton

It didn’t seem to match any of the local rock and it had a hole through it. I concluded it must have been man-made and washed here by the sea, which had eroded it to a more rounded shape over time, though perhaps I am wrong.

As I approached West Runton, I could see people ahead on the beach and the start of the sea wall. I guess these sea walls are designed to protect the towns behind from erosion, but they also provide an easy path!

The beach near Sheringham

In fact, the sea wall lasted about 100 metres!

The beach near Sheringham

It ended as abruptly as it started and my route ahead was again along the beach.

The beach near Sheringham

The cliffs were getting lower now, and the beach more shingle than sand.

Once again, a wooden groyne had been built parallel with rather than at right angles to the coast, something that you seem to see a lot in Norfolk but not really elsewhere.

I headed over this and found there was some firm sand in front of it, which was easier to walk on.

The beach near Sheringham

However this only lasted so far when the beach seemed to narrow and the waves were now breaking on this wooden wall.

The beach near Sheringham

So I had to beat a retreat behind it where there was also some firm sand. The waves were breaking over this wooden groyne now, forming pools of water behind it. I did wonder how long it would last against the onslaught of the sea.

Coastal defences near Sheringham

Ahead I could again see just how soft the cliffs were, with holes cut into the cliffs by the wind (I presume).

The coast near Sheringham

I continued along the beach behind this wall, passing a rusty flight of stairs now at the bottom of the cliffs. I presumed this had once provided access from the beach to the cliff top, but it certainly didn’t now.

Ruined steps

There was also rather bizarrely a section of cliffs that had eroded all around,  leaving a soft sandy rock stack.

The coast near Sheringham

I continued along the beach and soon came across another flight of stairs. This one was still in place but with sections of the wooden planks missing and it was clearly unsafe, it was fenced off from the top (though not from the bottom). The pile of debris alongside it suggested it wouldn’t be in place for much longer, though.

Ruined steps near Sheringham

Further up the cliff face I could also see holes. I wondered how these had been created. A bird, an animal or just the wind? I wasn’t sure.

The coast near Sheringham

As I continued, the wooden groynes had begun to deteriorate, only the vertical main supports still standing, the rest having been destroyed by the sea.

Coastal defences near Sheringham

Bizarrely just behind this was what looked like chalk residue as if there had once been a thin strip of chalk cliffs here, though perhaps it was washed from further around the coast.

The walk was becoming hard now. The beach was becoming more pebbles and shingle rather than sand and I regretted now that I had stuck with the beach at West Runton.

The coast east of Sheringham

Still it wasn’t far until I could see the sea wall of Sheringham ahead, though the rest of the town was hidden out of sight behind the corner.

The coast east of Sheringham

To get to it though I had to climb over the lose rocks that had accumulated between the cliff face and the wooden groynes. Thankfully I could follow another couple now just ahead of me.

Unfortunately it wasn’t quite the start of the promenade as I had hoped, but a low concrete sea wall.

The coast east of Sheringham

The far end of which was wet and covered with sea-weed and I was worried about slipping off it, so I stuck to the awkward rocks between the back of the groynes and the cliff face again.

The coast east of Sheringham

Finally this widened to the promenade at Sheringham, which was lined with colourful beach huts.

Sheringham

The houses on the cliff top above these looked worryingly close to the edge to me!

Sheringham

Sheringham was a nice town too, though it was far more crowded than Cromer had been (though perhaps the improving weather meant that Cromer too was crowded now).

Sheringham

It was a shock to find all these people having seen hardly anyone for the last hour or so!

I continued along the promenade through the town. The town doesn’t have a pier, unlike Cromer and it wasn’t really obvious from the promenade where the centre of the town was.

Sheringham

The beach was mostly pebbles now, but with a thin strip of sand at the shoreline. Despite this there were a lot of people sitting on the beach.

Sheringham

Having learnt from my earlier mistake of sticking to the beach, not the coast path, when there was an arch from the beach under a sort of viewing platform to a park, I took it.

Sheringham

From here I stuck to the coast path along the cliff top. The beach seemed a long way below me now.

Sheringham beach

Soon the tarmac promenade ended and the coast path continued now as a footpath, with a golf course alongside. I soon passed a welcome Norfolk Coast path sign with the familiar Acorn symbol. The next town, Weybourne, was 2 3/4 miles ahead.

The Nortfolk Coast Path at Sheringham

The path climbed a bit out of the town as the cliffs got high again. The only negative was that for some reason I was now being plagued by swarms of flies that seemed to be attracted to the cliff tops (these are the black dots you can see in the sky in the photo below).

The coast west of Sheringham

At the top of the next hill I came across a wonderful view ahead. I hadn’t expected the Norfolk coast path to be this good, it reminded me of parts of the South West Coast path, with the coast visible for miles and miles ahead, though I could see that it would soon be getting flatter.

This stretch was wonderful though in places the coast path was a narrow strip between one the bunkers of the golf course and the cliff edge and having seen how soft the cliffs were, I didn’t want to get too close!

The coast west of Sheringham

Zooming in, I could also see the windmill at Weybourne some distance ahead.

Weybourne mill in the distance

Looking along the coast too there was an isolated row of cottages, some distance from the rest of the village, perhaps old coastguard cottages.

Inland I soon heard the distinctive sound of a steam train whistle, soon followed by the puffing sound. I soon got a lovely view of the steam train passing.

The North Norfolk Railway near Sheringham

The North Norfolk Railway near Sheringham

These days, the National Rail network ends at Sheringham, but it wasn’t always this way and in fact the line has now been restored as the North Norfolk Railway which once continued from Sheringham to a junction at Melton Constable (which has now lost all the railway lines it once had). This is now a heritage steam train line with trains going as far as a new station at the edge of Holt (the old station and a section of the line beyond here is now part of the A148).

It was nice sight to see this lovingly restored train making it’s way along the line again. It is a shame that the line didn’t continue along the coast or I might have used it to get back home at the end of my walk!

The coast path continued right along the cliff top. Whilst it still undulated the general theme was down, as the cliffs gradually got lower.

The coast west of Sheringham

Soon I was barely above the shingle beach, but the coast path then rose again. It was odd that I was standing on sand-stone cliffs but the beach was made of grey pebbles, I presume these are washed down the coast by the sea.

Another steam engine passed along the rail lines just inland here, but this time it seemed not to have any carriages attached!

The North Norfolk Railway near Sheringham

Having nearly ended, the cliffs now began to gain height again.

The coast west of Sheringham

Below a colony of gulls was settled on the shingle.

The coast west of Sheringham

Looking down from the cliff tops, it was clear that these cliffs were eroding fast, with a line of debris at the base of the cliffs.

The coast west of Sheringham

The cliffs soon got low enough again I could briefly get down onto the beach. It was nice to hear the sounds of the waves again, but walking on this shingle was hard, so having taken a look I soon returned to the coast path.

The coast west of Sheringham

The coast west of Sheringham

This soon headed briefly slightly inland to get around that row of cottages I had seen earlier. The number of tiles that I could see had been replaced on the roofs suggested it is a constant battle with the wind here to keep the houses weather proof and in fact it does look as if the end of the row of cottages will soon be at the cliff edge.

Near Weybourne

Onwards and the path soon descended with the cliffs back to the beach at Weybourne.

The beach at Weybourne

It was decision time at Weybourne. The next place I could end and catch the bus was at Salthouse, around 2.5 miles ahead. Having checked the bus and train timetables I decided that I had enough time to continue to Salthouse in order to catch the bus to Sheringham in time for the train I was due to travel home on.

The beach at Weybourne was not very inspiring. A car park in the gravel was I could really see from the coast path, the rest of the village being a little under half a mile inland.

The beach at Weybourne

The beach at Weybourne

I soon began to wonder if had made the right decision! I had expected being a National Trail, that the Norfolk coast path would be a good path, but pretty soon the path simply descended onto the shingle beach. The way ahead was now along this shingle beach, and walking on it was hard work.

The beach at Weybourne

The path soon seemed to follow a ridge of shingle at the back of the beach.

The beach at Weybourne

The cliffs had gone now, replaced with an area of marshland, which was itself rather wet. Another World War II pillbox was on the beach here I did wonder if it had once been on the marshes, since there seemed to be no cliffs now.

The beach west of Weybourne

It was hard going and I had to walk briskly to make reasonable progress, as I was now worrying about missing my bus!

The marshes seemed to merge into the coast here, with areas where the shingle beach seemed to have spread along way inland and in others where it was just behind the path.

I continued on the shingle ridge, it was hard going.

The beach west of Weybourne

Soon I was beginning to see people again, a sure sign that I was nearing Salthouse. In fact the road ended at the beach here at a gravel car park which is where the people had come from.

This car park was largely obliterated in storms a few years ago which washed all the shingle from the bank over the car park and end of the road.

In fact I was really surprised when writing up this walk how much the coast has changed in the 11 years since I did this walk (2007) to writing this post (2018), as the below screenshots I took from Google Earth I hope illustrate.

Salthouse Norfolk (aerial photos from Google)

The left screenshot is from 2006. The right now. You can see how the shingle seems to be heading inland over the marshes, getting closer to the village and obliterating what was once the car park (where the coloured circle is). Another sign of how much erosion there is here, though in this case it’s of a different sort, in that rather than eroding the cliffs, the shingle is washing further inland over the marshes.

You can see the car park in the photo I took below, but it’s buried under shingle now.

The beach west of Weybourne

This road emerges at the eastern end of the town so I continued a bit further along where another path headed inland to the centre of the village.

Salthouse

Having earlier worried about missing the bus and picked up my walking pace, my brisk walking had meant I had now made up time, so I was in plenty of time for the bus.

Salthouse was a small village, but the church was very large and seemed out of scale with the rest of the village. Clearly this was once an important and wealth place (perhaps it still is).

Before leaving the beach I headed down to the shore, as the beach is very wide here. Looking back I could see the cliffs I had been following earlier.

The beach near Salthouse

The beach at Salthouse

Now it was time to head inland to the main road for the bus.

The track headed over marshes (Salthouse Marsh). The track went over the marsh alongside drainage channels at times, which were quite pretty.

Near Salthouse

There were more ruined concrete structures alongside, suggesting this marsh had been heavily defended during World War II. A wooden footbridge took me across another of these drainage channels and then to the A149.

Salthouse

In fact I had enough time to head up to the large church for a closer look. I couldn’t look inside though as it was locked.

Salthouse

I headed back down to the road and turned left where a lay-by beside the road seemed to provide most of the facilities of this small village, namely the post office and pub!

Salthouse

From here I waited on the main road for the coast hopper bus. This was an excellent bus service which ran regularly between Kings Lynn and Sheringham right along the North Norfolk Coast (since destroyed by Stagecoach taking over the bus company, with the result that Stagecoach cut back and later cancelled the route entirely – it is now 3 separate routes, run by differing independent companies).

It turned up on time and soon had me back in Sheringham in time for my train. The town centre in Sheringham was also pretty busy.

Sheringham

I had enough time before my train to head down to the sea front again. I was surprised how much it had changed since I had been here a few hours before! Now there was a large area of sand where before there was shingle, as the tide had gone out, though there were few people on it now.

The beach at Sheringham

Now it was time to head to the station. In fact there are curiously two stations at Sheringham. The first I came to is that used by the North Norfolk Railway. This was in fact the original railway station. When the railway line was closed beyond Sheringham in the 1960s a new (and very basic) railway station was built on the other side of the road, to save the cost of maintaining the level crossing over the road (and I suspect the costs of maintaining the original station building too).

The original station was later taken over by the heritage North Norfolk Railway, the line I had passed earlier (which now goes to Holt). So now there are two stations just across the road from each other.

Ironically, the level crossing that had previously been closed and removed was restored and re-opened in 2010, so that the North Nortfolk Railway is once again connected to the rest of the National rail network.

The North Norfolk Railway, Sheringham

Having had a look around the old station I headed for the somewhat more basic modern replacement. It’s rather a contrast, as you can see below.

Sheringham station

The modern station consisted of a single platform with just a basic waiting shelter, a rather more basic affair than the lovely old station across the road, and not well suited to the summer crowds (especially if it rains). I could see from the gathered crowds (which even included a cat in a carrier) that this was going to be a busy train. So it proved, but at least getting on at Sheringham I could get a seat (unlike most of the people that joined at Cromer).

This had been a really lovely walk. I had been very pleasantly surprised at how varied this part of the coast was, with beautiful high cliffs, sandy beaches, resorts and remote stretches of shingle beaches. The scenery had been far more spectacular than I had expected. I had enjoyed the section on the beach too (even if in hindsight it might have been better to stick to the coast path), as I had been able to walk next to the cliffs and see the power of the sea and the erosion it was causing. I was looking forward to see what else the Norfolk coast path had in store for me!

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

Sanders Coaches Coast Hopper 4 : Wells-next-the-Sea – Stiffkey – Morston – Blakeney – Cley-next-the-Sea – Salthouse – Kelling – WeybourneSheringham – Beeston Regis – West Runton – East Runton – Cromer. Every 30 minutes, seven days a week. It takes around 30 minutes between Salthouse and Cromer.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

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4 Responses to 208. Cromer to Salthouse

  1. The section between Cromer and Sheringham is lovely, isn’t it. Like you I was surprised to find cliffs! Shame about the Coast Hopper bus. It was such a wonderful asset. 😖

  2. owdjockey says:

    Hi Jon, you are right, walking along that shingle was murder! I was continually looking for a decent walking line underfoot.

    • jcombe says:

      Yes it sticks in my memory for similar reasons. I was quite surprised a National Trail was just along the shingle like that, I thought there might be a proper path! Still at least it was near to the sea.

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