This was the last day of my 3 day camping trip to Happisburgh. Having covered the area of coast around Happisburgh for my last day I headed further west into Norfolk to reach the first part of the coast I hadn’t yet walked at the time, from Salthouse.
I had breakfast and packed up my tent into the car. Time for one last glimpse of the lovely lighthouse that has been such a familiar landmark during my brief stay in Happisburgh.
Then I set off to drive along the coast to Salthouse. I parked at the car park at the end of beach road. This was really just a flat area of pebbles at the back of the beach. I think it was owned by the National Trust and parking was free of charge. I say was, because the car park was obliterated by storms since I did this walk (a couple of years ago), which pushed the shingle bank much further inland here. I think it might still be possible to park on the approach road to the former car park, but I’m not sure (I’ve not been there since, but Google Maps shows cars parked along there).
From here I walked back along the dead-end road to the car park to the main road. I planned to catch the bus in the morning on this day, so I could walk back to my car in my own time (rather than worrying about having to catch a bus). I was a bit early for the bus, so I headed for the church again. But again it was locked, so I could only look outside.
I then headed back to the main road to await the Norfolk Coast Hopper bus to Blakeney. It arrived on time and soon I had reached Blakeney. It’s only about 4 miles down the road, so it was not a long journey, it only took about 10 minutes.
The reason for doing such a seemingly short walk was that having rounded the corner onto the north-facing coast, much of the coast line is marshes and sand spits. One of the largest of these sand spits is the Blakeney National Nature Reserve (Blakeney Point). The official coast path misses it out. However I planned to walk out some way along it, to explore this part of the coast too. I knew there was a seal colony at the far end so I would probably not get all the way along, but I didn’t want to miss it out entirely, either.
Blakeney shows quite well the changes that have happened to the coast along here. Once all these villages were directly on the sea. Now the village is more than half a mile from the open sea. The coast has silted up over the years and marsh land formed, so there is now only a muddy shallow channel from the coast to the quay at Blakeney.
Only small pleasure craft can reach the town from the sea now. Nevertheless the large buildings along the quay show that this was once an important (and likely wealthy) port, even if it is not much of a port now.
Before setting off on the walk I had a little wander around the village. It was indeed lovely and looked as if it had changed very little in the last 100 years or so.
I liked the fact that many of the buildings were clad in pebbles (which I suspect might well have come from the beach).
Back on the coast I set off heading east to Salthouse soon passing the pretty little village pond.
Looking back the large car park on the quay was filling up quickly, and it is clear this is a popular place to visit.
Looking out to sea you could see how the marshes have grown up and cut off the town, the sea is out there … somewhere.
The coast path soon turns north to pass on a raised bank alongside the marshes. Looking back, Blakeney was soon disappearing.
Too my left was the marshes and the various water channels that run over it. The day had dawned cloudy and overcast, but I was pleased to see (and feel) that the sun was now breaking through and so it promised to be another find summers day.
After half a mile or so along the raised sea wall I turned the corner, to now head east towards the next village, Cley-next-the-Sea. However I still wasn’t actually next to the sea. The spit of Blakeney Point was now beyond to my left, and I could just see people walking along it.
This narrow spit of marsh, shingle and sand stretches for over 3 miles west from here, but it’s a dead-end.
I still couldn’t join the peninsula because of the marsh between me and it, so I continued along the official coast path along the flat and easy sea wall.
Even inland the difference between the land and the sea was a little blurred, because south of the coast path here is a large area of marsh, Fresh Marshes, dotted with streams and little ponds, which I imagine floods a lot in winter.
After a mile or so beside the marshes beside Blakeney Point I still couldn’t join the headland and instead had to turn right, back inland again, to get past another water channel.
I’m now heading for the town of Cley next the Sea (lovely name). However despite the name, it’s not really next the sea any longer. The marshes have silted up the coast so now the name Cley next the Marsh seems more appropriate (though it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it!)
Cley is known for it’s large windmill which I can now see ahead.
These Norfolk villages are charming, packed with beautiful old buildings and I’m pleased to see it’s an area which seems to have changed very little over the years.
Now heading south I continue along the low marshy sea wall to reach the A149, the main road along the coast here. I can turn left a short distance along the road to reach the quay of Cley-next-the-Sea. The weather has really picked up now, with an almost completely clear blue sky.
Like Blakeney, Cley is a delightful little town with more of these “pebble clad” buildings. The town looks very well kept too.
Like Blakeney, the quay has all silted up it’s not really a coastal town as such any more. The coast path soon turns left back towards the sea and I soon reach the lovely windmill which is very well kept, and still with it’s sails intact.
Once this would have been right on the sea, but you can see now that to the left is a large area of grass and marshes before the sea can be seen in the distance. It is interesting how the east coast of Norfolk seems to be eroding at a frightening rate, but here the north Norfolk coast seems to be silting up and growing, leaving the towns that were once on the sea a short distance inland.
The sea wall in front of the windmill shows the problem. Boats, and the jetties that served them are disappearing under the large number of reeds that are growing up here.
I’d quite like to have a look inside the windmill, but I don’t think it’s working any longer and now a B&B and wedding venue, so it’s not open to the public to visit – a shame.
Now from Cley I had up the other side of the channel that links (just) the town to the sea, heading north again! This time the path parallels a minor road that heads to the coast and ends at a car park on the shore. To my left are all the marshes, a mixture of land and sea!
Finally about an hour and a half after I set out, I’ve reached the open sea and a beach!
Cley-next-the-Sea is now about 3/4 of a mile inland from here. The beach is wide and shingle with only a few people about and a few boats on the beach.
This is the point I leave the coast path (but not the coast) for a while. Instead of turning right (with the coast path) I turned left to begin my walk out along Blakeney Point. Initially it’s hard going (like Chesil beach), with pebbles and shingle.
However it is only a short distance before areas of sand are beginning to appear, which makes the walking much easier.
Cley beach was not exactly croweded, but now there are few people about too.
As I continued west along the lovely beach all I can here is the sound of the waves and the sea gulls and soon there is no one at all in sight. This is such a lovely stretch of the walk, having this lovely beach almost all to myself on this fine summers day (there was one other couple walking here, but that was it).
Soon near the tide line there are clear areas of firm sand, free of all pebbles and shingle, so I’m able to take my shoes off and walk barefoot along the beach. In places little lakes have formed on parts of the sand behind the beach.
Soon I start to sea wildlife in the shape of Oyster catchers. I love these characterful little birds, they look slightly comic and make a surprising racket!
Heading further west I come across the ruins of an old wooden boat. Only parts of the hull poke above the waves now, covered in sea weed.
I did wonder what the history of the boat was and how it came to end up here.
I quite liked the contrasting colours of the green sea weed, yellow sand and blue sky and sea, so I stopped to take a few “arty” photos.
The sea here was crystal clear and had been warmed by the sun, so walking in the edge of the water, which was almost like a pond, was lovely and very refreshing.
Soon the other couple had turned back leaving me all alone on this beautiful and untouched sand spit. I was really glad I’d decided to make the effort to explore Blakeney Point.
In places, as the tide was gradually coming in, air bubbles began bubbling out of the sand. I suspect this is where lug worms had dug into the sand and now the sea was filling it in again.
In the end I went about 2 miles along the sand spit, before I decided to turn back. I could see the seals ahead, but this is a nature reserve and I didn’t want to get close enough to disturb them. I could also see there were warning notices in places which I suspect prohibited walking any further anyway.
I was also a bit conscious that the tide was now coming in and didn’t want to end up cut off or having to walk back on the hard shingle, as the sand at the shoreline began to get covered by the sea, so I turned back.
It was again a lovely peaceful walk back, and an easy walk too along the flat sands.
Soon the beach began to turn back to shingle and pebbles as I neared the car park at Cley beach again.
Now I was back at the car park and there were other people here, though it was still now crowded.
In fact, the official coast path continued along the top of the beach on the shingle again I think. I didn’t fancy that, so I stuck to the beach nearer the shore, where I could still find some areas of sand.
It was only as I neared Salthouse that these began to end and instead I headed up the beach over the pebbles in the hope of finding firmer ground. I didn’t really find any firmer footing, but at least the extra height gave me views inland over the marshes and to the villages, too.
The last mile or so was hard going along the shingle. It was quite tiring but I supposed the rest of the walk had been pretty easy and flat so I couldn’t really complain too much!
Soon I had reached the car park at Salthouse and my waiting car.
It had been a lovely walk and a nice relaxing day. It was only a fairly short walk today, but I was pleased to have made it out to Blakeney Point and walked at least part way on this remote but beautiful little peninsula, rather than having missed it out. I had found the towns on the east coast of Norfolk to be run-down, but I was pleased to see that on this north coast, the towns and villages were very pretty and well kept too. I was very much enjoying the North Norfolk coast so far and looking forward to seeing more of it.
From Salthouse I then had the long drive back home. I made reasonable progress to and around Norwich. Then I followed the A11 to the M11. This was the problem. At the time, almost all of the A11 was dual carriageway. But not quite all. A section through Thetford Forest was only single carriageway. I expected to get held up here (it was a fine summer Sunday) and I wasn’t wrong. It took about 30 minutes in queuing traffic before I was onto the single-carriageway section. But bizarrely the traffic then didn’t really speed up, and it was stop start all the way over this section too. The recently replaced clutch on my Fiat Punto was already beginning to give me trouble, too (vibration and juddering). It was only when the road widened to dual-carriageway again that traffic began to flow again. It probably added an hour to my journey home. However I’d had a lovely long weekend on the Norfolk coast so it was a small price to pay really.
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 – Weybourne – Sheringham – Beeston Regis – West Runton – East Runton – Cromer. Every 30 minutes, seven days a week. It takes around 15 minutes between Salthouse and Blakeney.