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Sunday, 29 November 2015

Norfolk Coast Path–Observations and Stuff Like That There


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Sooo, what did I make of the Norfolk Coast Path?
Firstly, it’s mainly very easy. If you only have a few days to spare and/or you’d like to try out a long distance path, then the Norfolk Coast Path would be excellent as a starter, specially if you have a dog. In the 51 miles of walking I did, there was only 2000 feet of uphill work to do. This is roughly the same as, say, a ten mile walk up a Yorkshire Dales Nuttal. So, 2000 feet is Not Much. In other words, it’s mainly flat. So, apart from the huge shingle beach at Cley and some soft sandy beaches, the walking is very easy. And it’s well waymarked and signposted, so it’s not hard to navigate.
Then there’s a large number of pubs, cafes , tea rooms and so on along the route (although many are closed in November!) and there’s no shortage of accommodation. There’s also camp-sites and a couple of bunkhouses on the route. Wild camping would have to be discreet although quite easy to arrange in winter, apart from a distinct lack of potable water, which would be an issue.
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Norfolk, it seems, is a very “doggy” county. The population of canines seems high, and there are huge numbers of dogs and dog-walkers all along the coast. In some places, specially popular bathing beaches, there’s are summertime dog bans, though, as you might expect.
The people are also pretty friendly and ready to chat and offer advice or help. It’s a cultural thing. It’s not quite on North-East England levels where, in some places , it can be hard to make progress due to the willingness of complete strangers to partake in long conversations with each other. It does make for a relaxing walk, though.
And I was hoping for some wildish weather, suspecting that I might be bored by a lack of contours. I wasn;t bored, though, and I got the wild weather on the very last day. Very wild weather, in fact.
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The Coasthopper Bus is potentially an important asset when the walker is organising the logistics of the walk. It’s a frequent service up to tea-time and makes it possible to be flexible about how far you walk each day. I found parts of the path so easy that I walked further than I’d planned and the Coasthopper allowed me to get transport back to my B&B’s. Equally, had I been struggling, it would have let me shorten a day and return to wherever I’d abandoned it the next day. So that’s good. It would be possible to stay in one place, say, in a holiday cottage, and use the bus to get to and from the walk each day, too.
Finally, I should mention the places I stayed during my walk, specially since they all contributed the bed-nights and are allowed to expect a plug. I have no difficulty in recommending these places since they were all top-class, each providing a thoughtful and friendly refuge each night, and enough fuel in the morning for at least half a day’s walking.
The jaunt was arranged by Penny of madasamarchhare, a Social Media/PR company working for visit north norfolk  She must have had a time persuading the B&Bs to put up the lardy beardy tramp….and his dog (although, in the end, the dog stayed home)
I stayed at these places – click the link to have a look at their websites.
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Briarfields Hotel Titchwell. I arrived off the Coasthopper bus from Hunstanton and was lead to a plush double room in a courtyard. Briarfields expected me to have my dog with me and provided a dog-welcome pack which included a big dog towel, chewstick treats and poo bags – all in a bag, plus advice on where to exercise the pooch. Quite a nice touch, I think. Dinner was smoked haddock rissoto and breakfast was the Full English. This fuelled me all the way from Hunstanton, almost to Brancaster. In the morning, I would have caught the Coasthopper back to Hunstanton, but the owner gave me a lift.  As well as coastal walkers, Briarfields seems to be highly popular with birdwatchers, being very handy for the nearby RSPB reserve  http://www.briarfieldshotelnorfolk.co.uk/
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On the Wednesday night, I turned up at the White Horse at Brancaster Staithe. My room was another plush twin room adjacent to the main hotel and, literally, just a few steps from the coast path.  This is also doggy-friendly and designed to cope with very mucky dogs – important when the dog-walking is substantially on some very muddy marshes. I had dinner (steak and ale pie) at the Jolly Sailors pub just up the road (you need a headlight to find this in the dark!). Pamela, who had agreed to put me up, was keen to provide me with loads of information about the White Horse – they’re very proud of their menus, y’see.
As a break from the Full English brekkies, I took advantage of this and had a smoked haddock eggs benedict on spinach in a toasted muffin. See…? That’s breakfast with style, I think. This fuelled me for at least ten of the next seventeen miles!
The coasthopper bus also passes the front door of the White Horse by the way.
http://www.whitehorsebrancaster.co.uk/
http://www.jollysailorsbrancaster.co.uk/
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On Thursday, Kate Bonham of the Arch House in Wells-Next-The-Sea had agreed to let me stay. This is a B&B, rather than a hotel and my double room was in a quiet courtyard at the back of the house. I decided that Fish and Chips would be an ideal evening scoff (at the seaside, after all) and these were cracking.
I’d walked through Wells as far as Stiffkey – about 3 miles East, since I was going well and the next day was to be a long one. The Coasthopper bus took me back to Wells and put me down almost on the doorstep of the Arch House, and this was really handy for returning to Stiffkey in the morning.
I spent most of the evening lazing with the telly and a bottle of plonk.
In the morning, I was back to a whopping Full English and a chat with Kate.
http://www.archhouse.co.uk/
http://www.frenchs.co.uk/ (Fish and Chips!)
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Having used my bus pass to return to Stiffkey, and staggering under the breakfast (don’t mention this to my cardiac nurse by the way), I plodded on to Sheringham, and then West Runton where Daron and Shaun at the Corner House gave me a warm welcome and showed me to the plushest of the plush rooms so far – The Cromer.
Daron and Shaun seem to do everything with a certain element of style, offering tea on arrival and a carafe of sherry in the room. The room was spectacular and the bathroom in particular was the most impressive I’ve seen anywhere.  I wandered over to the Village Inn for dinner and had a steak and kidney pudding which would have made my granny jealous and a bread and butter pudding to really ram home the calories. This was all so good and such fantastic walking-stodge of the finest quality that I had to refuse the full English the next morning (I detected some disappointment here from Shaun) and just had bacon, egg and tomato – nicely cooked by Daron. This was good, though and I got to Cromer the next morning in a lively atlantic storm without eating any of my lunch!
http://www.cornerhousewestrunton.co.uk/
http://www.villageinnwestrunton.com/ (steak and kidney pud)
Finally, for those planning to walk the walk, the National Trails website is very handy…
http://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/peddars-way-and-norfolk-coast-path
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5 comments:

Dawn Linney said...

Looks like you had a fantastic time Mike. You were certainly well looked after.

Alan Sloman said...

A fabulous gig, Sir!
Each of those overnight stops look brilliant. I might have been tempted to take the bus between each of them, after scrummy breakfasts, with a great supper to look forward to...
:-)

christine hindle said...

I certainly still fancy doing it. When James and I were thinking about it a few years back, we were going to camp somewhere near the start (can't remember where) and then use the coasthopper bus to ferry us back and forth each evening and morning. It all sounded very civilised and organised!

John J said...

Hmm, nice!
A lot of folk poo-poo Norfolk 'cos of it's lack of contours but I like it.
My only criticism of the area was the lack of proper beer, but it's been a while since I last visited and things may well have improved.

Mike Knipe said...

Dawn - It were grand. Not brill for the wild camaping, though - althpough beach bivis in summer would work..
Alan - That's wot I thought. It makes a lot of sense to stay in one place.
Chrissie: just get on with it! No more of this arctic stuff where it's too hot in summer and there's midgies... You could have a paddle and enjoy the breeze drifting over from Denmark. And take some dogs with you... Just sayin'
JJ - There was a lot of craft beer available, some of it quite nice, other stuff... well, it's craft beer innit... some of it smells of cow muck, frankly - I don't understand why peeps drink it like that... I had a nice dark mild in the Village Inn in West Runton and the beer at the Jolly Sailors was propah stuff...