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Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Norfolk Coast Path Stiffkey to Cromer

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I left my B&B at Arch House full of a full English breakfast – the works, basically. And I wobbled across to the bus stop, which wasn’t very far at all, and waited for the Coasthopper bus back to Stiffkey. The Coasthopper is a very useful bus service for Norfolk Coastal Path walkers and runs a regular service – till just about tea-time all along the route of the walk. So, in theory, a walker tired of the logistics of booking beds and carrying all those spare underpants, could actually just stay in one place and get the bus to wherever he or she finished the day before. I had no such issues, having had all the beds arranged for me by Penny at Madasamarchhare.
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The path from Stiffkey continues in the same vein as before – alongside the huge marshy wilderness still on the left hand side. (Note that if the marshy wilderness is on the right, you’re heading towards King’s Lynn and not Cromer. Just sayin’)
Then, after a few inlets and stuff (coastal technical talk here), it goes along a sea-wall to Blakeney, where it’s much too early for the pub, and then Cley, with it’s windmill, via a Long Way Round out along one inlet and back along another. More easy walking on the sea wall follows until the Cley beach car park with the tilted-up car parking hut.
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The parking attendant inside did say that he was all-right, although he had spilt his tea and worried about his chocolate digestive which seemed to have been damaged in the crash. I sheltered from the nithering wind in the anti-nithering wind shelter they have there. Lots of bird-watchers, for the car park was heavily populated by twitchers,  wondered where my binoculars were.
But there was trouble ahead.
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I hit the beach. Its not really a beach, its more of a very extended pile of gravel just like they have in bags at B&Q. It goes on interminably, but specially beautifully for mile after mile, testing the legs and the patience as the increasingly exhausted rambler wanders around looking for a firm bit. It’s a futile search, though and the only tactic is just to get on with it whilst enjoying many rests to watch the waves crashing on the beach and the seals pointing and laughing at the penguin-like hikers struggling along whilst exclaiming  both rude words and blasphemy in the same sentences.
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And then, there’s a little hill. A beautiful little hill with firmness underfoot. Gramborough hill has sweet short grass on which to lie about for a bit whilst scoffing a pasty from the shop in Wells. Then, there’s artillery – yes folks, just in case the vikings come back. The guns are pointed out to sea. I suspect it’s part of the muckleborough collection  a military hardware museum. If I’d had more time, or had I known about this beforehand, I would probably have stayed for a visit. But time was pressing and daylight would be short today.
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I pressed on into the contours and the coast gained a set of small, clay cliffs. And it started raining again as the path heads through fields and small, rolling hills, and a little, steeper one just before Sheringham – the diminutive, but beautiful Skelding Hill, all of 45 metres.
This is roughly where it went dark. I could have stopped here and used the Coasthopper bus in the morning to retrace to Sheringham. I could have had tea and a bun. I could have had a pint. But I didn’t. I pressed on so to bag Beeston Bump in the dark. This was a shame, really. Beeston Bump is a wonderful hill. Apparently, it has a huge array of wild flowers, is important for birds, had a WW2 “Y” station on the top and is a bit of peri-glacial morphology known as a “kame”, which is basically a moraine. And it has a superb view as well, even in the dark. Sheringham ought to make a lot more out of Beeston Bump. I mean, it’s not rich in hills in the first place.
No pictures because it was dark.
I staggered on, down to the main road and into West Runton where my final B&B of the trip had been arranged for me. Another plush one – Corner House in West Runton, much more of which in the next part. And they’re dog friendly too, dammit!
The Village Inn provided dinner and this was remarkably good too, and so was the little bottle of plonk I got from the village shop.
I’d done 17 miles and 700 feet of upness.
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The night was stormy a boded well for an exciting finish to the walk. I’d hoped for some interesting weather and it looked like I’d got it. The morning windows rattled to slashing rain and, was that sleet..? And I was warned by Shaun, one of the owners, not to go on the cliffs because the storm was dangerous. But the coast path goes inland today, so all was safe (ish).
I needed a smaller breakfast today, specially with the words of my cardiac nurse concerning my excess cholesterol-swamped wobbly bits echoing through my conscience so it was with lighter feet and an ability to tie my boot laces AND breathe at the same time, I headed up Beacon Hill, at 105 metres, the highest point in Norfolkshire and deep in the woods. A passing 4x4 driver advised me not to stand under any trees (!). Good advice, I think, since the wind was roaring through the trees and there were sinister and unnerving cracking noises going on. But the woods were sheltered from the worst excesses of the storm and I marched on happily.
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I decided to visit another local hill – Incleborough – mainly because it sounded a bit like “Ingleborough”. It was a bit off-route and turned out to be a lovely little hillock sporting a patchy covering of gorse and a summit on which it was impossible to stand up to admire the view. Note that there are very few pictures of the last day because they’re all blurred due to the battering I was getting.
The summit gorse, though, gave me a  cosy and sheltered spot out of the wind and rain and I actually dozed off for half an hour during which I was visited by Kylie , but as she was with Jason, I woke up. The rest of the walk into Cromer was fast and wind-assisted with a slight backward-leaning gait. And, there it ended, just near the pier. Huge waves were battering the sea-front and the gaps between buildings held localised hurricanes. There were damaged brollies on the streets. In celebration I had tea and cake in a cafe.
For those who’s coastal walking ambitions aren’t fulfilled by three and a half days on the Norfolk Coast Path, there’s an extension, labelled “England Coast Path” which carries on from Cromer to Sea Palling.
The final stretch had been 6 miles and 500 feet of ascent.
The whole journey from Hunstanton to Cromer was 51 miles and 2100 feet of climbing. (Not very much for 51 miles!)
More info on visiting North Norfolk here 
Next post: What I thought about the Norfolk Coast Path, a few planning notes and all kinds of other thoughts and, well,  stuff.


Louise said...

I don't know Norfolk very well, although I've been on a boat on the Broads twice and stayed at Clipsby twice, which I think is Norfolk? I know bits of Suffolk much better, go to Suffolk.
I bet poor Lucky missed you.

Alan Sloman said...

I'm enjoying your foray to the South Lands.
It's good to see you've not given up the peak bagging entirely.
That would be weird.

John J said...

Ah yes, Norfolk and good.

Re: The 'Y' Station on Beeston Hump, 'the highest piece of cliff in the neighbourhood'. I'm just reading 'The Secret Listeners' by Sinclair McKay, its all about the secret wireless ('Y' stations) monitoring stations in t'war.

Fascinating it is. Page 228 if yerinterested, and you will be because it's really interesting.

Dawn Linney said...

Lovely stuff Mike. You certainly got some pretty awesome photos. It is a different sort of walking in many ways but it does not detract from being a really nice route.

John J said...

A lot of folk don't consider Norfolk & Suffolk worth visiting because of it's flatness. That's a real shame, it's a lovely part of the country - low rainfall too!

Mike Knipe said...

Louise - I don't know Norfolk very well
Alan - They get Look North on the telly here, so, is it really the Southlands, or is this some kind of Northern cultural imperialism. I did note that the Village Inn at West Runton does a fantastic, and probably Northern Steak and Kidney Pudding. Literally, quite literally, according to my cardiac nurse, to die for.
JJ - I'll have a look - And Y not? No low rainfall when I was there. Unless it was the Norfolk Monsoon. (It always rained from 3:00 pm)

christine hindle said...

I kind of fell in love with Norfolk when Dixie and I did the Peddars Way. We'd never been before, it was pretty flat, but it had magnificent character and far ranging views, and totally got under my skin.

Anonymous said...

A wonderfully tempting description with excellent illustrations.

Meanqueen said...

I didn't do the shingle beach, I had been warned about it beforehand. I found one or two of the long straight stretches a bit of a drag, ok if you are a bird watcher.