Saturday, October 23, 2010

Walking along the flinty Norfolk coast

Carcass of an old boat along
the Blakeney Marsh walking path.
“It’s a beautiful day... I’ll take you up to the Norfolk coast!”

Katharine’s cousin always seems to know just the kind of place to take us in any weather, so we were happy to get our gear together and head north for a day of hiking.

Blakeney is nominally on the North Sea coast, but a large marshland separates it from the salt water. A footpath along the dykes in the marsh leads out to the windy shoreline in low tides, but also forms part of the extensive coastal walking trail system. Although sunny, the wind made us choose to stay inland—and the lure of a pub lunch in nearby Cley Next the Sea became our destination.

Old windmill at Cley Next the Sea, Norfolk.
IMG_0039Like much of eastern England, the fields in Norfolk contain a lot of flint, a hard stony type of quartz. No doubt farmers have cursed this component of their fields for centuries, but they don’t waste it either. As we walked back to Blakeney we observed flint being used in sidewalk pavers, as walls to define properties—and most dramatically, as part of the exterior cladding on buildings.

It seemed a shame to be so close to the North Sea without actually seeing it, so we drove west to Wells-next-the-Sea.

PA220299A large sand dune shelters a summer holiday park from the sea winds. A short walk over the dune leads to a long sandy beach with dozens of tiny holiday cabins tucked into the steep dune. The harbour here is a staging area for a huge wind farm several kilometres offshore, and signs warn beach strollers about the deep dredged channels and sudden tides.

As the sun neared the horizon, the tide was coming in and the ever-present wind prompted us to head back to the car. As we drove south through rolling hills along the route of an old Roman road, we agreed that a walk along the Norfolk coast should be added to our list of things to do...
Flying kites on the beach in the late afternoon at Wells-next-the-sea, Norfolk.