Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path
Start 21/12/2019 Hopton-on-Sea
Finish 28/12/2019 Knettishall Heath Country Park
The start and finish points of this walk are relatively close to each other, so it made sense to drive to Norfolk. When researching the trip, I discovered a campsite that permitted walkers to leave their vehicles on the grounds for the duration. It was closed down for the winter, but I found an alternative, Norfolk Storage Solutions in Wymondham. After parking at the indoor facility, and with peace of mind, I caught a train to Lowestoft via Norwich, and headed to Lowestoft Ness, the eastern point of the British mainland. It had been over fifteen and a half years since I was last here, at the beginning of the island limits challenge, and after brief reminiscing and photograph taking, I walked away again, this time northward along the coast. By the time I reached the start of the Norfolk Coast Path about four miles later, the clouds had disappeared and the warming rays from the sun were welcomed. The first few miles from Hopton were pleasant, along the beach and dunes to Gorleston promenade, where begins a long stretch of concrete, that continued to the end of the day, and into the morning, until the outskirts of Great Yarmouth.
An overcast sky persisted on the second day, but I would experience the highlight of the entire walk. The concrete under foot turned to softer ground, through sand dunes and along the beach to Winterton. After a coffee break, the path headed into the dunes once again, offering an elevated view of a most amazing sight. Between late October and early February female seals come ashore to give birth to their pups. Over three thousand seals were along this part of coast, the colony stretching for miles. Mothers weaning their young were on the beach, and older pups, now fending for themselves, were occupying the dunes, waiting for fluffy white fur to be replaced with a grey waterproof layer. Posturing bulls were ever present. Waiting for the cows.
The trail stayed close to the spectacle the following morning, before the ground began to rise to the cliff tops that are crumbling away into the sea. The elevated views continue around this corner of the coast, then give way to flat salt marshes as the path approaches The Wash estuary. The North Norfolk Coast is an SSSI with a variety of habitats for a wide range of species. There are also many reminders of the industrial past of the area as one passes through sleepy backwater harbours, with silhouettes of windmills and church towers breaking the inland horizon. It was a peaceful couple of days broken by the crowds at Holme, and then Hunstanton where the coast path terminates.
Retracing my steps for a couple of miles, I returned to the point where the Peddars Way meets the Norfolk Coast Path, and headed south. The trail mostly follows the course of a Roman road, so navigation is straightforward! I managed a few miles to Ringstead, stopping to sample more local ale, before finding a suitable spot to wild camp as the last of the daylight disappeared. For the final two days, the route passed open fields, many pig farms and a military firing range. I spotted deer, hares and rabbits, as well as birds that live in these parts. The path ends at Knettishall Heath Country Park in Suffolk, linking with other routes familiar to me. For now though, I'm putting my feet up for a while.
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