Burnham Overy Staithe, North Norfolk
The north Norfolk coast is an absolute gem....big skies, bracing clear sea breezes, magnificent flat wide beaches bordered by enormous sand dunes and salt marshes with forests of pine trees that give off the most potent scent on warm dry days.....and north Norfolk, far removed from prevailing Atlantic winds, seems to have it's fair share of long warm summer days!
I'll be honest I wasn't hugely enthusiastic, to say the least, when my husband announced that he wanted to take our young kids there for a summer holiday. "The North Sea coast? I don't think so!!"...but fortunately he persevered and beguiled me with stories of drop-dead pretty villages, cottage gardens brimming with foxgloves, roses, hollyhocks and lavender bushes. And add in those perfect picture postcard coastal villages set in 1950s 'Dads Army' settings. Of course he was absolutely on the button....it was truly fabulous and I fell in love with the place. So much so that we've returned every year for the past 21 years!
You can walk to your heart's content - shoreside paths, open beaches, forest walks and the North Norfolk Coastal Pathway that will skirt round windmills, bird and seal sanctuaries through those pretty villages and past creeks and harbours.
This walk starts at Burnham Overy Staithe and ends at Wells-next-the-Sea - an easy flat 7 mile walk following the North Norfolk Coast Path. Start in the marsh side car park in Burnham Overy Staithe and follow the path that runs along the top of the water-break on the eastern side of the River Burn creek. Depending upon the state of the tide you will see people wading through the water or sailing and kayaking out towards the sea and the Scolt Head Island and Nature Reserve. Follow the pathway heading out towards the dunes with a water meadow on your right hand side.
Here the fields are grazed but plenty of wading birds can be seen including Oystercatcher, Curlew and in winter Golden Plover - this is a twitchers' paradise! Keep following the pathway past enormous patches of sea lavender and soon you'l reach the sand dunes which separate the creek and marsh hinterland from the beach.
You will reach a section of board walk which will lead you up into the sand dunes. Here you can walk west toward Gun Hill - massive sand dunes to sit amongst and hide from Northerly winds in the autumn and winter. If you choose not to follow the beach you can stick to the pathway land-side of the dunes, turn east and this will take you towards the Holkham National Nature Reserve and its vast pine woodlands.
To follow the rest of this walk turn east and follow the beach and sea's edge towards Holham Bay. Now you're in the land of huge skies, sea breazes and tidal flows. When the tide is out it's way, way out and when it comes in you need to be aware and make sure you're not walking along a sand bar as you can easily get cut off without noticing.
2 miles on you will reach Holkham Gap where you can access Holkham village via Lady Anne's Drive. The beach here is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and perfect to collect shells, fly a kite or build a sand castle. Keep walking east following the sea edge and you'll soon reach Wells-next-the-Sea estuary and harbour. Look out for the pretty brightly painted 'photo opportunity' beach huts then you'll spot the Beach Cafe and Wells Lifeboat Station!
Now turn inland and follow the pathway along the side of the quay towards the town of Wells-Next-the-Sea. You're almost there...look out for the Wells Harbour Railway - 4 steam and diesel trains (Edmund, Densil, Howard and Weasel) operate on a 10¼" gauge railway track and run approximately every 15 minutes between the town and Pinewoods Holiday Park and beach in the summer.
We stayed in at the recently opened The Quay - a boutique B & B located in a Grade II building right on the quayside in Wells-Next-the-Sea Quay - an active fishing port. Children fish for crabs from the edge of the quay, you can buy cockles and crab sticks from the fish stall and watch the fishing boats come and go. The recently renovated Globe Inn with outdoor courtyard seating area overlooks the Buttlands above the town - a pretty grassy Georgian square for drinks, lunch and evening meals. theglobeatwells.co.uk