Although I admit I am heavily biased.
|The dunes at Holkham|
Hunstanton to Brancaster - 9.5 milesI actually did this section last as my parents, who live at one end of the Peddars Way (the Roman road that links central East Anglia to the coast) did it solo when I wasn't there, so I went back and added it on at the end. This is the Western-most point of the road, and Hunstanton is (justly) proud of being the only West-facing town on it, and therefore the only place on this walk where you can watch the sun set over the sea. It's your typical seaside town, a bit tacky in places but I have very fond memories of the sea front and SeaLife Centre from my childhood. It's also remarkably quick to leave! The path stays off the beach, but if you head down onto the sand you get the better view back at the crumbling two-tone cliffs.
|The Lighthouse at Old Hunstanton|
On a clear day, which I had, you can see all the way across The Wash to the coast of Lincolnshire. You'll also walk past the remains of the trawler Sheraton, shipwrecked in 1947 by severe gales. It couldn't be re-floated and now only the ribs and part of the hull remain, encrusted with winkles and hiding crabs under the bow gunwales.
As you head away from civilisation, the beach suddenly broadens out into this.
These vast expanses of sand are always here, particularly huge when the tide is out, often empty apart from other walkers and their dogs, or mussel pickers from local restaurants. Otherwise it feels like a desert, not a great habitat for people but you'll see quite a lot of red-stockinged Oystercatchers scurrying back and forth near the surf. This beautiful aloneness is one of my favourite things about the Norfolk coast.
As you get near to Holme-next-the-Sea, the lowest point on this very flat journey, you'll come into sand dunes and then the saltmarshes that form the sea defences, a weird liminal space between the beach and the villages. Boats are moored here, hitch up to old sun-bleached posts and languishing in the quick-mud until the tile comes back in again and their owners can take them out to sea. The path goes over the ridge of the dunes and turns into duckboards, and then a sturdy dirt path on the top of the earth defenses to take you back inland towards Thornham.
|The Thornham dunes|
|Thornham is that way!|
At Thornham the path swoops back inland for a bit, to dodge the A-road, and drops you back on the coast at Brancaster.
Brancaster to Holkham- 8 milesThe family walking group assembled for this bit, and we did a couple of legs together in May 2016.
Leaving Brancaster, the path hugs the edge of the saltmarshes for a bit and then kicks out dramatically in a sort of square peninsula that takes you far away from the houses and into the middle of nowhere, with saltmarshes on one side and fields to the other as you walk along the top of the sea defense, and then brings you back again. It was really windy on this particular day and there's nothing at all to hide behind out here. We got a bit wind-battered between Brancaster and Burnham!
|Emma, Mum and Dad, with the farmland on the left, and salt marshes on the right as we head back inland.|
|Stranded boats on the saltmarshes|
After passing the Burnhams (Deepdale, Norton and Overy Staithe) the path leaves the ploughed fields entirely and heads of towards the sea as you arrive in the Holkham Nature Reserve. The weather brightened up a bit too, which was nice as we were coming to one of my favourite places.
|Leaving the farmland and heading into the dunes at between Brancaster and Holkham|
|Holkham beach - one of my favourite places.|
There's a stately home at Holkham, and a car park for beach access, but no coastal village, facilities or entertainment here. There are no shops, no chippies, and no arcades. There is just the beach, and it is huge. It can easily take you a good half hour to reach the sea when the tide is low, but of course that means it's never crowded and I always love coming here (and inevitably end up swimming, regardless of whether I planned to or not). I've written about Holkham before and it's still my favourite beach. Emma and I, for some reason, decided we wanted to jog along it, despite the fact that I was in bare feet at the time, poking about in pools like I usually do, and the parents were almost out of sight before we decided we'd better stop! At Holkham we headed up the beach to Holkham Hall, where you can find food, drinks and, most importantly, the bus stop that took us back to our accommodation at Blakeney.
|On a sunnier day!|