Saturday, 22 January 2011

Cliffs and Beaches - Hunstanton, Norfolk

It was what seemed like the first bright winters day for ages, so I decided to go to Hunstanton for a walk.

I parked on the cliff road, put on my hat and gloves and set off. Walking along the grass here I come to a small formal garden with a nice wooden carving of a dog, which I'd not seen on my previous visits, although it looks like it's been here a while. This is just by the remains of St. Edmund's chapel, and I see that there is a quiet area the other side too - but it's too cold today to sit and contemplate I think! Moving on I come to the old lighthouse, and I wonder how it would be to live there - right on the cliffs edge, and amazing views from the tower over the Wash and back over Norfolk too I'm sure. Just along from this are a few "normal" houses, but I suspect they are too far back from the cliff edge to have a sea view. I do briefly look at the cafe here to see if they open, as would be a nice place to stop after my walk for a warming coffee - but they look like they are closed for the winter, which, I suppose, is only to be expected.

My aim is to get to the beach, so I set off at a brisk walk down the somewhat muddy path that leads down to the bottom of the cliff face. When I get to the ramp down to the sea, I spot that there is a walking route continuing up the other side of the cliff - this might well be a good walk to take another time, but right now I have my heart set on sand!

So I get to the beach - the tide is still a fair way out, but it's coming in, so I do need to keep an eye on that as I walk towards Hunstanton. The clifs here are an amazing sight - at the top white chalk, but this abruptly changes to red limestone - called "red chalk" around these parts. The stratification is amazing and quite outstanding.

Walking along the beach in the winter is different - I well remember being along this stretch of coast in the summer in shorts and tee shirt, and taking off my sandals to paddle on the water line and collect shells. Now I need my coat and thick walking boots, but these do make it difficult to walk on the soft sand, and I don't want to get them wet from the sea, so I try for a middle ground of hardish damp sand to walk on.

The cliffs here are home to a large number of birds, not only the seagulls one would expect, but I also spot some pigeons there. Further along I come to the wreck of a boat, and I recall hearing about before. It is the wreck of the "Sheraton" which started life as a trawler but was later moored on the other side of the Wash to be used as a target ship in the Second World War. But she broke free from her mooring in a gale and drifted on to the beach here - even after scrap dealers had most of the boast a section of the hull still remains here.

I am watching the tide come in as I approach the start of the Hunstanton promenade - should I go up there, or will I be safe on the beach for a while yet? I decide to walk along the beach - it is the reason I came here after all - and I start to climb over the groins that are now a feature of the beach. These are interesting, as they form a barrier against which the tide washes up flotsam. But what really gets my attention is one corner made by the sea wall and a groin, a flat piece of sand with innumerable mussel shells lying open, and looking to all the world like a collection of butterflies!

I decide it's time to get up onto the prom, so climb some steps which take me to an area where there are some beach huts all in a row. These are obviously being cleaned for the new season, and the doors are open - so I go look inside them! They have 4 beach chairs, a counter area with a pucket and a washing pail, and I see they also have an electric outlet - very mod-con-ish!

I continue on here, under the pier head (which does not have a pier) and then double back on myself to walk to my car. Rather than follow the road, I cut through the green and up to public gardens. I notice that the park benches here have, rather than the standard uprights, a serpent (or eel?) device holding the back and the seat in place - very cute.

Walking through the park I do see that the cafe here is open, but decide after all not to stop for a hot drink - my walk on the beach was not as cold as I had thought it might be.

And so back to the car, and drive home - a nice sunny winter's day walk in Norfolk.

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