The morning arrived with an azure sky. From the bedroom window, we could see the reeds in the Cley Channel dance and bow; it might be bright, but it was also windy. Breakfast was excellent, once again featuring the crumbly, spicy black pudding. We bumped into the chef, and complemented him on what he had prepared for us, not only at breakfast but also on the previous evening. On discovering my predilection for black pudding, he told me that I could have had more! It seems that many customers ask for the black pudding to be “held” when ordering their breakfast; hence its incorporation into the previous evening’s menu!
Before heading seawards, we picked up sandwiches from The Smoke House, and bought Florentines from the deli. Our path initially took us through the grounds of Cley Mill before mounting the sea defence to the east of the Glaven. We were basically retracing our steps of the previous afternoon, albeit on the opposite bank of the river channel. To our right glinted the pools of the Cley Marshes Nature Reserve; established in 1926; it is one of England’s oldest.
On reaching the coast at Cley Beach, it is possible to turn left to walk the four miles to Blakeney Point and its seal colonies. But Cromer, and the end of our sojourn was calling.
We had four miles of walking along the coast to Weybourne Hope. The path took us along the top of the shingle bank, and we soon found out why this section was described as tiring! Each step involved extracting one’s foot from the yielding shingle. Fortunately it was low tide, and so we were able to drop down towards the sea, where the shingle was less deep, and the going was firmer underfoot. This meant that we lost the views over the marshes, but progress was much easier. Added to which, the strong wind was westerly, and was obligingly blowing us along! The North Sea was in its pomp; seething with white horses, racing towards the shore, spitting and roaring.
After coffee from the flask at Weybourne Hope, the terrain if not the direction of our walk altered quite suddenly. Our feet found solid earth, and we climbed up onto crumbly cliffs.
This cliff top course continued for the next 2-3 miles. As we approached the next settlement, Sheringham, we skirted a golf course, and climbed Skelding Hill, with its views over coast and county. As we dropped down towards Sheringham, we were confronted by one of those traditional seaside shelters built of metal and glass (the link above, “Sheringham” gives a great view of our shelter!). This one was painted vivid blue and white, and seemed purpose built for older folk to sit down, peel off their boots and ruefully regard their gnarled feet whilst eating their sandwiches. The smoked duck and smoked chicken proved to be a great success – belated thanks to The Cley Smokehouse!
Sitting on the leeward side of the shelter in the sun, taking in the pretty town and its beach below, it took us some time to find the resolve to put on our socks and boots and get going. Our path took us along the front at Sheringham, a small seaside town with a sandy beach held in place by groynes. I remember as a kid, going on holiday to The Hampshire Coast (Highcliffe-on-Sea), and finding groynes an aesthetic abomination. But now that I’m much older, they seem quite heroic; I suppose that anything that strains to retain the status quo, particularly when pitched against the vicarious forces of the sea, arouses admiration. On emerging from Sheringham, we had to huff and puff and do some serious climbing for the first time on the walk. Beeston Bump is only 207 feet high, but it rises sharply!
From the summit of the Bump, we could clearly see our destination in the form of the church tower at Cromer. Rather disappointingly, the intervening miles provided rather prosaic fare. On descending from the Bump, we crossed the Beeston Regis Caravan Park, with its signs promising dire consequences if we strayed from the coastal path.
Its regimented rows hardly encouraged the casual walker to explore. But at least this caravan park allowed walkers access to their land, albeit a narrow cliff-top strip. The coastal path had to veer inland just east of West Runton Beach, presumably because the caravan & camping sites denied access to ramblers. This brought us onto the busy A149 road, not helped by roadworks which made little provision for those of us on foot. But beyond the roadworks, at least there was a pavement, which took us through the village of East Runton. When the ugly holiday parks had been circumnavigated, we stayed on the A149, as our bolt hole for the night was on this Runton Road, on the west side of Cromer.
The Sandcliff proved to be a no-nonsense guesthouse; we were given a comfortable room, with a large window overlooking a bowling green with the North Sea beyond. A cuboid had been walled-off from one corner of the room; this accommodated a tiny shower room. This seems to be a common feature in guesthouses and B&Bs of a certain age; presumably, they had embraced the fashion for ensuite facilities, during the latter half of the last century, in the most expedient of manners.
We didn’t linger long at the guesthouse, as we felt the need to complete our long distance walk. A few hundred metres took us to Cromer Pier, the official end point of our walk: Peddars’ Way and Norfolk Coast Path – completed! Well….only partially true; since our trusty guidebook was published in 2011, the Norfolk Coast Path has been extended to Hopton-on-Sea, south of Great Yarmouth, and just north of the Norfolk/Suffolk border. But the guidebooks, as yet, have not caught up with this relatively new development. Trailblazer have not issued an edition since 2011; the latest edition of the National Trail Guide for this walk was published in August 2015…….and their route also finishes in Cromer!
Cromer was good enough for us, particularly this setting, with the much renovated pier thrusting fearlessly into the angry North Sea before us, and the grand but unfortunately scaffolding-clad Hotel de Paris behind. We walked along the pier, realising that such structures will always be precarious. We made the mistake of having a celebratory beer in the bar attached to the pier’s Pavilion Theatre, where flies circled frustratedly, unable to breech the saloon’s glass roof; and where a persistent drunk proved difficult to shake off.
We wandered from here into the town, and for the second day running encountered an enormous church – a reminder of the fact that this part of the world was once rich and influential; a time, presumably, when patrons were more than happy to have their piety and wealth on ostentatious display. It was late in the day, and we didn’t have time to climb the 160 foot steeple of St. Peter and St. Paul. Indeed we bumped into the lady and gentleman whose duty it was to lock up for the night; they happily spent time with us, pointing out the church’s interesting nooks and crannies, outlining its history, and how it was working hard for the community in the 21st century.
In the evening, we slipped next door for our meal. The Sandcliff stands cheek by jowl with the Cliftonville Hotel, which incorporates Bolton’s Bistro. As it was our last night away from home, we celebrated with crab and lobster served with lime, chilli, and ginger. We finished off with treacle tart. The service at the bistro was second to none. A great way to end our week in Norfolk.