Life is full of little discoveries, and my latest was the Norfolk coast. If you haven’t been before (I hadn’t) then it is terribly beautiful, rather wild, and, considering the huge volume of visitors that must pour down it in these hot summer months, surprisingly spacious.
Last week, Christian and I once more shouldered our packs and spent a day walking from Burnham Overy Staithe down to the village of Stiffkey, emerging quite early on from the dunes with their effusion of wildflowers onto the vast, flat expanse of Holkham Beach. The sun shone bright and warm, and the wind whipped little trails of fine dust along the wide sands as we crunched across thousands of empty razor clam shells.
I waded into the shallows and floated myself out gently on my back, the only sounds the splashing of the little wavelets and the calls of seabirds overhead. Aside from the small figure of Christian lounging on the beach with the rucksacks, a couple of girls galloping their ponies back and forth along the sands, and a distant family engrossed in the business of sandcastle construction, there was almost no-one in sight. Then two figures emerged from the dunes, walking slowly and deliberately down towards the water. As they marched closer, solidifying out of the heat haze, certain details became apparent. They were a couple, fairly advanced in years, and were completely naked apart from sunglasses and floppy white hats. The guidebook had warned of a reclusive naturist colony hidden in the dunes, but a close up encounter was most unexpected. The pair entered the water up to their waists and stood contemplating the horizon in silence, before turning round and making their way carefully out of the water and back up the beach.
Our way continued down past Wells-By-The-Sea and along a sunny, deserted path to Stiffkey. Should you ever find yourself walking the same route, you could do much worse than to overnight at High Sand Creek campsite. From your room (tent) with a view you can gaze out to sea across the colourful salt marshes, and you’re only a five minute walk from the pretty village of Stiffkey and an excellent pub seafood supper. Ours was the only tent there that had arrived on two legs, and quite a few of the pitches were taken up with trailer tents, sort of a cross between a big family tent and a caravan. I’d never seen one before, and our neighbours let me look round theirs. They were a friendly old couple from Grantham, and the fellow stood and chatted to me while Christian nipped into the village in search of after-sun and ice creams.
‘We used to walk this stretch with little tents like that. We did used to love our walking. Can’t do it these days of course. My leg’s full of metal, and my heart and lungs are both working at fifty per cent. That’s why we come on holiday here – it’s lovely and it’s flat. We can just about manage the walk over to Wells. Still got plenty of memories though. You’ve got to make the most of your health while you’ve got it.’