Exploring England – Norfolk Beaches

Back during the depths of lockdown, in line with the guidance at the time, we decided to make use of the good weather and head from Cambridgeshire to the Norfolk coast and spend a socially distanced day by the seaside. Deciding to visit a couple of beaches recommended to us by friends, we set off early, heading first to the eastern coast of the Wash and the village of Snettisham.

The view of Snettisham beach and The Wash from the Dunes

Snettisham is about two thirds of the way from King’s Lynn to Hunstanton, about five miles south of the latter, with the beach about two miles west of the village. It was a rather windy day on the Norfolk coast, however as the sun was shining the beach close to the car park was fairly busy. However, after walking just a few minutes down the beach, we found it was pretty much deserted and for most of our walk we only saw a handful of other people.

At the back of the beach, a line of dunes protects this part of Norfolk from the sea and we opted to walk back along the top of these to see how the view differed. Having to walk slightly further north than planned to climb up to them, due to nesting birds along one part, as we reached the top we were surprised to find an oasis of greenery around a lake sitting right behind the line of dunes.

The lake and greenery behind the dunes at Snettisham

The stunning scenery around the lake was definitely a bonus and being able to see both it and the sea views from the top of the dunes meant a lovely walk back south towards the car. Due to the tidal range in the wash, the sea was quite far out and we’d arrived pretty much at low tide meaning it wouldn’t be coming back for a while. Cutting our loses in terms of the sea but having thoroughly enjoyed the walk and views, we decided to head up to Hunstanton for an early lunch before continuing to the north Norfolk coast and Holkham.

Hunstanton is the popular town on this side of the wash, similar to Skegness in Lincolnshire, and, as expected, was much busier than Snettisham. Deciding to try and avoid the crowds as much as possible, we purchased our fish and chips (admittedly from Hunstanton’s number 1 chippy, Fishers of Hunstanton) and found a quiet spot on the North Promenade to sit and eat. The fish and chips were absolutely delicious, so if you’re in Hunstanton I’d definitely recommend Fishers.

The seafront at Hunstanton

After finishing our lunch, and of course having an ice-cream, we continued up to the north coast of the county and the fabulous beach at Holkham. The parish of Holkham includes the beach at Holkham Gap, the major stately home of Holkham Hall and its surrounding estate, all of which lie within the Holkham National Nature Reserve (NNR). This area of Norfolk is stunning and the NNR sits within the larger North Norfolk Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which itself sits within the Norfolk Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Walking from the car park to the sea you pass through/over all of the NNR’s different types of ecosystem. From the towering pines to the tidal foreshore and salt marsh via pasture and dunes, the NNR really does have a stunning mix of wildlife and nature. With the tide out, it was quite a walk to the sea, but that gave us amble time to admire the scenery and explore some of the features of the landscape

The beach at Holkham just seems to go on and on

One thing that was certain at Holkham was there was plenty of space for social distancing given the beach runs for miles and miles from Wells-next-the-Sea to Burnham Overy Staithe. The beach is absolutely stunning, stretching beyond the horizon, and we spent an hour or so enjoying the sun and sea before working our way back across the foreshore to the pines.

What is clear is that, even after only seeing a small part of it, Holkham is definitely worth a visit and I hope to spend a full day exploring the hall and estate, all of which falls within the SSSI. If you want to head to Holkham, the best method is to head there by car, however there is some public transport to the Village, with buses from King’s Lynn and Hunstanton stopping at the top of the road to the beach.

The varying types of ecosystem at Holkham

Hopefully this blog has given you an insight to some of the stunning Norfolk coastline. If you want to visit the places I’ve mentioned or other places on the coast, your best bet is to head to King’s Lynn and then work your way around. If you’re heading for places further west, trains run from Norwich to Cromer and Sheringham on the north coast as well as Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft on the eastern coast.

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