Remembering Nelson and Walking The Wash
After our snow-enforced stop, I rejoined the walk at Sheringham, a small seaside town whose origins stemmed from fishing. Today, it boasts two railway stations, one of which is the North Norfolk Steam Railway, also known as the Poppy Line. It was exhilarating to pound across the town’s golf course, high on the cliffs, looking up the coast towards Hunstanton.
However, those feelings of excitement were short-lived. It wasn’t long before I encountered vast shingle banks. With no way of avoiding them, I plodded on for what seemed an eternity, putting one foot in front of the other. By now the Peddars Way had joined up with the Norfolk Coast Path and I was led past Salthouse Marshes into Cley-Next-the-Sea to see its marvellous early 19th century windmill. Today it’s one of the top places to wine, dine and stay.
The route towards Wells-Next-the-Sea bordered large salt marsh areas, all of which form part of a National Nature Reserve. People festooned with powerful binoculars and carrying vast tripods and cameras were a regular feature of each day. Sand dune walking followed ‘Wells’, before many more miles of marshland. Around Brancaster Bay, the miles of sand stretching out to sea looked as good as the Canaries, but the temperature told me otherwise.
Before completing the leg into Hunstanton, famed for its striped cliffs and westerly views over The Wash, I took the opportunity to visit Burnham Thorpe, birthplace of Admiral Lord Nelson. Although the parsonage where he lived was demolished, the church of All Saints where Nelson’s father was rector still stands. The village is incredibly proud of its association with Nelson and the church is well worth a visit.
While at Hunstanton I looked across The Wash and observed the disappearing coastline heading due north. Neither my eyes nor feet liked what they saw! Until 1969 Hunstanton had a railway linking it with King’s Lynn. As the coast offered no official right of way after Snettisham, I made use of some sections of the old trackbed, to get me closer to ‘Lynn’, as the locals call it. I passed through some peaceful wooded areas, finding myself in Wolferton, once home to Sandringham’s Royal railway station. Today, the properties are in private ownership but all have been authentically preserved.
More private estate walking followed before I once again joined the old rail link that took me into the centre of King’s Lynn. That night was a first for us – we slept in the car park at Morrisons and weren’t required to put a £1 coin in a trolley! Next morning, I joined the (Sir) Peter Scott way, out along the River Great Ouse and towards The Wash where King John is said to have lost some of his crown jewels in 1216.
This major geographical feature is made up of acres of marshland, mudflats and sand that reach miles out to sea. Here lies a vast National Nature Reserve which is fed by the Rivers Nene, Welland and Haven, all of which I’ll walk up and down. On one of my walking days, in complete solitude, I crossed into Lincolnshire.
Adjacent to the Nature Reserve is Holbeach Range, an area of 10,000 acres of marshland used as an air to ground weapons training facility. Red flags fluttered the day I walked through, but I remembered not to cross the raised grassy sea bank. I wasn’t going to allow the RAF to ‘get’ the Royal Navy – and they didn’t!