Monday, September 29, 2003

Walk 88 -- Horsey Gap to Walcott Gap

Ages: Colin was 61 years and 144 days. Rosemary was 58 years and 286 days.
Weather: Warm and sunny – a real contrast to yesterday!
Location: Horsey Gap to Walcott Gap.
Distance: 8½ miles.
Total distance: 662 miles.
Terrain: Along the beach on firmish sand and an occasional bit of concrete platform.
Tide: Out.
Rivers to cross: None.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: None.
Pubs: None.
‘English Heritage’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We drove – with bikes on the back of the car – from Isleham to Walcott where we parked just off the road by the sea wall. It was a beautiful day, and people walking by were friendly and chatty. We also saw a tall ship sailing by on the horizon.We cycled to the caravan site at Horsey Gap on back roads with minimal traffic, so we both enjoyed it enormously – unlike yesterday. We chained our bikes to a post and walked over the dunes to the beach.
At the end, it was so nice to walk off the beach to the car which was just there. We had tea and biscuits, then drove back to the caravan site to pick up the bikes. Just as he lifted them to put on the rack, Colin’s catheter split again! Fortunately there was a toilet block nearby. Eventually we drove back to Isleham in the dark.

What a difference a day makes! Today the sky was blue, it was sunny and warm, the tide was out and the beaches were stunningly beautiful. We were different people! We decided to put yesterday behind us and concentrate on the moment, and we both enjoyed today’s Walk enormously. We climbed up on to the dunes at Horsey Gap, and down on to the wide firm sand. It was good to be alive! It was great to be walking along a huge open space watching the sun catching in the surf.
We were watching the birds. We came across a young guillemot sitting on the sand, and it didn’t seem bothered about us getting close. We think it was distressed, but it didn’t seem to be injured in any way. It could fly, but was reluctant to do so. Perhaps it was just tired. We also saw oystercatchers, ringed plovers and a kestrel.
After a couple of miles the dunes ended. We came to the first of nine artificial rock islands which have been constructed at low water mark in a bid to stem coastal erosion around Sea Palling. This one-street village suffered terribly in the floods of 1953. I remember watching a documentary on TV about it – a man related how he was a teenager at the time and had gone to Norwich for a job interview. He came home in the dark on the last bus, but the driver couldn’t get down into the village because of the water. The weather was so wild the boy was advised not to go any further on foot, so he spent the night at the bus driver’s house. The next morning he walked down to where his home had been – and there was nothing! Not a brick of his house remained, and it was never found, nor the bodies of his parents and sister. Fifty years later he still couldn’t believe how his whole life disappeared in one night like that, and he broke down in tears.The effect the rock islands seem to have had is to give a ‘scalloped’ edge to the sand! I hope they have been effective in stemming the floods. We sat down on the edge of one of them and ate our lunch. We seemed to take a long time to pass them (we didn’t call in at Sea Palling) but then they did stretch for two miles. After that, we were walking along the bottom of soft cliffs. Fortunately the tide was out, otherwise I think we would have had difficulty getting along. Wooden groynes had been constructed parallel to the shore, but how effective these are in holding on to the sand I don’t know. We walked between them and the cliffs because it was easier.As we approached the hamlet of Happisburgh (pronounced ‘Hayesboro’) we began to come across parts of buildings embedded in the sand. We even found a Second World War ‘pillbox’ which was completely upsidedown! We saw a lot of houses very close to the edge of these soft cliffs, and felt sorry for the owners. In one place we saw a garden shed with one corner actually over the edge of the cliff! The way the fences were placed, these people had obviously lost most of their garden. One man – whose house was very near the edge – was hammering loudly. We wondered if he was attempting to nail the cliff together! (Colin wickedly suggested that perhaps he was nailing up a ‘For Sale’ notice!)
We were walking between the cliffs and the parallel groynes (fortunately not too near the cliffs) when we heard a sudden noise – “Who-o-o-omph!” We both wheeled round just in time to see a whole section of the cliff slide down into a heap – an avalanche! The heavy rain yesterday must have loosened it. We felt a bit shocked. If the tide hadn’t been so far out, we may well have been walking under that cliff! Then we noticed a similar fall only a few yards back – that looked very recent too. The cliffs are made of loosely packed sand over shale, not a very stable combination.We rounded a corner where the cliff stuck out a bit, and what a mess on the beach! Bits of broken breakwater, rocks, pieces of buildings rounded by the sea – we could hardly get by. A concrete walkway, which had been constructed on the face of the cliff to take a path down a gradient to the beach, was lurching precariously and had been snapped off half way down leaving a fifteen foot drop for anyone foolish enough to try to use it. The whole place looked like a war zone! It confirmed our decision never to buy a property within a mile of a clfftop.We were a bit upset that we had FORGOTTEN OUR CHOCOLATEyet again! The trouble is, we put it in the cool box to stop it melting, and forget to take it out when we leave the car. However, we didn’t let it spoil what had been a lovely Walk. We had hardly met a soul all day – just a few local dog-walkers when we were near civilisation. As we approached Walcott Gap we had a concrete platform to walk on which was easier. When we arrived, it was so nice that we only had to climb a short flight of steps from the beach, and our car was just there.

That ended Walk no.88, we shall pick up Walk no.89 next time at Walcott Gap. We had tea and biscuits (and chocolate!), before driving back to the caravan site to pick up the bikes. As he lifted them to put on the rack, Colin’s catheter split again! This has happened so many times recently, he thinks it is a bad batch. Fortunately there was a toilet block on the caravan site so he was able to change it without too much embarrassment. But it delayed us even more, and we had to drive back to Isleham in the dark.

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