Thursday, October 02, 2003

Walk 90 -- Overstrand, via Cromer & Sheringham, to Weybourne Hope

Ages: Colin was 61 years and 147 days. Rosemary was 58 years and 289 days.
Weather: Mostly dull, but dry despite the weather forecast! Warm.
Location: Overstrand to Weybourne Hope, via Cromer and Sheringham. Distance: 9½ miles.
Total distance: 680½ miles.
Terrain: Undulating clifftop paths, a sandy beach, concrete proms and a wooden pier. Tide: Going out.
Rivers to cross: None.
Ferries: None.
Piers: No.23 at Cromer.
Kissing gates: None.
Pubs: ‘Pavilion Theatre Pub’ on Cromer Pier where we drank Young’s Golden Zest.
‘English Heritage’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: No.27 on the cliffs near Cromer where the path had fallen over the cliff, so we were diverted on to the golf course ‘at our own risk’ where further notices informed us it was private property and we had no public right of way! (Not so – look at the map!)
How we got there and back: We drove – with bikes on the back of the car – from Isleham to Weybourne where again the car park was 50p an hour – this time for a rough gravelly space with no facilities! We drove off several miles into the countryside to find a bush because I was ‘desperate’, then came back and parked in a nearby road for free. We cycled to Overstrand where we chained our bikes to a post in the car park, stopping in Cromer on the way to buy pasties. The journey was even more hilly and the roads even busier than yesterday. We didn’t enjoy the ride much – car drivers seem to think cyclists are invisible, so we used the pavement a lot.
At the end, we walked up the lane from the expensive car park to our car. It was almost dark and we didn’t feel like drinking our tea in the street, so we drove straight to Overstrand. There we sat in the deserted car park supping ‘nectar’ and eating biscuits in the dark! At least the toilets were still open, with lights on in there. We strapped the bikes to the car and drove back to Isleham.

There were rather too many school parties in Overstrand for my liking! Yesterday, when we arrived in the car and embarked on our cycle ride, there were several groups strung out along the pavements – and today there were more hanging about the car park. It must be something to do with the geology of the cliffs, but I couldn’t be bothered to find out what.
We were later than we wanted to be because we were tired, and several unconnected things had delayed us causing a knock-on effect. We sat on the same bench as yesterday to eat our lunch, and then we were ready to start.

The path led from the western corner of the car park through some bushes to a golf course on top of the cliffs. Colin saw a brown rat, but by the time I caught up with him it had gone.
The public footpath led along the clifftop between the golf course and the cliff edge, but the trouble was – like most of the coast in these parts – the cliffs had eroded. We were diverted on to the hallowed turf of the golfing greens ‘at your own risk’, then we were informed it was ‘PRIVATE PROPERTY’ and ‘NO PUBLIC RIGHT OF WAY’. We looked at our map, and there was a very definite green dotted line along the top of the cliff. We looked up, and coming towards us across the golf course was one of the school parties we had tried to avoid earlier, ably led by their marching teacher. That answered any queries we had as to which way we were supposed to go!
At the other end of the diversion, a rusty notice informed ramblers going east that ‘PATH ENDS’ and the path disappeared over the cliff edge! Ah well, at least they didn’t fence it off with barbed wire and big ‘KEEP OUT’ notices as at Gorlestone, back near Kate’s.
We made towards the lighthouse which was blinking its lamp in full daylight. The sky was grey and overcast, but visibility was good so we couldn’t think why it was still on. After that we descended steps to the beach, and walked along fairly firm sand to Cromer. The pier seemed to peep out around the corner, and from there on we would be walking almost due west along the north Norfolk coast.
But first, Cromer Pier. It was not very long, but unlike Bognor’s it was complete! It had a lifeboat station at the end, and a small theatre which boasted ‘Joe Brown & the Bruvvers’, ‘The Drifters’ and ‘Marty Wilde’. All good acts, though of our era – but then, sadly, youngsters don’t know how to enjoy a seaside holiday like our generation did. We went into the Pavilion Theatre Pub which boasted ‘real ales’. It had just one, which was served to us by a fat and disinterested barmaid. We took it outside and sat in the pale sunshine, choosing a table which was sheltered from the wind. We ate the rest of our sarnies with the beer. The bar closed before we left – it was already 3 o’clock and we hadn’t completed even a quarter of the Walk.
At the shore end of the pier we went down on to the beach and stayed there all the way to Sheringham. Fortunately the tide was out and the sand firm. We wouldn’t have liked to walk under the soft sandy cliffs on shingle, so we kept ourselves nearer to the water on the sea side of large wooden groynes which were embedded in the beach about thirty yards out from the cliff base and ran parallel to the shore. We had to keep climbing over groynes which were set at right angles to them, but often we managed to find a bar or panel missing and could climb through. Part way along, we found the ground getting more and more difficult because large stones were appearing. It was getting harder to avoid them, so we crossed over a band of shingle to find firmer sand. There we were able to walk a lot faster – not only was it easier on our leg muscles, but we were getting a little concerned that we would be finishing this Walk in the dark!
We knew that there were houses and other buildings – even the road we had cycled along earlier in the day – on top of the cliffs that we were walking under. Looking at them from our angle, the shapes the cliffs had been eroded into were very beautiful but I wouldn’t have bought a house within a mile – nay, two miles – of them! I like to sleep safe, confident that my house will still be there in the morning no matter what the weather does outside.
As we approached Sheringham, a concrete sea defence presented itself which was wide enough to walk along. It was quite a step up, and Colin had to haul me on to it! That was where we met our final school party. A group of youngsters aged about nine and ten passed us, going in the opposite direction along the beach. Where were they going? And surely they should have all been having their tea by then? The concrete structure we were walking on merged into the prom further on which made progress easier.
Sheringham doesn’t have a pier, but we came across a beach shelter with painted murals which was rather jolly. I wanted to go to the loo, and that was up some sloping paths at the top of the cliffs.
We looked out from there and found it hard to make a decision – should we continue along the beach and hope the sand doesn’t disintegrate into shingle before we reach Weybourne Hope, or should we take the clifftop path? We decided on the latter because we were a little tired of beach-walking. Trouble was – Skelding Hill is the highest cliff in Norfolk and it was quite a climb! (It is only 150 feet or so, but we were tired and it seemed steep.) There is a volunteer look-out post at the top which had a box outside asking for our contributions. Two men were inside this shed place looking out to sea with binoculars, but I don’t know why it is deemed to be so important just there. We sat behind a tussock looking at the view and ate our chocolate.
After that it was downhill most of the way across rolling cliffs with lovely views. Whenever we got near the cliff edge, we looked over to see whether the sand had run out. The shingle gradually got wider and I don’t think we could have avoided walking on it in the end, so we had probably made the right choice. We saw one or two people down there walking their dogs, but we guessed they were turning round at some point and returning to Sheringham. The twilight gloom began to engulf us when we still had a mile to go.
We came to a couple of cottages on the cliff edge – so close we had to walk round the back of them. Two dogs came bounding towards us as we approached, and one of them was a Dalmatian which is my favourite dog! It was very friendly, and I think the Dalmatian markings are beautiful! It put me in mind of my Canadian cousin’s dog, Annie, who is probably dead now because she was already nine years old when we were over there in 1998.
One more field (in semi-darkness!) and we were there! The cliffs had run out, and we were on the shingle car park at Weybourne Hope where we had refused to park in the morning because it was too expensive. Despite it being almost too dark to see, there were a number of fishermen about. We were amused to see that they had all parked their diggers, tractors, cars, etc way past the ‘NO VEHICLES BEYOND THIS POINT’ notice, and not one of them had bought a parking ticket from the machine!
That ended Walk no.90, we shall pick up Walk no.91 next time in the shingle car park at Weybourne Hope. We walked up the lane to where we had parked our car in the morning. We didn’t feel like drinking tea in the street, so we drove straight to Overstrand. There we sat in the deserted car park (and we didn’t buy a parking ticket either!) supping ‘nectar’ and eating biscuits in the dark! At least the toilets were still open, with lights on in there. We strapped the bikes to the car and drove back to Isleham – we got back about 9.30pm, tired but elated. We have achieved so much in recent months, we are really proud of ourselves. The next day we went home to Bognor.

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