Monday, February 02, 2004

Walk 96 -- Hunstanton to Dersingham

Ages: Colin was 61 years and 270 days. Rosemary was 59 years and 47 days.
Weather: Drizzle which dried up. Cloudy, but getting brighter. Mild, but a cold wind on the beach.
Location: Hunstanton to Dersingham.
Distance: 8½ miles.
Total distance: 728½ miles.
Terrain: Concrete prom, a slippery grassy bank, a sand/shingle bank of which a section was paved, a road and an old railway line which ran partly through woods.
Tide: Out.
Rivers to cross: None.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: None.
Pubs: The ‘Fox & Hounds’ at Heacham which brews its own beer – Colin was over the moon to find two brew pubs in almost as many days! We tried LJB and ‘Shot in the Dark’.
‘English Heritage’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We were staying with Paul and Caroline in Isleham. We drove to Dersingham where we parked near a garden centre. From there we caught a bus northwards, and alighted near Tescoes at Hunstanton. Then we only had a short walk through a caravan park before reaching the sea and resuming our Trek.
At the end, we walked up to the traffic lights, turned left and we were at our car. After drinking tea, we did a bit of reccying in nearby Wolferton which decided us to miss it out and reroute our next Walk past Sandringham instead – do you think the Queen might ask us in for tea? We then drove up to Heacham to visit the ‘real ale’ pub which hadn’t been open when we had passed within half a mile of it along the coast earlier in the day – so we hadn’t bothered to detour to it at the time. After that, we drove back to Isleham.

The drizzle which had plagued us ever since we set out in the morning had almost stopped by the time we started the Walk, and later on the weather brightened up.
So we only had the wind to contend with, which was against us unfortunately. We were pleased to find that the concrete prom continued for two miles southwards—far more than we had been expecting. This made walking much easier, if a little boring. We passed caravan park after caravan park, probably the reason for the long prom. They were all deserted, of course, but the beach looked nice and it is probably a lovely place to come in the Summer, particularly if you have small children. There were one or two other people out walking, which we found surprising on such a cold Monday in February—we thought we were the only crazy onees.
There was a digger on the beach, way out across the sand, with two men in bright yellow coats. We wondered if they were looking for King John’s treasure which he foolishly dropped into The Wash about seven hundred years ago when he got cut off by the tide! The legend is that he dropped his crown jewels off his carriage whilst hurriedly making his escape from the incoming water. It sank out of sight and was never seen again. We kept an eye out for it ourselves, but all we could see was mist, sea and sand. If it does exist, and if it is ever found, it would be literally priceless!
Then the concrete prom ran out. We were only half a mile from the ‘real ale’ pub at Heacham, which Colin was desperate to visit, but we were too early—makes a change for us, we are usually too late! We hadn’t got time to hang about with the long walk ahead, so we drove back there later in the afternoon. The path continued along the top of the beach, which was softish shingle and aching on the leg muscles. My arthritic toe began to complain, the first time I have had trouble with it for many a long year. Where another road came down to the beach from Heacham, we had to divert a little inland as the path continued on a bank the land side of a marsh. I found a place to sit down and apply a second dose of ‘Powergel’ to the offending digit. The bank proved to be quite slippery due to all the rain and snow we have had recently, so I elected to walk along the grass at the bottom of it while Colin determinedly kept going along the top. My toe was still giving me jip, so I resorted to painkillers in the end.
The disadvantage of being low down was that I couldn’t see the sea, but the advantage was that I was out of the wind. I also found a perfect spot to have our lunch, which Colin would have by-passed had I not called him back. We sat on a stile leading into a field. It was quite picturesque—but better than that, it was totally sheltered from all draughts! Once the painkillers had kicked in and I had given my foot a bit of a rest, I had no more trouble and completely forgot about it. On the marsh we saw curlews and starlings. The starlings suddenly rose up as one and flew round in formation, leaving the curlews standing in the water. It was a magnificent natural sight!
The marsh sort of petered out, and the path took us back to the top of the beach. There the bank was quite firm, and one section of it was concreted for no reason that we could deduce. My heart sank when I saw the shingle again, but we found the walking quite pleasant despite being back in the cold wind. We had met nobody for ages, but on that bank, at least a mile from the nearest car park, was a young woman with a child in a push chair! It looked so much the wrong kind of place to take a baby for a walk with all that wind, and it crossed my mind she might be in mental distress of some kind. But she turned round ahead of us and struggled to get her charge back to the car park, so I think my fears were unfounded. The child must have been frozen! So many parents don’t realise how cold a baby gets whilst sitting still, whereas the parent is warm due to the exertion of pushing. My heart goes out to those poor little souls at times, especially when they are crying with the cold and getting told off for it—I have even heard them being sworn at!
We went down on to the beach because we saw a seal, but it was dead. Colin thought it might have recently given birth, though there was no sign of a pup. How sad that we have seen two marine mammals in as many days, and both were dead.
We reached a road, and there was no way on. A building blocked the top of the beach, and there was no path. On the map it looked as if there might be a way along the continuation of the sea bank, but the entrance to it was all barbed wire and hedge. In the planning, I had intended going inland at that point for the following reasons:— (1) There is no access to the beach by car, bike or foot for the next eight or nine miles. (2) The way on is private land, all the way to King’s Lynn. (3) It is marshland with drainage ditches, which may be problematic to cross. (4) I don’t like mud. (5) The beach is shingly and soft. (6) The beach turns into a marsh further on. (7) It is a very remote area, miles from civilisation, and we were in the middle of a cold Winter with it getting dark early. (8) I didn’t want to go on a distance and have to turn back, walking wasted miles. (9) Marshland is dangerous, especially in the dark, and there was no way we could reach King’s Lynn until well after sunset. (10) Anyway, we had already parked the car in Dersingham. (11) My arthritic toe is easily upset. And (12) there is simply NO PATH! But try telling all of that to Colin! He wasted a lot of time with, “Let’s just go on a bit and see?” No! “We could get over this fence!” No! “I’m sure there must be a way along this bank!” No! And so on!
I wasn’t happy that our ‘nearest safe path to the coast’ was a main road, so I suggested we made up a new rule:—‘If the nearest safe path to the coast is a main road with traffic whizzing past in a speedy polluting fashion, we may find an alternative quieter route further inland so long as there is a suitable one within about a mile’. I showed Colin a footpath on the map running southwards parallel to the road from Snettisham. It joins up with the track of an old railway which we hoped may now be a path. He conceded, and even seemed rather relieved—I’m sure it was the thought of walking along a main road that was getting to him.
We started walking inland along the quiet road, and it was blissful getting out of that wind! Round the corner we came to a closed cafĂ© with picnic tables outside, so we made use of them and sat down to eat our chocolate. We both felt better then! On we marched for nearly two miles. Colin got very excited when the track of the old railway came round a hill from the North to join the road we were walking on, it actually became part of the road. When we got to the main road—the one we didn’t want to walk down—he crossed over to see if we could continue along the old track through fields. But there was a hedge, and no sign of it the other side, so it was no-go.
We walked into Snettisham along ‘Beach Road’, though we were now over two miles from the beach. After about a hundred yards, we turned right into a footpath between some houses. Almost immediately we came across a building with a rotten waterwheel. A little footbridge took us across a stream which had obviously been the mill race in times gone past. We carried on across a field, and soon noticed that the track of the old railway was curving towards us. We crossed over to it and found that there was a decent firm track on top, so we walked up there rather than down on our soggy path.
We crossed over a lane, hoping that we would be able to continue along ‘our’ railway, although it wasn’t marked as a right of way on our map. It seemed quite open, a decent track with lots of footprints and cycle-tyre marks. A notice said NO PUBLIC RIGHT OF WAY but a few yards down was a doggy-poop box! So on we marched, across a couple more fields and then into a wood for about a mile. That was very pleasant, and we met several other people out enjoying woodland strolls. We were walking parallel to—and only about fifty yards away from—the main road we had rejected, but we were in a different world!
We passed behind some more houses, and came out at what used to be Dersingham Station. It is now a builder’s yard, but they have not only preserved the platforms, but the ornate wooden canopies as well. It looked great! I turned round, and read a notice about the path we had just come along. It said:
Now they tell us!

That ended Walk no.96, we shall pick up Walk no.97 next time at Dersingham ‘Station’ with its wonderful canopied roof. We walked up the road to the traffic lights, turned left and we were at our car. After drinking our tea, we drove to the hamlet of Wolferton to see if it was possible to continue from there towards King’s Lynn on the old railway track. (We had already established that it was useless where it crosses the main road, being completely overgrown and inaccessible.) We didn’t stop in Wolferton, we knew our mission was a waste of time just by looking at the properties. Talk about money! We found ourselves speaking to each other in very posh accents as we drove off! That decided us to miss it out and reroute our next Walk past Sandringham, and (still in our posh accents) we conjectured as to whether the Queen might ask us in for tea!
We had calmed down to a more sensible mood by the time we had driven up to Heacham and found the ‘real ale’ pub.
Colin was over the moon to find it brewed its own beer, the second brew pub he had found in almost as many days! After our tipple—half pints only—we drove back to Isleham.

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