Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Norfolk Coast Path - Heacham to Brancaster

From the cliffs of Hunstanton to the marshes of Thornham, this walk gives a variety of scenery. The North Norfolk Coast Path is an excellent way to explore this part of the British Coast and what better way to start than at the westerly end. Even though Hunstanton is the official start, there is a promenade from Heacham for those wanting to go that little bit farther. There's long sandy beaches, theres multi-coloured cliffs, theres dunes, marshes, nature reserves and creeks and even a Norfolk hill from where where you can view across The Wash to Skegness on a clear day. With excellent public transport links, plenty of watering holes and accommodation, this is indeed a most thoroughly recommended walk.
Date of Walk:
  • 2008-06-02
  • 2009-07-03
  • 2010-06-01
Start point: Heacham 52.909879 0.48387
End Point: Brancaster 52.963025 0.638312
Start Time: 09:30
End time: 15:30
Distance: 14 miles
Walkers:
  • 2008: Griffmonster, Steve M, Martin M, Steve W
  • 2009, 2010: Griffmonster, Kat
Weather conditions:
  • 2008: Overcast with some light rain in the afternoon
  • 2009: Overcast, blustery
  • 2009: Clear blue skies, warm
Path taken: There is a promenade all the way from Heacham to Hunstanton. Here the official National Trail starts and heads across the top of the cliffs then down to the dunes at Old Hunstanton. The route used to go on the landward side of the Golf course at Old Hunstanton but more recently it has been rerouted to the seaward side. At Holme-next-the-Sea the path connects with the Peddars Way and then heads out around the marshes and onto Thornham Dunes Nature Reserve before heading back into Thornham. As you head out of Thornham take the lane on the right up the hill for a mile until you find a marker on the left pointing down a track that leads across the fields and back down into Brancaster. There is a roadside path between Thornham and Brancaster which can be used as a more direct alternative, though this misses out some fantastic views across the Wash. All the route is clearly marked with the National Trail acorns.
Walk difficulty: Easy
Pubs:
  • The Ancient Mariner, Old Hunstanton: 52.952284 0.502933 http://www.traditionalinns.co.uk/the-ancient-mariner-inn/ Traditional pub created out of the barns and stables of a former Victorian hotel. Patio and gardens overlooking the dunes and sea. Accommodation and food available, with an ever changing list of guest ales.
  • The Orange Tree, Thornham: 52.959859 0.57887 http://www.theorangetreethornham.co.uk/ Modern and trendy pub refurbished from the former Kings Head Inn. Accommodation and food available including breakfast for non-residents. Guest ales
  • The Lifeboat Inn, Thornham: 52.961112 0.573234 http://www.maypolehotels.com/lifeboatinn/index.html Round the back of Thornham in Ship Lane and well worth searching out. This popular little pub dates from the 16th century and offers bed and breakfast accommodation plus food including hand-picked local mussels. Woodfordes and Adnams ales
  • Titchwell Manor, Titchwell: 52.961681 0.61880 http://www.titchwellmanor.com/ Plush hotel on the main road between Thornham and Brancaster and popular with famous guests who are interested in the local bird-life at RSPB Titchwell. We witnessed Rory McGrath on our first visit. Woodfordes ales.
  • The Ship, Brancaster: 52.963025 0.638312 http://www.shiphotelnorfolk.co.uk/ On the first occasion we walked this trail, this this was a traditional old pub with a cantankerous Spurs supporting no-nonsense landlord. It has since been refurbished and is part of the Flying Kiwi chain owned by TV chef Chris Couborough. They now have a good range of ales including their own Flying Kiwi which I must say is a most excellent brew. It is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of Horatio Nelson's nurse - none of our walking group bore witness to any supernatural activity during our stay here in 2008.
The ruins of St Edmunds Chapel with the Old Hunstanton Lighthouse behind
Walk Features:
  • Old Hunstanton Lighthouse: 52.949572 0.493639 The Old Hunstanton Lighthouse was built in 1840 although there has been a Lighthouse on the site since 1665. This first lighthouse was built of wood with an iron basket of burning coals as a light. Hunstanton lighthouse had the world's first parabolic reflector which was built here in 1776. The present lighthouse ceased operations in 1922, since when it has been a private residence and a Holiday Let.
  • Ruins of St Edmunds Chapel: 52.948919 0.492936 The chapel of St Edmund was erected in 1272 in memory of St Edmund though it had become a ruin by the time of the reformation. There is little known of St Edmund, legend has it he was the youngest son of Alcmund, a Saxon king of Germanic descent and that he arrived in Britain on the north Norfolk coast in AD855. On landing he knelt down to give thanks for his safe journey and miraculously the ground issued with springs whose water was so sweet that the area became known as Honey Stone Town which later became Hunstanton. He went on to become crowned king of East Anglia by Bishop Humbert of Elmham on 25 December AD855 at Burna in Suffolk. In AD869 he led an army against Viking invaders from the north but was defeated and captured. Because he refused to renounce Christ, he was tied to a tree and fired at with arrows until he resembled a hedgehog. Still refusing to renounce Christ he was taken from the tree and beheaded and his head was then cast into thick brambles so that it could not be buried with his body. On hearing of this, his followers searched day and night for its location calling out to him and amazingly being answered to their requests by "I'm here, here, here". They finally found Edmund's head in the possession of a grey wolf, clasped between its paws. The wolf had been sent by God to protect the head from the animals of the forest, and although starving the wolf did not eat the head for all the days it was lost. After recovering the head the villagers marched back to the kingdom, praising God and the wolf that served him. The wolf walked beside them as if tame all the way to the town, after which it turned around and vanished into the forest.
  • Seahenge: 52.968427088414 0.51958648558494 On the shifting sands at Holme-next-the-Sea is the location where the prehistoric Seahenge was discovered in 1998. This was a timber circle composed of fifty-five small split oak trunks with a large inverted oak stump at its centre and is said to have been built in the 21st century BC during the early bronze age. The monument was controversially excavated and transported fifty miles to the Fenland Archaeology Trust's field centre at Flag Fen in Cambridgeshire. The name Seahenge was coined by the media and bears no relation to Stonehenge or indeed to the term henge which is a neolithic earthwork. Its purpose is unknown though it has been suggested that it was a mortuary enclosure for the use of excarnation. A second and older ring has since been discovered one hundred yards east of the original discovery. This second monument consists of two concentric timber circles surrounding a hurdle lined pit containing two oak logs. This site has been left in place and exposed to the tidal actions of the sea.
Thornham Dunes Nature Reserve
Notes: The first occasion that I walked this was as the continuation of The Peddars Way in 2008. This occasion the previous days walking had taken its toll on our feet and we were grateful for the reduction in mileage that this days walk entailed. Nonetheless, Steve W had made the decision to drop out of the rest of the hike. His feet were blistered and spent. He hobbled along with us to Hunstanton from where he was going to take the Coasthopper bus to Brancaster and then would be picked up by family to be driven back to Northamptonshire. It was sad to see him leave but he was suffering. On the other occasions we have set up a base-camp at Wells and used the Coasthopper bus to convey us to and from the days start and end. This is an excellent way to walk this most pleasant long distance trail. The route between Thornham and Brancaster heads up the hill and across farmland - there are some fantastic views across the Wash from up here. However, there is pavement all the way along the road between the two villages so a shorter route is to use this as was the case when in 2008 when rain started to come down.
Adjoining Walks:
Equipment: 65l rucksack with full camping gear.
OS Map:
  • OS Explorer Map Sheet 236 King’s Lynn, Downham Market & Swaffham
  • OS Explorer Map Sheet 250 Norfolk Coast West
Accommodation:
Transport: Coassthopper - runs the entire length of the Norfolk Coast Path, a cheap, frequent and friendly service.
Route:

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Last Updated: 2014-01-02Z

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