|Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk|
How is it that the places closest to home are often the places we forget to visit? We only live about 45 minutes from the North Norfolk coast and yet in recent years we have neglected our beautiful neighbour, usually moaning that the drive along the A17 to get there is slow and frustrating. What sort of excuse is that? When Rory was little we would leave early and spend a day at the beach in Hunstanton, aka ‘Sunny Hunny’. taking bracing walks along the prom and feeding endless 2p coins into the slot machines in the amusement arcades. We would end our day with a bag of chips, sitting on a bench looking out across the vast sky as the day came to a close. Such happy memories.
Since Rory started secondary school and his weekend lie-ins have elongated considerably, our day trips to the coast have dwindled. Last weekend Rory was on a school Geography field trip to Dorset so Dougie and I were able to have a date together, a day at the coast. Whilst Rory was measuring pebbles on Chesil Beach and making up the answers to tourism questionnaires, we spent a gloriously sunny day revisiting our old haunts and discovering some new ones.
‘Shall we have a look at Heacham?’ I asked Dougie. We always used to drive past Heacham in order to visit its livelier neighbour further up the coast. This time, with a very old Reader’s Digest Touring Guide to Britain on my lap, I was keen to explore. We found a car park at the beach, surrounded by mobile homes. It wasn’t particularly attractive and Dougie was muttering about spending £1.80 per hour to park. We decided on the minimum spend and allowed ourselves exactly one hour to walk along the promenade. We walked quickly. But it was here, on a day with perfect blue sky, I captured the photo below which I just love.
|Heacham Beach, Norfolk|
We had heard that the Norfolk coast has become very upmarket over recent years but hadn’t really appreciated the difference until we started driving further along the coast to the small village of Thornham. This has become a seriously foodie place: The Lifeboat Inn ( a Marco Pierre White establishment), The Orange Tree and, for a quick bite to tide us over for the afternoon, The Village Deli. We sat in the airy conservatory, and ate a steak sandwich (Dougie) and a frittata (me) watching children making use of the play area in the garden. It was a gorgeous little place. We also picked up some local beer and cider in the delicatessen to enjoy back home.
As we continued our drive we could see how much of a makeover this part of Norfolk has undergone. It was as if a lorry load of Farrow and Ball paint had been dolloped over everything. Signs in pale grey and green with elegant fonts. Friday nights are now apparently ‘sushi and oyster nights’ at one establishment.
My trusty guide book suggested Burnham Overy Staithe as a good place to stop and walk through the tidal creeks and salt marshes (see top photo). Again, the huge skies and endless horizon made this quite a spectacular spot in the afternoon sunshine. Why had we never been here before?
Still Burnham based, we took a tiny road south to Burnham Thorpe, where Lord Nelson was born. We had a look around the church of All Saints where Nelson’s father had been the rector, noticing the cross and lectern had been made from timbers taken from HMS Victory. This reminded us of a purchase we made some years ago on a visit to Norfolk – a table made with some of the oak from the Victory. It was a bit of an extravagant and impulsive buy but we have never regretted having a piece of history in our living room.
The final part of the Burnham trip was Burnham Market, a small, pretty village which Rory would have adored because, despite its size, it boasts a large Jack Wills shop. A sure sign that this area has become the Cotswolds of the East. The well-to-do were sitting outside The Hoste Arms, quaffing Prosecco in the sunshine. We were tempted to join them but instead we returned to the car, drove to Hunstanton and there, on a bench, in the evening sunshine, we had our tea: a big bag of chips.
Some things don’t change.