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Norfolk and Good!

Here's a word to the wise: if you go to Norfolk expecting any place with a suffix of 'next-the-sea' to be actually close to it, think again. I went to three examples, Holme, Wells and Cley, and none of them are what could be described as being beside it. They all have their attractions - Cley has its windmill (owned by singer James Blunt's family for many years), Wells has the bustle of its harbour beside the river and a great friendly pub in the Crown Hotel, and Holme is a sleepy village with one of those huge churches which seems to be obligatory for all the villages around these parts.

So why the names? Well, originally they were by the sea but over time the coastline has changed significantly as the relentless North Sea waves have shifted the sands around and many former rivers and lagoons have become silted up, creating extensive areas of salt marsh. These are a haven for many species of birds, which in turn brings in masses of twitching and tweeting, binocular-wearing, birdwatchers.

There is a footpath, the Norfolk Coastal Path, which covers 45 miles from Hunstanton in the west and Cromer in the east. I did 2 short stretches, from Blakeney - which honourably doesn't claim to be next-the-sea - through the salt marshes to Cley, and from Holme across the sand dunes to Old Hunstanton, which despite being on the east coast actually faces west as it sits at the top of the right-hand side of the Wash.  And fantastic they both were, the first one full of space, big skies and the sounds of nature, the second one full of...err... space, big skies and the sounds of nature. 

The Norfolk Coast has bits of everything; beaches with golden sands, salt marshes, sand dunes and if you like walking and getting about, or birdwatching, well worth a visit. Just remember walking through the dunes is hard, as my legs can now testify! But it is very much a place to chill out. Friendly people, great pubs with some excellent beers as well!

There is a superb bus service called Coasthopper, cheeringly operated by the local Norfolk Green company, and which runs up the coast from King's Lynn to Cromer. A day ticket costs £9, for which you can jump on and off as you like as it passes through places with intriguing names like Stiffkey and Burnham Overy Staithe. I went to Blakeney, then having walked there, got the return from Cley, a place with which there are some distant family connections, then had a stop-off in Wells, and there are plenty of opportunities to ride and walk  as you like.

I stayed in King's Lynn, at the Globe, a Wetherspoon hotel. And it was great. On the corner of the enormous Tuesday Market Place, which must be one of the best market squares in all of England, it was reminiscent of an old country town hotel, unobtrusive with the bar next door available as required. 

King's Lynn proved to be an excellent place to stay, somewhere I'd not reckoned on before. But crammed full of historic buildings as befits the former pre-eminent port in the UK, a member of the Hanseatic League, no less, it is a fascinating place. I read somewhere that it is an architectural dream, with buildings from so many different periods. 

Just down the road from the Globe is the Crown and Mitre, good choice of around 8 beers, a character of a landlord, and a nice little beer garden and viewing gallery which afford excellent views over the Great Ouse river as it heads out to the Wash and from where I saw some fantastic sunsets. King's Lynn is still an important port and it was fascinating to watch the boats coming in and out of the nearby Alexandra Dock. A day or two in this area will not disappoint, and I've saved up some new places to visit for next time....

Sunset over the Great Ouse

**The title of this blog is taken from a song by Sid Kipper and the Kipper Family, which mocks the local Norfolk dialect**


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