The summer was never complete without a visit to Snettisham beach. Two of my relatives had so-called holiday chalets there from the 1950s; the area has never fully recovered from the effects of 1953 floods. Most extraordinarily, both families still retain the same bungalows sixty years later. The generations have moved home several times in the intervening years, but holidays are still taken there. I last went over to Snettisham to see them three years ago.
Forty years ago we set off for Snettisham one Thursday in August, to spend the afternoon with relatives. We went along the Fakenham Road and then branched onto the B1145, to have a picnic lunch on Grimston Heath, where Peddars Way crosses the road. We got out our Gaz stove and fried sausages; we even had mashed potato with them, made from a packet of dried powder called Smash. Then it was on see the people at Snettisham.
The tide was in and waves were very small; the dogs enjoyed swimming in the salt water, but not drinking it. There were several jelly fish about, but no one got stung. We had the usual guests’ tea of cockles and shrimps freshly caught from the sea, and sampher picked from the saltmarshes . Then we went for a long walk with the dogs to the RSPB bird sanctuary; the birds didn’t seem to mind. There is a path through to Dersingham from Snettisham Beach.
Heacham, Hunstanton and Brancaster have never featured very much in my exploration of the Norfolk coast. Then comes Holkham beach which is a wide expanse of pine trees and sand; it gets wider still as the tide recedes. It is popular with all sorts; the middle aged, dog walkers of all ages and young families; it is even popular with royalty and film stars. In the summer you can buy hamburgers and ice creams from a hut at the end of the car park, but being run by the Earl of Leicester it is all very civilised.
Blakeney is a seaside resort with an ambience all its own. There are narrow streets of flint cottages and a fish stall near the quay. There is a lard hotel there too, and shops. Irregular but frequent boat trips run to Blakeney Point for tourists to see the seals. You can walk to the Point and thence to the beach, but it is a fair old tramp. At least you may do it at any time; to go there by boat requires close attention to the tide. When it is out it is only possible to view acres of mud as far as the eye can see. Then you can walk across the creek to explore the extensive mudflats beyond. The same is true of Morston.
Going west along the coast the saltmarshes at Cley necessitate leaving the car and taking a fairly long walk to the sea; there is no ferry service there. In the 18th century a ruined chapel was marked on the map, but it is now a place of nothing but reed beds and wading birds. Had we been keen birdwatchers this might have been a popular destination, but birdwatching requires a quiet dedication that none of my family have ever possessed.
Sheringham and Cromer are where you go for crabs. The beach at Sheringham is largely made up of shingle, while that at Cromer has more sand but also huge flints the size of rocks. Cromer is the place to go for the last End of the Pier show left in the country, and it is always enjoyable. Sheringham is the seaside resort for train enthusiasts, because it hosts the terminus of the North Norfolk Heritage Railway. It is also the terminus of the Network Rail Bittern Line which takes visitors from Norwich.
When I was a child we never visited Trimingham; during the 1950s Trimingham beach was out-of-bounds due to the minefield laid during the war. These proved difficult to remove. Even ager they had been cleared I was not a regular visitor to Trimingham until we owned our holiday caravan there in the years running up to the Millennium. The beach at Trimngham may only be accessed down a muddy cliff, and frequently this precarious path slips down to the encroaching sea. It is a wild and inaccessible place, where you meet few companions. Nearby Overstand and Mundesley beaches are well served by made up paths, but were seldom visited by my family during my childhood.
Continuing round the coast Bacton has the Gas Terminal which tends to dominate the village. It has some holiday accommodation, as has Walcott, but Sea Palling is the most popular village on this section of coast. This is particularly true since the import of large quantities of Norwegian rock has allowed the creation of a calm lagoon along the beach. It has become the place for water sports, especially jet skis. Going south you pass Winterton before coming to Hemsby. With its chaotic collection of beachside chalets it is reminiscent of Snettisham. The bungalows suffered badly in the 2013 floods.
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