Norfolk and flat, the two words are inextricably linked for me. I spent the first six years of my Working life on the flatlands of the English East coast. What it does have in its defence is a big sky and some wide open views, and lots of Square towered churches to help out with the navigating. At this point I’ll admit to a little obsession of mine, maps. Whenever we go anywhere, I buy a map. The thought of not having a map of where we are is a bit of a problem for me, I have maps at home from everywhere, Hungary, Miami, Scotland, Wales, France, because of course, like books, I keep them all. My mementoes of walks, cities and countries. It was no surprise then that I have a new shiny map of the Norfolk Coast East. 1:25 000. It is one of my pleasures to browse the map for days before going out for a walk using the aforementioned purchase, to choose the route, to imagine what I am going to find. Good spots for pictures. The landscape I might find, all this from a piece of paper available in good bookshops.
Anyway, maps and Norfolk, I found a suitable route to follow, changed it to take in some scenery (no big hills to climb here) and set off into the North Sea winds the morning forecast had predicted. From Cromer, roughly South to Felbrigg, then West and North to hit the coast and return along the cliffs to the start.
Norfolk as a rule is not flat, not as Flat as Lincolnshire can be, it is still fairly pedestrian in its hill aspirations. It is rippled though, contours mimicking the sandy ripples of the beach nearby, just on an over-sized scale. This I thought would offer up views as we rose and fell gently passing the big fields and small villages of the area. I had not planned for the deep lanes, these are not marked on a map, many possibly splendid outlooks are marred by the need to leap up above the surrounding bushes.
The walk was a very pleasant amble through a very easy part of the country, passing Felbrigg Hall I avoided the tourists and chose to head for the Church, a spot out of the wind and somewhere for lunch. The hedgerows, fields and woodlands provide a changing backdrop for the passage of time, and I was happy to dawdle taking pictures and watching the birds on the rivers and small ponds I passed.
This area has been created by a glacier pushing its way to the sea, the cliffs formed by the moraine at the leading edge, and it has left this distinctive landscape, the high crumbling cliffs and the wide windswept spaces. The wind can rattle across the countryside, and the trees help break that up. It is a fertile plain, farms abound, and this means walking is around these open spaces or through the copses that dot the spaces. I feel they have been put there sometimes just to add scale to the vista.
Any day out in the countryside lets the mundane drift away for me, watching for signs of animals, for the work of man. Old and new provides interest on even short trips. A walk to the shops can show you the life of your neighbourhood if you keep your head up and let your eyes wander. The sky, the people and the world provide sustenance and art if you open your mind to the possibilities. I like the ideas that can wander on the quiet times of a walk, in our modern world we rarely stop to look about us, to see who and what we are sharing our lives with, and it is often a pleasant surprise to choose a moment and look with a strangers vision at our small part of the world. Everywhere is somewhere else for someone.
The open spaces and sea views from the top of a tall cliff make for a good combination, walking into Cromer, to the pier for coffee and a walk around the narrow streets of the old fishing town has a simple and pleasing and welcoming feel. Yet, you need only walk half a mile in either direction to reach the bleak open salt marshes where Samphire is harvested and you are reminded of the stories like Great Expectations.
They still use tractors to launch small fishing boats from the shingle beach, the North Sea is still one of the most inhospitable places to work, with the added difficulties of international quotas and windfarms it is not getting any easier. I had coffee on the pier, watching visitors struggle against the wind blowing along the coast. Hardy souls determined to be out and seeing the sites.
Having the time to poke into corners and with no set route to follow in the town, no shopping to do or people to see means you can wander aimlessly and let the town build around you. Find the snugs where pubs huddle into corners and locals go to eat their fish and chips.
How long before this piece of shoreline changes beyond recognition? Like all coastal regions there are many contrasts, head inland and you soon forget the this is a land of longshore drift where a constant battle is being waged against the sea.
I still think that Norfolk is not a place I would want to call home again. But the memories and the land made a pleasant weeks break from normal routine. There is a chance we will visit again, and I will sample the delights of other different walks. this one had enough variety to hold the interest, even if the big views remained stubbornly hidden. The inward detail I found held for me the idea of looking for things closer to the present, a fine lesson to take from any trip.