The village of Snettisham looks across the square-mouthed estuary of the Wash. The Snettisham RSPB reserve lies on the coast some 3.2 km to the west of the village.
Sturdy, stepped sea defences rise to protect beach huts and caravan parks from any incursion by the sea. The beach is long & flat and the water is shallow & sheltered and so popular with holidaymakers in the numerous holiday centres around here. The town itself is further inland. The Victorians came here in numbers when the railway from King’s Lynn was built in the 1860s. Heacham is at the heart of Norfolk’s lavender growing industry.
The town was established in 1846 as a place where workers could relax by the sea. It is the only coastal town in East Anglia to face west. Horizontally striped cliffs, now partly eroded into a litter of boulders and stones on the sandy beach, stretch southwards. The grassy clifftop, 18 metres above the shore, is dominated by a disused lighthouse and the 13th century ruins of St Edmunds Chapel. Old Hunstanton with its bungalows & chalets and amusements & rides lies to the north.
Holkham Gap is a vast expanse of low-tide sands and mudflats. An avenue of trees, with carparking on either side, stretches seaward from the grand estate of Holkham Hall to a café, from where a boardwalk leads through pine trees and dunes to the beach.
Wells-next-the-Sea is an old port at the head of the East Fleet estuary. Once a manufacturing and fishing town, several crabbers and other angling vessels still operate from the quayside. The large granary building processed malt for sale to London & Dutch breweries and is now converted into apartments.
A path and a road run parallel to the sea defences along the estuary, down past the lifeboat station and the beach café, to an absolutely glorious beach of soft, golden, sand backed by dunes & pine trees. In front of the trees a long line of very classy, stilted beach huts keep an eye on the activities taking place below them.
Morston & Blakeney
Both settlements were thriving ports until the 16th century. Since then silting has left only narrow channels to the sea which can only be used by small craft at high tide. Paths and walkways lead through the saltwater marshes, home to numerous species of birds. Boats can be hired to observe basking seals out on Blakeney Point.
Cley next the Sea
Cley’s claim to fame is its 18th century windmill, now a guesthouse, which looks out to sea across the reed beds of the nature reserve . The narrow streets of the village itself are lined with small shops including a tea shop, a pub & a pottery.
This village of flint cottages, once a port, is now cut off from the sea. Narrow lanes lead across the marsh to the shingle beach, ideal for walking, spotting wildlife and fishing.
Cromer has called itself the ‘gem of the Norfolk coast’ since the 18th century. It stands on a low, crumbling cliff fronted by a long promenade with beach huts at each end. The town had grown up as a fishing station over the centuries. Boats still rest up at the top of the beach, each with their own ancient, blue tractor to reverse them into & out of the water. Crabs and lobsters are still landed in the summer and placed on the menu of local restaurants and fish shops. Tourism developed in the town during the Victorian period. Visitors are still attracted by its sandy beaches, its winding streets and old flint cottages around the 14th century church and the many small local independent shops and hotels.
There have been a number of piers here since the first, wooden jetty in 1391. The present structure was completed in 1902. The sea end consisted of glass-screened shelters and a bandstand. These were roofed over in 1905 to form a pavilion and the bandstand was later replaced with a stage. The pier is also home to Cromer Lifeboat Station.