For this 200-mile walk around Norfolk (my home county), I had planned to join the Norfolk Coast Path, Angles Way and Iceni Way together to make a route that would take me the whole way around the edges of Norfolk.
I was interrupted by the lock-down measures to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. I’d only managed about 100 miles before the UK government brought in travel restrictions and asked everyone to stay home. I’ll come back to complete the walk when restrictions are lifted.
Day 1: 20th March 2020
My wife dropped me off in Scole (near Diss) at 6.20am, before heading for work. It was a cloudy morning with a cold wind as I set off following the Angles Way. This roughly follows the Norfolk – Suffolk border all the way to Great Yarmouth. It is a mixture of fields, farm tracks, green lanes and short sections of minor roads.
I was enjoying the walk this morning and because of the early start, I was ready to stop when I reached the lovely pub in Mendham at 11am. They were open although not serving food until 12, but I was happy to sit in there out of the cold wind. I enjoyed a nice pint of ale, and then another with a good meal.
This pub meal had been a very good decision for a different reason. Speaking to my wife that evening, I learned that the government had ordered the closure of all pubs and restaurants from 8pm that night.
On long distance hikes I find this 2-hour break and a good meal really makes a difference. It usually means I’ll walk later into the evening and cover a higher mileage in the day than if I hadn’t stopped.
There was still a cold wind blowing when I left the pub, and a short shower during the afternoon. It was nice walking though, as the Angles Way zig-zagged around. The route tended to search out interesting places like remote churches, making it worth following the Angles Way rather than taking obvious paths to shorten the route.
I struggled to find anywhere to filter water and wild camp at the time I wanted to stop. So I did have to walk further than intended today, finally stopping after it was dark. I made coffee and a dehydrated meal for tea.
There was a little road noise from the A146 but it was a nice spot right next to the river. I slept really well.
Day 2: 21st March 2020
It had been a windy night but I hardly knew that while tucked up in the Lightwave S10 Sigma tent.
I woke at 5am, made coffee and ate another dehydrated meal for breakfast with the tent door open watching the sun rise. I got packed up and away early before anyone else was about, as always when camped wild near civilisation. This means I don’t disturb anyone and ideally no one would ever know I had been there.
Today’s walk was even more enjoyable than yesterday’s. The route followed a lovely path beside the River Waveney. The weather was nicer too; still a very cold wind but with blue sky and sunshine.
It was then an interesting walk around Oulton Broad on the edge of Lowestoft. The route then took me through beautiful Somerleyton where I stopped for a snack.
Somerleyton is a really nice village with some lovely old properties and village green.
I love long distance walks because they take you to places you wouldn’t perhaps normally choose to go and. I don’t plan them too much, so I never know what I’m likely going to find around the corner.
So I was pleased to come across what appeared to be a pile of rocks on a hill near the path at Burgh Castle. I climbed up to have a look and was surprised that it turned out to be a massive Roman Fort with views over Breydon Water.
There were quite a few people about and it was sad to see a well-placed pub overlooking Breydon Water all closed up due to the new Covid-19 restrictions. I sat on one of their benches for a rest for a while, but it would have been even nicer with a pint.
The path skirted Beydon Water, and after a mile or so I stopped to filter some water. I camped at about 5pm a little off the path on a nice flat piece of grass out of the wind.
Luckily I was carrying enough dehydrated meals and not reliant on pubs or cafes. I heated up the water for coffee and a meal. It was nice to stop early and I laid in my sleeping bag listening to music for a while before going to sleep.
It had been another nice day walking the usual footpaths but today there had also been some lovely stretches of woodland. There had still been a very cold wind though. I had been wearing everything that I had brought with me and I was now worried that as I came out onto the coast and into the full force of the wind, I might not be warm enough.
Day 3. 22nd March
I woke up cold a few times last night. The EDZ 200g merino wool crew neck top and leggings were working fine with the PHD sleeping bag, but I was feeling the cold from the ground. So I phoned my wife to get her to bring a different sleeping mat, so I could swap it when I met up with her and the children later. I was lucky we had pre-arranged a resupply meeting on the coast later today.
I made an early start walking along Breydon Water as the sun came up. Walking through the centre of Great Yarmouth while it was still deserted was a novelty at the time, but not so much now we are all in lock-down.
There was still a cold wind but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky when the sun came up. It was a great start to the coastal part of my hike. The wind had even turned onto my back so that didn’t feel as cold.
After leaving Great Yarmouth along the sea front, I followed the coast path past Caister-on-Sea and California.
The coast path eventually became a nice path through sand dunes to Winterton-on-Sea where I met my family. We found a lovely spot out of the wind (and away from other people) to have a picnic and lay in the sun while the kids played.
Thank you to my wife for dropping off the resupply parcel and a few extras that I asked her to add to it. I changed my Klymit Inertia O Zone mat for my Thermarest NeoAir Xtherm mat which is warmer but with the pump sack and pillow, is quite a bit heavier. I also replaced my Rab down bodywarmer for my Helly Hansen Lifaloft jacket. This should be warmer and it’s only a little heavier.
I had been having trouble with blisters because I made a rookie mistake at the start of the walk: too many miles in the first few days. So I changed my Inov-8 Roclite G 370 boots for the Roclite 325 boots, which are softer and breathe better. To help with the blisters I changed my thick EDZ socks for thinner Darn Tough Light Hiker socks.
I had spent most of the day with my family. It was fairly late when I left them and started walking along the beach again. I walked for about an hour or so when I came across the perfect pitch for the night, with a great view over the sea.
It was only 5pm and it was very windy but I knew the tent would be OK. As I was in no particular rush, I stopped earlier than planned and heated water for dinner and coffee. I also had a number of seals playing in the surf just below me. It was lovely watching them while I ate.
It was cold in the wind so I was glad to get into my sleeping bag to eat tea and drink my coffee. I was missing my family but I was feeling lucky to be there, watching the sun set and having had such good weather today.
Day 4: 23rd March 2020
I had a good night’s sleep on the more comfortable and warmer Xtherm mat but was irritated by my pillow. This is why I prefer the Klymit mat, because the pillow is fixed to it and stays in place.
I woke early but wasn’t in a rush to get up. I laid in my sleeping bag drinking coffee for a while, looking out at the sea watching the sun come up. It was 7am before I finally got up, packed up and headed off.
I climbed down off the sand dunes to find the beach covered in sleeping seals. Not wanting to disturb them, I climbed straight back onto the sand dunes to follow the coast path. I had to walk in the dunes for a couple of miles before I could rejoin the beach.
It was great weather again but the wind was still cold this morning. I was glad to have the Helly Hansen jacket to wear now. The wind was on my back again and I really enjoyed the long walk along the beach past Sea Palling and Happisburgh.
I was starting to run short of water and knew I would need some for the camp tonight. I joined the coast path through Walcott but was unable to find any. Rejoining the beach again, I passed Bacton gas distribution station and climbed the small hill up to Mundesley. Here I found water and best of all, an open fish and chip shop.
I enjoyed some of the best fish and chips that I’ve had in years. I found out later that I had been lucky again, because this was the last day they were allowed to stay open. The Covid-19 outbreak was really impacting on communities now. There were few people about, but was nice to have a chat with a couple from Derbyshire on holiday nearby.
I followed the coast path out of Mundesley. It was an interesting walk, staying up above the cliffs for a few miles.
I spotted a what looked like a flat area of grass down near the bottom of the cliff. There looked to be a safe route down to it, so I thought I’d go and have a look. The descent was steeper than expected and when I got to the flat area of grass, it wasn’t as large as it had appeared from above. Luckily the tent I was carrying had a fairly small footprint.
The tent just fitted here and luck would have it, I had a great view out to sea.
Eating dinner with the view over the sea was great, and later I watched the sun set from the comfort of my bed. I was pretty happy when I eventually went to sleep to the sound of the waves on the beach.
Day 5: 24th March 2020
I woke up as it was getting light as usual, but didn’t rush to get up as the tide was right in. I just made a coffee and laid in my sleeping bag with the tent door open, watching another great sunrise. Knowing I was out of sight and away from the path meant I wouldn’t upset anybody by being here. And I knew I couldn’t get going early because I had no intentions climbing that cliff to the coast path. So I had a leisurely breakfast, another coffee and just waited until the tide went out.
The wind was lighter today. It felt warmer when I eventually packed up and set off along the beach at 7.30am. There were no people about and the tide was only just out enough for me to get to Overstrand.
It was here that I got a phone signal and received a text from my wife. She told me that the UK government had said everyone should stay at home, so I should come back.
So instead of taking my intended route around the coast past Cromer, I changed the route. I headed inland towards home. I had enough food to walk home from here, so I wasn’t particularly worried.
It was an interesting walk through fields and quiet lanes to join the Weavers Way for a few miles. This is a path we have walked before as a family.
It is a really good walk on good paths, passing pretty cottages and tranquil villages.
The Weavers Way took me all the way to Blickling Hall, a very popular National Trust property.
It was closed when I walked through the grounds on a public footpath. It was a strange feeling walking through here with no people about.
I didn’t like the look of the route home – too much road and my feet were sore – so I phoned my lovely wife and she picked me up from here. It was a surreal drive home as she told me of all the changes to our freedoms that had been made in the few days since I left home.
I will come back to complete the walk when restrictions are lifted.
Cicerone book – The Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path
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