North Norfolk

252 Reviews

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January, 2017

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We had planned to use the North Norfolk Coastal Walk on our short break at Wiveton Bell. The forecast predicted gales but as they would be east-to-west we thought of parking at Blakeney or Burnham Overy Staithe and walking west with the Coasthoppa bus for the return journey. We had done something similar in the opposite direction before.

‘Mice and men’: we should have thought it was approaching Burns night. He wasn’t a Norfolk man we know but Nelson (from Burnham Thorpe) was always seasick. That was a bad omen too.

There were hundreds of geese and other waterfowl taking refuge inland as we drove through Stiffkey. Unsurprisingly, few cars were parked at Burnham. As soon as we were outside we realised why. Burnham Market would have been a better bet. At least there are shops.

Still, being British, we set off, with the wind behind us. We should have taken note of the flooded meadows, however. Not fifty metres in, the Coastal Path was a quagmire. Thigh boots might have been sufficient protection but not trainers.

Back in the car we drove to Wells. Determined on something sea-like we passed by the entrance to Holkham. The car park at Wells was also ominously empty. Nonetheless we had a hard surface on the path to the beach where the Holkham estate begins. A bonus was the waterfowl in the shallows: ringed plovers, oystercatchers and a curlew along with dozens of gulls. The geese of course were inland. Few if any ventured to fly. No wonder, we realised, as even below the sea wall the wind was savage. Anything but British was our early decision to turn back.

Wells has an attractive harbour-side with cafes, restaurants and shops. Lunch was at least an out-of-the-wind option, and we found a good one at a relatively new restaurant called Seasons. Still working off a Wiveton Bell dinner and with another in prospect we asked if they did light lunches. Certainly, there was a tapas-like option. Excellent it was too. We had smoked haddock sliders – eaten before the photo but easy to imagine – a fish burger in a small roll. Very Spanish if my Jose Pizarro recipe book is any guide. The other two dishes were baked crab with Binham cheese and grilled aubergine on cous cous. Vegetarians can do well there. The coffee was also excellent.

Had I read the book I’d bought at Blickling we might have visited Ware Hall-house, now a B&B, apparently: the book tells how it was moved from Ware in Hertfordshire by its spinster owner to avoid demolition for a by-pass. The original was medieval and would not have been threatened nowadays. Next time we’ll go perhaps.

Cley-next-the-Sea was our final destination and because of roadworks we had to drive past the Bell to reach it. There is a splendid view of both Cley and Wiveton churches from outside the Bell, and another of Blakeney and Wiveton from near Cley. They were once the key points on an estuary with sea-going vessels at their quays. Now the area is silted up although much more of the recent rain would restore something of the old appearance.

Made in Cley (clay, though the pronunciation of the place name is disputed) was as ever a delight to visit, with some brilliant photographs as well as the splendid pottery and jewellery. A pot was all we could afford but we make no apology for that. The smokehouse next door had crab, which had sold out last time, but we were not in the market with at least 24 hours before we could eat it.

So back to the Bell, noting that the road works we had passed were finished. These had been a matter of filling potholes with soft tarmac, which the workmen then used their feet to flatten. We may be silly in Suffolk but that really amused us.

Dinner at the Bell was as generous and tasty as ever and, as on the previous evening, was followed by a pleasant half hour beside the fire – this time talking to a couple from West Yorkshire who now live in Sheringham.

The Garden Room we had was a little less in reality than the photos had led us to expect. We preferred the previous room in an annexe. However, nobody learns without trial and we certainly were not uncomfortable until the gale threatened to blow the roof off during the night. It did blow away the cool bag I’d put out for breakfast. I hope it went only into the courtyard; the baker arrived with a fresh one as usual containing milk, croissants and our complimentary newspaper. It is a quirky system but works well.

Anyone not wishing to wait until 8.30 or so can dress and go out for a cooked breakfast in Cley with a £10 credit from the Bell. We had been there at our own cost on a day visit and it is good value.

Our final visit of an adventurous break was for lunch with friends in Holt but, arriving in mid-morning hoping for coffee at Byford’s beforehand, we found the town without power as indeed much of Norfolk and Suffolk were until almost midday. One shop has gas and we were directed there to join what seemed like half of Holt for the only coffee available.
Cash registers and ATMs were out of action so shopping in this shoppers’ paradise was a non-starter. Everyone in the coffee bar (Horatio’s naturally) gave a cheer when the lights came on. Our friend had even managed a cake that was still warm at lunchtime.


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