North Norfolk Coastal Walk

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Pacific blue sea and sky, fine white sand, even a dolphin skeleton on the shore – only the wind chill told us we were nearer the North Pole than the Tropics.

We'd planned a walk from Wells-next-the-Sea to Burnham Overy Staithe along the coastal path. The hope was to watch Brent geese and other migrants but the wind seemed to have kept them grounded. Like a crowd invasion they almost filled the Wells football pitch.

We left them and took the raised path above the harbour. A curlew in the shallows took off, finding us too close. An oysterdatcher seemed not to bother.

Past the service jetty for seabed wind turbines we had the beach almost to ourselves. One distant man and dog were all we saw. A lone skein of geese clouded the horizon. The wind whipped a mini-Sahara round our feet, making us wonder whether it was building or demolishing the dunes.

Further along we had to track back around streams not making their way towards the sea but almost along the shore. It was clear the sea had no need of their puny input any more than the skeleton we found with a Man Friday (booted) footprint beside it. Was it porpoise or dolphin? We were unsure but hoped for expert advice later. One suspicion was that it had been entangled in a net: there were threads clinging to its spine.

A turn inland brought us to the boardwalk and a bird hide on the edge of the Holkham estate. A tour group there had seen a rare visiting snow goose. We noticed a kestrel in a nearby tree. It stooped but was unsuccessful, coming back to the same roost. Far off there were geese on the meadows.

We moved on through trees then out on to dunes for a further sight of the sea. A demolished pillbox suggested the wartime view of sea had been uninterrupted. All it has to defend now are rabbit warrens and brambles.

The path dropped to tidal marsh and a causeway towards Burnham. Inland were more Brent geese, in shallows and on mudflats several kinds of wader. A little egret stood poised like an ancient spear man by a pool. A curlew stalked below a tidal bank. Ringed plovers and oystercatchers searched the mud. A kestrel hovered overhead. This was why we'd come.

The birding group from the Holkham hide rejoined us from another route and shared the view of knot, wigeon and shelduck. The distant village could have been from far in the past until we noticed the cars. We made our way there and took the Coast Hopper bus back to Wells.

As dusk gathered we saw the first geese make a circuit then land again. On a yacht's rigging starlings were roosting. They took off in a murmuration rehearsal and returned. We made our own way home.

On reflection it seems a six-to-seven mile hike on a Pacific shore would have been exhausting; by the North Sea it was exhilarating – the kind of luxury we might ask for on Desert Island Discs.

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