Walk this way – a guide to walking in Norfolk
Suzy Watson is a walker and author of Explore Norfolk UK (www.explorenorfolkuk.co.uk), an online resource to exploring the county. It also organises walking holidays.
Although you’ve lived here for 20 years, you describe yourself as a Norfolk newcomer – where are you originally from and how did you end up living in Norfolk?
I was brought up in the heart of the Essex countryside so not too far from Norfolk and I spent most of my summer holidays in Walberswick in Suffolk so I always feel I haven’t moved too far. After school I ended up working in London for about nine years and then my husband and I decided to move to Norfolk once we had started a family. We knew a number of people who already lived in Norfolk and it just seemed the perfect place to be – we thought at the time that we needed somewhere that wasn’t too far from London but yet close enough to be able to catch the train to the capital if we needed. Nowadays however, we hardly ever venture into London!
What is it that you love so much about Norfolk, and what’s your very favourite spot (a tough question, we know!)
What I love most about Norfolk is the space it provides. That sense of openness the minute to step onto the beach, or take a wonderful countryside walk. It never feels cramped or crowded. And even after 20 years I still get lost along the lanes near to where I live! Everyone always says it’s known for its big skies, but really you’ve got to see it to believe it, or to understand what they are talking about. I also love its slower pace of life, giving you time to breathe and think. We all move around so quickly these days that to know you can find serenity and peace so quickly when you need it is a great comfort.
My favourite spot in Norfolk is just past the first large sand dune on Wells beach where you become at one with the beach and sky! Words just don’t describe that feeling of complete and utter freedom. Corny I know, but its almost always deserted here apart from dog walkers and you could be a million miles away. This is where you can escape everyday life and immerse yourself in your own thoughts. I love it! Or, I do have another favourite place – on the top of the sand dunes at Gun Hill where you look both ways and can only see sand, sea and sky. A difficult choice! The same feelings but just a bit further along the coast.
Have you always been a walker, and what is it that you love about the activity?
No I haven’t always been a walker. I’ve always been a very sporty person but took up walking about ten years ago when I discovered just how much of Norfolk you could see by foot and just how much I actually hadn’t discovered.
Exploring the Broads along the Wherryman’s Way was an inspiring walk for me, and something you just wouldn’t get by boat or car. And walking all the way along the Norfolk Coast Path is the best, and I would say only, way to see this fantastic coastline. Walking is seeing nature at its best. It gets you out in the fresh air, invigorates you and gives you time to yourself. If you’re walking with others, it gives you time to chat and share stories, something that sometimes we don’t make time for these days.
What three ‘must do’ walks would you recommend to a visitor – perhaps one for a novice, a regular walker and a ‘little known’ route for a seasoned walker.
As you’ll see on the website, I have lots of walks, and I’ll be adding more. For a novice walker and a visitor to Norfolk I would recommend a walk around the park of Felbrigg Hall. You can do a circular walk which is very easy and mostly flat but takes in the most amazing interior of the church, you walk past the lake, an ancient icehouse and a wonderful wood, and ending up at the walled garden if you wanted to visit that too. It also gives you the opportunity to see this Jacobean National Trust house at the same time. One of interest!
For a regular walker, the circular walk from Cromer up to the top of the Roman camp and Incleborough Hill gives beautiful views across the countryside and the North Sea and has changing landscape, one minute you’re walking in woodland, the next on heathland and then into the countryside just outside Cromer. It’s a great walk for views but a little longer than the Felbrigg walk and a little more demanding as you’re walking up to the highest point in Norfolk!
A ‘little known’ route for seasoned walkers – if they’re seasoned walkers they’ve probably done most of the walks, but I love the one along the River Nar taking in the Nar Bone Mill and the surrounding countryside. A difficult question that one!
‘It’s a dog’s life’ takes on new meaning in Norfolk, but what makes a great ‘dog spot’ for your canine pals?
Without a doubt definitely one where they don’t need to be on the lead if at all possible and one where they can run and run – so unsurprisingly it would have to be one of the fantastic Norfolk dog-friendly beaches! Or one of my 16 walks in my book of which all the walks were chosen for having as little time on the lead as possible!
Describe your perfect walking day – the route, the refreshments, and the company…
It would start off by being sunny and a little crisp, possibly an autumn or spring walk would be ideal. The route would be an easy one to follow, probably without having to look at maps the whole time and I love circular walks for obvious reasons – it means you get back to your car! In Norfolk none of the walks are particularly strenuous which is the wonderful thing about rambling here. If the walk has wildlife with it, so much the better, such as the Norfolk coast and the noise of the geese flying over – nothing beats that, it is incredible and very typically Norfolk.
A good walk usually needs a pub either in the middle or at the end and there are lots of those in Norfolk! I’m not really into beer, but I know that many of the pubs have excellent choices of ales which is important to many walkers.
As for company, I really enjoy time on my own (and with my dogs) on walks as it gives me time to just empty my mind. Much of the time I don’t think about anything, but enjoy the landscape and wildlife around me and if I’m walking with my dogs I find myself talking to them. However, I do also love walking with friends as it’s a great time to chat about anything and everything, something you don’t always get time to do when you meet up socially with other people.