Day 253 The Road to Manorbier

Monday 11 April 2016

Angle to Manorbier

13 miles (+ car ride)

Manorbier Youth Hostel

After a very comfortable night on a camp bed in the Master-Gunner’s house I was plied with lots of coffee by George and ate bara brith for breakfast (Emma gave me a huge chunk of the cake that was leftover from the cafe). I certainly couldn’t eat any of my porridge as, during the night, a mouse had chewed through my cooking bag and half-eaten 2 packets. I caught him in the act with my head torch during the night; I think he winked at me. 

“Fresh West” (it’s been ages since I last saw sand dunes)
 George offered to give me a lift and I gratefully accepted as the next section, after Freshwater West, involved an inland road walk of about 10 miles in order to skirt around Castlemartin Artillery Range.  

I hope that surfer minds the rocks!
 George drove me down to look at the beach at Freshwater West (the waves looked good and there were a couple of surfers in the sea) and then dropped me at Bosherston Lily Ponds.  

Bosherston lily ponds (I saw a grebe)
 Unfortunately, due to the range being closed, it meant I did miss Elegug Stacks (locally known as “the green bridge of Wales”), St Govan’s Chapel and St Govan’s Head. I noted that if I hadn’t been in the car I would have walked a couple of dead ends down to closed gates and would have been very frustrated then at having to turn around.   

Broad Haven, where the lily ponds meet the sea
  
Broad Haven
 I think today’s walk should have given me some spectacular views along the coast but, unfortunately, the light was so flat it was not possible to see much of them. Still, at least it wasn’t raining! 

looking back from Stackpole Head to St Govan’s Head
 I stopped for a refreshment at Stackpole Quay and had the most disgusting Welsh rarebit I’ve ever eaten.  

amazing rock layers at Stackpole Head
 For the first time since Shell Island I walked along a sandy beach at Freshwater East; it made a nice change to the usual up and down the cliffs. Here I saw my first bluebells in the woods behind the beach. 

looking back on Freshwater East
 At Manorbier I walked up the hill, past the castle, into the village.  

Manorbier Castle, built in a small valley just above the beach
 It was almost 4pm and I was intent on an early pub dinner before the last couple of miles to the youth hostel in the middle of nowhere. I was the only one in the Castle Inn (well it was early) and the landlord said that all the houses in the village were second homes or holiday lets.  

Swanlake Bay
 The sun came out at 5 pm and finally I got some views. I walked past the youth hostel in order to get a good view of Caldey Island and to see the nice rock feature at Skrinkle Haven.   

Caldey Island in the early evening sunshine
 
Skrinkle Haven rock arch
  
Skrinkle Haven
 Manorbier Youth Hostel sits on the edge of the Manorbier Air Defence Range and was once the instructional building for the Thunderbird anti aircraft missile system. From 1937-70 the Artillery used to practise firing at towed targets over the Bristol Channel. 

There was a big school group staying – there to study the local geology. I was put in a 4-bed dorm with Isobel, a 24 year old American who was hiking around parts of Britain. I was very impressed by what she was doing and we shared stories over tea and more of this morning’s bara brith. A seasoned trail hiker, Isobel has 2 months in the UK and she’s spending it walking parts of various national trails (the South West Coast Path, the Wales Coast Path, the Pennine Way) as well as visiting Bath, Edinburgh and Shetland. I reckon she’ll end up seeing more of Britain than many Brits; good for her.  

some of the rock formations are stunning
 Joy of joys, the youth hostel had a washing machine. After 15 days of constant wear my clothes finally got properly laundered rather than the usual hand wash. I think everyone was grateful.  

 

Day 95 Kildonan Highland History

Thursday 9 July 2015

Brora to Helmsdale

1 mile walked (campervan tour)

Helmsdale Hostel

I was a little chilly during the night but survived well in the tent, and no condensation! It was so much easier to pack away this damp morning than my other tent. 

Another cold, damp day in store with showers. Wonderful Scottish weather. After a lazy morning and breakfast in the campervan we set off for Helmsdale. I was not going to walk this section anyway as there are no coastal paths and the A9 and railway line run close to the shore. It was nice to get a lift and company. Getting a lift also means we can stop in different places to look at the scenery.  

Te view back down the coast from Loth
 Helmsdale is a small town at the end of the Strath of Kildonan. Its situation affords a lovely view up the Strath (wide, shallow valley with the River Helmsdale running through it) and it has a nice little harbour.   

Looking up the river at Helmsdale, the war memorial on the left
 
Helmsdale Harbour (built by the Sutherlands after they’d cleared the crofters down to the sea to become fishermen)
 We spent a couple of hours looking around the Timespan museum here, mainly to get a better understanding of the story of the Highland Clearances that took place from about 1813. The landowners realised sheep farming was more profitable than crofting so they kicked out most of their tenant crofters. Many emigrated, or else they were given accommodation and fishing boats and had to learn to become fishermen. Extraordinary story. When the First Duke of Sutherland evicted the crofters from this area in 1813 many emigrated (in reality they had no choice as they had no rights) to Churchill and the Red River in Canada, hence there is a strong connection with that area. There is a large memorial to The Emigrants on a hill overlooking the town.  

The Emigrants memorial
 This is also the town to come to if you fancy panning for gold in the Helmsdale River. Or you could just go salmon fishing. 

Ali and Morna left me here and headed home. I was booked into the hostel and spent the rest of the afternoon sheltering from the rain in a cafe trying to plan ahead. I went for a short walk up the river as far as St John’s Well, a curious little building containing lots of stones with faces painted on them.  

Stone faces inside St John’s Well
 I went for fish and chips in La Mirage, the fish and chip restaurant recommended by Clarissa Dickson-Wright of Two Fat Ladies fame. I ordered a small fish special as the regular sized one came with 2 enormous haddock, as well as bread and butter and enough hips to require a plate of their own. It was a funny meal but very nice. Considering most towns up here don’t even have one pub, Helmsdale is doing well as it has 4 along the main street, as well as a restaurant and a cafe, and this evening I didn’t even need one!

A great little restaurant
 The hostel was nice and there was a French family, an Italian couple and a Scottish lady staying the night. I got a few tips for my trip and Catrina gave me her mum’s number who lives in Drumbeg. It’s raining again! 

Looking up the Helmsdale River and the Strath of Kildonan

Day 94 Dunrobin Castle and a New Tent

Wednesday 8 July 2015

Dornoch to Brora

8 miles

Brora Caravan Club Site

Not a good start to the morning when I discovered 2 ticks buried in my right leg. They must have been there for over a day but they weren’t full of blood. I had to use my new tick-remover tool. Once that was done it was all about the excitement of new kit. Ali picked me up and we started with coffee and a cake at the patisserie in Dornoch; no sense in rushing things!

From Dornoch Beach Morna and I walked the 2 miles along the coast to Embo, which seemed to be one giant caravan park. It was a chance for me to try out the new rucksack, adjusting the straps etc as we went. After 2 miles I was feeling pleased with my purchase as it seemed comfortable and quite a bit lighter and more manageable than my old pack.  

Me and my new rucksack on the path from Dornoch
 Ali picked us up in Embo and then we drove to Golspie, stopping a couple of times to admire the increasingly hilly scenery. I was happy to be driving around Loch Fleet in the rain; the tide was out and there were a few seals on the shoreline.  

Looking inland along Loch Fleet
 The town of Golspie is at the foot of Ben Bhraggie, a classic-looking hill with a 31m high statue of the First Duke of Sutherland, known as the “Mannie”, right on the top.  

The Mannie on Ben Bhraggie
 I thought it was interesting that the information board listed all the criticisms of the First Duke of Sutherland and nothing positive (he was associated with the Highland Clearances). There is a walk inland from Golspie called the Big Burn Walk that is very popular, but I didn’t have time for that as we were heading along the coast. 

Just outside the town is the rather stunning Dunrobin Castle, home of the Sutherlands. It has 189 rooms and is still a home, although it is also open to the public. We decided to take a look and were just in time for a falconry display in the magnificent gardens. It was the best display I’ve seen as the falconer was very good. I enjoyed my second sighting of a peregrine this year! 

Dunrobin Castle gardens

Ther view of the gardens and the sea from the Castle verandah
  I much preferred touring this castle to Bamburgh; there was so much more to see. TheSutherland history is quite complex as they went from Earls to Dukes and back again. The main thing I noted was that the First Duke of Sutherland started out life as the Marquis of Stafford, so was in fact a Midlander. Some of his seals even said Lilleshall, Shifnal (and I noticed a Lilleshall Street when I got to Helmsdale).  

Dunrobin Castle from the sea-side
 There was a coastal path from the Castle to Brora, 5 miles away. Another trial for my rucksack. Morna and I walked it and Ali drove to find a campsite. We walked past the Carn Liath Broch, which is quite well preserved.  

Carn Liath Broch
 I kept stopping to look back at the views of Dunrobin Castle and the Mannie; this walk would be better heading South, although the visibility wasn’t always great as dark clouds kept rolling in.  

Looking back to Dunrobin Castle and the Mannie through the gloom

As we approached Brora there were lots of seals on the beach and in the sea. The ones in the water seemed to be mums and pups and they kept checking us out. I was rather taken by the stones on the beach here as they looked like lots of pebbles had been cast together to make rocks.  

An example of the amazing rocks on the shore
 Arriving at the campsite in Brora it began raining again so we sheltered in the campervan and cracked open the wine. Dinner was a lovely pasta with sauce. Eventually it stopped raining long enough for me to put up my new tent and soon it was time for me to try it out. It’s not very dark inside!

 

Day 91 The Road to Easter Ross

Sunday 5 July 2015

Cromarty to Evanton

17 miles

Black Rock Caravan Park Bunkhouse

As the Nigg Ferry wasn’t running I was going to have to walk inland to the A9 road crossing of the Cromarty Firth in order to leave the Black Isle and head North into Easter Ross. After a big breakfast I set off alongside Cromarty Bay. This was to be a day of road walking.  

The Cromarty Firth complete with oil rigs, the Sutors at the entrance
 It was a grey but warm day; not great visibility for views. The deep water of the Cromarty Firth was used by the Royal Navy for over 300 years, including as a harbour for the Atlantic Fleet during WW2. When the Navy left in the 1950s it left behind the oil fuel depot and the oil industry moved in. The Nigg Fabrication Yard and oil terminal were right in the eyeline from Cromarty, and then there were the 8 oil rigs that were in the Firth at the moment. Invergordon is the hub for rig repairs so rigs are often laid up in the Cromarty Firth (they might also be surplus rigs as production is cut back) and they really dominate the surroundings.  

Nigg Fabrication Yard as viewed from Cromarty
 I walked around the Udale RSPB Reserve to Newhall Point, right opposite Invergordon at another ‘neck’ in the Firth. Here I had a break to tend to my first blister since Norfolk and to look at the oil rigs. Invergordon is also a cruise liner port; a big one left last night and there was only a small one docked today.  

Looking at Invergordon from Newhall Point
 I walked to the rundown Balblair pier hoping to find a path that was indicated on the map. Some ship workers soon put me straight that there wasn’t a path and I was forced back up the hill onto the road for a 7 mile trek to the bridge. After about 3 miles with cars dodging me I finally plucked up the courage to thumb a lift and I got lucky as the first car stopped. A very nice lady gave me a lift to the A9, saving me 4 boring miles. 

The next bit was to cross the A9 bridge, which was not the most pleasant experience. There was only a small pavement alongside a very busy main road. I was fortunate only 1 lorry went past.  

Walking the A9 across the bridge to Easter Ross
 I had to continue for another 2 miles along the verge of the A9, right beside the North side of the Cromarty Firth, until I got to the Foulis Point Heritage Centre. I stopped here for a break and just sat on a sofa in the busy restaurant and read a newspaper. No one bothered me even though I didn’t buy anything.  

 I only had 2 more miles along minor roads into Evanton. I was the only one staying in the bunkhouse at the campsite, but I was glad to be inside when the heavy rain arrived later in the evening.  

 

Day 88 Fort George

Thursday 2 July 2015

Bus to Inverness

6 miles

Bazpackers Hostel, Inverness

There was a big thunderstorm during the night that cleared the air a bit. I was up at 4.15 am as Dave was heading to Inverness Airport for an early flight and kindly dropped me off at Ardersier enroute. From there it was a 1.5 mile walk along the Inverness estuary to Fort George. As there are no coastal paths between Findhorn and Inverness I had decided not to bother walking and just to visit Fort George instead as it seemed like an interesting place right on the ‘neck’ of the Moray Firth, directly opposite Chanonry Point.  

Fort George guarding the ‘neck’ of the Moray Firth
 Yet again I had been really lucky and very well looked after by Dave and Cally. Staying with friends provides a welcome morale boost.  

Looking across the Moray Firth to Inverness and the Kessock Bridge
 It was so quiet and peaceful at 6 am; no one was about, the sky looked huge and the water was dead calm. A great morning for sitting on the rocky shore and watching dolphins. What a treat I was in for, an hour long show. At first I only saw one, very close to the shore, but soon there were lots, in many small groups. It was so calm I could hear them breathe out through their blowholes before I could see them. I was able to watch them for ages and occasionally was treated to breaching and big dives. Fantastic.  

There’s the first dolphin
  
Leaping out of the water
  
A dolphin in front of Chanonry Point
 Once the show was over I spent some time enjoying the calm and catching up on blog writing until Fort George opened to the public at 9.30 am. 

On the shore outside Fort George early in the morning
  It’s a popular place and there was already a coach in the car park by 9.45. It is the only fort in the country that is open as a museum and is still a working barracks, hence there were soldiers wandering around.  

The formal building layout inside the fort
 The fort is so well preserved and well designed that I’m sure it would have been impregnable in the mid-1700s, it’s just a pity it took over 20 years to build and so was surplus to requirements by the time it was finished in 1770. Nothing ever changes in the military! The fort was designed by William Skinner after the Battle of Culloden, which was just a few miles down the road, in 1746. The Crown beat the Rebelling Highlanders and built Fort George to contain any possible future threats from those pesky Scots. By the time it was finished, however, England and Scotland were quite well united.  

Protection from the Highlanders
 The Highlanders museum and the Seaforth Arms display were both impressive. I spent a good couple of hours wandering around. I went for a coffee and was asked if I was in the Army – I must still have a military look about me! I explained I was in the RAF and I think that still qualified me for a discount.  

The bridge to get in
 I had to walk back to Ardersier to catch a bus to Inverness in the afternoon.  

 I wandered through the ‘Capital of the Highlands’ and booked into one of the backpackers’ hostels. I think I’m too old to appreciate these sort of places. I needed to go shopping for a couple of things so did a tour of the outdoors-type shops and bought a hat, a tick remover tool and a new t-shirt to replace my one that’s falling apart after 3 months of constant wear. 

I was feeling a bit glum as planning was going badly so I treated myself to a restaurant meal as I couldn’t face navigating the hostel kitchen. 

Day 85 The Moray Harbour Towns

Monday 29 June 2015

Cullen to Lossiemouth 

16.5 miles

Dave and Cally’s house, Elgin

I was fortunate not to have a hangover this morning. But the sun was shining and it was nice to sit outside the hostel with a cup of tea admiring the view across the harbour.  

Cullen Beach, Seatown, and the disused railway line
 Having left the pub without paying last night I had to walk back up the town, get an envelope and post some money through the letterbox of the Three Kings. Once that was done I could set off, through Seatown and across the Cullen links golf course.  

Looking down on Cullen Beach and the links golf course
 I climbed up the cliff and watched a fishing boat setting creels to catch lobster and crab.  

A fishing boat setting creels
 There was a path along the headland and I was able to admire all the amazing rock formations and stacks produced by the deeply folded beds of Cullen quartzite. The best one is Bow Fiddle Rock.  

The Bow Fiddle Rock
 Portknockie was the next town, and then Findochty (can be pronounced Finickty). All of these towns are built to the same mould but some, like Findochty, look brighter with their brightly painted houses.  

Port Knockie Harbour
  
Findochty Harbour
 
I stopped at The Admirals pub for a coffee and to do some blog writing. I ended up staying for a spot of lunch. I had Cullen Skink, a creamy seafood and fish soup with potato and onions. Delicious. 

I climbed up the cliff again and stopped at the war memorial to admire the view. Then it was a walk around yet another golf course and down the hill to Buckie. The town of Buckie seems to have swallowed the small towns of Portessie, Ianstown and Gordonsburgh, although all 3 have their own nameplates there is nothing to them. There is a colony of grey seals on Craigenroan Rock just offshore from the old Strathlene lido that is now filled in with stones.  

Craigenroan Rock with its noisy seals and the remains of Strathlene Lido
 I walked along the Buckie sea front and this town did not have the same feel as the other harbour towns. Buckie is bigger and still has a small shipbuilding industry, which used to build the herring fleet trawlers. Buckie had a large herring fishing fleet in the early 1900s and the Cluny Fish Kilns are still in operation, smoking fish for over a century.  

Cluny Fish Kilns still in operation
 I saw dolphins swimming along not far off shore. I managed to get a photo of one breaching, although it’s not very good without a proper camera.  

That is a dolphin breaching, honest
 I stood quite some time watching the dolphins and getting talked to by a young lady with incredibly bad teeth (probably from drinking cans of Irn Bru or Monster as I frequently see). Eventually I said I had to go and carried on to Portgordon, which seemed really rundown and there were several houses up for sale. I then headed inland slightly and onto the Speyside Way, a National trail that follows the River Spey, Britain’s fastest flowing river.  

Nice to walk through woods for a change, The Speyside Way from Port Gordon
 At Spey Bay I stopped to check out the Scottish Dolphin Centre and there were quite a lot of people trying to spot dolphins (I didn’t boast that I’d had a great view of some at Buckie). The Moray Firth is home to a pod of almost 200 bottlenose Dolphins and they are significantly larger and fatter than other bottlenoses as this is the farthest North and the coldest sea they are found.  

The Scottish Dolphin Centre right at the mouth of the Spey Bey, complete with a David Annand sculpture of an osprey
 I walked about a mile up the River Spey to the first bridge and crossed it into Garmouth where my friend Dave had agreed to pick me up. 

  From here to Lossiemouth involved a long, and dull walk along shingle next to a forest so I decided to give it a miss. It had been a long enough walk and Dave’s wife, Cally, had cooked a lovely dinner and I was keen to meet the children and answer their questions. 

Looking up the River Spey
  
Amazing hospitality, even a chocolate on my pillow! Thanks Cally
 

Day 58 North Berwick Seabird Centre

Tuesday 2 June 2015

North Berwick to Musselburgh
11 miles
Ali’s house

It was raining and high winds were forecast. I hadn’t had time to look around North Berwick yesterday and I wanted to visit the Seabird Centre there and get a boat trip to Bass Rock to see all the birds. It didn’t take long to come to the conclusion that I would get more from my day if I just did some sightseeing. 

Ali gave me a lift to North Berwick (so no meeting people on the bus today) and dropped me at the bottom of the North Berwick Law, which is a random 187m conical hill just at the back of North Berwick. It was once a volcanic plug and is not the only random mound in the area (Arthur’s Seat in the centre of Edinburgh is another). I thought I would brave the rain and wind and climb it (very sensible!) first thing to earn myself a coffee before the Seabird Centre opened at 10am.  

Very windy at the top of Berwick Law
 I earned my coffee. The Seabird Centre is excellent. I headed straight for the ‘birdcams’ that give live pictures from 4 of the islands just offshore: Bass Rock, Craigleith, Fidra and the Isle of May. I watched a Peregrine Falcon devouring a kill on Craigleith and then spent a couple of hours watching gannets, puffins, razorbills, kittiwakes and various gulls, and their chicks. The staff are very knowledgeable and there was also a fish tank with lots of rock pool creatures in it and feeding time was funny. 

I’m not sure any boat trips were happening in the extreme wind (50 mph) but I’d decided it was too cold anyway. After a lovely morning I wandered through the town trying to decide which cafe to get lunch in. A quaint little town with a whiff of money about it. I was bemused to see blue plaques on some of the walls relating to golf professionals! 

Who?
 After lunch the sun was coming out so I thought I’d walk to Gullane to join the dots of this part of the coastline. I started by walking out of town along the edge of North Berwick golf course, which was very busy and every player was accompanied by a caddy wearing a special caddy-bib. Very posh! 

Looking back across the golf course to North Berwick and the Berwick Law
 As yesterday, my route was a mix of beach walking and fighting my way through the dunes. I struggled to find the marked path on occasions. I walked past Muirfield golf course but I was well out of the way in the dunes.  

Broad Sands with the 3 isles of Bass Rock, Craigleith and Fidra
 Ali kindly picked me up from Gullane and then we drove along the coast roads to Musselburgh: around Aberlady Bay and through the old mining towns of Cockenzie and Preston Pans. We passed Port Seton caravan park; a popular holiday destination for some Edinburghers. I don’t feel the need to go back and walk this section.  
Beautiful view – Gullane (it was windy!)
 

As it was Ali’s birthday we went out for a lovely Italian meal to celebrate. 

Day 53 A Windy Walk to Berwick

Thursday 28 May 2015

Beal to Berwick-Upon-Tweed
8 miles
Hosted by Clive & Yvonne

I survived the rain through the night and woke to another beautiful sunny morning. I had small tents either side of me and it was disheartening to see how wet my tent was compared to theirs. At least it showed that my tent struggles are not all my fault. That settled it, I need to buy a better tent. 

I eventually got the tent dry in the strong wind, made myself some porridge, admired the beautiful view and set off on the relatively short walk to Berwick. Although it was sunny, the wind was in my face and very strong, which made it quite hard going. Once past the marshy areas opposite Holy Island, I tried to walk along Goswick Sands but hadn’t taken account of the North Low River that flows out over the beach cutting it in two. I walked along looking for somewhere to cross but to no avail. I could have paddled if I’d taken my shoes and socks off, but as I was being sand blasted and struggling into the headwind I thought I’d leave the beach anyway in the hope of some shelter. I ended up almost turning back on myself and then struggled to find a way through the dunes until finally I reached Goswick Golf Club. I was relieved. Almost as soon as I picked up the coast path signs again they tried to send me further inland so I headed back towards the beach, braving the busy (and private) golf course, and stayed close to the dunes. It didn’t take long before I was back on the coast path and overlooking the beautiful Cocklawburn Beach. A few families were enjoying the beach, despite the gale force winds!  

Cocklawburn beach
 Chris’s friend, Ed, lives in a house overlooking the beach and had invited me in for a brew (no cups of tea in the Army, just brews). I had only walked 8 miles but was desperate for a break from the incessant wind so timing was perfect for me. Ed was out but his mum, Sue, was there and made me feel very welcome, feeding me tea, sandwiches and cake. I admired the views and watched from the window as squalls of rain came through, alternating with the sunshine, and I wasn’t keen on heading back out. Ed came back so I stayed for more tea and then, after I’d been there a good couple of hours, he offered me a lift the last few miles to Berwick as he had to go out anyway. I gratefully accepted. 

I’d had a wonderful afternoon chatting to Ed and his family and was treated to a scenic drive the long way round to Berwick to take in some of the sights. Fantastic. We drove over the Union Bridge, possibly the oldest suspension bridge in the UK, that crosses the River Tweed and so I had my first foray into Scotland. Then we drove up to the viewpoint on Halidon Hill which has an incredible vista. I was lucky it was such a clear day and I could see for miles; right across to the Cheviots, South as far as Ross Castle, and of course the Farne Islands, Bamburgh Castle and Holy Island.  

The view from Halidon Hill across the Tweed to the Cheviots
 
The view from Halidon Hill to Berwick and all the way back to Bamburgh
  We drove into Berwick-Upon-tweed and had a quick drive around so I could admire the immaculately preserved Elizabethan town walls and see the home of Ed’s old regiment, the Kings Own Scottish Borderers. After he dropped me off I had a short walk along part of the wall to the Quayside where Clive and Yvonne have a beautiful town house with wonderful views across the mouth of the Tweed and out to sea.  

The view from one of Clive’s windows overlooking the quay just after yet another rain squall
 Clive had heard about my trip ages ago and kindly offered me accommodation, and a wonderful meal, and use of his washing machine. What a perfect ending to the day. I had a lovely evening. Yet again some very kind people had made my day by being kind to a stranger. 

Day 39 The North Yorkshire Moors National Park

Thursday 14 May 2015

Scarborough to Robin Hood’s Bay
14 miles
Bank House Cottage

It was nice to sleep in a proper bed and thanks to Marie for hosting me, feeding me and allowing me to do some washing. She even gave me a lift back down to the North end of Morth Bay, by the Scalby Mills Sea Life Centre. The sky was grey all day but at least it didn’t rain and the visibility was excellent again.  

The view back across North Bay to the castle (sea life centre bottom left)
Today felt like I was on a completely different walking trip as I entered the North Yorkshire Moors National Park at Long Nab. Here is a perfect spot for the old coastguard lookout station that was built in 1927.  

The Long Nab Lookout Station – I can still see Flamborough Head
No more seaside towns in the National Park, instead I felt like I was hiking through the hills. I saw farmland, hedgerows, cows, a farmer herding sheep, cobbles in the footpath, becks and dales. And then on my right hand side I had the vast expanse of the North Sea and I could hear its constant roar. It was like walking in the Lake District at the coast; brilliant.  

The moors and the coast
The first amazing place I came to was Hayburn Wyke, where Hayburn Beck flowed into the beach.   

Hayburn Beck hits the beach
 
Standing on the bridge over the beck
What a magical place; somewhere to pitch your tent and have a BBQ. 

There was a lot of up and down on today’s walk, mostly using steps that were all really large and I was glad I had my poles to help. Just a bit further along the cliff was the Ravenscar radar station and lookout that was used in WW2.  

Ravenscar radar station and lookout perched on the cliff
 I reached Ravenscar in time for a late lunch at the tea rooms in the old Ravenscar Hall Hotel. You can’t beat a pot of tea served in China cups. 

From Ravenscar it’s worth leaving the Cleveland Way and heading down to see Peak Fault. It’s a geological fault line right here in the UK that is clearly visible as a line in the rocks at low tide. Look at the cliffs and the ones on your left are completely different to the ones in your right. Amazing. 

The view of Robin Hood’s Bay from Ravenscar is stunning.  

Robin Hood’s Bay from Ravenscar
As I walked on the cliff top around the Bay I stopped to marvel at the old Alum works. The scars of the quarry are visible in the hills and the ruins of the works on the cliff top. To extract the alum from the quarried slate one needs seaweed and human urine! Both were shipped in and hauled up the cliff in a train.  

The two gorse patches are the slag heaps from the old quarry, the alum wprks were below
The town of Robin Hood’s Bay is quaint and has a very steep hill (30% incline). I am staying here in a cottage for the next 4 nights and taking the weekend off to explore the area a bit more. Tomorrow I get to walk to Whitby without my heavy pack.  

The quaint town of Robin Hood’s Bay

Day 20 Peaceful Norfolk Coastal Marshes

Saturday 25 April 2015

Sheringham to Wells-next-the-Sea
16.5 miles
Eastdene B&B (not recommended)

Thank goodness there is a tescos in Sheringham as I needed to replenish my snack stocks. I had a nice walk over the cliffs to start, through the gorse bushes in full bloom and past the golf course to Sherbourne. Here I walked up the lane from the beach to meet Chris’ Aunt Mary who owns Millstream House B&B. Mary fed me coffee, fruit and cake and we had a good chat – something I miss a little bit being on my own. After an hour and a half I was quite behind in my walking until Mary offered me a lift up the road to Salthouse so that I didn’t have to walk too far on the shingle beach. Time for another piece of coconut and lime cake then, excellent. 

After the shingle beach came Cley marshes, which are mostly freshwater and alongside the River Glaven. Another nature reserve and the birders were out in force. At Cley Eye you have to walk inland from the beach, across the marshes, to the very pretty Cley-next-the-Sea in order to get a bridge across the river and come back down the other side. From Cley Eye you can walk to Blakeney point, at the tip of a big spit of sand and another breeding site for sandwich- and little- terns. I didn’t have the time or the energy for the extra 4 miles today. 

As you look across the flat marshes from the beach there are 2 small hills (little bumps really) with houses on them; one is Cley and the other is Blakeney. Cley has a beautiful windmill and Blakeney has a church poking out of the trees on top of the hill.  

the windmill at Cley-next-the-Sea
From Blakeney the rest of the walk was all alongside salt marshes. I passed lots of people, but the Saturday afternoon strollers are not as friendly and so not many even said hello. On the wildlife front I was treated to a good view of a pair of marsh harriers and at one point a hare ran out in front of me, I startled it, and it turned tail and ran away.  

the view across Stiffkey salt marshes with Blakeney Point in the distance
Arriving at Wells-next-the-Sea the clouds seemed to be getting darker and more threatening, and the wind was picking up so I was glad to arrive at my B&B. I struggled to find accommodation in Wells so had to make do with an over-priced and rather dirty room in an old lady’s house. Still, I could be camping (if I could find any campsites). The local pub was full and served decent food so I spent my usual evening trying to plan ahead. Not quite the same as an evening in my local at home.  
Look what I’m missing in my local pub at home!