Tales from the Big Trails, in print on 2nd September 2021, available now for pre-order from Vertebrate Publishing. Featuring all 15 National Trails in England and Wales, and the 4 designated long-distance Scotland’s Great Trails. This is the story of the people I meet, the landscapes and coastal scenery and the sheer joy of walking these iconic long-distance routes in the UK. Click on a link below for a copy.
Two walks for the price of one. Starting near Thetford, the Peddars Way progresses north-northeasterly towards the coast and then turns right along the Norfolk coastline towards Cromer. The former passes through arable land and bracken heathland, the latter is very much an unspoilt coastline of marshes and sandy beaches. The path is almost completely level with no ascent/descent of any significance.
Time of year
Avoid strong northerly or easterly gales and be wary of spring high tides combined with these gales. Having said that the path can be walked at any time of year and is perhaps best during the bird migration season in September, should you interested in the huge variety of migrating birds that stopover in the marsh areas. The going underfoot is unlikely to get too muddy as it is well drained and sandy. Perhaps avoid the holiday season as the area gets very busy.
Length of walk
93 miles, including a 5-mile optional excursion into Hunstanton. Allow 4-5 days to enjoy the coastal scenery and excellent restaurants and pubs along the route (takes 6-7 days!)
I camped each day using a bivvy bag and tarp, given the warm conditions. There is an excellent accommodation guide available to help book in advance. This should be strongly considered during the holiday season as this is a popular region for holidaymakers, attracted by the beaches.
My last National Trail, chosen as my ancestors come from the area around Docking and I have had visions of a lovely crab sandwich at Cromer as a reward for completing the trails.
As usual, I caught an early train to Thetford via Cambridge and then a quick taxi to the remote start point near Knettishall Heath Country Park. This is where the Icknield Way joins the ancient path of Peddars Way, making it possible to walk the chalk ridge from Wiltshire to the Norfolk coast. The initial part of the walk is uneventful, save the gunfire from a nearby military training ground. I stop often to sample the Blackberries and Apples as I progress the sandy path, interspersed with deep black flint stones. Soon enough the campsite at Ashill arrives. That evening is very humid and warm and I try to sleep as the Crows roost and the USAF conduct their exercises and sleeping practically naked in the open is a new experience.
Up early and pick up breakfast at a petrol station near a road crossing. Castle Acre is a welcome sight, for the demolished Abbey and picturesque village with tea shop and post office. A quick lunch and I am on my way towards Bircham Windmill campsite along mostly road, which begins to give me blisters in the lightweight shoes I have chosen for the walk. The Windmill is delightful and a working example, as it spins to orientate to the wind overnight. The skies are clear and it is another hot and humid night.
The sheep and cockerels wake me at the exact time the sun rises, so I pack up early and rejoin the Peddars Way to walk to the coast. I make good pace considering my blisters are becoming a problem. A cherry tree with ripe fruit cheers me up.
I meet my daughter who joins me for the next 2 days as we walk towards Cromer. The scenery changes dramatically as we progress along the coast. The beaches and dykes along the marshlands are wonderful walking (blisters aside). We arrive in Burnham Deepdale to a pleasant campsite and superb seafood restaurant, where I am treated to a lovely meal.
My blisters are now becoming an issue, but I persist knowing I only have 30 odd miles to go, but on reaching Blakeney I have to bail out, which is the right decision, due to blisters, due to a poor weather forecast. I honestly can’t believe that after some 900 odd miles of walking this year I get blisters. I really should have bought my boots. I will never learn.
After a week or so I returned to finish a mere 15 miles into Cromer! It was a lovely day to reflect on the National Trails I have spent 12 years walking. On arrival, a sign pointed to the continuation of the England Coast Path. Given that this will be a National Trail in 2020, this has to be on my list. Stay tuned.
- Day 1 – 18m – Home to South Pickenham – Bivvie/Tarp
- Day 2 – 22m – Bircham Windmill – Bivvie/Tarp
- Day 3 – 22m – Burnham Deepdale – Bivvie/Tarp
- Day 4 – 18m – Blakeney – Lift home
- Day 5 – 16m – Cromer – Lift home