Feet of Cley on the Norfolk Coast Path

norfolk coast 1

SHINGLE banks are not the easiest terrain to walk across. And between the north Norfolk village of Cley and the town of Sheringham they stretch for miles. It’s a matter of steer your prow into the wind and start plodding . . .

Today, after a series of almost accidental events, I find myself walking the final few miles of the Norfolk Coast Path, a trail that runs 42 miles (67.5km) from Hunstanton to Cromer. I’ve only a day to spare so I’m walking the 12 miles (19.3km) from Cley to the railway station at Cromer.

Cley, depending on who you talk to, usually rhymes with “eye”. My wife and niece drop me off at a river mouth known as Cley Eye, which amuses me no end because it rhymes with Pie Eye, or Why Aye. There must be a Geordie joke in there somewhere but I can’t nail it down. (Click pictures for high-res images)

norfolk coast 2 norfolk coast 3Cold and vaguely disorientated, whipped by wind and dampened by spray, I leave the two women in their nice warm car – which suits them fine because they’re both laughing at me – and set a course slightly south of east and head towards Cromer.

norfolk coast 4Strange how I landed here in this flat land of fens, square-towered churches and Wherry beer. It’s just one of those things that life deposits on you. One minute your wife’s on the phone to her teacher sister in Norfolk, deciding on the spur of the moment to visit because we’ve got a few days off work; the next you’re marching in solidarity on an NUT protest in Norwich city centre demanding the resignation of Michael Gove. Not sure how that happened.

And now I’m standing on a deserted beach, watching my car disappear down a narrow road towards civilisation and the certainty of money being showered among the teashops and charity shops of Norfolk. At least they’ve given me enough cash for a pint and a train fare back to the city.

norfolk coast 5 norfolk coast 6 norfolk coast 7 norfolk coast 8Norfolk. This coast is a timeline through history, with Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age remains peppered among the dunes and shingle banks. But the most obvious structures date from the 1940s – the numerous half-buried or partially-destroyed pillboxes and gun-emplacements that defended the shoreline from Hitler’s forces.

Time and nature have proved to be more formidable adversaries than fascism. The concrete structures have, in some places, been reduced to rubble and scattered along the tide-line. Erosion appears to be rampant. Huge breaches in the defences have allowed the sea to wash thousands of tonnes of shingle into the marshes. In one place a car-park has been lost beneath several feet of detritus. Norfolk is being swallowed by the North Sea. And here’s us worrying about the Russians.

norfolk coast 9 norfolk coast 10 norfolk coast 11 norfolk coast 12 norfolk coast 13Michael Gove, eh? Why is it that the Crimeans can hold a referendum, which Britain denounces as undemocratic, when Michael Gove can turn huge chunks of the education system over to the private sector using measures no one voted for because they didn’t appear in any election manifesto? Who’s living in the true democracy here?

Bloody Tories. And here’s another thing. The cack-handed, one-eyed, intellectually-challenged pillocks who run the newspaper company I work for have just pushed my redundancy date back for the third time because they haven’t a clue what they are doing. March 13 became April 15 which has now become May 7. My chickens are more organised and go about their business more purposefully and effectively than the half-baked executive types slapping my destiny from pillar to post.

This is why the economy is sluggish and the sea is washing the land away. This country is being run by jumped-up advertising reps who believe the public would rather play bingo than secure a proper education for their children. They inhabit every stratum of management in every corporate and political organisation. Basically, the rest of us don’t stand a chance. If you ask me, we should hold a referendum and chuck our lot in with the Russians.

norfolk coast 14Where was I? The Norfolk Coast Path. Here’s something interesting. On the outskirts of Weybourne I spy two field guns with their barrels poking skywards from Second World War bunkers. They are in an area fenced off with barbed wire; and nearby wartime buildings emit strange sounds from aerial masts – pings and beeps and stuff like that.

I take some pictures and wait to be arrested. It’s like a scene from a Dr Who episode in the 1970s. Any minute now the Brigadier is going to roar up a track in his jeep and bundle me into the back. But nobody appears.

So I continue my walk along the shingle, ruminating on the likelihood that, because things have moved on, the modern way to deal with intruders is to zap them with a US drone while they’re sitting on the beach eating a bacon sandwich. (Only later, while out for a drink with my brother-in-law, do I learn that the army base is now a museum called The Muckleburgh Military Collection. Had me fooled, I can tell you)

norfolk coast 15 norfolk coast 16 norfolk coast 17 norfolk coast 18At Weybourne Hope the path leaves the shingle and takes to the grassy clifftops. The walking is uplifting and less arduous. There is much evidence of coastal erosion, with many fresh landslips spilling brown and orange clays onto the beach. The path has disappeared in places – and recently too. If Bill Bryson ever contemplates revising his books, he should rename one of them Notes From an Even Smaller Island.

norfolk coast 19 norfolk coast 20 norfolk coast 21norfolk coast 22I arrive in Sheringham with the first heavy shower of the day and seek shelter in a seafront pavilion, gazing indifferently across a grey duck pond at a totally featureless housing complex. Every window in the complex is equipped with those bland vertical blinds that have inexplicably replaced traditional curtains.

Vertical window blinds. I’ve missed something here. Has there been a post-soviet campaign to align contemporary British tastes with the eastern-bloc culture of conformity? No need to vote for the Russians. They’re already here.

norfolk coast 23 norfolk coast 24 norfolk coast 25 norfolk coast 26At the eastern end of Sheringham promenade, with the pouring rain in my face, I make a major blunder and set off along the shore beneath the cliffs. The tide is coming in, and I get the impression that if I continue on this course I will very soon become a statistic.

I backtrack somewhat nimbly, and, at the side of a putting green, discover the path I should have taken in the first place, and make my way towards Cromer along airy clifftops and through pleasant woodland.

norfolk coast 27 norfolk coast 28 norfolk coast 29And that, my friends, is the final 12 miles of the Norfolk Coast Path. Cromer station is easy to find, and just down the road is a warm and welcoming pub called the White Horse Inn, a suitable place to revive the spirit and sink a pint of IPA while waiting for a train.

Tonight my wife and I intend to march once more in solidarity with the teachers, only this time on a pub crawl around Norwich, finishing with a curry in the Spice Island restaurant in Tombland. I expect we shall raise a glass or two to Michael Gove while uttering appropriate toasts.

Спасибо за прослушивание и Прощай . . . as they say.

 

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About McFadzean

Alen McFadzean, journalist, formerly of the Northern Echo, in Darlington, and the North-West Evening Mail, Barrow. Former shipyard electrician. Former quarryman and tunneller. Climbs mountains and runs long distances to make life harder. Gravitates to the left in politics just to make life harder still. Now lives in Orgiva, Spain.
This entry was posted in Archaeology, Beer, Bronze Age, Environment, Footpaths, Hiking, History, Newsquest, Norfolk Broads, Politics, Ranting, Redundancy, Second World War, Walking, Windmills and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Feet of Cley on the Norfolk Coast Path

  1. Taking a long historical view like that is one of the few ways to prevent complete despair in these times! We’re faced with people who cock it all up, not through incompetence, but by intention. Gawd save us.

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  2. Hanna says:

    These are some great pictures, Alen.
    But I would be a little concerned about the way your wife and sister laugh and then run away in your car 🙂 I have a sister too 😀
    Your chickens are smart and well organized. It is mainly because of their spine. There is a network of nerve cells that are programmed to control the muscles of frequently used movements. Therefore, they do not have to use the brain to control the body, and can make some complicated calculations about optimizing their cost-benefit ratio. How much energy do they need if they want to take lovely grain that is farthest away.

    I understand that you’re talking about the Russians. So are we in Denmark, and while we do that, the Chinese have started to teach Jutland their language and culture. A large shipment of learning materials are shipped from China, along with all the money needed for the project. I do not think they were so polite before they burned down the Tibetan culture. But maybe we are still talking cost-benefit ratio 👿

    Sorry about that 😕

    It looks like a very pleasant walk on the Norfolk Coast Path. It’s always exciting to walk along the sea. The light is never the same and the storms continually change the landscape and uncover new findings in the sand. Thank you for sharing, Alen.

    All the best,
    Hanna

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    • McEff says:

      Hanna, you never cease to amaze me with your abundance of knowledge and level-headed thinking on a vast range of subjects – not least of which is your obvious expertise on the nervous systems of chickens. I shall look at my birds (Scary Mary, Fancy Nancy and Little Red Hen) with a new sense of appreciation when I scatter some grain in the morning and they calculate the cost-benefit ratio of going after the stuff.
      I don’t know what to think about the Russians. I’m sure I’ll regret saying this, but up to now I am sort of mildly amused, in a very cynical fashion, about how things have panned out. Prior to the fall of communism, Russia was the “Evil Empire” and the “Red Tide” of “Commies” was expected to wash us all away if we didn’t build hugely expensive nuclear deterrents. Now that the Russians are all fantastically rich and powerful capitalists (encouraged by us to embrace our system) they are even more ruthless than they were before. I think that says more about the West than is does about the Russians.
      I’m glad you like the sea pictures. Coastlines are fascinating places, as you know. Next time I visit the coast I shall take my chickens and let them peck among the shellfish.
      Cheers, Alen

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  3. Great post Alen. I always enjoy reading yours and I have walked part way along that path several years ago so I know bits of it. Good luck with your redundancy – my last job ended with redundancy so I know what you are going through – although mine was sudden and totally unexpected, And you are very brave criticising your employers online too…

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    • McEff says:

      Hiya James. Thanks for that. Redundancy is always a shock to the system, but I would have come to terms with it much more easily if it had been straightforward. Instead, my colleagues and I on The Northern Echo, the Darlington and Stockton Times, the York Press and the Bradford Telegraph and Argus are being messed around. We are being exploited. We know we are going, but they won’t give us a date until it’s convenient for them to do so. So no one can make plans for the future or give firm starting dates to prospective employers.
      And so I feel perfectly justified is slagging them off. My colleagues and I have never missed a deadline in our lives. The nerds in charge of us have missed theirs by nearly two months and it’s not over yet.
      Keep taking the pictures, Alen

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  4. Didn’t know you knew Russian – I know some words but don’t know the alphabet at all! Haven’t been on a demo for years – thought they were always in London? mine always were…

    Shingle walking is hell isn’t it – don’t envy you there. Me and Richard once tried to walk quite a way along Chesil Beach but soon gave up!
    Carol.

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    • McEff says:

      Hi Carol. I think I exhausted my knowledge of the Russian language in the few words at the end of the post – but glancing at Danny T’s comment below I guess I’m going to have to take some lessons and sharpish.
      Shingle is hell to walk on. I honestly thought that when I got out of the car at Cley I would find a nice firm Norfolk Coast Path along the edge of the marshes that would deliver me to Cromer. That certainly wasn’t the case. It was hard going and for several miles. But what the hell.
      I once crossed Chesil Beach carrying a massive cool box and two chairs. It’s a beautiful area – but where on earth does all that shingle come from?
      Cheers, Alen

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  5. qdant says:

    Я вижу ваше полное радостей весной

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  6. David says:

    You have fitted so much in your post Alen I don’t know where to start, other than to say, entertaining as ever and looks like a grand walk.

    Bloomin Russians eh. Do you remember at the height of the cold war hysteria, the documentary style film called Threads, which was about Sheffield getting hit by a nuclear bomb? It caused all sorts of panic when it was shown on TV. This was followed over the next year or two by adverts about what to do if we were hit by nuclear weapons. You know really useful stuff like hide under the table and make sure you have plenty of tinned food and listen to the radio. Hard to believe nowadays.

    You are bang on about the sort of pillocks that seem to run everything nowadays. When it comes to management people get promoted to their level of incompetence. The minority who are truly competent are then left to shore up the idiots above.

    As for education it’s nice to hear about you marching with the teachers, I used to work in education and was assaulted twice so know how difficult and misunderstood teaching is.

    Anyway I am off to buy some tins and build a new kitchen table just in case all the posturing between east and west goes wrong.

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    • McEff says:

      Great stuff. That’s cheered me up, David. I remember when Thatcher got in, the Cold War rhetoric was ramped up alarmingly and things got really scary for a time. And I remember the advice about hiding under the table. And there was something about leaning a door against a wall and sheltering underneath it. Eiderdowns came into it, as well. Happy days.
      Just think what could have been done if all those billions of pounds hadn’t been spent on the nuclear arms race and building bunkers all over the place. I suppose that brings us round to the incompetent pillocks who are in charge of everything. If such people were barred from positions of influence then none of it would have happened in the first place.
      Cheers, Alen

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  7. Jo Woolf says:

    Hi Alen, I always love seeing places I don’t know very well. I’ve been to Norfolk only once, and was surprised at how flat it was! That coastal erosion is really amazing. The sea is eating our country! It’s not as if we have a factory making more land somewhere in Birmingham! I hope that your marches are productive and enjoyable and that you don’t catch cold from walking in the rain. I feel for you about the redundancy situation. If they are going to do it, they should just go ahead and do it, rather than keeping you for convenience. I agree also about your hens – hens are sadly overlooked in the intelligence department. I love the names you have given them. My Gran used to have one called Gorgeous Gussie – she was always broody. Anyway, wishing you lots of Glasnost and Perestroika (haha, I would get along in Russia just fine!)

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    • McEff says:

      Hiya Jo. Glad you dropped by. You’ve given me a great business idea there – a factory that makes land and fills in all the holes around the coastline. Do you fancy investing in some shares?
      I’m quite a novice when it comes to keeping hens. We’ve had ours for just under two years but I wish I’d bought some decades ago because they are so easy to keep, they provide more eggs than we can manage, and they are so entertaining! They all have their own personalities as well. I think I prefer them to people, actually – well, some people. Not my fellow bloggers, of course.
      Cheers, Alen

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  8. Although I like mountains the opposite extreme can be just as exhilarating. Flatness, wind blown flatness. The pictures reminded me of the Lune Estuary around Cockerham, and there’s an old pill box or some concrete militaresque structure there too. Fabulous sandstone outcrops and fascinating tidal birdlife. I was surprised to see the land in your pictures rear up into those cliffs. I didn’t think the Norfolk coast was like that.

    And regarding the Russians. . . well, at least you know where you are with that type of clumsy totalitarianism. Our own kind does such a good impression of democracy you could almost believe in it.

    I translated that bit of Russian using the Gumby Online Translator. What exactly does ‘Thank snooker he is gargle’ mean?
    Chris

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    • McEff says:

      Norfolk can be surprising at times. It’s all flat one minute, then a hill looms out of nowhere. They are usually situated in very inconvenient places, such as right in the middle of your path, or they reach their highest point right on the cliff edge – which is what they do on the Norfolk Coast Path.
      For some reason, despite growing up on the shores of Morecambe Bay and visiting Lancaster quite regularly, I have never been to the Lune estuary. I’ve just been looking at it on Bing Maps. That’s the sort of landscape that appeals to me. Mind you, learning Russian appeals to me as well, but the chances of me progressing far are rather slim.
      Я надеюсь, что ваш кактус процветает, Alen

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  9. Excellent rant or two there Alen 🙂
    I worked down in Norfolk and did like it for a while.There were no hills but the cycling was fantastic,nice and flat !

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    • McEff says:

      Hi Alex. You can’t beat a good rant for keeping your legs moving. I can thoroughly recommend it.
      I like Norfolk. Yes, it’s great for cycling. And rural pubs as well.
      Cheers, Alen

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