Try a sample route from our Walking in Norfolk guidebook

Try walking in Norfolk with this sample route. The county is far more varied than most outsiders imagine, with several distinct and unique landscapes. As well as Broads and the Fens, it has the sandy Brecks, rolling farmland, ancient woodland, meandering rivers and the gorgeous North Norfolk coast with its beaches, shingle banks, salt marshes and tidal mud flats.

WALK 1: Winterton-on-Sea

StartBeach car park, Winterton-on-Sea (TG 498 198)
Distance5 miles (8km)
MapOS Landranger 134 Norwich & The Broads, Outdoor Leisure 40 The Broads
RefreshmentsPub in Winterton, café at car park in summer
Public TransportRegular bus service from Great Yarmouth
ParkingBeach car park (closes at 4pm prompt in winter)

This coastal route beginning and ending in the village of Winterton-on-Sea takes in a variety of landscapes along the way. Most impressive of all is the large area of sand dunes immediately north of the village – a nature reserve with several rare and distinctive species. Elsewhere, the route follows farm tracks through woodland and quiet country roads with virtually no traffic.

Visiting Winterton-on-Sea back in 1722, the writer Daniel Defoe noted that many of the village houses were constructed from the timbers of wrecked ships. This part of the Norfolk coast has long been hazardous for ships because of its shifting sand banks and wrecking was a common pursuit in this region in the past. Today, thanks to its location at little more than sea level, the village is highly vulnerable to flooding and sea erosion, and a flood siren system has been installed.

If parking at Winterton beach car park in winter bear in mind that the gate is locked at 4pm.

M001Winterton On Sea

Start at the beach car park, with fine views of the coastline to the south across the dunes. Head towards the huts at the northern end of the car park then follow the track inland through the dunes towards the village and church. Reaching a group of houses, go past these to take the road to the right. At the end of a short row of houses a footpath continues across Winterton Dunes nature reserve. A couple of notice boards at the entrance here give information about the wildlife that can be found in the dunes. Walk through an area of scrub on the edge of the dunes. The main path runs in a northerly direction parallel to a fence, which, after a while, it runs right next to. Beyond the fence lies a large open area of heath with woodland beyond while to the right are high dunes separating the path from the beach.

Winterton Dunes National Nature Reserve is unusual in that its dunes support acidic plant life: most dunes on the north Norfolk coast support calcareous flora. This factor means that the ecology here is similar to that of dune systems along the Baltic coast. Natterjack toads breed here and the pools support both common and great crested newts as well as several species of dragonfly. In addition to numerous species of moth and butterfly, over 170 species of bird have been recorded here and wintering marsh harriers are frequently seen, as are nightjars in summer. Adders are common.

Alternative route: Follow the beach from the car park for about a mile and then head across the dunes to reach the fence. Follow this to the concrete defences.

The path veers away from the fence to pass through an area of birches before arriving close to Winterton Ness, where there is a crossroads of tracks. Turn left to walk through concrete defences that date from World War II and go through the gate to follow the track as it leads inland alongside the mixed woodland of Winterton Holmes. At the end of the woodland the track passes by wet grazing meadows. Continue past a track on the left to arrive at some isolated farm buildings and a concrete farmyard that may or may not be covered by a smelly layer of slurry. Follow the track around the field edge to the left next to a hedge. This soon turns sharply right to continue along a concrete farm track lined with willows before reaching another road at a T-junction. Turn left to follow Holmes Road, which has a large expanse of wet grazing meadows on either side of it, and turn left at the next junction.

Winterton Dunes Nature Reserve A Haven For Birds And Natterjack Toads
Winterton Dunes Nature Reserve A Haven For Birds And Natterjack Toads

Follow the road right at the corner by a cottage and continue past brick cottages to arrive at a junction with woodland ahead and a high brick wall to the left. Turn left along Low Road to pass Burnley Hall farm. Follow the road through a patch of woodland at East Somerton where the impressive ruin of St Mary’s Church can be seen through trees to the right. This 15th-century Perpendicular-style ruin is covered in ivy and has an oak tree growing in its roofless chancel. The church once had its own parish and probably last saw use in the late 17th century.

Continue in the same direction past a barn conversion and pond. Turn right at the white house, then left towards Winterton’s lighthouse and church tower immediately ahead. Where the road swings around to the right take the track that continues in the same direction as the church. Continue along this until passing Low Farm then take the footpath to the right that leads past allotments to Holy Trinity and All Saints Church.

Holy Trinity and All Saints Church, like many churches along the Norfolk coast, has a tall Perpendicular tower that stands as a beacon to those out to sea. However, despite local rumour that it is ‘a herring and a half higher’, the tower is actually 35 feet shorter than that of Cromer’s St Peter and St Paul Church.

Turn left at the road to pass a green with the village sign and, a little further on, the Fisherman’s Return pub. Go past the post office and The Loke on the right to follow the road to the beach and the car park.

Fancy some more walking in Norfolk?

For more Walking in Norfolk please see Laurence's guidebook. This book describes 40 easy-to-moderate circular day walks, grouped by area: Northeast coast and the Broads; South Norfolk, the Yare and the Waveney; North Norfolk and coast; Central Norfolk and Breckland and West Norfolk and Fens. Each walk is described step-by-step, illustrated with 1:40K OS map extracts and packed with historical, geological and other information about the landscape the route passes through.

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Laurence Mitchell

Originally from the West Midlands, Laurence Mitchell has been based in East Anglia for longer than he cares to remember. He worked as a geography teacher for many years before finally reinventing himself as a freelance travel writer and photographer. Laurence is especially interested in off-the-beaten-track destinations like the Balkans, Central Asia and the Caucasus region and has written guidebooks to Serbia, Belgrade and Kyrgyzstan as well as his own backyard of Norfolk and Suffolk, which he enjoys just as much as anywhere else. He is a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers and the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild.

View Articles and Books by Laurence Mitchell

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