Where it started

A list going round on Facebook, February 2016: "which of these items have you experienced" etc. Some yes, some no, some didn't interest me. However, it put some ideas into my head, and I figured it was time I followed some of my friends in committing them to (virtual) paper. And then trying some of them out. The first challenge was undertaken on 1 March 2016, and I have no intention of ever completing the list: the more I tick off, the more I'll add.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Long walk: in training

Back in May, I spent a fabulous day with Karl and several of our Mother Nature's Diet colleagues on a long hike in the Wiltshire countryside. The 12.25 miles we achieved that day was the longest walk I'd done in several decades.

One of my aims for this list being 'to walk a marathon', I booked myself onto a 25 km (approx 15 mile) sponsored walk for September. I decided a couple of training walks of that sort of duration were in order, so asked among the group on Facebook if anyone wanted to join me. As a couple of friends are up for a long walk on 3 September, I reckoned that I needed to try out said walk before I dragged anyone else around it.

Today was that try-out day. Having discovered the very useful GriffMonster site, giving lots of different walks around the country but specialising in East Anglia, I selected a circular walk of around 13 miles, starting in the rather nice (and very smart) market town of Holt, walking through Kelling Heath and up to the edge of the marshes at Salthouse. I drove the hour from the east coast to Holt, parked in the main car park, and set off at about 11am.

It was, unlike recent weeks, a rather cool and cloudy day when I started out. I left the town centre and passed the impressive Greshams school, walking up the Cromer road for about a mile. The route then turned off the main thoroughfare, passing some houses in a quiet unmade road on the outskirts of town, and bringing the walker into the Kelling Heath Holiday Park. Plenty of holidaymakers in there, of course, and many walking the forest paths. It took me a couple of attempts to find the correct path up onto the heath out of the camp (my sense of direction is not the best!) but once there,  I was into one of the most enjoyable parts of the walk. The fabulous North Norfolk railway, complete with genuine steam trains, passes through the Heath, and makes you expect a visit from Jenny Agutter at any time - and the tiny station stop has a glorious view of the sea. A complex network of paths meanders through gorse and heather.

After crossing the main road just outside Kelling, I followed the footpath northwards towards the marshes at Salthouse. I realised that I'd overshot the turning that the route took to the left across the fields and retraced my steps to find it. Despite the footpath being clearly marked on the map, there was no point that appeared to be accessible, presumably due to the heavy foliage growth in the summer. So I continued northwards and instead followed the alternative footpath closer to the marshes, which brought me in to the same place anyway.

Being around 7 miles into the walk by this time, it was time to pause for refreshment. I knew from previous visits that the centre of the village included the splendid Cookie's - a cafe and deli specialising in all kinds of seafood. 

I bought a delicious dressed crab and retired to the grass next to the stream.

After resting for about half an hour, off I went again. I managed to find the tiny footpath just up the road from the Dun Cow pub; this path emerged across the middle of the crop fields, running parallel with the marshes and giving beautiful views towards the distant sea. By now the clouds had mostly lifted and the day was much warmer.

The path then turns sharp left and continues for about a mile along the edge of the fields before emerging onto a quiet road. I stopped briefly at the junction for breath and to enjoy the splendid view of the sea between the trees. 

The main road finally dips into the forest. Unfortunately there is no footpath through the forest that I could find; it's densely wooded and covered with ferns, so the safest place to walk was along the road. From here, the last 2-3 miles down back into Holt are mostly on the road, except for a short length of footpath, cutting behind the first residential area of the town.

I arrived back at the car park, a bit footsore but very happy with my achievement, around 4pm. I had plenty of time to change out of walking trousers, guzzle lots more water and gear up for the hour's drive home. According to my OutDoors app, which I'd used for the route for this excursion (and was later able to export to my usual Runkeeper), 13.2 miles (which happens to be my total mileage for the whole of the previous week), 983 calories burned (apparently) and well ahead of the game on this month's 70 mile target. Oh, and an average pace of around 3 miles per hour, which isn't bad for the distance and some fairly rough and narrow paths around the fields.

When I started the walk I was a bit dubious about it being interesting enough for other folks joining me on my next 'training walk'. However, I think that the lovely Kelling Heath; the splendid railway; the option to walk down to the beach at Salthouse; the beautiful paths from Kelling, and the bonus of Salthouse itself, all more than compensate for some slightly dull residential bits for the first and last mile of the excursion. And now that I'm familiar with the path and less likely to need to retrace my steps and constantly check the phone, I'll be able to spend more time myself appreciating the beauties of the Big Norfolk Skies.

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