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.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

A walk in the snow with an inspiration

I don't write about many of my walks these days; it's become such an integral part of my life that it would get pretty boring for the reader (especially those which are regularly around the same local routes). However, there are some special times that are worth recording - such as my marathon walk, or the different sections of the Norfolk Coastal Path - that mean something special to me.

I'm writing this on a fairly warm, drizzly day in early March. It's hard to realise that just a week ago we were facing several inches of snow coupled with 50 mph winds: the media called it 'The Beast from the East'.

It so happened that two days before it hit severely, I'd spotted on social media a posting about a young lass called Frances Mills, who was walking the whole coast of these islands. Having started in October 2017 at Bristol, she was at this point making her way up from Suffolk. Check out her website here.

The lady making the posting mentioned that Frances was happy to meet and walk with people, and although she was camping most of the time, was always happy to be offered a bed for the night. Living just half-a-mile from the beach, and happily having a couple of days free, I got in touch. She replied with enthusiasm, and I arranged to pick her up from our coastline on Tuesday evening, to give her a meal and a bed for the night, and to walk with her the following day to her next planned stop, just beyond Happisburgh - about 15 miles north of here.

In the event, I was lucky to get home. I'd been working with a client in Thetford that day, and mercifully got back before the snow became too deep. My husband picked Frances up from near Hemsby, and I arrived back shortly afterwards. We shared a meal and chat, and planned the following day. We realised that the snow (by now falling thickly) and (more importantly) the increasing winds meant that camping on Wednesday night, as she'd planned to do, would be more than 'wild camping' - so we insisted that she spend that night with us, too. Selwyn would pick us up from Happisburgh and bring us back.

We set off in reasonable conditions from the Rectory the following morning:

- but within a very short time it turned into a blizzard along the beach as we headed north towards Hemsby...

The wind was behind us, which helped! And as we continued, the weather did improve, with even some sun coming through. After a couple of hours we paused for a snack, sheltering in the dunes from the still strong wind.

However, at this point my husband sent me a text explaining that he'd tried to get out of the village in the car, only to find roads blocked in all directions; so we had no option but to make the route a circular one. We walked the 7.5 miles to Sea Palling, mostly along the beach, and stopped for a very agreeable lunch in the pub next to the lifeboat station. We then retraced our steps on the other side of the dunes to minimise the windchill (now in our faces). We met drifts of snow of impressive depth:

We arrived back after 15.5 miles of walking in a bit over 5.5 hours. We'd had a brilliant day, chatting most of the way, seeing the seals at Horsey, pointing out birdlife, and getting to know each other.

Click here to see our route.

The following day (Thursday) proved to be so awful, with such high winds, ice and snow, that Frances decided to take the day off and to chill out with us. We went out for a very short two-mile walk up to the beach and back, but otherwise stayed in the warm.

As she'd lost a couple of days' progress, and was aiming to reach Hunstanton (the end of this phase of her walk) on Sunday, we knew she had to reach Sheringham by the end of Friday. We were planning which roads would be best to get her there, when she calmly announced that she'd leave Winterton at 6am on Friday and walk it. That's thirty miles. And, of course, she made it with no trouble.

This young lass is a true inspiration and a delight. She's cheerful, delightful company, intelligent, determined and undaunted. I am completely awed by her and honoured to have shared that couple of days with her. I'll be watching her progress over the next two winters, as she works towards completing the whole 4,500 mile circuit (this bit was 1,300 miles or thereabouts).

Dream the dream and make it happen.

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