Best foot forward - blow away the cobwebs on these scenic coastal walks across the network
Words: James Litston
Blow away the cobwebs on one of these scenic coastal walks across the Greater Anglia network.
SHERINGHAM PARK, NORFOLK
The North Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty could not be more appropriately named - and this walk includes perhaps its most picturesque spot of all. Starting amid the bluebell woods of the National Trust's Sheringham Park, the route crosses farmland and the Poppy Line steam railway as it heads past Weybourne's windmill to the sea. After following the sandy shore, it turns back inland and returns via Sheringham Park's Gazebo. Climb this wooden tower and be blown away by its treetop views of the landscape you've just hiked - ideally with a steam train passing through for added magic.
The walk: nationaltrust.org.uk/sheringham-park/trails/sheringham-woodland-and-coastal-walk
Distance: 7 miles
Pitstop: Stop en route in Weybourne for local ales, crab sandwiches or smoked fish platters at The Ship Inn (theshipinnweybourne.com)
Nearest station: Sheringham
CROMER LIGHTHOUSE, NORFOLK
North Norfolk's rolling countryside, unspoiled villages and epic beaches are linked together by the Norfolk Coast Path. At 62 miles long, it's too daunting to complete in a day, but manageable chunks are accessible via train. One such stretch is that between Overstrand and Cromer, and this circular walk from the former can easily be extended to commence at Cromer station. Highlights along the way include the beacon of Cromer Lighthouse, the sea life sought in tidal rock pools and the sand martins that migrate from Africa to nest in the crumbling cliffs.
The walk: explorenorfolkuk.co.uk/cromer-lighthouse.html
Distance: 3 miles
Grade: Easy (except for some steep steps from the beach)
Pitstop: Reward yourself with a cream tea at Overstrand's Cliff Top Café (clifftopcafenorfolk.co.uk)
Nearest station: Cromer
Prettily painted houses and fishing boats on the beach are the hallmarks of this seaside town. Before setting out on your stroll, visit the churchyard memorial to the composer Benjamin Britten for whom Aldeburgh was both home and inspiration. Afterwards, head south along the shingle shore past the Martello tower (a relic of the Napoleonic Wars) to where the village of Slaughden once stood before being lost to a North Sea storm. The route then takes you inland along the River Alde before returning to town via wildlife-rich marshes.
The walk: discoversuffolk.org.uk/assets/Walks/Up-to-6-miles/Adnams-08-Aldeburgh.pdf
Distance: 1 mile
Pitstop: Try Aldeburgh Fish & Chip Shop for the ultimate seaside supper (aldeburghfishandchips.co.uk). For liquid refreshment, both the White Hart (whitehartaldeburgh.co.uk) and the Cross Keys (01728 452637) serve a good pint.
Nearest station: Saxmundham
It feels very wild in this remote corner of Suffolk. A long chain of nature reserves hugs the coastline, protecting a swathe of woodlands, wetlands, heaths and mile upon mile of sandy shore. It's all part of the Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and Minsmere is its most feted spot. This scenic, circular walk skirts around the reserve. Listen out for bitterns, whose 'booming' calls are a sure sign of spring in East Anglia's wetlands; and keep your eyes peeled for lizards and adders, fresh from hibernation, as they soak up the seasonal sunshine on the heath.
The walk: suffolkcoastandheaths.org/assets/Publications/Pub-Walks/SCH-PubWalks-09-Eastbridge.pdf
Distance: 5 miles
Pitstop: Refuel in Eastbridge at the Eels Foot Inn, which serves decent pub grub and locally-brewed Adnams ales from Southwold (theeelsfootinn.co.uk)
Nearest station: Darsham
TRIMLEY MARSHES, SUFFOLK
With its wetlands buzzing with birdsong set against the Port of Felixstowe's industrial backdrop, a walk around Trimley Marshes offers a best-of-both-worlds experience. From a viewpoint overlooking the UK's busiest container port, the trail continues along the bank of the tidal River Orwell and onto Trimley Marshes Nature Reserve. Here, hides provide great views of the plovers, ducks and elegant avocets and, if you’re lucky, otters and water voles. The footpath eventually turns inland across farmland, where higher ground affords excellent views to the Shotley peninsula and beyond the border into Essex.
The walk: suffolkwildlifetrust.org/sites/default/files/trimley_circular_walk_leaflet_2013.pdf
Distance: 6 miles
Pitstop: Tuck into lunch al fresco on the patio at The Mariners, just down the road from Trimley station (marinersfreehouse.co.uk).
Nearest station: Trimley
STOUR ESTUARY, ESSEX
Rather like the Norfolk Coast Path, the 82-mile Essex Way (which ambles from Epping to Harwich) can be broken down into do-able sections. The coastal stretch from Wrabness to Manningtree follows the tidal River Stour, with the added attraction of being a point-to-point walk between two stations. Starting in Wrabness, check out A House For Essex, a fanciful folly designed by the artist Grayson Perry. The route then heads inland to higher ground, where far-reaching views across the estuary await. It continues via villages and woods before returning to the river near Manningtree.
The walk: essexwalks.com/walks/ew_wrabness.html#page=page-1
Distance: 9 miles
Pitstop: For local seafood and Sunday roasts served in contemporary surroundings, The Mistley Thorn cannot be bettered (mistleythorn.co.uk)
Nearest stations: Wrabness, Manningtree
CLACTON-ON-SEA TO WALTON-ON-THE-NAZE, ESSEX
Bright lights, bingo halls, the smell of candy floss: for authentic kiss-me-quick kitsch, there’s nowhere quite like Clacton. The largest of the seaside resorts on Essex's Tendring Peninsula, it makes a colourful starting point for a walk along the coast. Smooth, firm sand leads all the way to Walton at low tide, but the paved path on the sea wall is preferable at high water. As you walk, the offshore wind farm draws the eyes out to sea; but keep them firmly on the ground - this stretch of coast is brilliant for finding fossilised shark’s teeth. The walk ends at Walton station.
The walk: essexwalks.com/walks/clacton_walton.html#page=description
Distance: 7 miles
Pitstop: Take a detour up Connaught Avenue, Frinton's main drag, for coffee and a light lunch at continental-style Café 19 (cafe-19.co.uk)
Nearest stations: Clacton-on-Sea, Walton-on-the-Naze
NORTH FAMBRIDGE TO BURNHAM-ON-CROUCH, ESSEX
Another point-to-point walk, this trail is a favourite for wildlife enthusiasts. The mudflats along the Crouch Estuary provide rich feeding grounds for wading birds, many of which linger well into spring before starting their northward migrations. Some, such as lapwings and oystercatchers, remain to nest in adjacent marshes. Common seals can often be seen here, too. Around half-way, the station at Althorne gives an opt-out for those with tired feet; otherwise press on to Burnham-on-Crouch, where the waterfront pubs will revive you.
The walk: essexwalks.com/walks/fambridge_burnham.html#page=page-1
Distance: 10.5 miles
Pitstop: Try the Anchor Hotel in Burnham-on-Crouch for a hearty pub lunch and a pint of ale (theanchorburnham.co.uk)
Nearest stations: North Fambridge, Burnham-on-Crouch
If you share a passion for walking with a friend or loved one, why not buy a Two Together Railcard, allowing you to enjoy ⅓ off train fares when you travel together. For more information and to book your train travel, visit greateranglia.co.uk