Your Dog Magazine headed to the Norfolk coast to sample the route between Burnham Overy Staithe and Holkham, accompanied by Emily Woods and her Miniature Schnauzer, Daisy, who travelled from Barnstone, Nottinghamshire.
The National Trail
The Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path covers 93 miles from Knettishall Heath Country Park, near Thetford, Suffolk to Cromer on the Norfolk coast, via Hunstanton. The stretch from Burnham Overy Staithe to Holkham was recommended by National Trail officer Patrick Saunders.
“The Norfolk Coast Path gives users the opportunity to experience a whole range of coastal habitats,” said Patrick.
“This section in particular offers wide open skies across grazing marsh, salt marsh, and natural sand dunes. The views from the flood bank alone can be breathtaking.”
For more info on National Trails, including the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path, visit www.nationaltrail.co.uk
1. The quaint quayside car park at Burnham Overy Staithe is signposted from the main road. Parking is free but beware, the lower area of the car park may flood at high tide.
2. Walk through a wooden gate at the east end of the car park which leads immediately to the embankment. The harbour and marshlands slope down to your left. The embankment stretches out for over half a mile towards the sand dunes. Pause a moment to take in the sights. The harbour is vibrant in the summer months with a range of sailing vessels.
3. At the end of the embankment, enter the sand dunes via the boardwalk. Here signs indicate that dogs must be on leads. This is because there are a host of rabbits that inhabit the early part of the dunes. Emily had already spotted the rabbits from the embankment, and put Daisy on the lead in anticipation of her spotting them too.
The local landmark of Gun Hill, a large, now eroded, sand dune reputedly used for artillery emplacement during the Napoleonic wars and the Second World War, lies just off the trail to the west and gives a good view of the local area.
4. Back on the trail, once through the initial dunes, Daisy was allowed off the lead again. This is reflective of the whole walk. Dog owners are encouraged to enjoy the route but are asked to act responsibly when near nature reserves and other animals.
“The fact that there aren’t huge warning signs and that dogs are actually encouraged to use the route makes me, as a dog owner, feel welcome,” said Emily. “This isn’t the case everywhere you go but being trusted to act as a responsible owner is appreciated.”
Walking to the top of the dunes gives the first glimpse of the spectacular beach that spreads towards the horizon. As you head towards it you’ll spot nature reserves — fenced-off areas protecting nesting birds, which make this coast such a popular spot for birdwatchers. This is also a popular spot for naturists. For both reasons, it may be appropriate to put dogs on leads.
5. Alternatively, you can deviate slightly from the trail by walking through the pine woods at the fringe of the beach. The woods can be accessed from the dunes and the beach at various points and it is easy to re-join the trail from several boardwalks that connect the woodland to the beach.
The towering pine trees offer a fresh landscape and in the searing, summer sun make the perfect shaded haven. There are several viewing platforms overlooking the beach, with benches to rest on and informative signs about the local wildlife.
It is possible to walk through the woodland to the end of the route at Holkham. However, do not miss the opportunity to rejoin the National Trail via the boardwalks back to the beach.
6. The beach at Holkham has provided a setting for many films, including the 1998 film ‘Shakespeare in Love’, which won seven Oscars. In the film, Gwyneth Paltrow is seen walking barefoot across the flat and open space of the bay. Daisy found the beach just as appealing when Emily removed her lead and allowed her to run free. With so much space, she sprinted across the sand, not quite knowing which way to go next.
7. Rounding the bay, complete the walk by exiting the beach via the boardwalk towards Lady Anne’s Drive. Nearby are some logs, ideally placed for agility-style fun. Daisy still had enough energy to hurdle the small course several times before reaching the end of the route at the entrance to the car park.
Burnham Overy Staithe and the local area
To return to Burnham Overy Staithe, walkers can retrace their steps, or catch the bus. The Coasthopper bus runs from where Lady Anne’s Drive meets the A149. A single adult ticket is £1.40 and dogs travel at the driver’s discretion. This means dogs may be turned away if the bus is completely full but, in reality, dogs are a common sight on board.
Situated on the crossroads of Lady Anne’s Drive and the A149, The Victoria is a restaurant and pub which is very dog friendly. Dogs are welcome inside. Back in Burnham Overy Staithe there is The Hero bar and restaurant. Although dogs are not permitted inside the building they are allowed in the extensive outdoor seating area where home-made food can be ordered.
For those looking to stay longer there’s lots of dog-friendly accommodation near the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path National Trail. The Victoria has 10 bedrooms with several of these available for dog owners.
Further afield, in Burnham Market, is The Hoste Arms, which featured in Your Dog Magazine’s ‘Where to Stay’ guide this year, receiving five stars for dog friendliness.
Staying longer in North Norfolk means other sections of the National Trail can be explored as well.
How to get there: Burnham Overy Staithe and Holkham are both situated on the A149, with signposted car parks less than 100m from the main road.
Terrain: Well-maintained footpaths and sand, so good footwear is essential. Some moderate inclines and descents.
Distance: Around three and half miles.
Time: Two hours.
Off-lead opportunities: Plenty, but ensure dogs are under control.
Parking: Parking at Burnham Overy is free. Parking at Holkham requires a ticket; all-day tickets cost £6.
Toilets: No public toilets en route, but there are pubs at the start and finish.
Suitable for: The loose sand can be hard going so may be tricky for those will mobility difficulties.