Have you ever felt the need to press the pause button on life…Just to stop and take a breath of fresh air…to ponder and clear the head? Yes? Then I shall begin…a little Norfolk pause is exactly what our day transpired to be. Location: Burnham Overy Staithe, Birthplace of Richard Woodget, the captain of The Cutty Sark. The harbor where Lord Horatio Nelson first set out to learn sailing and rowing skills at the age of 10, two years before he joined the navy, a film location too, yet a tranquil haven for the mind, body and senses, or as I saw it…Heaven by the sea!
Starting the day bright and early as always is the case, a cracking blue sky above and the welcoming warmth of the sun on my face as I sat in the garden with the first coffee of the day before all the chaos began. Coffee always tastes better in the garden says I and a quiet moment to think. Contemplating all that was planned for the mornings packed schedule, I couldn’t help but think what a shame it would be to not do something special with this gorgeous day, maybe if I could fit some kind of extra plan into the day. My husband felt the same way and so once the main work load was complete we set off for a beach in Norfolk with kids and dogs ready and raring to go.
The decision of which beach to visit exactly was made en-route whilst heading in a Norfolk direction, our young map reader sat in the back and guided us toward Wells-Next-the-Sea. Once we had journeyed into the Norfolk countryside the villages were all so inviting, each cozy cottage, church or wall we passed by had a flint encrusted fascia evoking so much character and interest. After touring through the lovely town of Wells, although full of charm and with plenty to explore, we found it far to bustling and not to our liking, instead we drove along the coast to Burnham Overy Staithe which was to be our destination for a Norfolk pause, we felt drawn to the village somehow.
We parked up by the tiny harbor and eagerly headed out along a raised walkway towards the sea which is a part of the Norfolk coast path and part of Holkham NNR. The harbor itself is so picturesque it’s as though it is a living post card with little boats moored up awaiting the incoming tide in the foreground and completed with the silhouette of a windmill in the distance, deep blue skies and the sun high and bright in the sky. Given this, the wind still raised a good blast while walking the mile and a half towards to sea. The views across the open fresh water marshes and mud flats are without a whisper of a doubt, spectacular. The bird song too was heavenly as you might expect in this area which is a wildlife hub. “Note to self. Bring binoculars next visit!” My favourite bird spotted on this trip was by far the little egret. A wide variety of birds can be spotted if you are lucky enough such as pink footed geese, reed bunting, little terns, oystercatchers, curlew, ringed plover, shelduck, shoveller, and grey plover to name but a few.
I loved the way the sunlight shone and shimmered on the silt and mud as the birds’ tip toed along the muddy creek leaving behind them little crisscross patterns. Soon we were at the end of the raised pathway and the giant sand dunes were before us towering over us with their almost white, fine sands. We were lost for words when we approached the path by the dunes, so beautiful yet at the same time overbearing in size. The heathland surrounding the dunes is known to hold rare flora and fauna while also being a great location to spot some amazing butterflies such as grayling, common blue and small heath butterflies. I tried in vain to capture a shot of one the little creatures as I encroached with my camera but alas they fluttered by.
Through to the beach area and North Sea beyond. The tide was still far out which meant a probable half mile stroll to dip our toes in the sea, the sand is fine and the water very clear. The beach expanse was so wide and flat with not one soul in sight on that gloriously sunny day. The two dogs, 5-year-old Max and 11-month old Bandit had a good old frolic together along the open sands and the kids enjoyed writing in the wet sands, while all along we kept one eye on the turning tide. We had plenty of time to linger at the top of the beach and then a look at those spectacular sand dunes, sit down in the sand with butterflies flitting to and fro behind us, take in the sea views….and pause…Just the ticket says I!
We spent a good couple of hours just sitting, looking across the dunes and the open sea relaxing, we were as always observant and trod carefully with dogs under close control once we had left the open sands since this is such a special place, and a word of warning too, as we discovered later while researching online, there have been rare cases of unexploded World War Two bombs found in the area and any discoveries should be reported to the coast guard.
Looking back across the marshes and mud flats on our reluctant return walk with the sun glinting on the returning water in this tidal creek it would seem as though you could be absolutely anywhere in the world, if for example you didn’t take notice of the silhouette of the village windmill in the far distance of course. These marshy muddy flatlands could be in your wildest imagination, rice paddy fields in Korea…indeed so, if you have by chance watched the James Bond movie “Die Another Day,” the scenes of Korean rice paddy fields were in fact filmed here in ol’ Blighty, a location like no other I’ve seen right on the coast of Norfolk.
Burnham Overy Staithe was once a trade port but you would hardly know it now, since the river has silted up only little boats use this harbor and creek for pleasure and a small private ferry runs to the Scolt Head Island National Nature Reserve from here. Today it is a peaceful haven, personally I find this a perfect, unspoiled location and I hope it remains that way, no shopping centers, no arcades and certainly the lack of hustle and bustle makes this area for me…the perfect Norfolk Pause…I shall be returning again with my family many more times to spend longer pausing here at heaven by the sea.