Tuesday, 11 Dec 2018

Cromer. North Norfolk

North Norfolk is a beautiful and quite rarely visited part of the country. It’s full of quiet roads and delightful villages, and time marches slightly slower here, so it’s a great place to relax and play. It also seems to have its own climate. It can be sunny along this coast when the rest of the country is blanketed by cloud. Heck, the Queen has a house here, and she’s got the whole country to choose from, so it must be good.

Cromer. North Norfolk - photo 1

Cromer. North Norfolk

You start in Cromer, a great little seaside resort famous for its seafood, and the first section of the ride is east along the length of the North Norfolk Coast. I’ve put in a loop to the sea front in Sheringham as part of the route, but it’s worth seeing the sea in lots of other places. The beaches are amazing. Blakeney and Wells-next-the-Sea are interesting for their saltwater marsh, and the sands at Stiffkey are over a mile wide at low water. Keep an eye out on the tall reed beds, because that’s where you might see, or more probably hear, one of Norfolk’s famous bittern population. The reeds are the bittern’s natural habitat. They are very shy wading birds with an unmistakable booming cry.

Cromer. North Norfolk - photo 2

Cromer. North Norfolk

The grounds of Holkham Hall come next, where you ride through the deer park to Burnham Overy Staithe. Horatio Nelson, the admiral whose column stands in Trafalgar Square, was born in Burnham Thorpe, about a mile inland, and Burnham Overy Staithe is where he learnt to sail. Richard Woodget, the captain of the famous clipper Cutty Sark, lived here too. Sailing is in this place’s blood.

Cromer. North Norfolk - photo 3

Cromer. North Norfolk

The final part of the opening leg is along Brancaster Bay to Hunstanton, which sits at the corner of the North Sea and the Wash. The Stump, Boston’s church tower, can be seen across the water from here on a fine day. This is the last coastal section, because the route turns inland just south of Hunstanton at Heacham, and it becomes slightly hillier. There’s nothing too major, just regular undulations of around 40 to 60 metres of height difference. Usually you’ll get a tailwind along this section, so overall this is a good route for a first 100-miler. You ride past Fakenham at 50 miles, then head north to Little and Great Walsingham. The villages have been a place of pilgrimage for nearly one thousand years, after a Saxon noblewoman had a vision of the Virgin Mary here. An abbey was built, and although that is in ruins now, there are shrines in the Slipper Chapel at Houghton St Giles and in Little Walsingham.

Cromer. North Norfolk - photo 4

Cromer. North Norfolk

A further loop through the countryside ends with a short stretch of main road to Holt, where Olympic rowing gold medallist Matthew Pinsent comes from. Holt isn’t far from Cromer, but the route takes a southerly line through Aylsham, on the River Bure, one of the Norfolk Broads’ rivers, before the final leg back north to Cromer. I hope you enjoy the ride. There’s nothing dramatic about Norfolk; it’s subtle, quite private and understated, and certainly impossible to get a feeling for on one visit. If you’d like to know more, and mix it with some self-deprecating humour that is very Norfolk, I recommend reading one of the Sid Kipper books by Norfolk’s Chris Sugden, such as Crab Wars, which is set in Cromer.

Cromer. North Norfolk - photo 5

Cromer. North Norfolk

Ride west out of Cromer on the A149 and turn right in Sheringham to ride along the sea front. Then turn left on the B1157 and right onto the A149. Continue on the A149 all the way to Hunstanton and Heacham. Turn left onto the B1454, follow this road through Sedgeford and Docking to the A148, and turn left to Fakenham. Turn left at the roundabout, still on the A148, then go left on the B1105. Where the main road turns sharp left continue straight ahead to Houghton St Giles and Little Walsingham, then turn right to Great Walsingham. Turn left to Wighton, right to Binham and continue to Little Marsh, where you turn right and then go left on the A148 to Holt.

Cromer. North Norfolk - photo 6

Cromer. North Norfolk

Head south-east on the B1149 to Saxthorpe, where you turn left to Aylsham. Turn left in Aylsham, go over the River Bure and turn left onto the A140. Turn left in Roughton onto the B1436, then right on the A148 back to Cromer.
Start and Finish: Cromer.
Getting There: Cromer is 25 miles north of Norwich on the A140. It has a rail link with Norwich on the Bittern Line.
Bike Shop: Pedal Revolution on West Street.
Cafe: The Lifeboat Cafe is right next to the lifeboat gangway on the sea wall.
Local Delicacy: Cromer crabs.

Cromer. North Norfolk - photo 7

Cromer. North Norfolk

“Best 100-Mile Bike Routes”

Chris Sidwells

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