Day 1: Walking Norfolk’s rugged Coastal Path

The real hard yards start tomorrow. Today’s little amble along the first two miles of England’s beautiful Norfolk Coastline, from was just to loosen the limbs and fire up enthusiasm. It did both. Effortlessly. The wind was chill but the sun was shining brilliantly, making the sea sparkle and the landscape look not just freshly washed, but polished.

The path from Hunstanton, the subdued resort that retains a Victorian gentility, goes along the dunes, weaves its way past pretty beach chalets, painted every shade of blue and green, on one side, and the uniform emerald green of the Golf Club’s fairways on the other. If you know what to listen for, the protected Natterjack toad is at his most talkative in April and May. And we are alert for warblers and chats, shrill against the ceaseless crashing of the sea.

Although we could see, shimmering in the distance, the Lincolnshire coast we couldn’t make out Boston’s famous church, the Stump, across the Wash. We returned to our car along the beach, where dogs of every description cavorted in the waves, retrieving balls or just empty pleasure from the water, emerging sodden and happy, eager to welcome strangers as keenly as friends.

We spent the evening plotting routes, calculating mileage (no kilometers here) and deciding in which pub to enjoy lunch. The first day of our walk is, apparently the most brutal, more than 13 miles. But the landscape lifts us. We are entering a world of salt marshes and mud flats, of reed beds and land where sheep and cattle graze as they have for centuries. Here we are in the heart of nature that seems unchanged by time.

Note: iPhoto has chosen this moment to refuse to cooperate. As soon as I can I’ll add some pictures of this beautiful coastline.

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