Day 309: Waxham to Hopton
Distance: 21.00 miles
Ascent: 1011 feet
Weather: Sunny Spells
Accommodation: Wild camp near Hopton
I had slept very well last night in the tent, and I thought I could hear seals singing as I woke up. My first job was to pack everything up. Even though it was not raining outside I decided to pack away as if it was so as to practice in the new tent. It almost felt like I was doing yoga at times but everything got packed and me dressed without too much issue. Once outside the tent it was clear that though it hadn’t rained everything from the trees, to the marram grass, to my tent were soaked. I decided to separate the packing of the tent outer and inner to keep the inner as dry as possible.
I was off about 7:30 and the weather was lovely and forecast to remain that way all day. The footpath followed behind the dunes and at the car park at Horsey Gap it became clear I hadn’t imagined the seal singing. There were signs alerting to new seal pups on beach and telling you not to access beach here and to follow path to the designated viewing point. Fortunately this path was in the direction I was going and the little scramble up onto the viewing area up on top of the dunes was worth it. There were maybe 30 seals between the groynes in front of me and a similar number between all the sets of groynes for 100’s of meters. I have seen many seals on my walk, and in places in far greater numbers but this particular encounter was quite special due to the way the seals were interacting. They appeared to be asserting dominance through little fights which included biting and the occasional slap. It was lovely to watch as they weren’t actually injuring each other.
Anyway, eventually I had to leave the seals and dropped back down onto the path. The path headed behind the dunes at first before heading through them and onto beach on the way to Winterton and further on to Newport. From Newport I could have followed the beach but took the track along the dunes/low cliff before dropping back onto the beach at Scratby. I continued along the beach in front of Caister until its lifeboat station. There are not many but this is an independent lifeboat station, rather than the more normal RNLI ones. It must be hard to be independent financially, whereas the RNLI and wait for this got just under £200 million pounds in fundraising last year which is actually quite amazing and considering all lifeboat personnel are volunteers, it is no surprise that almost all RNLI lifeboat stations and all RNLI boats are brand new or in tip top condition.
From Caister the path became firmer as it followed the dunes to Great Yarmouth. Great Yarmouth (Britannia) Pier is definitely the most ugly pier I have seen on this walk and Great Yarmouth didn’t over enamour me either, though it did appear to have quite a thriving centre. I had to head down towards the power station before heading up the river to get to the first bridge. I had made good time so far and reckoned I could stop for an hour to charge things but more importantly start to sort out the beginning of next week which is/was looking a bit woolly. I stopped in Wetherspoons, which as per normal had good internet, charging points and unlimited tea refills. When I set off on the walk I never thought that Wetherspoons and Morrisons would be so useful.
After sorting a few bits I was on my way again, firstly crossing the river before stocking up at Lidl and heading back down the other side of the river. Once I reached Gorleston and the sea, there was not far till I was hoping to finish near Hopton but I was a bit worried about finding a wild pitch spot due to the amount of development around here.
The path dropped down onto the beach and suddenly I noticed a slight clearing on the verge which looked possible to pitch, even if it was slightly short of Hopton. It was just about big enough and being almost 4 I got the tent up as quickly as possible. I didn’t think anyone would walk along the beach after this time with light fading, but one dog walker did but it was no issue. It is in fact a lovely little pitch spot and now at high tide you couldn’t be any closer to the sea.
A nice sunny day, with the seals being the highlight, and I am now slightly anxiously listening to the sea which seems to be pounding the wooden defences very hard making the ground shake a little bit.