Friday, September 28, 2012
Cycling in Norfolk: Kings Lynn to Cromer
The Norfolk Coast is lined with picturesque seaside towns, quaint villages, castles, windmills and areas of outstanding natural beauty. Given the fine and delicate nature of the area it is good news that it can be easily explored by bicycle. The Norfolk Coast Cycleway follows quiet roads and lanes from Kings Lynn to Great Yarmouth. I spent a day exploring half the route from Kings Lynn to Cromer.
Kings Lynn was busy when I arrived on a Saturday morning, having travelled from Cambridge by train. The cycleway is well signposted from the station. It does a loop through the town centre but I turned left into the Walks, a park by the station. Following the cycle path across the level crossing I was led along secluded paths and was soon riding through open countryside and villages with well-preserved greens, traditional pubs and red phone boxes.
Six miles later and four or five centuries earlier I arrived in Castle Rising. A short detour following a one-way system round the village was needed to see the castle and the cycleway continued past stunning scenery. When I rode by the public entrance to Sandringham House and Country Park a couple of miles later, I realised I was moving too fast. I was less than a quarter of the way along my planned route but I’d already passed places I could easily have spent a whole weekend exploring.
The scenery never dulled as I continued through woodland with enticing footpaths marked every few yards. The route passed through the villages of Ringstead near Hunstanton, Burnham Market and the neighbouring Burnham Thorpe, humble birthplace of Nelson. Further along the road I came to the imposing gates of Holkham Hall. Here the route loops through the breathtaking grounds of the hall and on towards Holkham Bay, a popular bathing spot. A short sandy ride took me along the coast to Wells Next The Sea. Most of the cycleway is set inland. Here I rode alongside the harbour of this thriving coastal town and popular holiday resort.
I continued along the A149 which runs roughly parallel to the cycleway and allowed me to take in other coastal towns including Blakeney and Cley Next The Sea with its windmill and well-preserved narrow streets. As I approached Sheringham a jet black steam train came whistling by across the plains on the North Norfolk Railway Line.
The sun was setting as I arrived in Cromer. Waves crashed on the seafront and the smell of freshly cooked fish and chips was in the air at the end of a late summer’s day and an exhausting but inspirational day’s cycling.
Tips on Cycling in Norfolk
A map of the Norfolk Coast Cycleway is available from Sustrans (sustrans.org.uk). It provides useful information on cycling in Norfolk and additional routes that are linked to the cycleway. A more detailed Ordnance Survey map is also useful for exploring the region and finding shortcuts.
Some parts of the cycleway pass through private land (such as Holkham Hall). Check these roads are open when planning your trip and follow any regulations.
The route is along quiet roads and cycle paths but there are still dangers from traffic. Some stretches are quite hilly with sharp turns.
Don’t try to do too much. It can get tiring on the saddle and there’s plenty to see everywhere you go. It’s better to cover less ground and explore it well.
Bicycles can be carried on most trains but check with train companies on availability and restrictions.