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Norfolk's beaches: fun for all ages

Posted by Jonathan Broom on 22 August 2018
Related property: Barnham Broom
Norfolk's beaches: fun for all ages

Holidaymakers are drawn to Barnham Broom for many reasons: the Norfolk country club and hotel’s two 18-hole Championship-standard golf courses, obviously, plus the site’s many other sports and leisure facilities; and, further afield, the big skies, the wildlife, the Broads and the pretty towns and villages for which the surrounding county is famous.

And the beaches. Norfolk boasts nigh on 100 miles of coastline, liberally dotted with soft sandy beaches. Unsurprisingly, over the years many have had seaside resorts grow up around them, replete with amusement arcades, fish-and-chip shops, piers and funfairs. Great Yarmouth, for instance. Or Cromer, the self-styled ‘Gem of the Norfolk Coast’, whose fish-and-chip restaurant described here is worth the price of admission all on its own.

But if you’re looking for a beach to appeal to youngsters, with (maybe) just enough facilities nearby to make your day easier while denying them the opportunity to exercise full ‘pester-power’ – well, Norfolk has many of those too. Here are just a few, easily reached from Barnham Broom.

Thirty-three miles east of Barnham Broom, Winterton-on-Sea has a beach (pictured top, thronged with little terns) for all seasons. The picturesque village (with an ENORMOUS church tower) has a post office, a couple of shops and a 300-year-old pub (the Fishermans Return), full of atmosphere and serving great food.

The walk from the village to the beach is not long – just a few hundred yards – and it takes you through dunes which are a habitat of the rare natterjack toad, distinguishable by the bright yellow stripe down its back. The toads are active throughout the summer, especially in the evening and after a rain shower.

A natterjack toad

If you prefer to drive, there is a car park overlooking the beach; you can park all day for £6. Then it’s a brief stroll down the hill to a glorious expanse of golden sand. The photo below was taken by yours truly on 7th August 2018, during the summer heatwave. As you can see the beach is busy, but not unduly so; just lots of families, having fun.

Winterton beach in summer. Toes: writer's own

Towards the top of the picture you can see the Dunes Cafe – you’ll have passed it on your walk down to the beach. It’s a fantastic facility, selling a range of basic beach toys, ice creams, snacks and light meals. Prices are reasonable: a 500ml bottle of water is £1.20, while most of the meals (including a spicy crab-burger) hover around the £7 mark. You may have come prepared, with a full picnic lunch – in which case, well done you – but if not, or if you’ve forgotten anything, or if you simply fancy a mid-afternoon treat... well, the Dunes Cafe will serve you well. For further details, click here.

To reach Winterton-on-Sea, take the B1108 to the A47 (Norwich’s Southern Bypass) to Acle; then the A1064; then the B1152, then cross the A149 (a dog-leg crossing) and continue through Martham and then Somerton. Winterton is about two miles further on.

A tad north of Winterton – two or three miles – you’ll find Horsey and Horsey Mere, one of the most northerly of the Norfolk Broads. A small village where the Broads meet the North Sea, Horsey too has a beautiful beach known as Horsey Gap, but not much in the way of facilities – unless you count the Horsey Windpump, a windmill undergoing restoration work, which has a cafe and is open daily from March to October. With Winterton just down the road, Horsey is not where I would choose to take children for a sunshiney, bucket-and-spade-y day; but I certainly would in the winter, when the beach plays host a colony of  grey seals and new-born pups. An enchanting sight, for all ages.

A young grey seal at Horsey

A little further north again you’ll arrive at Waxham. Another top seal-spotting site at the right time of year, Waxham is mile after glorious mile of soft sandy beach – and even in high summer it’s not unusual to have the place more or less to yourself. The downside of which would normally be a paucity of amenities. But there is a small holiday park – Waxham Sands – at the southern end of the beach, with a car park and a couple of simple shops, open to day visitors as well as longer-term guests.

Waxham beach

Waxham lies about six miles north of Winterton. However, to reach Waxham direct from Barnham Broom, take the A47, the B1535, the A1067, the A1270 (Norwich’s new Northern Distributor Road) the A1151 through Wroxham, and then the A149 through Stalham. The roads run out of numbers after that, but follow signs for Ingham, Sea Palling and (eventually) Waxham.

Brancaster beach. To the left is the club house of the Royal West Norfolk Golf Club

To the north of Barnham Broom, in north-west Norfolk, lies Brancaster – my favourite beach when my own children were younger. It’s big; the sand is soft and golden; and when the tide’s out there are warm pools left to paddle in, which you’ll share with starfish and tiny crabs, and strange man-made structures half-buried in the sand, intriguing enough to walk out to (“Is it a shipwreck?” “Dunno – let’s go and see!”). Take care, though – the tide comes in fast (not good to be marooned on a sandbank) and the sea is treacherous, all rip currents and undertows. But the place holds special memories – and the prosaically named Brancaster Beach Kiosk is unchanged and unchanging. Beach toys, windbreaks, parasols, chips, burgers, ice creams and fizzy drinks: really, what else could you possibly need?

The Brancaster Beach Kiosk

To reach Brancaster, about 40 miles from Barnham Broom, take the A1067 to Fakenham, then the A148, then the B1454 to Docking, and then the B1153. There’s a car park at the beach, costing £4 per day.

And finally, staying in the north of the county, the jewel in Norfolk’s crown. A beach with scarcely a facility in sight, with nothing to offer but its own jaw-dropping magnificence. The mighty Holkham.

It’s huge. Vast. Humungous. Mile after mile after mile of flat sand, with the sea seemingly always in the far distance. Reason tells me that the tide must come in twice a day, but I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen it. Holkham is never packed – how could it be? It’s just too big – and in winter can feel spookily deserted, almost post-apocalyptic. But on a summer day, with a gentle zephyr blowing benignly from the south, it’s just about perfect. Gwyneth Paltrow certainly thought so: the final scene for the 1998 movie Shakespeare in Love , when Viola, surviving a shipwreck, walks into “Virginia”, was filmed at the beach.

Treading in Gwyneth Paltrow's footsteps: visitors traverse the vast Holkham beach

Holkham lies 33 miles north of Barnham Broom. Take the A1067 to Fakenham, then the A148, and then the B1105. All-day parking along Lady Anne’s Drive, which leads to the woods and the beach beyond, costs £8; but parking fees are lower for shorter stays.

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Jonathan Broom

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