With Covid-19 thwarting plans for longer road trips throughout 2020, most motorhomers had to make do with somewhere closer to home.
Having already explored much of the Suffolk Coast we thought it was time to take a road trip over the county line all the way around the North Norfolk Coast.
With wide open beaches, nature reserves, quaint little tourist towns, and a spectacular eroding coast line that’s fast disappearing into the North Sea, this road trip has it all.
We spent only two days doing this near 90 mile trip from west to east, but we’d recommend taking much longer if you want to explore the area and all it’s got to offer. There really is so much to see and do here…
Let’s hit the road and find out…
Crossing the county line
Heading over the county border, from Suffolk into Norfolk, was something Hobo Trudi never took lightly; being an avid Ipswich Town fan meant that she was stepping into enemy territory!
But putting football allegiances aside, Norfolk really is a delightful county. And as there are no hills to climb, we’re sure our old VW van would agree with us! (If you’ve got an older motorhome you’ll know what we mean!)
There are miles of open countryside and almost 90 miles of coastline stretching from the Wash in the west, all the way around to the popular tourist town of Gt. Yarmouth on the east coast.
We left Suffolk and took a leisurely, autumnal drive through the golden-leaved trees of Thetford Forest, heading along the A134 to King’s Lynn then further north toward the RSPB nature reserve at Snettisham. Only the day before on the BBC News we’d seen a short story about the murmuration of birds here.
So, we had our binoculars and telescopic lens at the ready, hoping for a repeat show…
Sandringham or Dersingham?
Unfortunately for us, and unlike in the video above, the birds didn’t seem to be in the mood for such extravagant displays. We waited until early evening hoping for something worth filming, but when it became obvious that the birds were taking a day off, we decided we’d better find a campsite before dark…
Of course, we could have stayed within the grounds of the Royal Sandringham Estate but last time we looked it was £38 a night. A little expensive, we thought.
On a previous visit – where we’d stopped just for a cuppa at the visitor centre – we ended up getting lost during a long walk in the forest. Luckily, one of the estate’s employees kindly drove us back to our van just before dark. We like to think she worked for the Queen!
So, on this occasion we decided to head to Pinecones instead, in the village of Dersingham. We arrived at dusk, noticing the site was clean and orderly and, what with the pandemic, everyone were keeping safe in their vans. And it cost just £18, electric hook up included.
Although we had a pitch quite near to the busy A149 we slept well and come the morning, before any sign of life, we couldn’t resist taking a photo of this little Renault motorhome parked next to us…
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Around the North Norfolk Coast
So, onto day two of this road trip around the North Norfolk Coast and with the rain lashing down, we decided to head off early. With fewer daylight hours (this being October) we wanted to make the most of our time.
We headed north, mostly following the A149 around the coast, save for a couple of minor diversions, one of which was the result of a narrow bridge. It’s no good trying to squeeze a 7 1/2 foot wide motorhome through a 6 1/2 foot wide bridge!
It reminded us of a similar predicament we’d faced in Wales when, because of a road closure, Google Maps diverted us for miles and miles before suggesting we cross a bridge over a river.
Moral of the story? Keep your eyes peeled and don’t rely on Google for directions!
Luckily, on this road trip, Gav had spotted the ‘narrow bridge’ sign just in time, forcing us to take a right turn through some lovely out-of-the-way villages.
This meant that we missed Hunstanton on this occasion, a very touristy place we’d visited the year before – and vowed never to return!
Fake security guards in the car park!
Don’t get us wrong – Hunstanton is probably a lovely place and we’ve heard that the Jurassic cliffs there make for a wonderful day’s fossil hunting. But for motorhomers, we found Hunstanton to be less inviting…
The reason being, unless you can find a parking spot on the roadside you have just one car park without a height barrier – and this closes at 6pm! There we were, eating our fish and chips in the van when some bloke, all dressed up in his security uniform, stood taking pictures of our number plate.
Gav jumped out the hab door and the ‘security guard cum traffic warden’ said, “I’ve been waiting for you to leave; this car park closes at 6pm,” pointing to the smallest sign you’ll ever see right over the other side of the car park.
He looked like he meant business, so, without even time to finish our chips, off we went and he closed and locked the big yellow gate behind us.
We half expected to get a parking fine through the post over the next few days but no such thing arrived, thank goodness. What we had instead, though, was a real sour taste in our mouths.
So, on this road trip we were quite happy to miss Hunstanton. It was almost as if our van Cree didn’t want to return there either!
A trip back in time at Wells-next-the-Sea
A bit further on we passed through Wells-next-the-Sea and if you’ve got time to spare this is a place well worth exploring. It feels like you’re stepping back in time as you wander around the little fishing harbour.
There are quaint little tea shops, gift shops, the customary fish ‘n’ chip shop, and a great second hand bookshop where, on our last visit Hobo Gav had been delighted to find three books by Alan Watts, including this one…
If you’re looking for places to stay there are a couple of campsites we know of in ‘Wells’. There’s a big ‘warden-security’ campsite called Pinewoods (if you like that sort of thing). On our last trip up here (back in 2018) we drove in and the security men – yes, more than one – jumped out of their little office room, waving their arms about, before telling us the site was fully booked.
Maybe our old van didn’t fit in with the new 100K motorhomes already pitched up?
Whatever, they recommended another site just up the road, an off-grid type place (no electric hook up) called Blue Skies. More basic, a lot quieter, and not a security guard in site, much more to our liking! And in the morning they came round handing out Easter Eggs to all the campers!
Anyway, back to the present and little did we know that in just a few more miles, this road trip would take us into unknown territory…
The hitch-hikers guide to the North Norfolk Coast!
Further along the coastal road we passed the villages of Stiffkey and then Blakeney where you can walk or take a boat trip to see the seals basking on the sandspits. And then there’s the delightful village of Cley-next-the-Sea (pronounced Cly).
Here, we were anxiously flagged down by a man who asked us if we could take him and his wife to Cromer hospital (some 20 miles away). Why would he flag down an old motorhome of all vehicles? Perhaps he thought we were an ambulance?
Now, we don’t normally take in hitchhikers but his explanation seemed plausible: their car had broken down and his wife had an appointment in about an hour. Gav hesitated but when the man waved a £20 note under our noses they were in the van and belted up like a shot (with their Covid masks on)!
Hobos are not going to turn down a bit of extra diesel money! Indeed, Hobo Trudi had pledged that if we made any money on this trip she would quit work. Two months later she actually did!
We couldn’t help but be reminded of Harry and Lloyd’s road trip in the ridiculous film, Dumb and Dumber…
Motorhome ambulance…for an hour!
So, we carried on, through the torrential rain, Gav seemingly determined to show his driving prowess along the wet, winding roads, making sure our backseat passengers-cum-patients were comfortable enough to enjoy the experience. After all, how often do you get the chance to travel in a vintage motorhome?!
We soon passed through Sheringham (another place well worth a visit if you have the time, what with its narrow-gauge railway) and before long pulled into Cromer hospital. Our hitchhikers, Penny and Paul, were very grateful and we said our goodbyes.
That’s one of the weird things about road trips – you’ll meet people and know that you’ll never see them again your whole life.
What is it that brings people together like this, no matter how briefly? What did this situation teach us all?
Whatever, we hope your appointment went ok, Penny!
The disappearing cliffs at Happisburgh
Onwards we went, but before we left Cromer Gav simply had to stop and get a picture of this ‘rat-style’ VW T4 parked at the roadside. Another one for the gallery!
Shortly afterwards, we drove off the main road, determined to see the cliff erosion at Happisburgh (pronounced Haysbrough). Getting there meant that we had to negotiate some rather narrow, potholed, single lane Norfolk byroads – not easy in a hulking great lump of tin – but it was well worth the risk.
We parked up in the Pay and Display car park then walked down onto the beach, marvelling at the cliffs that have been eroding here at an ever alarming rate for decades. Indeed, it’s said that at least one house falls into the sea every year!
We then followed a gap in the cliffs up to the top and walked back along the cliff path, though this is something you wouldn’t want to do in the dark! Some homeless guy was camping here, sheltered next to an old WWII pill box, but tomorrow he and his tent could well be down on the beach!
Back on home soil
From the coastal devastation of Happisburgh, we made our way back toward the main road in the direction of Gt. Yarmouth. Choosing not to enjoy the delights of the seaside town on this occasion, we pressed on and soon crossed the county line back into Suffolk.
As we headed south along the A12 we passed the roads leading to some of our favourite places: Covehithe, Southwold, Dunwich, and Orford Ness, all places we have written about on our Suffolk Coast page.
A journey all the way around the East Anglian coast, from Norfolk, through Suffolk, and into Essex (which has the longest coastline in the UK) would make for an epic adventure.
Indeed, if the pandemic continues throughout 2021 and travel is limited once again, a road trip along the flatlands of East Anglia is something we – and our old van – would love to do.
What are your travel plans for 2021? Where will you go if you’re not allowed to venture far?
And how has the lockdown affected you? Let us know by contacting us here.
Read about how we’ve dealt with the lockdown in our updated page.