Norfolk wild camp

So plans to tour Europe or Scotland in June were scuttled as the Covid pandemic swept the world. We are all in the same boat and I’m sure there have been many that had similar ideas that have been equally disappointed as they couldn’t be realised as the lock down persisted. I guess we have been blessed (and spoiled) that we have had the opportunity in 2018 & 2019 to visit so many beautiful places in Europe.

We had arranged to take two weeks unpaid leave with our employers and Mandy had booked annual leave to bulk it up to the month we intended to take for our 2020 trip. Understandably, everybody will be wanting to start taking holidays after lock down, so Mandy was told she needed to take some of the leave. So we didn’t want to waste what was looking to be a nice week weather wise, by spending yet more time at home, even though we were quite probably breaking some rules by wild camping.

But the decision was made and we focused on the east coast of Norfolk using the ‘Park for a Night’ app. With the majority of the distance covered, we pulled into a layby in Sandringham forest. It was a nice spot on a quiet country road, and a potential first nights camp.

After consulting the app during lunch, we agreed that it would be nice to hit the coast.

It took us a approximately half an hour to arrive at Heacham South Beach with a short stop on the way to admire the fields of poppies against the blue skies. Although the beach front car park was limited to space, we managed to park in front of a sand dune overlooking the beach. Perfect!

The car park was £6.30 for 24 hours, and although it stipulated no overnight parking, we decided to take our chances. So the afternoon was pretty much chilling on the beach, listening to music and reading a book. Very lazy but we were there to do as little as possible, and just take in the warm rays and peaceful atmosphere.

The evening was spent with a brisk walk to a local convenience store for a bottle of wine, and when we got back to the van we had something to eat and listened to Cafe Del Mar. It couldn’t have been better. We really felt like we were abroad, and the location was fantastic.

I’ll just add at this point that there was absolutely nothing planned about this holiday. In fact we only decided that Norfolk would be the destination of choice the day before we set off. So this was a real ‘wing it’ kind of situation. Having the larger van opened the door to us being able to comfortably wild camp with the advantage of us being able to have a shower in the morning and at night. Don’t get me wrong, we have loved owning the smaller T3 affectionately known as Wolfgang Jnr, but if we were to spend any number of nights in it, we really needed to rely on additional facilities to keep ourselves clean. Not really an option during a pandemic.

After breakfast mandy went on the beach, while I tried to stay in the shade and read my book. We hadn’t really discuss any plans for the following evening. It was nice where we were and the uncertainty of moving on to a spot that didn’t quite have this feel was something that i guess we both thought would only make us disappointed. But after a bite to eat we decided to have a drive. We weren’t committing to anything at this point, but we just decided that we would go for a drive….

Both Mandy and I are pretty restless when it comes to being static for any length of time. Me more so than her, but we both have a similar mindset so it works really well. So a drive was a great opportunity to see more of the Norfolk coastline and beautiful villages. Before we knew it we were really at the point of no return as far as Heacham was concerned, but we stumbled upon a National Trust car park at Morston Quay .

This was another perfect place to stay and free as we are members of the Trust (£4 per car otherwise) . We had fallen really lucky here. In fact we almost missed it. As i was driving Mandy spotted a National Trust sign and we turned back to investigate. The car park was a through fare for the tidal Quay so all of the activity happened at high tide. It was low tide when we arrives and had a walk over towards Blakeney. The footpath was only a mile or so long, but it was a warm afternoon. So we enjoyed what we saw but turned back about half way along the path.

Although we were parked in the very corner of the car park on a grass verge there was a constant stream of cars to and from the Quay. The parking area consisted of large stones with made a considerable noise as the vehicles went to and fro.

Not a massive issue of course, but 8am was high tide so there was a flurry of activity in the morning as people took advantage of the hot weather and untethered their moorings or backed trailers into the water to offload boats for time on the water.

This really was a very special place, and one that we vowed to return to once lockdown had lifted. I love to be on the water, and any opportunity to get on my paddle board, have a swim or go on a boat trip was excuse enough for me to return. We spoke to a couple of guys that were tending their seal spotting tourist boats about when they may be offering a service, but they said they were keeping an eye on the government guide lines hoping to start operating in a couple of weeks. This would hopefully mean they get to work again from July 4th. Very strange times we live in.

The photo above was just one of those pictures i took in the marina. I thought how abandoned it looked. A relic of the past being swallowed by nature. This was taken just before breakfast and after my first strong coffee of the day (i’m a creature of habit). However, as i started to eat my cereal, i heard a noise coming from the approximate location of the tractor just over the flood defences. I looked at Mandy as i had just finished showing her the photo of the dilapidated vehicle and ran onto the mound that separated us from the tractor just to see it drive off to assist in lowering a vessel into the tidal waters. Ironically, i saw the chap park the tractor in exactly the same spot later on that morning, maybe unwittingly luring other curious onlookers to think that its days of work were long over. I felt quite gullible!

So today was Wednesday and as if we hadn’t done enough already we decided to take a drive to Blakeney. (This was at the end of the path we had half walked the afternoon before). Little did we know that the perfect camping spot we had just left would not be visited again. on this trip.

Next stop was another ‘Park for a Night’ tip. A Place near Sheringham we visited before.

This was a nice car park called Pretty Woods right on the very edge of Sheringham Forest.The forest was the only thing separating us from the coast and boy was it nice.

We really couldn’t believe that we were able to park in these amazing places for free. There is always an element of apprehension when your staying somewhere new, but seriously, this was the trio of amazing wild camp overs. We chilled that evening sharing the car park with other like minded campers, all looking to abide by the social distancing rules, keep themselves to themselves, and make the most of what had been a pretty bad time.

Overnight the car park was blissfully quiet. We awoke to another sunny morning and just chilled. Our plan was to stay another night at this hidden gem. We both agreed that it was every bit as good (if not better due to the level ground) of the campsite we had stayed at a couple of years before just up the road for best part of £17 a night). We repositioned the van for better shade and our own outside bench…

After some lunch we decided to do one of the suggested walks around the forest. It really made us realise that there is so much to be thankful for.

Once we got back to the van we decided to go for a drive. We pootled towards Cromer and eventually ended up parking for half an hour in the town centre. Time was limited, but we felt we needed a bit of urban contact after so much time in the wild.

As far as days go, this was amazing. Waking up in a quiet woodland, enjoying the woods, and visiting the amazing Norfolk coast would be a groundhog day that would never tire. We headed back to Pretty Woods for a second night. Still the sun shone, and we enjoyed another night of birds tweeting as the sun went down.

The following morning i got up extra early and watched the news. It seemed like ages before Mandy started to stir, but i had already started to create an agenda for the day that i thought she would approve of. By 8 she was up, and by 8.30 we had driven to a free parking spot on the coast of Cromer.

We had breakfast and enjoyed another sunny day at the beach with fish and chips, perusing what few shops were open.

Mid afternoon we were ready to plan the last night. Where shall we go? It would be crazy to move further afield knowing we would be heading home tomorrow. So Mandy suggested the Beach at Heacham. That way we would be moving in the right direction, but there was a safety in returning because we didn’t get hassled last time. We both agreed and took the scenic route along the coastline.

So our last night was in familiar territory and closer to home. We decided to park in a different spot and this lead us to spend the evening with a very talented guitarist called Zeph. During lock down he couldn’t travel and entertain. So he and his partner had been stuck in a car park in their campervan for the last three months. They never complained, but you could tell he just wanted to play to an audience.

So that was our last night… We loved every day 🙂