What’s to see at Snettisham, from the beach path

PUBLISHED: 06:45 29 July 2014 | UPDATED: 17:57 29 July 2014

Snettisham Beach at Sunset. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Snettisham Beach at Sunset. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2013

Sometimes, when the summer sun goes down, it sets the sea on fire. Blessed with a westward-facing outlook, the shingle strip at Snettisham might not be Norfolk’s prettiest beach. But by goodness you see some sights there.

Geese at dawn at Snettisham. Photo by Matthew Usher. Geese at dawn at Snettisham. Photo by Matthew Usher.

Now visitors don’t need to feel a twinge of guilt if they walk past the signs claiming there’s no public right of way along the sea defences, that give the best, grandstand-est view of them all - because there is.

If the sunsets are the most beautiful sights to be seen at Snettisham, the best is yet to come. Wait a few weeks until they start combining the barley across the water in Lincolnshire and the dying rays catch the airborne dust, turning the air blood red.

As summer sings its swan song, the sky fills with the heaven hounds, packs of geese, thousands strong, in full cry on their way to their winter quarters on The Wash.

When the great skeins scramble, for a dawn raid on their feeding grounds, Snettisham beach is home to one of our greatest wildlife spectaculars - one that people literally travel the length and breadth of the country to see.

A dainty avocet probes the mud. Picture: Matthew Usher A dainty avocet probes the mud. Picture: Matthew Usher

The row over whether or not the path along the top of the shingle was a public right of way has now ended, with the inspector ruling on the side of those who want such marvellous sights to be accessible to all.

These are just two of a fistfull of delights. As the tide floods the flats, swarms of waders swirl up like bees. Thousands use the estuary as a feeding ground all year round but the place gets really busy in the winter. I once saw a bevvy of curlews standing silent in a line along the foreshore, curved beak to tail. Sometimes, great flocks of knot explode in all direction when a sparrowhawk dive bombs them.

Birds are not the only ones to savour the salt flats’ rich larder. Seals know there are flat fish, bass and eels to be had in the shallows. Locals know there’s samphire to be found where the mud meets the shingle - if you know where to look and don’t mind getting your feet mucky.

Soon more feet will tread the path. Officials are finalising the route of the round Britain coast path, with the section between Weyborne and Sea Palling already confirmed and due for its official opening in December.

What now for path?

Villagers say now that the inspector has ruled in their favour, signs which claim the route is not a right of way should be taken down.

Tim Edmunds, network manager at Norfolk County Council said: “We are still studying the full detail of the inspector’s ruling but we are pleased that the report upholds the opinion that we also came to when we reviewed the evidence all those months ago.

“As soon as we are confident that there is no legal challenge to the Inspector’s ruling we will take action to remove signs that conflict with its status as a public right of way - or indeed anything that obstructs the ability of people to use it - and installing new ones to reflect its status.”

Mr Edmunds said the route of the round England coast path was being finalised by Natural England in stages, with the stretch from Weybourne to Hunstanton expected to be completed in 2016.

Now that there is a right of way across the top of Snettisham Beach, it can be included in the section between Weyborne and King’s Lynn.

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