EDP farming editor’s photographic record of 220-mile Norfolk trek
- Credit: Ian Burt
After completing an epic 220-mile hike around Norfolk to raise money for an East Anglian animal charity, EDP farming editor CHRIS HILL shares his experiences and photographs from the 10-day challenge.
Being an outdoorsy type, I've always liked the idea of linking up the Norfolk Trails footpaths into a long-distance circuit of the county – I've enjoyed similar treks on the Coast to Coast across northern England, and the West Highland Way in Scotland, but for some reason had never tried anything similar in my home county, despite its obvious charms. I mapped out a 220-mile route, gave myself 10 days to complete it. It followed the Norfolk Coast Path from Hunstanton to Sea Palling, then followed the Weavers Way from Hickling Broad to Great Yarmouth before taking the Angles Way through the Waveney valley to Knettishall Heath in the Brecks, where the Peddars Way would carry me back to the coast at Holme next the Sea.
I chose to raise money for the Zoological Society of East Anglia (ZSEA), the charity which runs Banham Zoo and Africa Alive, to help its work with international conservation projects and breeding programmes to help endangered animal species around the world.
There were so many memorable moments, like watching squadrons of geese taking flight at dawn in the Broads, seeing the natural oddity of the rare fin whale washed up on Holkham beach, watching the sunset from Beeston Bump, taking in the impressive monastic ruin of Castle Acre Priory, or the serene misty mornings in the forests of the Brecks. Then there was the simple pleasure of some well-deserved pints and camper-van meals along the way with my dad Tom, who was my support crew for the trip. But I think the best moment was reaching the intersection of Peddars Way and the Norfolk Coast Path at Holme dunes on Monday night – that completed my circuit, and was the moment when I knew I could finally put my weary feet up at the end of my journey.
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Walking for 10 hours a day for 10 consecutive days took an inevitable physical toll. I was beset by painful blisters later in the trek, but on the second day it was an injury in the back of my knee which stopped me in my tracks. It was painful to straighten my right leg, a problem made many times worse when walking on a few miles of shifting shingle on the beach near Weybourne. That was the only point when I fleetingly considered giving up - but the continual support and donations from friends and followers online kept me going.
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Most surprising thing
Norfolk is a much more diverse county than many people realise, and I really think you get the best appreciation of how the geography evolves when you can literally watch it changing beneath your feet. To see salt-marshes and dunes become beaches and cliffs, or feel muddy wetlands turn to sandy heath under your boots – all while discovering tiny picturesque villages and historical relics you've never heard of – makes you realise you can live your whole life in a place like this, and still not know everything about it.
As much as I enjoyed seeing all the landscapes, wildlife, villages and heritage of Norfolk in all their autumnal glory, the lasting memory will be of all the interesting and generous people I met along the way. Dog-walkers, day-trippers, farmers, sailors, family and friends all stopped to chat to me on my journey, keeping my spirits up, and helping me get across the finish line. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who supported this effort, or donated to the charity.
To donate towards Chris's fundraising efforts for the Zoological Society of East Anglia, click here .