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

Snettisham Beach at Sunset. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Snettisham Beach at Sunset. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

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. - Credit: 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 - Credit: Matthew Usher

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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.

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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.

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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