From the beach car park, walk back along the road to the first path on the right, follow this and turn left into Low Road. Continue along this road with paddocks to the right and an eclectic mix of residential dwellings on the left.
Keep heading straight on until you emerge on to Manor Farm Road in East Somerton; then keep going into Back Road before turning right down the concrete road. You’ll now continue on this farm road with areas of woodland to the right as it turns sharp left. Then, a little further on, take the right-hand track. The height of the land here is shown to be at 0m above sea level, and as the view opens up to the typical Broads landscape, you can see Horsey Drainage Mill and West Somerton Drainage Mill inland.
These wind-driven pumps regulated water levels in the drainage dykes. Following the storms and flooding from the sea in 1938, the wind pumps helped to reduce the flood levels, but the resultant salinity of the surrounding farmland rendered the soil unusable for a further five years. The redundant mills that pepper the landscape remain as a legacy to older forms of wind power.
Once you’ve crossed Commissioners Drain the path soon turns sharp right, and after a short straight section turn left towards the farm buildings at Winterton Holmes. Now turn right, leaving the buildings on the left, and follow the straight path on a direct route to the beach. The grazing pastures and wood form part of the natural Norfolk Broads landscape, and much of the wooded areas are marshy. Willows and rushes border the dykes and rhododendrons that overhang the path as it nears the beach.
The inland grazing marsh and woods give way to sandy heathland dunes and a lovely sandy foreshore as the path reaches the dune-backed beach at Winterton Ness.
The beach provides a delightful return section, while on the inland side of the marram-covered dunes there’s an equally enjoyable route through Winterton Dunes Nature Reserve. At Winterton Ness you’ll spot timber groynes on the beach, a common feature along the most easterly areas of the Norfolk coast. Coastal erosion has been a consistent process for centuries; further north at Happisburgh the village is gradually being claimed by the sea. The groynes are effective slowing the erosion process and breaking up storm-driven waves as they lash the coastline.
The path back through the reserve provides the opportunity to study the habitat and wildlife. You may see stonechats here, and in warm conditions you may catch a glimpse of an adder sunning itself. During the evening nightjars patrol this area, looking for insects.
Continue through the dunes as you pass wood, scrub and soft grass areas, and when you reach the end take a sharp left back to the beach and car park.
Easy level walking on concrete farm tracks, gravel tracks, grass and sandy dune paths.
HOW TO GET THERE
By car: From Norwich take the A47 east to the junction with the A149, then head north to Martham, West Somerton and Winterton-on-Sea. To park, head from the village centre head towards the coast along Black Road, to Beach Road, where there is a car park and toilets.
By public transport: There are public transport links from Great Yarmouth, with buses to Winterton-on-Sea.
The Fishermans Return
The Lane, Winterton-on-Sea NR29 4BN
Tel. 01493 393305
Waxham Sands Holiday Park, Warren Farm, Horsey, Great Yarmouth NR29 4EJ
Tel. 01692 598325
Long Beach Caravan Park, Beach Road, Hemsby
Tel. 01493 730023