10 quiet Norfolk spaces to escape summer crowds

PUBLISHED: 17:31 26 June 2020 | UPDATED: 17:53 26 June 2020

The windmill at the junction of the River Bure and the River Thurne. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The windmill at the junction of the River Bure and the River Thurne. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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As lockdown measures begin to ease further, we pick out a few wide open spaces where you can find a bit of peace

The shore at Snettisham. Photo: Ian BurtThe shore at Snettisham. Photo: Ian Burt

1 Snettisham

As with other beaches on this corner of the coast, there is plenty of space around Snettisham, with a long beach stretching up as far as Heacham and Hunstanton and mud flats stretching far out into The Wash at low tide. This is a haven for bird lovers and is an RSPB site. Despite the space and the walks among the dunes, this tends to be one of the quieter parts of the coastline, making it an easy place to keep your distance from everyone else.

Park: There is a large car park at the site.

Kelling Heath, bathed in sunshine. Photo: Ally McGilvrayKelling Heath, bathed in sunshine. Photo: Ally McGilvray

2 Kelling Heath

This is a quiet corner of north Norfolk which offers a gentle walk around the sweet-smelling gorse and heather of a proper heathland. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a glacial outwash plain, if you please, which covers around 220 hectares and is rich in birds, like the nightjar and whitethroat, and wildlife. If you take Fido, he’ll need to be kept on a lead; keep an eye out for adders basking in the summer sunshine as well. Rail buffs will be keeping an eye out for trains from the North Norfolk Railway as the Poppy line passes through the heath on the way to nearby Holt.

Park: There is a small car park at Holgate Hill.

Thetford Forest. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThetford Forest. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

3 Thetford Forest

The woods are a wonderful place to relax and refocus and with plenty of walking and cycling trails. Thetford’s 19,000 hectare forest is big enough to absorb plenty of people and allow you to keep socially distant and safe. At the time of writing car parks, toilets, and trails at High Lodge Forest Centre are open from 9am to 7pm. The bike shop is open, and the cafe is open for takeaways only between 10am and 4pm, though play equipment, play areas and Go Ape are closed. For the latest up-to-date information go to Forestry England.

Park: High Lodge has large car parks; please don’t park on the roadside.

Blickling Hall. Picture: ANTONY KELLYBlickling Hall. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

4 Blickling

There is plenty of space for wandering and picnicking in the beautiful woodland and parkland around the grand houses cared for by the National Trust, including the Felbrigg, Oxburgh and Blickling estates. At Blickling there is even a pyramid to discover.

Park: At the time of writing you will need to book ahead.

Swans at WWT Welney. Picture: Matthew UsherSwans at WWT Welney. Picture: Matthew Usher

5 Welney Wetlands

Just gazing out across the vast open spaces of the wetlands is a tonic. At the Welney Wetland Centre the indoor areas and some of the smaller hides could still be closed but there should be plenty of space to enjoy the landscape and wildlife as the Wetlands Trust is managing visitors with a new booking system.

Park: Parking is free with the admission price. The centre is also on a national cycle route.

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6 Burgh Castle

The massive walls of a fort built by the Romans 1,700 years ago stand close to where the rivers Yare and Waveney merge in Breydon Water. One of the most impressive Roman buildings to survive anywhere in Britain stands beside acres of marshland. It was then the site of an early Christian monastery and later a Norman Castle.

Park: As with most other sites cared for by the Norfolk Archaeological Trust, there is a small car park.

A yacht makes its way on the River Bure. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYA yacht makes its way on the River Bure. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

7 The Broads

Puttering about on the water in a little boat has to be a great way to de-stress and enjoy nature up close without getting too adjacent anyone else; there are thousands of hectares of broads and rivers to enjoy and boat hirers are just beginning to allow vessels out, under strict rules of course. Private boat owners have been out for some weeks, as have canoeists, kayakers and paddle-boarders.

General information can be found here.

Brancaster beach. Photo: Ian BurtBrancaster beach. Photo: Ian Burt

8 Brancaster

On the north-west corner of the county, Brancaster is a way away from most people but does have masses of sandy space on the wide beaches. You can walk for miles west or east and still have plenty of distance between you and everyone else. Part of this coastline is National Trust-owned and it does love its rules and regulations, so have a look at the NT web site before you head out. Otherwise just enjoy the sea air.

Park: There is a decent-sized car park right next to the beach.

The Berney Marshes landscape next to Breydon Water. Picture: James BassThe Berney Marshes landscape next to Breydon Water. Picture: James Bass

9 Berney Marshes

If you want to get away from the crowds and marvel at the wide open spaces of Norfolk then Berney Marshes, accessible only by footpath or train, could hardly be more perfect. It’s more than five miles along the Wherryman’s Way from either Reedham or Yarmouth, or a slightly shorter walk from Halvergate. When you get there, and take a picture of the mill, and pub, and a little way off, one of the most isolated railway stations in the land, there is little to see or do apart from walk on, or back again, lost in the wonder of the wildlife. Take a picnic, a map and binoculars for the birds as this is one of our county’s wonderful RSPB reserves. Check which others are open here.

Park: If you need to drive, park sensibly in Reedham, Yarmouth or Halvergate.

Sunshine along the Yarmouth Golden Mile. Kite flying on North Denes. Photo: Nick ButcherSunshine along the Yarmouth Golden Mile. Kite flying on North Denes. Photo: Nick Butcher

10 Great Yarmouth beach and North Denes

Even in normal times it is possible to escape the seafront crowds by heading north. The beach itself is a natural wonder of fine sand with plenty of space to spread out for a socially distanced traditional sandy sandwiches picnic or sunbathe/vitamin D top-up. The North Denes are a wilderness of rolling sand dunes - and a Site of Special Scientific Interest, so use the paths to avoid damaging the landscape and wildlife.

Park: Yarmouth’s car parks were open at the time of writing.

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