Distance: 11.5 miles
Height Gained: 130m
Public Transport: Bus 5 (Sanders Coaches, towards Holt) runs roughly hourly from Mundesley to Sheringham.
Parking: Pay parking in Mundesley, Overstrand, Cromer, and East Runton. Free parking along the Esplanade in Sheringham and out of season at West Runton.
Refreshments: Plenty available in Cromer and East Runton.
Norfolk’s only day of clifftop walking, skirting where possible the fragile mud cliffs around Sheringham and Cromer. In places, caravan parks and loose ground mean the route is forced inland and along the adjacent road, but there is enough variety and coastal interest to make this an interesting day.
Rejoin the promenade at the foot of Sheringham’s High Street, continuing past Sheringham Museum and the Funky Mackerel Café. Turn right up some steps by the Wee Retreat cottage and follow the ramp up to the road. Turn left and climb steeply onto Beeston Bump, at 63m the highest point on the East Coast and a superb vantage point. It is actually a kame, formed by deposits left by a retreating glacier and houses the remains of a Y Station (an abbreviation of ‘wireless intercept’), used to triangulate German signals during World War II.
Follow the path along the iron-rich cliffs through the holiday park which surrounds All Saints Church in West Runton. Beyond a further caravan park, descend to the car park at West Runton Cliffs, which contain a peaty bed at their base in which ancient fossils and the bones of a mammoth have been found. Stay above the cliffs until forced inland at Woodhill Park, off the shore of which lie a couple of interesting rocks; Sharman Cutler’s Stone, a glacial erratic initialled by a local stone mason when it stood at the foot of the cliffs in 1770; and Black Meg, rectangular blocks said to be the cargo of a wrecked ship. Follow the tarmac tracks of the caravan park round to the left of the reception building and out to the main road. Follow this down through East Runton, bearing left between caravan parks soon after Beach Road. Turn right up a grassy path to rejoin the road for 300m, then turn left across the clifftop green on the edge of Cromer. Head up through the large car park and keep left on Marram’s Footpath, which leads down into the town. As it joins the road, keep to the left of the buildings and then descend the ramps opposite the entrance to Cromer Pier. The current pier was built in 1901 when Cromer had developed as a Victorian resort, and the Pavilion Theatre is the last in the country to produce a traditional end-of-the-pier show every year. Cromer is famous for its eponymous crab, a particularly tender breed that lives on the chalk reef just offshore. Cromer, though, was not always on the coast; in 1888 a passenger steamer struck the spire of a church off the shore of Cromer, which turned out to be that of the forgotten village of Shipden, lost to the sea in the 14th century along with a number of others in the area. It is said on stormy nights you can hear the church bells ringing, though it is likely the spire was blown up after this incident.
The track eventually angles up to the road at the far end of the village; turn left up to the main road and follow it left as far as Tower Lane, which used to lead to the old church that was lost over the cliff in 1916. At the end, a path leads up onto the high cliffs by Sidestrand Hall and on along a perilously crumbling coastline, which is largely unprotected and eats into the fields each year. Other than the chalk exposed in areas on the beach (which is rich in fossil finds), there is little solid rock here and the mud continually slips onto the beach due to the prevalence of springs in the cliffs. Follow the jagged edge to a stand of trees, where you keep left and rejoin the cliffs briefly before following a track into Trimingham. Bear right and join the main road in front of the village’s fine flint church, whose squat tower is thought unfinished and is dedicated to St John the Baptist’s head as there was once an alabaster head to which pilgrims came.