Today I saw something I have never seen before in Britain – seals en masse. I have seen the odd one off-shore in North Wales, but never in groups (pods? colonies?). I had heard talk about seals north of Winterton in the pub last night, and Sally had mentioned that it was an area noted for wild life, but I had given the matter no further thought, until, about an hour north of Winterton I saw some people sitting on rocks doing nothing. This is unusual: unless the sun is out and they are sunbathing, people tend to walk on beaches, or, if they are sitting, they are fishing. As I came closer, I saw what I thought was a black labrador playing in the waves, and assumed that the sitting people were waiting for their pet, then, a bit closer I realised it was a seal playing in the shallows.
A hundred yards further on, what I had taken to be rocks were, in fact dozens, if not over a hundred seals of all shapes, sizes and colours, basking on the sands. The vast majority were having a Sunday morning lie in, but the odd few sat up, scratched and waddled into the waves. It was a magnificent sight and repeated a few miles further on where a different, slightly more lively colony were also lying on the beach, completely impervious to the sight of me walking past.
The was spent entirely walking along the beach, initially, it was firm enough but there were a few places where it was hard going over soft sand. I had an unexpected wetting when I stopped to throw a stick for a friendly labrador and didn’t spot the wave coming up behind me.
The cliffs gradually changed from white sand dunes to golden cliffs by the time I reached Hapisburgh. (This is apparently pronounced “Hazeborough”). The light house is a lot closer to the sea than it used to be! The wave damage to the caravan park there has been huge, the cliff is covered with dangling pipes, wires and bits of fencing, with lumps of concrete all over the beach, all suggesting a fairly recent fall. After Hapisburgh the sea defences are formed of a rather ugly line of fencing that effectively cuts the sea off from the foreshore. I hurried along this bit, my feet starting to ache with the effort of walking on sand.
I climbed up to the cliff at Walcott Gap and walked through a timeless stretch of countryside, a ploughed and harrowed field with a church behind and an elderly man digging and delving in his allotment.
Keswick, where I am staying, has rather a good ice cream parlour where I treated myself to some vanilla and honeycomb, but it was plagued with midges this afternoon, as the weather has turned rather muggy. I am awaiting the arrival of Tom who is joining me for the walk to Cromer tomorrow.
22km today, around 13,75 miles which was easy after yesterday’s 20.25 miles. Distance is influenced by the availability of accommodation!