Over the Easter holidays, I enjoyed a short break in Norfolk with my children, Esme and Cormac. We all loved exploring countryside crowned by big open skies, getting closer to nature, and wandering along the wild coastline.
We left London on an overcast Wednesday morning, which turned out to be a stroke of genius: no traffic meant only a 2.5-hour drive to the glorious North Norfolk coast. Our first stop was coastal charmer Wells-next-the-Sea for lunch – our first foray into local fish, crab and chips.
The beach is a small distance from the town – easily walkable, but with shorter legs to cater for, we opted instead for the little ride-on diesel train there and back. Fun! Once on the windswept sand, we found candy-coloured beach huts and a slope just built for sliding down. And the sun emerged!
After negotiating Norfolk’s twisting lanes, we stocked up at the excellent Walsingham Farm Shop and headed to our superlative accommodation: Barsham Barns, a cluster of 5 stylishly converted barns in rolling open countryside. We were berthed in Little Barsham, which has 2 bedrooms, an open-plan living/dining area complete with a wood-burner and beams, and a large private garden to the rear.
There was plenty of space to run around, and spring was positively singing all around – the first swallows had just arrived, the driveway was lined with thick rows of daffodils, and baby lambs frolicked in the field opposite. The kids lost no time in exploring while I admired the serene aesthetic (exposed brick walls, rich accent hues) and well-kitted kitchen.
There was another family in the barn next door. Well, apparently – we didn’t hear a peep from them, which proves what good soundproofing the thick walls have. A relief, given how noisy my 2 can be!
We did manage to take a tour of nearby High Barsham (sleeps 12) and The Great East Barn (sleeps 14), though. Both have a wonderful sense of light and scale, and a stylish-yet-relaxed vibe; they would be terrific for a celebration or extended family get-together. And we had a sneak peek of the about-to-open Loose Box, which sleeps 4 in 2 bedrooms.
The next day, under bright skies, we went birding for 4 fantastic hours at RSPB Titchwell Marsh. My children have been fully indoctrinated into the way of the feather and can identify most species. Cormac was stoked to see avocet just 5m away from the hide, and Esme liked the marsh harriers. I was overjoyed to see a shy water rail for the first time. On the way back to the barns, we popped into the famous (for those in the know about medieval pilgrimage sites, anyway) Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham.
On our last day we went on a seal-watching boat trip. We embarked at Morston, where we saw a Norfolk wherry and kids crabbing beside salt-marsh meadows alive with the song of skylarks.
The boat chugged out to Blakeney Point, where we saw grey seals (slate-coloured fur with Roman noses) and common seals (cream, with rounded heads) at close quarters, to the excitement of all aboard.
We bid farewell to the wondrous North Norfolk coast at the vast, shimmering expanse of Holkham Beach. Here, we found piles of razor-clam shells, dug trenches in the sand, and walked and walked to reach far-distant waves.
And then, all too reluctantly, we headed home through the magnificent Holkham Estate, counting up our bird list on the way – an excellent 55 species!