4 days of tranquillity in the wilderness of Norfolk

Beautiful day at Morston Quay

Travel Guide

Day 1 : Swaffham -> Castle Acre -> Thursford -> Fakenham
Day 2: Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure Park, Thursford
Day 3: Morstan Quay (Blakney Point)
Day 4: Snettisham RSPB -> Hunstanton -> Wells-Next-The-Sea


Nature Therapy has always drawn me towards the tranquil maternal force. Surrendering myself to her gentle caress helps me revive my soul and body, and have my moments of Ichi-go Ichi-e.

In Winter 2019, I set out to explore the wilderness of Norfolk, a county that braves the North Sea on its Northern and Eastern boundaries while flaunting its teté-a-teté with ‘The Wash’ along its eastern frontiers. I was mainly drawn to witness the winter migration in December to capture the essence of life beyond human realms at Blakney Point.

Day 1 : Fakenham & Thursford

Route: Swaffham -> Castle Acre -> Fakenham -> Thursford

We started from our home (in London) early in the morning about 7:00 am for Fakenham but detoured to Swaffham, a small off-beat market town. Little did I knew that this place holds childhood memories of Howard Carter, discoverer of the tomb of Tutankhamun.

The chill in the air left us wanting for coffee so we found a tiny breakfast place ‘Market Place Cafe’ with cosy cabins on the upper deck where families were bonding over food and laughter. 

Strolling around with a hot cup clutched tightly between palms, I stumbled upon St Peter & St Paul Church. It was a 12th-century church rebuilt in 1454; a 600-year-old church with thousands of stories hidden in its nooks and crannies, perhaps. As I walked in, small oak wooden figures at the end of pews caught my attention. They were beautifully carved. I sat to inhale the serenity of the place while sipping my coffee.

A woman sitting close by started a light-hearted chat which ended up us being on the road again to Castle Acre, an 11 minutes drive from Swaffham, on her recommendation. Feeling super energised from the caffein shots, we turned our wheels towards the castle ruins which were bizarrely fascinating.

Castle Ruins at Castle Acre
Castle Ruins – Whats left of the castles’ keep

ichigo ichie moment – The spontaneity in life often leads us to places,  events and encounters we could never have otherwise experienced. The beauty is that there are no expectations attached hence we end up enjoying every moment regardless. 
Therefore, I sat for a few moments overlooking the farms stretched as far as my eyes could pan listening to my breath, contemplating the impermanence of everything including the castle.

Castle Acre Ruins

Tip: Start a bit early to avoid M11 and A11 traffic

Next, we headed to our initially planned destination for the day – Fakenham, our base for the next 5 days simply because of its proximity to the Norfolk coast. The Airbnb we rented was easy on our pockets and had all the basic comforts we needed. What pleased me the most was the open kitchen overlooking the garden with a bird feeder right in the middle. I ended up spending the entire afternoon staring at the tiny visitors.
Sadly, this property has been removed from the Airbnb site.

We had evening reservations for Christmas Spectular show in Thursford, a 20 minutes drive. My son, in particular, was thrilled. We parked the car and entered the grand entrance with widest grins and festive vibes. The fairy lights and jolly music filled the air with excitement. Soon the show began, went on for 3 hours and it was indeed spectacular in every way. My favourite act was “The masquerades” because it was vibrant. I will not give you more details about the show for it is to be experienced :).

Christmas Spectacular in Thursford

Key Info:

  1. I recommend you to book the tickets for the show sooner to get the best seats, preferably ‘Raised Center’. I got left side view, not the best but all of us still enjoyed the show including my six-year-old son
  2. Some parents might not find the show suitable for young ones due to the performer’s costumes. You might want to check the reviews online before you book to get a better idea
  3. Please buy separate entry tickets for Santa’s Magical Journey in Fantasy building if you wish to see it with your kids as it is not included in the show’s ticket

Day 2: Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure Park

A trip to any adventure park is always a delight for us because my son loves outdoor. Dinosaur Adventure Park had so much to offer but because of winter, some areas were closed. Nevertheless, it is a dinosaur park so we enjoyed it. From stamp collecting treasure hunt to brushing the sand off the fossils in fossil area, from gaping at the life-size dinosaur exhibits to enjoying the swings in the open space, we did it all. There was also a big soft play area where he went bonkers while I and my husband relaxed over a cuppa. A brief visit to Santa Grotto was special too as there were no waiting queues :). 

Tired but happy we came back home to our chirpy companions who were busy having a garden party with two new visitors – squirrels.

Day 3: Morstan Quay (Blakney Point)

The idea of an intimate rendezvous with seals in their natural habitat made me most excited. But before embarking on our adventure we made a brief stop at a cafe in the middle of nowhere – The Lookout Cafe. A marvellous piece of architecture with installed binoculars to gaze wildlife over the marshes. 

From there, we headed to Morston Quay to board the boat for Blakney Point. Blakney Point is the National Nature Reserve on the north coast of Norfolk. In winter, it transforms into breeding grounds for Grey Seals.

Blakney Point
Out in the midst of nothing but infinity

Bean boat was our choice of the boat ride. The overcast skies, strong winds and a meagre bateau jostling its way ahead in the choppy waters made me a bit nervous. After sailing for 25-30 minutes we ‘the Outlanders’ were duly greeted by ‘the watch’. One, in particular, came as close as 15 m. I was told there were around 3000 in total. We spotted white fur pups, adult seals peeking their heads from the waters and many do-not-disturb couch potato types.

Seal coming close to the boat
A curious one!

ichigo ichie moment – The people we were sharing the ride with, the seals making eye contact and the vastness of the North Sea, everything I was experiencing was so unique hence I anchored myself to the moment.

Exceptionally hungry, cold and little wet I was very happy to return to our cosy habitat while putting the kettle on.

1. It is better to book your trip in advance to make sure you have space on the boat. Also, the UK weather can be unpredictable at times, make sure to call the company a day before to confirm the trip
2. For parking at Morston Quay Car Park, click here
3. The transaction is CASH ONLY at Bean Boats

Day 4: Snettisham RSPB

Snettisham RSPB -> Hunstanton -> Wells-Next-To-The-Sea

Snettisham RSPB reserve overlooking The Wash, a large estuary, witnesses one of the largest migration of pink-footed geese in winter. It is a sight to behold when they take flight together in hundreds and thousands.

We reached at the base around 5:30 am. Our guide with few other tourists was waiting for us. We were asked to use the torches which we did not have but thanks to our smartphones. It was a cold morning but there were energy and vigour in the air.

After walking for about half an hour, we stopped and fixed our eyes on the Wash. Soon a faint distant murmur broke into loud noise and then the first flock emerged in the form of a perfect ‘V’. Absolute worth the wait! There was no stopping then, they kept emerging in huge groups one after the other, a show that lasted almost an hour. Later I was told by the guide that 30,000 geese roosting here and every morning they fly to farms to eat the sugar beet tops.

Pink Footed geese taking flight from Snettisham
This picture does not do justice to what my eyes witnessed…

Tip : 
1. There is an option to take a guided tour which I highly recommend during the winter season as it can be very dark in the morning
2. There are other locations to see the winter migration but Snettisham RSPB is roasting grounds, therefore, a lot of action happens in the morning
3. Here is the RSPB Timetable for year-round

The geese were out hunting for their breakfast and it was our turn now. Hunstanton, 10 minutes drive from the Reserve, a random pick, turned out to be a beautiful quaint Victorian seaside town. The cliffs were rather interesting and the town had green spaces to enjoy breakfast overlooking the sea.

Hunstanton - Coastal town in Norfolk
Concoction of a beautiful morning = Clear skies + crisp air + warm sun-rays + hot fish and chips

After spending a quiet afternoon at our holiday home browsing through the memories made in Norfolk, we decided to go for an early dinner to ‘Wells-Next-The-Sea”; a pretty harbour town. To increase our appetites, we walked on the soft cold sand of the beach admiring the huts that gave it a picturesque edge. Our pick was ‘Sands Restaurant’ where we gorged on seafood platter and raised a glass to another awesome time we all spent together. 

Wells-Next-The-Sea Beach
The beach sand – soft to my feet, cold to my skin

During this entire trip, there were moments of timelessness, moments of contemplation but mostly we were just grateful of being able to spend a happy time as a family. Cheers to the Ichigo Ichie Life!

Cheers from me to you
With love from me to you.

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