One of my favourite walks in Broadland begins and ends at Horsey Mere, a broad just west of the village. Belonging to the National Trust, this small, picture-perfect broad boasts thatched boathouses and sedge warblers calling from the reed beds.
Standing only a couple of feet or so above sea level, Horsey village has always had a fractious relationship with the North Sea just over the dunes and was cut off completely for four months in 1938 when all of the villagers had to be evacuated.
The village is tiny but manages to retain a pub, a nice old barn and thatched church, and easy access to a beach. Roman coins have been found in the area on several occasions and so despite its obvious vulnerability, Horsey has been settled for a very long time.
OS Explorer OL40 or Landranger 134; start: Horsey Mill car park, TG456223; 5 miles; moderate
Start at the handy car park next to the staithe, which sits alongside a four-storey windmill, restored by the National Trust. I have seen marsh harriers flying overhead here on several occasions – and, in the winter months you might spot hen harriers and day-flying barn owls. There is also a permanent colony of cranes in the fields around here, although they are not easy to see – I finally spotted two feeding in a field near the windmill on what must have been my tenth visit.
The lovely thing about this walk, which is probably at its best on a clear, crisp winter’s day, is that it gives you a taste of everything the area has to offer in the space of an easy five miles: reed beds, lake, river, farmland, marsh, beach, dunes and the North Sea itself.
A marked footpath leads through reed beds around the north side of the mere, along Waxham New Cut and over grazing marshes to a picturesque drainage pump before turning right to cross fields to the coast road.
From here, a track leads over dunes at Horsey Gap to the beach, a favourite haunt of grey seals in winter. This is also highly popular with visitors in winter, especially during the week between Christmas and New Year.
A mile or so southeast along the dunes, there’s a muddy, pot-holed track that leads inland past an old World War II defensive pillbox to reach the road at Crinkle Hill. The ‘hill’ part of the name should be taken with a pinch of salt – round these parts ‘hill’ can mean almost anything above the horizontal; this one is about six feet above sea level, perhaps a little less.
The road leads back to the village past the Nelson Head pub – a tempting stopping point in normal times – before the short leg back to the car park.
For more local recommendations from Norfolk, take a look at Laurence’s Slow guide: