Outdoors: Wild geese and philanthropy

The north Norfolk coast offers varied views, rare bird life - and an English stately home. Emma Haughton takes a walk

This four-mile walk around Holkham, in north Norfolk, offers impressive contrasts in scenery. At one moment you'll be strolling along some of the wildest and most beautiful stretches of beach in the land, then, just minutes later, you'll find yourself walking through the genteel, landscaped grounds of one of England's most impressive stately homes.

Kicking off from the Victoria hotel in the centre of Holkham village, cross over the A149 into Lady Ann's Road, a tree-lined avenue leading past cattle and beet fields directly to the sea.

At the end of the road, turn left on to the earth track through the pines; you're now in the thick of Holkham National Nature Reserve, which covers nearly 4,000 hectares of Norfolk coast between Burnham Norton and Blakeney. The sandy beaches, inter-tidal mudflats and pine woodland that make up the reserve are a haven for a large variety of birds, many with romantic- sounding names such as redshank, bearded reedling, water rail, shelduck and pied flycatcher.

Once you have passed a small lake on your left, take a sharp right up the steep bank of sand dunes and head down towards the sea. Keep your eyes peeled, and you may even see the rare natterjack toad - distinguished by the light yellow stripe down its back - which lives on the dunes and lays its spawn in the nearby shallow pools.

Bear left as you walk along the foreshore. In rough weather Holkham beach has an invigorating, elemental wildness that is guaranteed to blow the cobwebs from your soul; on fine days it transforms itself into the archetypal English beach, with yachts sailing in the bay, paddling children, and endless yellow sand encrusted with sea shells of every size and shape. At low tide the waves dawdle along in lazy ripples, and the water remains so shallow that you can paddle for miles before it even reaches your knees.

Following the line of pines on your left, keep on past the first headland. As you turn the corner, brace yourself for the naturist section, but don't get too excited - just as things get interesting, you cut sharp left into the dunes back towards the pine forest, along the path where a sign politely requests nudists to keep to the beach. The sandy track takes you through the eerie gloom of pine woods, home to countless grey squirrels that strip the cones and leave their remains on the forest floor.

When you come to a crossroads, keep heading south along the footpath, past the bird hide on your left. As you curve round into Bone's Drove, look just above the tree line and you'll see the tower of Holkham church and the tip of the Coke monument in Holkham Park, looking, from this distance, uncannily like a pineapple balanced atop an Apollo rocket.

As you head towards the park, you'll pass through Overy Marshes, in winter an important refuge for wildfowl such as pink-footed geese, brent geese and wigeon.

When you reach the A149 again, cross over and enter Holkham Park through the wrought-iron gates of Church Lodge. Turn almost immediately left through the mature oaks and chestnuts of Church Wood, skirt the tip of the large green lake on your right and head on into Staithe Wood. When you hit a junction, turn sharp right and you'll soon find yourself confronted by Coke monument, an elaborate, 120-ft tribute to Thomas Coke, who inherited the estate in 1776 and was regarded as virtually the patron saint of Norfolk farming. The monument was erected by public subscription: the life-size sculptures of a plough, a sheep, an ox and a seed drill that surround the central column (topped by bulls, leaves and turnips) refer to the revolutionary agricultural reforms Coke introduced in the early 19th century.

From the monument, head straight across the deer and sheep pastures to Holkham Hall, spread before you in all its magisterial splendour. If you've got the time and the energy, you can take a tour inside and round it off with a meal or a snack in the adjacent tea rooms; if you haven't, content yourself with the magnificent Palladian exterior of this historic 18th- century building, home to seven generations of the Earls of Leicester.

When you've had your fill of all this stateliness, bear north towards the Almshouses Gate. Once over the cattle grid, take the left fork and head towards the trees. From the almshouses it's a short, straight walk down through the model village of Holkham, and back to the Victoria Hotel. If you're peckish, try its wide selection of sandwiches, ploughmen's lunches and hot meals, which you can wash down with a pint of Adnam's beer or Addlestone's cider.

Map: Ordnance Survey Pathfinder 819 TF 84/94 (Wells-next-the-Sea and Burnham Market)

English Nature, which manages the nature reserve in conjunction with the Holkham estate, requests that visitors do not attempt this particular walk between November and March, when they risk disturbing the rare birds wintering in the marshes alongside Bone's Drove.

Suggested Topics
News
people
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Science Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Key stage 3 and 4 Teacher requi...

RE Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Teacher of Religious Education ...

A Level Chemistry Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: A Level Chemistry Teacher - Humb...

NQT Secondary Teachers

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education is actively r...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence