Wells-Next-The-Sea: One of Norfolk's Best Beaches
In the East of England, on the tip of the North Norfolk Coast, sits the village of Wells-Next-the-Sea. It is, perhaps, our favourite place in Norfolk - many a time we have made the hours drive at the drop of a hat, with a picnic in a cooler bag and a couple of buckets for collecting things. Wells itself is nice enough, with some interesting little shops and its rows of colourful and quaint cottages. But it is the beach that we always head for.
The beach at Wells-Next-the-Sea is both beautiful and wildly rugged. Somewhat detached from the village itself (there is a rather long path leading to the beach), Wells beach is truly a place to enjoy the English outdoors at its best. The fresh air will fill your lungs and make you feel alive. The landscape is both invigorating and inspiring. It is hard to beat, and definitely worth the trip.
From the quayside at Wells, you can either take the pleasant stroll down the long beach path, or you can catch the little train. The train runs every hour at a small cost, until around four thirty. We have, ourselves, made the walk on more than one occasion - it is quite enjoyable and picturesque. Nowadays, however, we park in the carpark just before the beach. (This can be difficult on busy days if you don't arrive early, but there are overflow carparks further up). The road to the carpark runs alongside the path, down by the Pinewoods Holiday Park. It is definitely easier to park in the car park if you have children that hate walking, or a lot of stuff. In any case, the two go together, as any parent knows. I challenge anyone to deny otherwise, when heading out for the day with a couple of young-ish kids in tow!
Pinewoods and a Rope Swing
On one side of the beach path there are grassy fields and the holiday park. On the other side - the quayside - there are little boats bobbing about, sometimes marooned if the tide is low. At the end, just before the beach, there is also a fairly sheltered spot, almost like a mini beach. We have eaten our picnics there, while our children run about, too energised after being stuck in the car for an hour to be still.
Yet even from here, you cannot see the beach. It hides behind the pinewoods, like a secret waiting to be discovered. The pinewoods are wonderful and enjoyed by families with children, dog walkers and couples strollling. Woods are for adventures, and our oldest son's imagination has taken us on elaborate journeys through prehistoric times, with dinosaurs lurking through trees, to times of battle, where every hill or thick bush is a look-out. The woods are the perfect place for play of a bygone age. You'll smile at your children and remember all those Famous Five books you once read, now in a musty box in the attic or packed off to the charity shop. There are 'dens' to stumble upon - lots of them. There is a rope swing to let fly on - it has been there every time we've looked, attached so far up a lofty tree that each time we see it we wonder who on earth put it there. There are tree trunks to climb on and low branches to get a foot up. Then wander through a gap in the trees and bushes, where the light is bright and welcoming, and right before you is the vast expanse of the beach itself.
Wells Beach - Stunning and Untamed
The beach at Wells-Next-the-Sea is stunning and untamed. It gives you a feeling of freedom and space, a true blessing in a crowded world. At low tide, the beach goes as far as the eye can see, and then further still. In fact, as you set foot onto the sand, the sea itself is sometimes not even visible at all, except for the narrow channel that runs upwards from it. In high summer, children splash and play in the channel when it is there - come high tide and the channel is sucked back into the oozing swell of water that is the North Sea (it is important to be on the right side of the channel when the tide starts to flow; warning signs as you enter the beach explain this). The beach is monitored by lifeguards at high tide and it is perfectly safe as long as you follow the rules.
When the tide is out, myriad shallow pools remain. Children love them. They splash in them; discover tiny life in them; wade through them to get to the 'sand islands' created by them. You can find crabs, the odd jellyfish and shells in their thousands. Sometimes you can even see shoals of tiny fish. There is little better than seeing your children absorbed by the wonder of nature, without a penny being spent. In any case, there's not a lot to spend your money on - one shop selling gifts and snacks and an icecream van in the carpark - and that's if you can be bothered to trek all the way back there.
Adventures in the Sand Dunes
Perhaps the centre-piece for the beach is the sand dunes, standing like two little islands. My older son adores the sand dunes. They are one of the reasons why he loves Wells beach above others along the same coastline. The sand dunes are for everyone. Children hurtle down the gentle hills like little kamikazes. And it's the perfect location for hide-and-seek. What better place for children to hide, attempting to camouflage themselves as they duck down behind the mounds of strong grass, with sand in their shoes and the sea breeze whipping at their cheeks? Imagine cops and robbers; an escapee on the loose. They'll get plenty of good, old fashioned exercise, and bucketfuls of fresh air.
While the kids are running riot, parents sit with the picnic bag, enjoying a bit of well deserved, nag-free time. Couples seek seclusion, until they are stumbled upon by someone else's adventure. Kites soar, like Gods of the Sky - on a windy day there are plenty of them, proud and supreme against the skyline. Kite flying reaches new heights on Wells beach. I don't know if there is any better place - if there is, then we have yet to find it.
If you enjoy walking, you can walk a long way along the beach at Wells. Along the sands is Holkham, perhaps quieter but just as stunning. The landscape is the same, with the woods and the dunes, but the crowds certainly stick to Wells. Holkham is known as the location for the final scene in the film Shakespeare in Love. it is also said to be a favourite of the Queen, when she is in residence at nearby Sandringham.
Wells - a Place for Making Memories
When it is time to leave, your children won't want to go home. Wells is like a magnet. 'Let's stay a bit longer,' they'll say. 'Just find us one more time.' Every time we've been there, we've arrived home very late, and yet as we depart there are still people on the beach, some eating late picnics, or even tea cooked on disposable barbeques.
Wells beach is the perfect place for playing, walking, or just sitting and doing nothing. You can head there for day trips, and not only in the summer. It's a place for holidays; a place for making memories to look back on and remember in years to come - and there's not an electronic device in sight.
Staying at Wells
The nearest place to stay to the beach at Wells-Next-the-Sea is the Pinewoods Holiday Park. Personally, we haven't stayed there as we are only an hour's drive away. The Pinewoods Holiday Park is on the left as you make your way down to the beach, just before the car park. Behind Pinewoods is a river; the holiday park rents out canoes. Last week, when we went, there were ducklings on the river, dashing after their mother in the weak spring sunshine. Ducklings, reeds and still, tranquil water - 'just messing about on the river'. What better way to enjoy the peaceful Norfolk countryside. We'll definitely be giving it a go this summer!
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