Ever since I saw the elephant seals on Highway 1 in California a couple of years ago, I have been slightly obsessed with seals (odd, I know!). So when I found out that there is a colony of grey seals which have their pups on the beach in Horsey, Norfolk (around a 3.5 hour drive from London) each December I knew that we had to take a drive. So a couple of weekends ago in the glorious winter sunshine, we packed our walking shoes and headed to beautiful Norfolk.
After a bolstering cup of tea at Little Chef (options are rather limited on the road to Norfolk from London ;) we parked at Winterton-on-Sea and set off on a 14.5km (9 mile) circular walk. Now, the thing is, I sort of read the "9 mile" bit of the walk directions before we set out, and thought it didn't sound too far. It was only afterwards that I realised 9 miles is rather a lot further than 9 km. Damn my lack of imperial sensibilities! But any resulting twinges in my feet and thighs by the end of the journey were minimised by the incredible beauty of the walk: the windswept dunes, the big blue sky with just a few thin, wispy clouds dotted here and there, the soft purple, magenta and greens of the winter vegetation in the Winterton Downs nature reserve, the majestic curve of the tower of St Mary Church in West Somerton (resting place of the Norfolk Giant, Robert Hales), the sheep munching away in the fields....and the baby seals! So very beautiful and fascinating to watch (from a safe distance as the mama seals can abandon the pups if you get too close). I didn't include any photos of them as they sort of just looked like plump, white-grey blobs in my photos (the only time I have wished for a big-ar*e zoom lens was on this trip) but I was just happy to have seen them.< After a restorative night's sleep, we drove along the coast and then headed inland to our lunch destination, The Duck Inn in Stanhoe. Fantastic little pub/restaurant serving really tasty, locally sourced food (the fish and hand-cut chips were outstanding with homemade tartare sauce, muslin cloth wrapped lemon and proper mushy peas). The night before we had a very ordinary meal at a restaurant, which will remain nameless, that we were told is vying for a Michelin star.....the pork belly was burnt as was the sticky toffee pudding! Burnt sticky toffee pudding?!! Eep! Not my idea of a super night out. Good, well presented pub food (nothing mind-blowing, just fresh, local produce cooked beautifully) and really friendly service is what, I think, most people are after in a country pub. And good beer of course ;)
With full tummies, we drove the short distance to the magnificent grounds of Holkham Hall and had a post-lunch amble spotting migrating geese and lots of very pretty fallow deer.
And then we headed back to London!
p.s. Any food-obsessed people that are reading this, let me know if you have any recommendations of country pubs in England, Ireland, Scotland that have delicious food!
p.p.s. The little brown shoes are my new Tommy Hilfiger Bass penny loafers. So cute and great with jeans for long country lunches.