See also Holkham Hall
I hadn't lost the love of my life like Gwyneth Paltrow in 'Shakespeare in Love', but here I was on the same beach with the same sand stretching endlessly in the distance. The same sun was beating down, and the ocean was just as blue as in that last scene in the movie when, heartbroken, Viola walks up the beach towards her sad future.
It wasn't a computer generated illusion; it is a real beach, and it is on Norfolk's north shore, a long way from anywhere unless you live on the other side of the main road at Holkham Hall, home to the Earl of Leicester, who owns this land.
Sand squelched into my shoes as I followed a meandering boardwalk path leading to the beach--access to the area, set in one of Britain's largest national nature reserves, is limited to established routes.
The nature reserve here is formed on old shingle ridges and is considered one of Europe's most important. It plays host to rare and scarce species of bird wildlife that include bittern, marsh harrier, avocet, bearded tit, and garganey. In winter the wind-swept coast is filled with the sound of tens of thousands of geese.
On my left, pastureland reclaimed from intertidal sand flats and salt marsh hummed with the sound of insects. Nests of redshank and lapwing hid in the fields. Sea lavender and marsh orchids bloomed in the breeze. On my right, Corsican pines provided a shady respite from the heat. Sand dunes, blocking the ocean view, fought each other for supremacy along the shoreline.
I had timed my visit just right: the tide was out. The marsh melded into dune into flat vistas of sand stretching farther than my eye could take in. An empty semi-circular lagoon offered up a mix of rock, sand, and moss. I skirted it and headed for the beach proper. Twenty minutes of walking under a cloudless cobalt sky, and I reached my destination: the three mile long beach. Except for another two walkers it was empty. Who would have thought there was so much sand outside of the Sahara.
I walked along the sand following the Norfolk Coast Path for three miles before leaving the sand and heading over the Overy Marshes and back to the main road.
Heading back to my starting point, I opted for the luxury of a visit to Holkham Hall, set in 3000 acres of parkland. The privately owned 18th century mansion house would have met with the approval of Queen Elizabeth I. Replete with paintings, sculptures and books, it cost £90,000 when completed in 1762. A tour of the state rooms reveals a marble hall, Holkham's most celebrated feature. In the domed dining room a silver ostrich, the family crest, crowns a candelabra.
The north Norfolk coast nature reserve and Holkham Hall are between Burnham Norton and Blakeney. It is only open along designated paths. There is paid parking at the entrance, or you can walk from Holkham Hall.
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