Cromer Beach The Runtons to Overstrand – 4 miles.

In 1990, Cromer High School geography department received higher grades than expected, exceeding the national average, and breaking all previous records for the school, itself. It was the year after GCSEs had been introduced, it was an intelligent year group and the standard of teaching was high. However, this particular set of results may have been slightly influenced by the fact that the exam question was about long-shore drift using Cromer as an example. Most sixteen year olds in Cromer use the beach as their playground and few could fail to notice the shifting of the sands which build up against the groynes as the tides push west to east.

This phenomenon has a dramatic effect on the beach at Cromer and the resulting levels of the beach can easily change by a meter in a matter of weeks.

Journeying from west to east along Cromer’s beaches, you start at the beautiful village of East Runton, with the pier in the distance, where a slipway takes you down to the sandy shore. The surf can build up here off shore and looking up, you may see a couple of static caravans perched perilously close to the sandy cliff edge – holidays for the brave. Moving east towards Cromer itself, the shore-line becomes a little rockier, and at low tide there are rock pools a plenty, ripe for exploring. Another quarter of a mile brings you to the promenade with the first steps up to the town. There has been recent investment in Cromer’s West Beach and a fitting pirate ship playground for the little’uns appeared last year. Following on, beach huts begin to line the prom and the pier starts to dominate. If out for a stroll, it is almost impossible to resist the tempting diversion to the end of the pier, however many times you have walked it, and however little time you have; It’s like a magnet to a nail or a football to a school boy, it sucks you in and before you know it you’re staring down into the deep grey-blue waters wandering what lies beneath. On the end, of course, there is the lifeboat hut, which is open to the public and well worth a visit to get within touching distance of the working lifeboat.

Moving east from the pier, small seasonal shops open onto the prom, selling ice-creams, coffee, sun hats, ice-creams, chips, windbreaks, and ice-creams. You come to The Gangway, and Cromer’s crab fishing fleet, who go out on the tides to pull up their pots and get a bit of peace and quiet. At the foot of The Gangway, there is the inshore lifeboat station; the lifeboat often proudly on display, and the lifeboat museum, where children can dress up, press coins, and get a subtle education about the long tradition of volunteers who save lives in the most traitorous conditions.

Continuing your walk east, you breathe a sigh of relief as the numbers thin out, beach huts still line the East Beach; it isn’t a huge step to imagine Victorian ladies perambulating with long skirts flowing and fans flickering. Another hundred meters and the beach changes again. Past Doctors Steps, long-shore drift has a huge effect. This is where the class of 1990 with the best grades used to hang out. Above the tide line, it can be sand one week and stones the next, below the tide line, it is sand; hard, compact, wet, warn, perfect. The seaweed-clad groynes slowly start to get less frequent, looking up the cliffs loom large – chalk now, and the beach huts stand resolutely in their shadow. At the end of the prom, steps up to Warren Woods and The Grove. Further east still, there are sand dunes to hide in, a two tier cliff to explore – the remains of cliff-slides past, the beach is sandier here. At high tide, it can be difficult to stay on the beach as the sea gently kisses the cliffs, giving it a little reminder that one day it will come with all its fury to claim them for itself. A little further, and another slipway comes into view. You have reached Overstrand, another beautiful little village, and looking back along the beach, the pier stands in the distance.