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  • Writer's pictureGabriella Walker

Happisburgh - the perfect village to explore this autumn

There's a beautiful word for the warmth of the winter sun; apricity. I love that feeling of wrapping up in a big coat knowing the wind will be cold but the sun will be warm. It's one of the main reasons I love autumn and winter, and why exploring Norfolk in the colder months is my absolute favourite.

Lots of Norfolk businesses may be slowly closing for the season and lots of our favourites won't be open again until Easter, but for us, that's the perfect excuse to get our walking boots on and just be outside - exploring the beauty of the simplicity of Norfolk.

We've loved Happisburgh ever since we moved to Norfolk. It still gives me shudders down my spine that we accidentally called it "Happis-burg" for many a month though (which I am sure secretly amused many a local 🤦🏻‍♀️).

With thatched houses, a 16th century pub, a 15th century church, a working lighthouse and a stunning coastline Happisburgh is "picture perfect" and it's the absolute best place to spend a morning or afternoon in the warmth of that beautiful winter sun.

For history lovers, it's also of huge archaeological importance. In 2010 some flint tools which were over 800,000 years old were discovered, making them the the oldest evidence of human occupation anywhere in the UK. Add that to the fossilised human footprints that were discovered on the beach in 2013 and it's somewhere that isn't just beautiful but fascinating.

We've walked around Happisburgh many times (we love learning about all the history and the changing landscape due to coast erosion). This weekend though, we found the most perfect walking route and knew we had to share so that you can enjoy everything this beautiful place has to offer (with a gorgeous cafe at the end too).

Starting point: Cart Gap Beach Car Park - 18 Doggett's Ln, Cart Gap Rd, Happisburgh, Norwich NR12 0QL. Pay & Display - £1.50 per hour or £7 for 24 hours.

N.B. this walk is tide dependant so please do check tide times in advance.

When we first found Happisburgh on a map and started researching it, everything we read told us to park at The Beach Road Car Park. I'm going to tell you the opposite though as parking at Cart Gap gives you the most spectacular views as you walk towards Happisburgh and they're 100% not to be missed.

Once you get to Cart Gap Beach Car Park, head down the main ramp onto the beach and turn left. The walk to the ramp up to Happisburgh is 20-30mins (depending how fast you walk) and on the way, there's so much to see.

After 5 minutes of walking, the first thing you'll see if the Cart Gap Beach 'witch'. She's not a witch at all but that's what we like to call her. She's a litter sculpture and she's added to daily by walkers who find rubbish on the beach. It's a poignant reminder of how much rubbish is found daily on our beaches and how important looking after our coastline is. She's somehow though also beautiful and it's a sight you most definitely have to get up close to as you walk past.

As you meander the curve of the beach, you start to see the Happisburgh Lighthouse in the distance. It's the oldest working lighthouse on the Norfolk Coast and the only independently operated lighthouse in the UK. Depending on the time of year that you visit, the lighthouse is open to the public with advance booking. It's not open again until Easter 2024 now (apart from private visits) but is well worth exploring when it does have open days.

Don't save your Happisburgh adventures until then though as it's absolutely worth seeing even without going in.

Before you get to the ramp to take you up to the lighthouse though, there's even more to see on the beach - The Happisburgh Tide & Time Bell. A new addition to the beach that arrived in July 2023, the installation was created by sculptor, Marcus Vergette, and is one of 13 along the UK coastline, highlight rising sea levels and global warming. The rise of the water at high tide moves the clapper to strike the bell and as the waves move, the bell sounds. It's beautiful and poignant all at the same time, which to me is a bit of a metaphor for Happisburgh as a whole.

So much land in Happisburgh has been lost to the sea and as you walk the beach, you start to see the power and force of the tide and how it's rapidly changing the face of this village. Happisburgh has been losing land for thousands of years and in the 20th century alone, the village has lost over 50 acres from the erosion of its beaches and low cliffs.

Work has been completed fairly recently to save the ramp up from the beach to Happisburgh and once you're past the bells, that's where you're heading next. At the top, you'll reach the Beach Road car park and the most stunning view of the Lighthouse. If you follow the "Explore Happisburgh Village Trail" once you're at the car park, you'll not only get the chance to check out all the beautiful sights of the village but also get the opportunity to see the lighthouse from all it's different spectacular angles.

You've got a couple of different options for pitstops on this walk. You can either get cosy in The Hill House Inn which is near the church and is dog friendly and does good home cooked food. Or, you can save yourself until the end of your walk (you're head back along the beach to Cart Gap Beach Car Park after your adventures in Happisburgh village) and visit Smallsticks Cafe which is a 3 minute walk down from the Cart Gap Beach Car Park on the same lane you will have travelled down to reach the car park.

That's exactly what we did at the weekend and it was the perfect way to end our walk. The garden is dog friendly and it was amazing to sit out in the autumn sun. The food is brilliant and exactly the kind of thing you want after a long walk. The staff are also superb. It's just the cutest place and we absolutely love it.

There's so much of Norfolk to explore but we just keep finding ourselves heading back to Happisburgh. Despite its challenges with coastal erosion, it's sits proudly in its beauty and it's somewhere that deserves so much love.

Don't forget to tag us in your pictures if you do visit - @norfolkuncovered on Instagram.


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