Burnham Overy Staithe – wading over the beach
“We made for the surf across the almost deserted beach and half–waded, half–walked into the sun towards Scolt Head and Burnham Overy Staithe”
Lifting ourselves over the dunes, Burnham Overy Staithe behind us, we get our first peep across the empty beach on this wild stretch of north Norfolk coastline. We’ve ambled along the dyke for an hour, spotting oystercatchers and little egrets picking their way through Overy Marsh, battling the brisk wind on this sunny, early spring afternoon.
In front of us, lagoons and pools, much like the ones Roger saw on his trip here, dot the beach. Molly, Tim and Tom slip out of their shoes and begin striding purposefully towards the water, the tide receding into the distance.
I stop and awkwardly pull on my neoprene boots, desperate to keep out the cold. Like Roger, we half wade our way to the sea, the pools sometimes inch–deep puddles, but often troubling the bottoms of my cackhandedly rolled up jeans.
As ever on this wild beach, the sky is a vast dome, its edges bleeding into hazy nothing. As we ditch our bags by the surf and begin the slow process of undressing, I struggle to comprehend that four hours previously I was battling commuter crowds at Liverpool Street and sipping bad coffee. I can’t think of two places more dissimilar. It is, as Roger says, the perfect place to blitz any anxiety or sadness. You can almost feel any worries being blown from you by the nagging sea breeze.
Despite my wetsuit having made the trip, I’m peer pressured into going in bare back. My three companions yelp and stifle screams as the cold sea water hits their ankles, far nippier than the shallow, sun–warned pools further up the beach. I follow, my boots keeping off the cold temporarily, before the shooting, stabbing icy drink reaches my thighs, my waist, my torso.
While they all chatter, I go for it. I slide in ungracefully and swim quickly. It is by the far the most freezing water I’ve experienced this year and without my wetsuit, I know this will be a brief, but glorious dip. The others follow, Tim delighting in his usual shouting and hollering as the water envelops him. On my last trip here, the sea roiled and the early summer sun had heated it beautifully. Today, it’s calm and we last barely three minutes before we all stagger back to our clothes, red skinned and buzzing.
Drying off quickly, we wade back to dry land. A short–eared owl darts across the marsh, lapwings peewitting as we reach Burnham. That time warp feel which Roger revelled in hasn’t gone. Boats lay dormant in the mud, waiting for the rising tide to return. The only signs of change are a dead seal, headless and the odd piece of boardwalk, washed in after the recent storm surge. I can think of nowhere better to start a summer of endless dips and attempting to finish my Waterlog adventure.