Don’t ask me how I heard about the coloured cliffs of Hunstanton, but when I did I knew I had found the ideal location for my latest novel, Murdering the Firs, a work in progress. Hunstanton, on the Norfolk coast, overlooking The Wash, was therefore my first port of call in my most recent excursion to England.
The cliffs are quite stunning, the colours of a layered sponge cake with green icing. I walked along the shore admiring the unusual geological formation and wary of falling rocks. Speaking to a few local people I was told the cliffs are eroding away and in places there are large indentations in the cliff face where the seawater is doing its worst.
Arriving in Hunstanton I followed the signs for the cliffs and easily found my way to a car park where I began my walk down a concrete path and onto the beach which is scattered with flat rocks, a few pools and a plethora of crushed shells. It was freezing cold, despite the sunshine, and I made my way along the beach, admiring the sea view, to a flight of steps that led up to the promenade.
Hunstanton is a classic Victorian seaside resort and I could imagine in days gone by ladies in their long dresses and gentlemen in great coats and top hats enjoying the sea air. It was very quiet with barely anyone about, but I am assured the town is very busy in the summer months.
At the stop of the stairs is the bowling club and I walked across a grassy area which gives the cliffs the icing like green topping and stopped to sit for a while in one of the seafront shelters to look out over the blue waters of The Wash, thinking that Frieda and Charlotte, my two heroines in the TREE series of books, would do the same.
I made my way back to the car park passing the remains of St Edmund’s Chapel. There I learned the story of St Edmund and the Wolf, a grisly tale of Edmund being captured by Vikings in 870AD. He was tortured, used as target practice by Viking archers and then beheaded. When his friends went to bury the body they couldn’t find Edmund’s head. Suddenly they heard his voice: “Over here, over here!” Edmund’s friends found the head in a thicket being guarded by a wolf to prevent desecration by forest creatures.
A plaque also informed me that in the nineteenth century a small stone coffin was found in Bury St Edmund’s (https://www.aechambersnovelist.com/post/chambers-at-large-in-bury-st-edmunds-suffolk-england) containing the bones of a wolf. Were these the remains of the wolf that had kept watch over the saint’s remains? I’d like to think they were. Only an arched wall is left of what was St Edmund’s Chapel, built in 1272, and standing sentry is a statue of a white wolf. A garden of remembrance is alongside and nearby a bench dedicated to the Norfolk nurse, Edith Cavell executed by firing squad in 1915.
On top of the cliffs near the corner of Lighthouse Road is, unsurprisingly, a lighthouse, a bright white building, the plaque outside telling me it was built in 1665 and was the “world’s first parabolic reflector”. I had to google what this meant and the science was a little beyond me but it is now a holiday home, available to rent. The lifeguard station next door is a typical red brick Victorian building, also a holiday let, and further along the road are modernised Victorian toilets, fully functional with all amenities.
It is two pounds to park for an hour but I was delighted to find well equipped FREE public conveniences nearby, especially as I am getting on in years and an icy wind blows right to my bladder! Kudos to whoever is in charge of them. More towns and villages could follow suit. I'm not so sure they will feature in Murdering the Firs, but the cliffs and beach certainly will.