On My Way: Norfolk Coastal Walks by John Hurst
It was pure serendipity: after a five-hour drive we were, annoyingly, left with an hour to fill in Blakeney before we could have the keys to our holiday cottage. There was an art exhibition in the church hall, so we went in - and found a display of the most gorgeous pictures. I'd cheerfully have bought every one and hung them on our walls, but thought that I would have to make do with a couple of greetings cards when I saw On My Way: Norfolk Coastal Walks and I couldn't resist buying it.
I bought it for the pictures and would have been delighted if that was as far as the book went, but the pictures are just the supporting act, so to speak. We were in Norfolk for a walking holiday: the original intention had been to walk the North Norfolk Coastal Path and/or Pedar's Way but a hip problem meant that the walks would need to be much shorter: John Hurst supplied the solution to our problem with twenty-five walks, designed not for the long-distance hiker, but for people who like to stroll, look, ponder and generally enjoy what they are seeing.
So, how did it stack up, bearing in mind that it was going to be judged on two counts - as a guide for walks in an area we didn't know at all well and as an art book? Well, it's a five star book on both counts. Let's look at the guide for walkers first.
The twenty five walks have starting points from Holme-next-the-Sea in the west through to Winterton Dunes in the east. We concentrated on walks in the Blakeney area. For each walk you get a starting point, complete with any warnings such as the fact that the car park can be subject to flooding by some tides, and instructions on how to get there. These are usually quite basic, such as the use of the Coasthopper bus service or which road you should be on to find the turnings. Although Hurst supples a map he does say that you should have a decent map with you and supplies OS Landranger references.
Distance travelled (in miles and kilometres) is given along with how long the walk will take. Hurst says that these are approximate but we found them to be pretty accurate. Most useful are the descriptions of the terrain you're going to encounter, along with any warnings of difficulties you're likely to encounter. These can be particularly relevant for dog walkers, but I appreciated one warning about the fact that part of the walk was along shingle and could be hard going. It made me decide not to do this one as I'd walked the shingle beach between Weybourne Hope and Sherringham the previous day when the tide didn't go out as far as expected and I decided it was a treat I didn't want to repeat too quickly. There's a note to tell you if there are some months when the walk is better than others.
You're talked through the walk, but the advantage here is that you get descriptions from the eye of an artist (naples yellow sunshine) and an experienced birdwatcher. Hurst's suggestions as to which birds we might see and hear helped with recognition and added real pleasure to the walks. There's information about where you can get food and drink and the ever necessary toilets.
The walks have all been carefully selected and there's a good variety of views and terrains. We weren't alone in taking the book along with us on our walks as there's an added bonus in that you'll find red dots and arrows on the maps as Hurst gives you the location of the images you can see in the text. There are 120 of them in the book ranging from an individual bird though to panoramas of earth, sea and sky. (For some examples of Hurst's work, have a look here). As an art book, the only adequate word I can think of is 'exquisite': it's been well-thumbed as a guide but it's not going to be shelved when it gets home. It's a delightful, beautifully-produced memory of a lovely holiday. I shall treasure it.
Added bonuses: you get an introduction from Sir Ian Botham OBE and a donation is made to his leukemia fund for every book sold. There's also an excellent list of useful contacts along with telephone numbers at the back of the book.
For more on another Norfolk artist we can recommend Threads: The Delicate Life of John Craske by Julia Blackburn
You can read more book reviews or buy On My Way: Norfolk Coastal Walks by John Hurst at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy On My Way: Norfolk Coastal Walks by John Hurst at Amazon.com.
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An invaluable guide to the North Norfolk coast and beautifully illustrated, a book to savour and treasure.
Sue Bell said:
A very well presented book full of beautiful illustrations.
It is the sort of book that makes you want to go back to it, over and over again.