It was a fortnight of change: a new job, a new place to live and to my joy – a whole new part of the country which lay undiscovered to me. Suffolk and Norfolk.
On my first days off from work, I decided to take a leap of faith on the front of the first and tackle my first solo microadventure.
I did my first overnight ‘bivvy’ (much like a protective thin, waterproof bag which goes over a sleeping bag allowing you to sleep under the elements) in New Zealand with a friend, on a small island close to Auckland.
On a warm spring evening, we decided to ditch the tent and sleep under the stars, with the twinkling city lights on the horizon. It was both magical and terrifying being so exposed to the elements, but the presence of my friend calmed my fears.
Wild camping solo in the Shetland Islands the previous summer, I had drifted in and out of sleep, wondering if that distant sound was of an intruder on a mission? In reality, it was just the sheep strolling around in the nearby field, but in my overactive imagination, it could have been anything.
Back in Suffolk, my new work collogues were concerned about my safety. What about the robbers and rapists? Realistically, though, if you were on such mission, you were more likely to hang around on say, a street corner in Norwich than going foraging through the sand dunes of Norfolk, right?
Starting Point: Cromer
These were the positive reinforcements I told myself as I took the train from Norwich up to Cromer, pausing to smile at the British traditions of a seaside town: bucket and spade shops, sticks of rock for sale, multi-coloured wooden beach huts.
I popped into a fishmonger for a Cromer delicacy: dressed Cromer crab, raced down to the beach and pulled out my OS map to trace a suitable spot to sleep in the open.
Holkham Beach had been recommended – the map showed an expansive stretch of sandy beach flanked by forest. Potentially perfect: forest to sleep in if it rained, sand dunes for sleeping in if I was feeling brave.
As much as I was keen to hit the North Norfolk Coast Path on foot, by the time I had finished work and arrived in Cromer, it was pushing 6pm. Instead, I opted for the brilliant coastal hopper bus which serves the whole coastline from Cromer to Kings Lynn.
Jumping off point: Wells-next-the-Sea
It took around an hour to reach Wells -next- the- Sea, the harbour bathed in the golden light of midsummer.
I had limited cooking equipment for dinner, so I opted for a bright restaurant on the Wells Quay, fresh asparagus followed by simple local strawberries and cream, seasonal British produce at it’s finest.
With Jamie XX ‘Loud Places’ in my ears, I strolled down the towpath towards Wells beach, feeling a lightness, admiring the wildflowers as I went.
I reached the beach just as the sun was sinking into the ocean.
Holkham Beach: A place to sleep
Venturing along the North Norfolk Coast Path, I weighed up the options and settled on a sheltered spot of long grass just on the edge of the footpath overlooking Holkham beach, with the soft long grass acting as a mattress.
Snug in my bivvy, I drifted in and out of sleep, watching the horizon line change colour. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly nervous, my hearing and senses heightened by the darkness.
I drifted in and out of sleep, but always aware of the stars twinkling above.
At 3.30am the dawn sky began to break. The sight of the sunrise woke me instantly: I’d done it, I had made it through the night! The blackness faded and at 5am the sun peeked through the gathering clouds.
I imagined how packed the beach would be in the summer; kids and families pitching up in scores. I was aware of how privileged I was for it to be just me, the ocean, the beach, and the fisherman starting work.
I sat with my thoughts for a long time; watching the sun climb high, the dark clouds gathering, rolling in and out on the horizon.
I followed the coast path back to Wells, admiring the beach huts and smiling at the names and designs: Love Shack, Seas the Day.
A room with a view: my bed for the night
By the time I got back to the quay, a small deli was open selling fresh waffles with cream. It was my kind of cafe: comfy sofas, sea views, simple food and rows and rows of books on an eclectic range of subjects.
I found an old Enid Blyton Famous Five book and settled in, reminiscing at the simplicity of childhood adventures.
Sleeping on the beach solo, I felt a proud sense of achievement, an added streak of independence, sleeping on the bare earth. A feeling of being deeply intertwined with both time and space.
And I knew this was bound to be just the beginning of my solo bivvy adventures.
Watch the highlights from my night in the Norfolk sand dunes
This first microdaventure was inspired by Alastair Humphreys, who has undertaken a number of mad adventures from walking a lap of the M25 to sleeping next to the Hollywood sign in LA. A true inspiration.