The Wild Wash Wander expedition : Stage 1 – King’s Lynn to Sutton Bridge

This is stage 1 of the Wild Wash Wander expedition.

I had been looking forward to this walk for quite a while.

Timing was everything, I wanted to be at the edge of the Wash as the sun was rising.  This would only be possible if I took the first ferry from King’s Lynn across the Great Ouse at 7.20am.  The only time it’s still dark at 7.20am is midwinter, oh and I wanted a clear night/morning so I could enjoy the breaking dawn in all its glory.  So, as you can see, a tricky trick to put into effect.

King's Lynn to Sutton Bridge
King’s Lynn to Sutton Bridge

After two years of waiting for the right moment I noticed, a few days into the new year, that the time was just right to embark on this grand adventure.  I was still on Christmas holidays, the weather indications were nearly perfect and it remained very dark in the early morning.

I hopped on the first train to leave Ely for King’s Lynn at 6.35am and arrived at Lynn for 7.05am, giving me 15 minutes to cover the half mile or so to the ferry to West Lynn.

I arrived at the ferry boarding place right on 7.20am and five minutes later spotted a small boat heading my way from the other side of the river.

Boarding point for the King's Lynn ferry to West Lynn
Boarding point for the King’s Lynn ferry to West Lynn

There was one passenger on the boat who disembarked and hurried past me.  I said good morning to the captain and paid my £1 fare. A minute later we were underway across the Great Ouse towards West Lynn.

Oh!  It all went by far too fast.  Was it a big big thrill to be on the ferry, crossing the river in the breaking dawn?  Yep, it was dreamy dear reader, just dreamy.  Look, I’m a romantic and stuff like this means a hell of a lot to me.  It was fab!

Crossing the River Great Ouse
Crossing the River Great Ouse

Before I knew it we had arrived at West Lynn.  I was tempted to pay £5 and sail back and forth a few more times but I needed to get to the Wash before sun-up.  I said farewell to the captain and made my way up the gangplank and back to dry land.

The ferry from West Lynn
The ferry from West Lynn

I picked up the Sir Peter Scott path (named after the famous conservationist who made his home in a lighthouse at the other end of the walk). The path took me along the banks of the Great Ouse, with the lights of King’s Lynn to my right.

The early morning lights of King's Lynn
The early morning lights of King’s Lynn

The morning began to break…

Sunrise over King's Lynn
Sunrise over King’s Lynn

After 40 minutes or so I arrived at the mouth of the Great Ouse where it spills out into The Wash.

River Great Ouse and pools
River Great Ouse and pools

Behind me the golden dawn was gathering pace over Norfolk.

Sunrise over Norfolk

Squadrons of geese flew overhead, a seemingly never ending display of air power, quite mesmerising at times. But of course, this is birdland. the salt marshes belong to them. I saw endless varieties of birds, the majority of whom I cannot name.  I definitely saw a Marsh Harrier though, there was NO mistaking her.

Bird squadrons
Geese squadrons flying in formation

Finally I reached The Wash.  My boots were letting in the dewy dampness of the grass and I wished I’d brought a flask of tea along.  The Wash was about a third of a mile out across the salt flats. I could just about make out the cliffs of Old Hunstanton across the way in Norfolk.

Looking across the salt flats towards Hunstanton (probably)…

And then…never ending horizons, straight lines everywhere, wind, wind, wind, birds amock, making a glorious racket.  I kept my spirits high by singing the first Clash album, both sides, at high volume.

After running out of songs I pulled out my harmonica and played some blues riffs…

Never ending horizons
Never ending horizons

…and sometimes I just stood still and listened to the wind and birds, tasted the salty air on my lips and felt the sea breeze on my face.  This is Fen wilderness at its finest!

Long, never ending track

It’s impossible to miss two odd-looking man-made islands along the way.

Built in 1975 as part of a study into the feasibility of building a large freshwater reservoir (I don’t really understand this but it’s what the internet told me), the project was abandoned pretty quickly due to costs and no one really understanding what the project was actually about.

The first of the two is (apparently) accessible by walking out over the salt marshes.  If were wearing a pair of wellies I might well have strode bravely out and explored.

Strange island 1

The second island is now managed as a seabird reserve by the Fenland Waterfowl Association…

Fenland Waterfowl Association sign
Fenland Waterfowl Association sign

This island is a mile out into the Wash.

Thing 2
Strange island 2

Both islands offer something of interest for the eye to rest upon.  Imagine a wild camp on one of these!  Might be a bit noisy with all the birds around so maybe not.

Actually, as for wild camping I did spot a few nice grassy spots on the bankside that would be good for a basic bivvy set up.  I’d imagine the best time would be a summer’s night with a full moon on show. There probably isn’t a clearer night sky in the whole of southern England, very little light pollution in this neck of the woods.

River Nene
River Nene

I finally reached the mouth of the River Nene and began the walk towards Sutton Bridge and the end of the hike.

I passed the Sir Peter Scott lighthouse (now managed by the Snowgoose Wildlife Trust), though it was closed for repairs.

Sir Peter Scott lighthouse - photo borrowed (with apologies) from the Wisbech People website
Sir Peter Scott lighthouse

And finally, Sutton Bridge.

Sutton Bridge
Sutton Bridge

I was tempted by the fish and chip shop next to the bus stop but the bus arrived before I had a chance to make a purchase.  Half an hour later I was back in King’s Lynn and munching on a delicious toasted bacon sarnie in the station cafe.

All-in-all, a fine day’s hiking in the East Anglian wilderness.

21 thoughts on “The Wild Wash Wander expedition : Stage 1 – King’s Lynn to Sutton Bridge

  1. A lovely blog, you have really captured the spirit of the place with your photos. I love the fact there is nothing like ugly pylons to break that wide horizon out there. It’s a walk I have never done but you may have inspired me!
    The ferry trip reminded me of a time over 30 years ago when I worked in West Lynn & used to pop over to town in my lunch break. I must take another trip on it for nostalgia’s sake ….. it even looks like it’s been modernised.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post, it’s quite an easy walk but I’d strongly recommend doing it on a sunny day otherwise the scenery could become a little dull. The ferry is a wonder, I wish it were my daily commute : )

    1. Yes, the geese were wonderful, I couldn’t help but stop and watch them tracking across the sky, I really must learn to ID birds, I’m pretty hopeless at present. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  2. There’s something really nice about this post. You’ve done a great job of getting across that twinkling excitement you get when you do a walk you’ve really wanted to do. It’s a part of the world I’m yet to explore, but sure will be some day.

    1. Hi Chris, really glad you enjoyed the post, this hike was a lot of fun, I’m hoping the rest of the expedition lives up to it!

  3. Entrancing .Often seen duck and geese at sunset but never yomped to the fen or Wash at sunrise . A great expedition .thanks

  4. Hi Martin

    What a lovely place for a walk. I’m glad you got the weather for it. Nice days are hard to find at the moment. And, the pictures are absolutely stunning.

    Thanks for sharing.


    1. Hi David, really glad you enjoyed the post, it is indeed a lovely place. Just had a look at your blog, feeling very envious of your proximity to the big hills and mountains!

  5. Another beautiful walk Martin! Have you ever been tempted to do the same once twice or is it a case of so many walks, so few days?

    Those wide flat spaces are like looking up into the stars at night – they give a glimpse of just how enormous this planet is!

    1. HI Melinda, thanks for dropping by. Some walks I’m happy to walk more than once and I usually find a walk is very different when walked in the opposite direction. The temptation though is to always find new paths, so much land, so little time! : )

      1. Funny you say that. It’s amazing how different a walk can be from the other direction – even when you think you can see for miles all around, there is often a church steeple or something you just don’t notice looking the other way.

        1. Hi Martin, you really did bring it all back to me. It was only last week that I also braved the winds of that bleak coastline. But to make matters worse the skies turned black like night and in the distance a sort of tornado billowed upwards in two sections. The wind had exhausting power and no end in sight as I struggled to grab on my waterproofs as the rain began to team down. Scary or what. Only just gone 3pm but just had to keep on hiking. I was dreading the thought of thunder and lightening as there’s just nowhere to hide. But oh so thankfully was not to be. As the mouth of the Nene came in to sight I knew I had made it through but it was the most bleakest walk to date I have done as a solo walker. Hoping your walk to Skeggy is fairing well. I’m doing the same and more – onwards to Newcastle and beyond!!

          1. Hi Gina, thanks for dropping by. It is a bleak coastline, glad to hear you didn’t get caught up in the thunder and lightening, there is nowhere to hide, as you said. Where are you walking to? Have you got a blog?

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