North Norfolk offers the ingredients for a perfect picnic. Good food, outstanding scenery, fresh air and peace.
There is an overwhelming choice of picnic spots to make that Norfolk break truly memorable. Just a short drive or bus trip are miles of golden sand at Wells-next-the-Sea, while inland from Blakeney there is the peace of rolling countryside, woodland and stunning sea views. And on Blakeney's doorstep are the creeks cutting through the sea lavender and samphire-carpeted marshes.
But first, it's necessary to fill the picnic hamper with tempting food and drinks.
Both specialise in wonderful home-baked and locally sourced food with both outlets selecting the very best artisan bread, cakes, pies, sausage rolls, cheeses, quiche, olives, salad, fruit and so much more to fill picnic hampers large or small.
These are not your run-of-the-mill delicatessens. They are the Rolls Royce or The Ritz of where to buy the finest picnic foods.
Both specialise in locally grown products using the finest ingredients so look out at the right season for locally grown asparagus, strawberries, salad and fruit as well as award-winning locally-produced cheeses such Mrs Temple’s Binham Blue and Gurney’s Gold.
Both of these delicatessens win top marks in reviews from customers.
And if you want something fishy to eat, visit Willie Weston’s fish shop in Blakeney's Westgate Street, for dressed crab, potted shellfish, sandwiches and pate; Cookies Crab Shop in Salthouse; or Cley Smokehouse in both Cley and Glandford for some tempting treats.
Now for picnic spots.
Here are five spots close to Blakeney for places that offer perfect peace among nature, somewhere to enjoy a relaxing getaway feast, and choices of beaches to dine on.
Glandford has nearly everything to offer providing places of interest as well as quiet picnic spots: There is the Shell Museum which houses the finest seashell collection in the UK; the richly furnished village church of St Martin's; Birdscapes art gallery; the vegetarian restaurant - Art Cafe; the delicatessen Cley Smokehouse; and Cley Spy which sells binoculars and birdwatching equipment. From the hamlet of Glandford is a wonderful circular walk over the Bayfield estate, its hills and woods and then alongside the River Glaven before crossing a ford with crystal clear water.
If you want views over Norfolk’s outstanding countryside get to the top of Blakeney Esker, a ridge of glacial deposit left behind when the Ice Age waters melted away. It is only about 20 metres high but has commanding views to the sea offering a panoramic view of sea, fields and farming. The village churches at Cley and Wiveton are prominent and the view wraps round to Bayfield Hall and its estate lands and woodland. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its glacial origins and its fauna and flora including a wide range of birdlife, bluebell woods and stunning gorse. You can park at the nature reserve car park off Bazzy Lane at a postcode of NR25 7SN or walk out of Blakeney village on the Saxlingham road for about a mile where you come across a footpath to your left to the Esker.
Salthouse Heath offers about 200 acres of dry, undulating heathland overlooking Salthouse village with its marshes and sea. There are extensive views spanning from Sheringham to Blakeney Point. The vegetation on the heathland, part of the Cromer Ridge, is controlled by a herd of goats. Birdlife is outstanding and this is the home of the Nightingale. The site has 11 scheduled monuments including one of the most important Bronze Age cemeteries in Norfolk.
Warham camp is a hidden treasure. It is tucked away and almost anonymous in a field off the Stiffkey to Wells road half a mile outside Warham village but is arguably the best Iron Age circular hill fort in Norfolk with a diameter of 212 metres. It is thought to have been a camp for Queen Boudicca’s Iceni tribe in around AD61. Today it is so peaceful you are almost guaranteed to see wildlife. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with its chalk grasslands providing home for wildflowers, insects and butterflies including the Chalkhill Blue and Brown Argus and plants such as Common Rock-rose, Pyramidal Orchid, large Wild Thyme and Quaking grass.
If you picnic in the grounds of Holkham Hall, a vast Palladian mansion near Wells-next-the-Sea, you have 3,000 acres of parkland to pick your spot including an impressive lake, roaming deer and monuments such as the Obelisk, the Temple, the Coke Monument and the Triumphal Arch dotted around you.
There is nothing quite like getting salt and sand into your sandwiches. There's a huge range of choices of spots to set up a picnic either on the doorstep of Blakeney or a short drive or bus trip away: a picnic on the vast pebble beaches at Cley, or the miles of soft golden sands at Wells, or a picnic and a game of beach cricket on the expansive beach at Holkham – the setting for the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love starring Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow.
All these locations are sufficiently vast and unpeopled enough to ensure you have peace and tranquillity for your picnic which is defined as: "A meal taken outdoors (al fresco) as part of an excursion – ideally in scenic surroundings, such as a park, lakeside, or other place affording an interesting view".
Norfolk delivers that in (bucket and) spades.