It’s a fair old trek to Thornham Beach, but you won’t mind one little bit. Passing through a bucolic landscape of saltmarshes and creeks on one side and grazing marshes on the other, clambering through an expanse of grassy dunes and finally arriving at the fine sandy beach, is an absolute joy.
Before you even start your journey, the area around Thornham Old Harbour itself is blissful. Small boats are moored up at weathered jetties along the creek, with halcyon views inland to the village and across the marshes towards Titchwell. Children fish for crabs off the little bridge across the creek and mess around in the water. Adults just sit quietly here and there, taking in the beauty in stunned reverence.
To reach Thornham Beach you take the Norfolk Coast Path from Staithe Lane along a raised bank separating the saline marshes from the freshwater grazing land. It’s a hard, level, well maintained surface, with wild flowers along the margins and benches at well-chosen points along the way. You could simply walk the length of the path and return, stopping to admire the views, and still have a thoroughly enchanting time without ever visiting the beach.
About 300m before you reach the beach the path narrows and becomes slightly overgrown, and the surface changes to an uneven boardwalk. For the last 150m you part ways with the Norfolk Coast Path which heads off westwards through the pinewoods of Holme Dunes. Sandy trails continue northward through the hilly, grassy dunes, finally emerging at the beach itself.
At high tide Thornham Beach is just a small section that extends from the dunes in an easterly direction to a sandy spit. At low tide the exposed sand extends across Harbour Channel all the way to Titchwell Beach, around 3km (1.9mi) away, but the eastward end of the beach can only be reliably accessed from the RSPB reserve at Titchwell.
Heading west takes you onto the much longer stretch of Holme Beach, past the bird watching hub of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust centre.
The beach is sandy and shallow, with gaps in the dunes providing privacy and shelter. It’s great for dog walking, with no restrictions, although dogs should be kept clear of roped-off areas protecting nesting birds.
Gulls and other birds rest in large numbers on exposed and isolated patches of sand as the tide rises and falls, taking advantage of the remoteness and absence of human activity.
There are no facilities here, and that’s as it should be.
Thornham Beach is simply perfect – wild, remote and beautiful.
The closest parking to Thornham Beach is at the end of Staithe Lane, at Thornham Old Harbour. There’s a small car park which can accommodate perhaps ten cars, but there’s room for a few more cars at the end of the lane and along the side of the road.
Postcode: PE36 6NL
There’s parking for a further 20 or so cars half way down Staithe Lane, at the point where the Norfolk Coast Path intersects the road.
The nearest bus service to Thornham Beach is the 36 Coastliner, although in this case “near” is a relative term.
The closest stop is located the Post Office, on the A149 coast road, which runs through Thornham village and also serves as Thornham High Street.
The total distance from the bus stop to Thornham Beach is approximately 2.5km (1.5mi) via Staithe Lane and the Norfolk Coast Path.
There are no facilities at Thornham Beach.
Thornham Beach is dog friendly, with no restrictions.
Areas of dune may be roped off at certain times of year to protect nesting birds.
No lifeguard service at any time of year.