If you’re looking for a get-away-from-it-all dirty weekend, then Norfolk is just the place to come…
The National Trust-run Scolt Head Island near Brancaster is the scene of sailing regattas, but at low tide it’s a very different proposition. The island has one of the best beaches in the county, but to get to it you must wade across thick, gooey, energy-sapping mud. If you go, please remember this is a very fragile environment – respect, protect and enjoy.
The annual low tide Greasy Pole competition at Blakeney Quay is a bit like walking the plank, but this is sliding along a length of wood. The winner is the one who can go all the way to the end before the inevitable ending… like every other competitor, they end up caked in mud!
Enjoy off-road cycling or running in Thetford Forest at High Lodge after a few day’s rain and you’re sure to get caked in mud. Be warned though: this area has the lowest rainfall in the country!
Wait for low tide and go hunting for samphire and cockles in muddy Stiffkey Marshes. Both are a delicious local delicacy – the cockles here, called Stewkey Blues after the traditional pronunciation of the village, are still collected the traditional way.
Norfolk has many fabulous castles, in particular the Norman Castle in Norwich, which doubles up as a superb museum, and Castle Rising Castle near King’s Lynn. Climb to the top before your companions and you can pronounce the time-worn saying, ‘I’m the king of the castle and you’re a dirty old rascal!’
Enjoy mud larks while birdwatching in The Wash at Snettisham. No, mud larks aren’t an exotic migratory wading bird, it’s what you get up to while you spot myriad wildlife on the banks and salt marshes. During Winter there can be over 50,000 birds out on mudflats – arrive very early in the morning, pre-dawn, to see their spectacular flight inland to feed. Then head off for a hearty breakfast to warm yourself up.
Get yourself and your dogs dirty when you walk the tidal creeks around Brancaster Staithe on the Norfolk Coastal Path. Look out for the shallow pools where mussels are grown and then find a local pub where they’re served.
Your canine companions, and yourselves, will love getting mucky in the river Burn at low tide at Burnham Overy Staithe. And when you’re finished getting muddy, you can walk the riverside out to the beach, part of the Holkham National Nature Reserve.
Again, this relies on it having been wet, but there’s huge fun yomping through the mud and tidal salt marshes at Burgh Castle, near Great Yarmouth, glorying in the beautiful Halvergate Marshes and Breydon Water, revelling in the fact you’re walking in the footsteps of Roman soldiers from 1800 years ago, and maybe lingering to enjoy a spectacular sunset behind the Berney Arms windmill.