Wells-next-the-Sea – seaside perfection in Norfolk, England

Monday, 18 October 2021

◄  It’s wonderful how places in England are ‘upon’ – Newcastle-upon-Tyne or Stratford-upon-Avon – or ‘on’ – Henley-on-Thames or Bradford-on-Avon – or ‘by’ – Saltburn-by-the-Sea – or even ‘next’ – like Wells-next-the-Sea – where I went to stay with some friends recently. It’s a classic English seaside town, in fact almost a caricature of an English seaside getaway, too cute for its own good. It’s on the Norfolk Coast, about 130 miles (200km) north and then slightly east of London. By train King’s Lynn is the closest major stop, regular services run there via Cambridge.

▲ At the same time it’s a working fish port, as the crab traps you see piled up along the water’s edge illustrate. This is a good place for fish & chips – or crabs.

◄ The ‘main street,’ pedestrians only for much of the day, underlines the place’s long history. It’s named Staithe St and ‘staithe’ is an Old English word – Viking even – meaning ‘landing place.’ It’s clearly the tourist centre of a very tourist-focused place, featuring shops with all the essentials of an English day at the seaside.

▲ Although it’s ‘next-the-sea’ in fact the centre is a lengthy stroll from Wells Beach. In the summer season you can ride out there on a miniature train. Then, after coffee or lunch at the Wells Beach Café, you can stroll past the sand dunes and beach huts to the long stretch of sand heading north towards Holkham.

◄ But first, in the busy centre, you should look across the inlet to Rachael Long’s Lifeboat Horse which rises out of the water and then semi-submerges with the tides.