Making a move to … Wells
Wells is not just next to the sea – it is pretty near heaven too
BETWEEN THE magnificence of the Holkham estate and the wild and waterlogged beauty of the Stiffkey saltmarshes lies Wells.
Many towns, set between two such stunning landscapes might not shine, but Wells is a gem.
At high tide the sea comes up to meet the river, the harbour fills with rippling water and the quay glitters with boats and gulls. As the tide ebbs away the rocking boats sink slowly to rest on mud and sand, and high on the quay a dizzying drop opens from the clutter of lobster pots and crab nets to the harbour floor below.
Hour by hour the town changes, but every face, from full-summer crowded to winter-emptied lanes and lokes, is a delight. There is the iconic granary jutting out towards the harbour, now transformed into flats; the handsome houses and hotels set back from the clamour of the quay to line the leafy green of The Buttlands; the clusters of shops and small businesses; the cottage-lined alleyways.
The sea itself is a mile from the town centre, along a promenade which doubles as flood defences. In the summer a diminutive train trundles back and forth, and just beyond the pine-fringed coast is the beach, vast white sands and rearing dunes stretching around to Holkham bay, and the iconic stiltperched beach huts, primped and painted and photographed a thousand times a day.
Wells takes its name from the fresh water which rose through the chalky rock. When the railway arrived it began to be known as Wells-next-the-Sea, adopting its saltwater name officially just 61 years ago.
It has been a port and fishing community for centuries, then the visitors and tourists came for the beach, boats and birds, for the walking and painting, sea views and seafood. But it is far more than a resort town.
It is home to generations who have grown up in the town and want to stay as well as those who have holidayed here and fallen in love. And alongside the delights which bring tourists flocking, there are the work-a-day necessities which show the town is not just a pretty face.
It is not just a picturesque beach and harbour; it has tea shops, art galleries, gourmet dinners and narrow gauge railways (there are two, one of which runs all the way to Walsingham.) There is also a range of grocery shops, a health centre, doctors, dentists, vets, and even a community hospital, a primary school and the Alderman Peel High School, a library, sports clubs. There are new houses being built and old buildings being transformed into homes – and a fantastic diary of community events all year round. This month the poetry festival features writers and musicians; later in the year there is the carnival, a pirate festival and at Christmas Santa arrives by boat.
All year round, considering making a move to Wells is definitely a good move.
Another of Norfolk’s beautiful beaches, Wells beach.