All things considered, it had been a pretty manky afternoon so far. The rain was falling hard onto the roof of the wedding marquee which had become our makeshift dressing room, the ground was becoming gradually more waterlogged, and the sound department were running behind to the tune of hours rather than minutes.
I was in North Norfolk, just outside the often-forgotten seaside town of Cromer, for a weekend of concerts featuring big name tribute acts with added orchestral accompaniment. It promised to be a great laugh, but as the clock ticked ever closer to show time it became clear that we would be taking to the stage without having rehearsed much of the evening’s material. Fortunately, rather than stress an air of amusement hung over our soggy tent as we had performed the same programme a month previously, and as long as we remembered most of ABBA’s greatest hits we were sure we’d be fine. The allotted rehearsal time (2pm till 5pm) came and went, and we finally played our first note at five past five.
Half an hour later the weather had cleared and along with two colleagues Thom and Ben, I was on my way off site with running kit donned and map in hand – to visit the highest point in one of England’s lowest-lying counties. Beacon Hill (also known as Roman Camp, which is funny as there’s no evidence of Romans ever having been there), stands at just 103m and so a fast pace was set heading west out of town. Turning right onto Sandy Lane and continuing on the gravel track past Manor Farm Campsite, our target loomed in front of us with surprising menace, the dark woodland magnifying the gradient of the slope ahead.
Continuing onto Cross Lane the path narrowed, and we took our left turn in single file. A field containing an unnerving trio of cows, calves, and a bull were blocking our path and we gave them an extremely wide berth as we passed, sticking to the perimeter fences before rejoining the main climb up to the summit.
Up through the trees the path was fairly tough going and muddy in places, but it was over soon enough and we emerged at the road adjacent our destination. A short jog from here took us to the top, and the 19th century earthworks that local horse-drawn cab drivers falsely declared to be Roman ruins in a bid to boost the region’s tourist trade.
After a quick commemorative selfie, we were on our way back to the venue. Avoiding the perils of the cow field by following a gravelly byway down through the trees, we headed for the beach at East Runton and the sandy slog back into Cromer.
Back at the concert field, we stretched our tired legs and all agreed that despite its diminutive stature, Beacon Hill was well worth a visit. When I began my journey to see all the county tops in England I had hoped that I would be lead to a few hidden gems, and this was surely one of them.