Meet our Champion for Explorer Norfolk
Who? Henry Chamberlain, Founder of Coastal Exploration Co
What? Adventurous sailing explorations along the North Norfolk Coast and through secluded creeks in traditional wooden fishing boats under sail.
Let’s find out more about our county’s most intriguing explorer…
How long have you lived in Norfolk? If not born here, what brought you here?
My family moved to a rambling and isolated cottage next to the Houghton Estate in 1976 to start a wooden jigsaw puzzle business and so I thought Norfolk must always be scorching – little did I know! So, I am giving my age away, 40 years!
Explain the story behind your business…
After university I joined the Royal Marines, which then led on to a few years of humanitarian field work in places like Chechnya and Somalia. On one particular day our mission in Darfur was held up by the Janjaweed and after being driven to their camp in the bush, we managed to escape and then found ourselves in the middle of the desert, isolated. After orientating ourselves and checking the team was ok, we managed to link up with a friendly goat herder and spent the night walking back to a safe location, disguised as his assistants – weaving round twinkling Janjaweed camp fires on the northern edge of Jebel Mara. Although I enjoyed the challenge, I thought hang on, I have a young daughter at home and can't continue like this, so I tried to think what else I could do back home and as I love old wooden boats, Norfolk and sailing, the answer was of course the Coastal Exploration Co! It took several years to pull the idea together, but I survived and have started it!
What gets you up in the morning?
The thought that if I can make the business work I shall be able to support my family and remain in Norfolk with them, without spending chunks of time away.
Norfolk has a 93-mile coastline. Which is your favourite beach and what is so special about it?
It is an obvious choice, but Holkham beach because I used to train there when in the marines and keeping in shape for events like the Marathon des Sables. The track from Wells that meanders through the strip of pine woods toward Holkham and then Scolt Head is a really energising space. An undulating soft path leading through twisted old pine trees, it feels like the back of the wardrobe from the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Eventually you appear in open dunes by Gun Hill and then there is this incredible (always barefoot) run back on the edge of the sea to Wells. On a warm, sunny day there is nothing like the feeling of warm sand, smell and feel of the salty sea, and endless wide open beach - nothing is impossible after this run!
What’s your favourite Norfolk tipple and why?
I think it has to be Norfolk Gin, not only because I love gin, but also because I am working with the owner, Jonathan, who believes in our "sustainably delivered" project, ie it will be sailed and rowed (no diesel engine) from Norwich to North Norfolk via Gt Yarmouth in May – this could be a potential disaster if we lose the wind and get bored!
Last, but by no means least, what’s your best-kept Norfolk secret (supposing you’re happy to share it!)?
One of my favourite sails in the Crab Boat is a lesser known route along a particular creek from Wells, then across the sand flats and then into Blakeney. You have to pass under a bridge, but with a nice SW wind you can sail in one tack without even going across the bar to sea - I think the transition from marsh to sand is magical and when you combine this with fresh coffee and eggs on a clear Norfolk morning there is no better place – and I am prepared to show you, if you keep it quiet!