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My Britain: Winterton-on-Sea

BY Alice Gawthrop

5th Mar 2024 My Britain

6 min read

My Britain: Winterton-on-Sea
This month, we journey to Winterton-on-Sea, a beautiful former fishing village with thatched cottages, a gorgeous nature reserve and an unspoilt beach
With a beautiful beach on one side and the Norfolk Broads on the other, Winterton-on-Sea is a lovely little village with a big heart. Historically a fishing village, in days gone by you could buy fish from huts on the dunes of the beach. Although that’s no longer possible, fishing boats still go out from the village today.
Winterton Beach boasts rolling dunes and soft golden sand from which you can look out to sea and spot seals bobbing in the water. Wildlife abounds in Winterton: the endangered natterjack toad, for example, can be found in fenced off pools in the dunes, distinguishable by a thin, bold, yellow stripe down its back. Designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Winterton is also an excellent bird watching site.
As for the people, few communities are more warm and welcoming. Locals Jeanne Farace and Rachel MacSweeney share the secrets of life in Winterton-on-Sea.

Jeanne Farace, owner of Poppy’s Tea Rooms, Convenience Store, Newsagents and Post Office

Jeanne Farace, owner of Poppy's Tea Rooms, Convenience Store, Newsagents and Post Office in Winterton-on-Sea
I’ve lived in Winterton since August 2016. I first came to Winterton when I was 21; a friend had a holiday let in Hemsby and we walked to the Fisherman's Return for a drink. Then in 1983 I started visiting Winterton and staying here for the odd weekend. The journey from Enfield, North London, was not as quick and easy as it is now. One day I was looking on Rightmove and noticed the Post Office was for sale. So I asked my husband whether we should go for it. It was an impulse move.
I love how quiet and pretty it is. You can have the worst day ever but walk down to the beach and everything just floats away! We live at Poppy’s, and it is in the centre of the village (quite literally). There are always people around and they will always stop for a chat.
"You can have the worst day ever but walk down to the beach and everything just floats away "
Being a Winterton-on-Sea resident is multi-layered. You can do as little or as much as you want. If you want to meet people, it’s easy to do that. Or if you want to keep yourself to yourself you can do that too. The Winterton spirit is very welcoming.
My family works at Poppy’s which is named after our dog, Poppy! I work with my husband Gino, daughter Becky and a handful of staff. It is in Beach Road, so you must walk or drive past it to get to the beach. Seven years ago, it was only the Post Office and convenience store. We expanded it by adding a tearoom, and two years ago we added an outdoor patio.
Winterton Beach
Poppy’s is at the heart of the community. Some people just pop in for their newspaper or to post a letter. The tearoom is a meeting place for locals and friends, but equally people pop in on their own for coffee, breakfast, or lunch. The post office provides local services, and we like to offer local produce in the convenience store as well as local crafts.
It was a big decision to move away from family in Enfield and start a new career and life, but we love our new life and being part of the community.
There are so many to beautiful spots in Winterton choose from. One of my favourite walks with Poppy is the cricket pitch on the edge of the village, which is a huge green area surrounded by trees, which is in contrast to the wide open sandy beach and endless skies. That’s the great thing about Winterton-on-Sea—the choice.

Rachel MacSweeney, owner at Winterton Cottages

Rachel MacSweeney outside Grayling House, one of her rental properties
I have lived in Winterton-on-Sea for nine years, but my family originally came here in the 1800s and when I was growing up, I would visit my grandparents and family here at weekends. We bought a holiday home here in 2010, but our jobs meant it was impractical for us to live here. We bought a second holiday home in 2012, and then I started taking bookings for other holiday cottages in the village.
My husband was commuting every day to Ipswich which was already a 1.5-hour drive from where we lived near Norwich. By 2015 our jobs had changed, which meant a move to Winterton was more practical. By this time Winterton Cottages was more established and became a full-time job for me.
At last, I could stop ringing my husband every day from the beach when I was walking the dogs and saying, “When can we move to Winterton?”
"My family originally came here in the 1800s"
A bungalow with a sea view came up for sale, and we initially bought it as another holiday home investment. After we started renovating it, we realised that we very much wanted to live there ourselves and sold our house near Norwich and moved here. Four years ago, we remodelled it and it’s now our forever home by the sea.
I love everything about Winterton-on-Sea! It’s a very unspoilt and pretty village right on the Norfolk Coast. But apart from that it’s very friendly with a great community spirit. We lived in our previous house 17 years, but within 5 years of living in Winterton we knew so many more people. I love the fact that you can easily walk to the beach, and that everything else is within walking distance (pub, shop, fish & chip shop, post office, café). For me as well it felt like coming home as I’d been coming here since I was a child.
It’s difficult to define what it means to be a Winterton-on-Sea resident as it will mean different things to different people. My family history is here, so I feel part of that. My ancestors were fishermen and boat owners who came here in the 1800s. I would say people are proud to live in Winterton. We’re proud of our history as a fishing village, and of the village it is today. 
Winterton-on-Sea has a strong community spirit, but we are also a holiday destination. About ten per cent of the houses here are holiday cottages. I wouldn’t want to see that increase as I think while visitors bring income to the area, it’s important to maintain a balance and preserve the community spirit that we have here.
I run Winterton Cottages from home with the help of a part time assistant, and we have a great local accountant who keeps us in line. Working from home means I can walk my dog on the beach every day, and we get to enjoy those beautiful east coast sunrises too. It’s also a great area for wildlife: we have one of the largest grey seal colonies in the UK visit us to have their pups on the beach from November through to January, plus we have a little tern colony, natterjack toads and it’s a haven for bird watchers too. Pretty much all the properties that we manage bookings for are within 5–10 minutes’ walk of where we live, and being local we can help advise guests which property is best for them. So many of our guests tell me they’d love to move here—and many of them end up doing just that.
Winterton Cottages has over 40 cottages on our books, most of them in Winterton. We also have a handful of properties in the neighbouring villages (East Somerton, Martham, Hemsby) which are all a 5–10 mins drive from here. Last year we took over 1,500 bookings and our properties range from a one-bedroom studio up to an impressive Georgian house which sleeps 16.
It’s hard to choose a favourite spot in Winterton-on-Sea as there are so many! On the dunes there’s a very straight path where an old light gauge railway track was built to move materials for building the sea wall slightly north of the village. I love to walk on that path with my dog as it’s slightly elevated and gives a great view. Ultimately it leads to a hill where you can stand and look down at the beach below, up and down the coast, over the dunes (there are 200 acres of them), and back towards the village. It makes me appreciate how lucky we are to live here.
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