Burnham Overy is one of the five ‘Burnhams’ on the Norfolk Coast Path in the district of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk. Historically Burnham Overy on the River Burn was the port for the surrounding villages of the Burnhams.
It is quite a remote area about 20 miles from King’s Lynn and 30 miles from Norwich. The larger village of Burnham Market is less than 1-mile to the west) and Holkham Estate is 3 miles to the east. The civil parish of Burnham Overy covers an area of 8.92 km2 . In the 2001 census it had a population of 311 in 167 households, reducing to a population of 134 measured at the 2011 Census.
A distinction is often made between the two settlements of Burnham Overy Town, the original village adjacent to the parish church and now reduced to a handful of houses, and Burnham Overy Staithe, a rather larger hamlet about 1-mile (1.6 km) away and next to the creek-side harbour. Until the end of the Middle Ages trading ships were able to reach the village (now Burnham Overy Town). With the silting of the river, commercial traffic switched to the downstream Staithe. With the coming of the railway to the Burnhams in 1866, commercial shipping declined and the last cargo is believed to have been shipped from the Staithe soon after the end of the First World War.
Between Burnham Overy Staithe and the sea, the river spreads out into multiple tidal creeks through the salt marshes that fringe this stretch of coast, and finally reaches the sea by passing through the fronting sand dunes at a gap locally known as Burnham Harbour. Small boats can reach Burnham Overy Staithe through this gap and creek. Today Burnham Overy Staithe, and the associated harbour, is a major recreational sailing centre. It is also the point of departure for ferries to the Scolt Head Island National Nature Reserve.
Norfolk coast path
A one-and-a-half-mile (2.4 km) long footpath links Burnham Overy Staithe to the sand-dunes and beach, running along the crest of the embankment which protects these water meadows from the creek.
To the east of the Burnham Overy creek, the former salt marshes between dry land and the sand dunes have been reclaimed to form fresh water meadows, part of the Holkham estate.
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Claims to fame
- Burnham Thorpe was the birthplace of Horatio Nelson, lies 1-mile (1.6 km) to the south-east. According to various letters and documents, Nelson learned to row and sail a dinghy at Burnham Overy Staithe, at the age of 10, two years before joining the Navy.
- Richard Woodget, Captain of the Cutty Sark
- Joan G. Robinson‘s book When Marnie Was There bases the villages of Little Overton and Barnham on Burnham Overy, especially the key locations of the staithe and the windmill.