If you are going to sneak through a piece of private land, it had better not be a military piece.
And in any event, not one of those private military establishments. They’re a law unto themselves.
But Norfolk has a dearth of public footpaths. Instead, they have things called permissive footpaths: landowners let walkers use a strip of their land, but it will never become a public right of way.
The Muckleburgh Museum – military historical artefacts, privately owned – has bags and bags of land on the North Norfolk Coast. They need quite a lot, because they store an extensive collection of military vehicles and radar. Perhaps this is why they have chosen not to allow walkers, permissively, to use a thin strip of land to get from the coast footpath, in a circular route, back to the Norfolk village of Weybourne. Instead, they direct walkers onto a rather heavily trafficked half mile or so of road.
We stood at the bit where we were meant to turn away from the entrance of the museum and dice with traffic. I looked at my small son. and I looked at Phil.
We turned away from the road, and strode determinedly towards the museum. We could walk straight through and join the footpath just before it got back to the car park. We waited until the tank traffic had lapsed and then zig-zagged for tactical purposes across the sandy approach to the coast.
BeIng in a hurry to avoid any museum officials, we should have been in a tearing hurry.
But as I passed what was, to all intents and purposes, a caravan park, I was knocked for six by the sight of a huge radar from the Cold War.
Squatting, glowering, almost muttering atop a small brick hut, this looked like no radar I had ever seen. It was not a graceful radar-go-round like the ones I knew from a childhood in the home town of the Met Office. It was nothing like the ones Gerry Anderson featured in Thunderbirds. This was a great cyclops of a radar.
I stopped. I could not walk past. So many questions: how did this one work? What was its job to detect? Why have I never seen one like this before? Who designed something like this, the stuff of neo-Grimm fairy tales, a Rumplestiltskin of the radar world.
Of course, there was one place to find the answers, and I was sneaking through it, headed determinedly for a public footpath.
I am paying the price for my misdemeanour now. I am eaten up with curiosity. Pandora had nothing on me. I should have just paid the strange museum’s fees and spent three hours getting my facts straight.
I met a tall dark stranger on the path to the North Sea, and now I can’t get him out of my head.