A satisfying crunch of leaves beneath my feet and a scatty breeze moving up several notches in freshness and strength pave the way to autumn musings on Cromer seafront.

It’s almost as if a new reel marked “Season’s End” has been slotted in our seaside projector overnight. The main feature now starring Melancholy Thoughts and Moody Skies instead of Easy Bustle and Blue Horizon.

Seagulls squabble and wheel in disappointment over a sudden slump in the titbits takeaway service. A fitful sun scribbles plaintive shadows on shifting blue-grey water while a dog sniffs lazily round a plastic bottle teasing along the promenade.

There are more tractors than trippers on the beach, more boats than bathers, more crumpled cartons than freshly-created castles. “Nice to have the place back to ourselves” declares the fifth familiar figure you recognise in as many frisky minutes.

No discernible guilt in those voices despite the proximity of lingering visitors well-armed with headscarves, rain hats, wind-cheaters and defiant chins. Seafront shops muster a final wink at potential customers as the boards go up.

It all smells a little of decay, sadness, chilliness and goodbyes.

Everyone walks and talks at a more measured pace. Everything seems to be tied up in crispness at either end of shortening days. Much more ruminating than roistering in this October playground.

There’s no bold line between summer calendar and autumn almanac, just a squiggle indicating a turn of colour and mood.

Mellow reflections as the year grows old scoff at those in the tourist trade who want our seaside to stay the same all year round.

For me, Cromer’s enduring attraction stems largely from the double role it must balance as a popular resort and desirable place to retire or put down deeper roots.

In many respects, it’s a microcosm of Norfolk, fighting to marry old and new in a tasteful and temperate manner.

There are regular defeats, of course, in the shape of town-centre traffic, congestion and pollution, worrying signs of turning tatty round the edges as ribbon development gnaws away at precious character and space and marked reluctance to find enough facilities and fondness for the young.

On the other hand, bonus points soon add up  for lifeboat pride, pier fresh air and stirring entertainment, promenade, beach, crabs, clifftop walks, North Lodge Park (for as long as it can steer clear of too many cars) and a strong voluntary force behind a host of activities and clubs all year round.

Constant chatter of the need for our smaller resorts to “be brave and embrace rejuvenation” must not detract the likes of Cromer and Sheringham from sticking to what they do best with a strong family flavour.

A reputation for being dependable, whatever the weather or economic climate, still means a lot in the holiday trade.

Allowance should still be made for hardened locals of a more whimsical nature to carry on moaning about an excess of “space invaders” on their path, especially on bank holidays and throughout peak months of July and August.

Remarkably, some folk do stay put and work overtime to continue “normal lives” when visiting numbers rocket.

I have been known to nip inland to test tolerance levels for an hour or two in Norwich, muttering about cyclists ignoring the walking spirit  along London Street, and then on various rural beats where the last thing I want to encounter is someone else seeking respite from a crammed coast.

I used to wander in Wroxham on a very wet day in high summer to find a different kind of bliss as holidaymakers piled on trains to do a bit of shopping in the city and relieved residents took a golden chance to look out of their windows and work out how much longer they could avoid a gardening stint.

Norfolk and Suffolk railway trips used to serve as a useful buffer against the sound and fury of the world outside a  cosy compartment juddering gently past and toward familiar landscapes.

The inexorable rise of digital chuntering and other anti-social habits spawned by the communications highway revolution can now render such travel more of a trial than a treat.

I will now make the best of a quieter, slower Cromer, wasting far less time to cross roads for body and mind refreshment courses while the Old German Ocean drops regular little reminders as to who might be boss in these here parts.

The odd trip to Sheringham must invite the old poser about whether it is really two coats colder there when rafty winds blow to bless a few more deliberately jazzed-up chapters  of Crab wars history.

Friendly rivalry with banter  can warm you up no end.

I will keep an eye open for the UN peace-keeping force stationed at West Runton in their smart blue sou-westers.

Wonder if they’ll still be on patrol when we all eagerly welcome the Easter 2024 rush.