Sunny spells

Today is yet another frozen spring day. So instead I am choosing to focus on a weekend from a few weeks ago when it was sunny and joyful. Don’t get me wrong, bleak can be beautiful; we get a lot of that here. (More on that later) But today my heart and body are longing for sun… and Vitamin D. So here are some photos of a great walk we took with our dog Bonzo.
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A visit to the Art Cafe

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I think today we should take a look at one of the very first places Marek and I discovered in Norfolk. The Art Cafe is just what it says on the tin, a cafe that is filled with art. But it is the quality of the food and craft that is what makes it special.

The frontage has two large barn doors, brightly painted, and many windows to let in plenty of natural light. Inside you are greeted by the art and craft display which includes pottery, textiles, paintings in modern and traditional styles, and handmade jewellery. After you wander though the goods you finally notice the counter of the cafe. And what a counter! It is full of both the sweet buns, cakes, and scones available as well as enormous bowls of the many colourful, healthy, and delicious salads. Each main comes with the full selection of sides and you never leave feeling hungry.

A great choice all year round, during the summer you can sun yourself in their courtyard out front, and in winter the wood burner is cranked up to warm your soul. They also do bistro nights where you book in advance for dinner. We cannot recommend this place enough. Come try it.

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Google Maps link.

Picnic by the river

Picnic area by the ford at Glandford, North Norfolk
Picnic area by the ford at Glandford, North Norfolk

Today I was out riding my bike and came across this sign for a picnic area beside the beautiful ford at Glandford.  It is a meadow beside the River Glaven, with several big logs cut to serve as benches and tables.   We’ve always loved this spot, but never noticed the picnic area before.  I wonder if perhaps it is a new endeavour of the nice people at the Wildflower Centre, just upriver, who maintain nature trails around here?

The Glaven is a clear, cold, clean river and the whole valley is made lush by its waters.  If you stand on the footbridge overlooking the ford either North towards Cley or South to Letheringsett, particularly on a late summer evening around harvest time, you are rewarded with idyllic rural scenes in all directions.

We’re already planning a future riparian picnic here on a warm spring day.

The turning for the ford is opposite the Art Cafe (one of our favourite places).  Follow the road down, past Sir Alfred Jodrell’s Shell Museum (worth a visit if you like eccentric endeavours) on the right.  You’ll see the ford ahead.  Unless you know what you’re doing and are properly equipped for off-roading, I’d recommend heeding the sign about it being ‘Unsuitable for motors’.  It is deep in places and the river bed is very loose rocks.  There is parking before the ford, and you can cross the little bridge on foot to find the picnic area in the meadow on the right.

Farm girls unite.

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Today I just wanted to share the thoughts and ideas of another woman who is also striving for a taste of the good life. Jennie Bryant is a mother, artist, and entrepreneur. I will just post a clip of her recent article in the magazine Mary Jane’s Farm.

“If we are talking far-out, anything-can-happen goals, I’d love to have a beautiful antique storefront, selling my things, and others; in back I’d have a lovely salon with velvet chairs, and a shiny desk and a small antique chandelier. There, I’d meet with other homemaker moms, who want to help their families with a small business and teach them what I’ve learned. Behind that I’d have a few rooms with worktables, sewing machines, a commercial kitchen, and more, and each room would connect to a playroom, visible but gated, so the moms would be able to work and watch and interact with their children at the same time. I would serve them espresso, and tea with scones… Perhaps it could overlook the ocean, and I could provide a channel for passion and potential that allows other wild and restless Selkies to cherish the welcoming harbour of home.”

All I can say is where can I sign up?

Farm girl blogs at Farm Girl Connection.

Stiffkey Red Lion to the rescue!

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Today was a day of Highs and Lows. I won’t bore you with the details, but we may have ended up with a flat tire during a trip to what had started out as a lovely shop. This quickly turned sour when we were asked in no uncertain terms to move the car from the parking lot while we waited for help to arrive. The “get off me land” approach may have soiled the experience a little. They shall remain nameless. Anyway, we vacated the area and headed, instead, to the lovely Stiffkey Red Lion. Our heroes! Now, we have been to this great little pub a few times, and it is one of our favourite coastal pubs. To have this little oasis on a cloudy, windy, and mildly inconvenient day, was a real blessing.

The pub is a real ‘olde world’ style place with beams, crooked walls and ceilings, and loads of fire places. The dog is welcome and Green King ales are on tap, including ‘Stewkey Brew’. There is also a beer garden which will be lovely come summer, a summer room extension, and tv viewing room for sports at the back.

Aside from the fires, the real draw of the place is the food. Today, as I warmed myself, I enjoyed a burger and chips which was excellent, and washed it down with my favourite, Aspall cider.

What is your favourite coastal pub? Be sure to include a link!

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Taking flight in Blakeney

Geese flying across Blakeney Harbour at dusk
Geese flying across Blakeney Harbour at dusk

The bird watching pleasures of the Norfolk Coast need hardly be explained to the dedicated ornathologist.  Enthusiasts will already know it as an internationally renowned habitat.  However, simply by walking out in the marshes, even rank amateurs (like me) can appreciate the wonders of the flying formations of geese which pass over Blakeney Harbour.

We have been here less than a year, but the geese seemed to start in late Autumn and have continued all through the winter.  I notice them particularly in the early morning or at dusk when walking with the dog.

Geese in flight at Blakeney
Geese in flight at Blakeney

They sweep across the sky in great ‘Vs’, wheeling and swooping as they shift position and share the work of being at the head of the formation.  The patterns they make in the sky are something to behold in themselves, made all the more wonderful by the thought you are seeing them on just part of the huge journey they are making around the planet.

The photos were taken at dusk on a cold March evening.

It’s hot in Norfolk

The tropics of Norfolk, it seems, are a hot bed of chilli growing.  It might be hard to believe on a day like today when the Arctic wind is howling in from the North East, but we’ve come across two chilli sauce producers in the area, both of whom grow and make locally.

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The first, Norfolk Heatwave, we saw on the BBC’s Countryfile episode about the area.  We’ve tried all 3 varieties: the Certain Death Ultra Hot, Caribbean Hot Pepper and Green Jalapeno Hot Chilli.  They’re all delicious in their way, but my personal favourite is the Green Jalapeno.

It is especially good added to a little paprika and garlic infused mayonnaise, used a dipping sauce for smoked prawns (a combination created by a chef friend when he came to stay recently).

Despite the fearsome branding, none of them are dangerously hot.  The spice is intense, but unlike more processed chilli sauces, you get the flavour without the choking, hiccough inducing burn!

I’ve seen it in stock at the Blakeney Deli and the Cley Smokehouse for about £3.50.

Philli Chillies offers a slightly different take: a sweeter, marinade-style sauce.  We found this one at the recent Blakeney Farmer’s Market and Craft Fair and opted for the Extra Hot Sweet Chilli Sauce.

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The plan is to use it on some roasted ribs or a burger with avocado, cheese and tomato.

This one was also about £3 or £4, I haven’t seen it in stock in shops, but look out for it at markets or on their web-site.

Market Cross, Swaffham, Norfolk

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Today is all about a leisurely lunch. In the town of Swaffham, in the Brecks of Norfolk, is a very cute cafe, Market Cross.

It ticks all the boxes for a very cozy lunch: beams, wood burner, bunting and delicious food. I have become addicted to their cheese scones (and I am a bit of a scone snob!). The ladies who run the establishment always have time for a chat and the sofas convince you a three hour lunch should be an every day affair. Most importantly, all their food is made fresh and this is evident in their scrummy cakes and scones.

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Swaffham is a great little market town, with a large church.  It sits just outside Thetford Forrest, along the route North to the coast. Stop by next time you are on your way through!

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Google Maps link.