When we moved to the coast last year I imagined swimming in the sea every day. Naively, I thought I’d simply make sure I went in daily, such that a consecutive day would never be that much colder than the previous one. I presumed I’d just gradually become acclimatised if I could stick to this routine.
The particularly bleak spell of Arctic winds and snow from the North East put an end to such plans and the last time I went in was a couple of weeks before Christmas.
I’ve been watching the weather every day since, waiting for a day like yesterday, when the winds were light and from the South and the sun was shining. The water is at its coldest at this time of year, having lost all of its temperature over the long winter, so the key thing is to ensure that, upon emerging from the sea, there’s not a freezing wind chilling you to the bone before you can get dry.
Even with the sun shining, blue sky and a gentle breeze at Cley Beach, I though it best to warm up with a run and a quick bike ride and to pack a big towel and some warm clothes. Suitably invigorated by the exercise, I took the plunge. The water was burningly cold, but I wanted this to be more than a splash and dash affair: if I could swim in these temperatures, then it would only get better for the rest of the year. I managed just a few minutes, time for some frenzied front crawl westwards, and back east again to my start point.
There’s no denying this a masochistic pleasure. At this time of year it is more about the feeling of leaving the water and getting warm than it is about the joy of swimming itself. However, it reminded me how lucky we are to live close enough to swim in the sea daily and the glowing feeling of total refreshment it brings.
Wrapped in a big woolly sweater and windproof jacket, I lay back on the beach, basking in the sun, watching birds and vapour trails making patterns in the deep pool of the sky. The only sounds were of the waves gently churning at the shoreline and, further down the beach, the crab boats getting ready to go out for the first time this year.
The weather, it seems, had been holding them back too. Usually they would have been out earlier in the year, but these two little boats, probably about 16 foot, were venturing out for the first time yesterday.
They launch from tractor and trailer off the shelving shingle beach, loaded with pots for the crab, going out around low tide and returning on the high tide. You can buy direct if you’re there when they come back in.
‘Cromer crab’ is renowned, coming from the waters near a chalky reef that stretches for several miles along the coast. Apparently this unique habitat imparts a particularly delicious taste. The season is just starting and will last until autumn, with oysters and lobster coming a bit later.
I usually buy mine from the little shed in someone’s back garden: look for the sign on the A149 coast road as you drive through Blakeney.