Flotsam or jetsam?

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The sea brings things: weather, tide and, of course, flotsam and jetsam (we remain undecided as to which is which). Living by the water, there is almost always something new washed up on each tide. If it is obviously litter, those who walk here regularly, ourselves included, will usually clear it away.

However, sometimes more intriguing things wash up. Sufficiently large or unusual that no one is willing to interfere with them just in case they’ve been placed there for a reason.Ā  The massive, bus-sized inflatable fender from a container ship at Thornham earlier this year (Google it!) springs to mind.

The last week or so has seen this large plastic barrel sitting, upright, as if it belongs there, right on the path. I first noticed it in the bushes by the water’s edge but it must have been dislodged by one of the big tides last week.

I’ll admit, I’m curious. Where did it come from, what’s inside, who does it belong too? Will someone claim it or will the next set of big tides wash it back out into the North Sea to continue its journey?

For now, I ponder it each time I walk past and we’ve been training the dog to leap over it and – with limited success – balance on the top.

It is something to daydream about as one watches the big boats on the horizon, following our coast, but removed from it, part of their own wider world of sea lanes and deep ports.

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Late summer days on the marsh

Blue sky over Blakeney Harbour on a late summer day
Blue sky over Blakeney Harbour on a late summer day

There’s a quietness now, as if the summer is mellowing after climbing towards a peak for the August bank holiday. Walking around to Cley this morning with the dog, it was the epitome of a late summer day: deep blue sky defined by just a few light wisps of cloud and butterflies floating over the last wild flowers lining the path through the marsh. With barely a breath of wind the sun felt warm and away in the fields the tractors were baling hay. We stopped at Cley for fish from the smokehouse and then along the road to Blakeney, sampling the first ripe wild plums of the season. If ever there was a day for an evening swim…

Late summer flowers going to seed on the marsh
Late summer flowers going to seed on the marsh

Titchwell Manor’s tea time tapas and treats

Tapas selection at Titchwell Manor
Tapas selection at Titchwell Manor

It’s delightful to holiday somewhere and stumble across a delicious one-off meal, but rather more special to find a local eatery that can be relied upon to surprise you with wonderful food time and again.

We had heard of Titchwell Manor because it has a reputation for fine dining in the evening, courtesy of chef proprietor Eric Snaith’s tasting menus. However, in a year of living on the Norfolk coast, we were yet to visit, always saving it for a particularly special occasion when we could do justice to such a multi-course extravaganza.

A couple of months ago we were walking on the beach at Holme with a friend and, as it often does, talk turned to tea and cakes. We were well past the witching hour when most cafes on the coast stop serving, but our friend suggested Titchwell, knowing from past experience that they had an all day menu, not just of cakes, but savouries too.

It was the first of what has become many visits (thank you Julia!).

That day we shared a selection of scones, tea and Titchwell’s plate of 3 little cakes. The scones were excellent, even measured against the traditional benchmark of my Mum’s homemade. Each of the 3 cakes was special in its own way, with not just a good quality base, but little embellishments in the form of unusual toppings or pieces mixed into the cakes themselves.

It was served in the ‘Eating Rooms’, the light, airy brasserie-style space on the opposite side of the building from the more formal evening dining room. This opens via a folding glass wall onto a sunny terrace and our little four legged friend (Bonzo, the Labrador you may recognise from other photos) was welcome both in the brasserie and on the terrace.

It was so refreshing to find somewhere which, post-5pm (or almost any other time of day, it seems), rustles up such a high quality of freshly prepared food in a relaxed setting with great service.

We enjoyed our afternoon tea so much that we decided we must go back soon after to sample their selection of savoury tapas, a menu of 10 or so small plates, offered at Ā£3 each, with a special offer on 3 for the price of 2. Again, they serve it throughout the day, making it the perfect stop when you find yourself hungry after a mid-afternoon walk and local pubs have closed their kitchens.

Smoked salmon tapas at Titchwell Manor
Smoked salmon tapas at Titchwell Manor

The tapas is outstanding and consistently so. We have been back on several occasions since with various friends and family. The menu changes slightly each time, but particularly memorable were the smoked salmon, crab with pistachio and purslane, the crisped chorizo, the duck hearts with red currant and the smoked eel.

Each dish is a beautifully presented and, just like the cakes, has stylish little garnishes and twists, obviously benefitting from the talents of the house chefs who rustle up the famous evening tasting menus. On a few occasions, the two of us have shared one of every tapas dish on the menu, racking up a total bill of a princely Ā£18, courtesy of the extremely good value 3 for 2 offer. Small though each individual plate may be, 9 or 10 of them between two of us at lunch has seen us sufficiently satiated to skip dinner entirely.

It is stunning good value for such an exceptional quality of imaginative cooking and, having now visited numerous times, we can attest that those first visits were no one-off when post-walk hunger clouded our judgement: the food really is consistently special.

Tempura oysters with chilli dip at Titchwell Manor
Tempura oysters with chilli dip at Titchwell Manor

We broadened our horizons on yesterday’s visit, ordering both the tapas selection and trying some other dishes like the tempura oysters (served on a plate of Norfolk beach cobbles) and the blondie, popcorn and chocolate ice cream dessert. We were accompanied by our most food loving friends, one of whom is a chef himself, and they too were delighted by the meal.

Peanut butter blondie with grapes, popcorn & chocolate ice cream at Titchwell Manor
Peanut butter blondie with grapes, popcorn & chocolate ice cream at Titchwell Manor

We’re looking forward to our next visit already and hope one day to sample the full evening menu too.

Google Maps link.

Quintessential Blakeney

It is my favourite time of year in Blakeney. The bunting is out on the quay, and tall spires away in breeze, lining the narrow roads and decorating the cobbled walls. That’s right, it hollyhock season. Bonzo and I took a tour this morning. Here is what we found.

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Fireworks over Blakeney Harbour

The colours come out to play after the sun goes down in Blakeney Harbour
The colours come out to play after the sun goes down in Blakeney Harbour

You never know when you’ll be treated to one of nature’s firework displays, but last night, a calm and cool night in the harbour, we enjoyed one of the best we’ve ever seen. We took the kayak out just before high tide and paddled out down the Cut, into the main harbour. The sunset behind the hills of the sea bank was spectacular in itself, flooding the water with golden light, but the sky glow which followed was beautiful.

We sat and watched, another kayaker paddling up to join us, and took a couple of photographs. There’s no processing in the photo above, that is really how it looked, although I still find it hard to believe such colours can appear in the sky.