We keep trying to get one more barefoot adventure in before ‘the long night’ of winter. Sat we went for a marsh romp before the torrents of rain that came later in the afternoon. It was glorious.
We feel quite lucky to get to know the area from top to bottom this way. The only thing missing was our sad Labrador who had to stay home to keep his stitches clean. Oh well, there is always next time.
Start of Summer
This is the time of year when ‘firsts’ and favourites come thick and fast and it is easy to forget to be mindful and take it all for granted. The Japanese natural calendar marks this past season as ‘the beginning of summer’. Britain’s calendar keeps this until the Solstice at the end of June but I am going with now! Maybe I am just impatient. Maybe it is the harbour walks barefoot and the year’s first swim that convince me that it’s close enough.
In the courtyard the large frogs have been joined by a multitude of tiny frogs. I celebrate them for eating the slugs! The last of the tulips are fading and give way to the plethora of summer. I can see the first heads of allium waiting to take their place.
Out in the larger gardens the lilacs are in flower followed closely by the never to be out done laburnums. The elderflower a are only just starting but we await them eagerly to start preserving. Even the horse chestnuts are in flower. Their stately blooms remind me of the queen’s hat perched on the grand dame’s head.
On the allotment things are coming on by leaps and bounds the last two weeks, especially the weeds! In the cutting garden things have diversified from tulips only to ranunculus, white verbascum, iris, cerinthe, and red scabious.
We also spent a long Saturday digging over and building a windbreak for the tomatoes. We think it looks whimsical using scavenged marsh drift wood to keep costs down. Very pleased to keep things super-local. And super-economical!
One of the quintessential Blakeney activities is the harbour walk. When the tide goes out a veritable canine (and human) playground opens up. We went on a slight variation of our regular route this weekend. We enter the cut on the slipway in the car park and head out to the harbour, turning left and down towards Morston. This time we kept to the left and crossed banks of sand, mud and ,”Blakeney Blurghey” as our nephew Tom calls it.
At Morston we waded the channel and continued down to check out the boats in the Pit. Normally when we walk down this far we are aiming for Blakeney Point and the seals. Today we followed the marsh and got down the the old mussel lays.
We explored the Morston Meals, and entered the Freshes Creek by a subsidiary and headed over to the house boats. This section is lovely and secluded. The boats are tucked away with a patina from years of exposure to the North Wind.
Since our last update the acid green buds on the the trees have mellowed to an apple green. Blossom flutters in the air; the sloes are putting on a good show this year. We walked down the lane from Wiveton to the coast road and the petals snowed down on our heads from above.
Everything is starting to fill out and become lush. The vivid blue ceanothus clouds glow from garden walls. The long-awaited dark pink blossom on the corner of Saxlingham road has finally come out: warm magenta hues.
The air is now full of birdsong. The nightingales’ serenade can now be heard. The odd cry of the Northern lapwing calls over Blakeney and Cley marsh. The first swan pair glide down Cley Channel.
Barefoot season has started with a walk down the harbour at low tide! I always say there are two halves to the year in Blakeney, barefoot season and welly season. So pleased! We have also had our first BBQ’s on Cley beach. Fishing and sea bass sandwiches! This also leads us to start work by on the boat again and planning for a launch date!
In the allotment the squash seeds have gone in. Sweet pea seedlings go along the dahlia walk. I can’t wait for their sweet scent to fill the house all summer. In the kitchen, the smell of slow cooked gammon hocks over lentils permeates. Rhubarb, rhubarb, and more rhubarb! Crumble with Banana! With pomegranate in cheesecake. Allotment produce is increasingly finding its way onto the table. Locally caught crab from Andy’s Crab Shed on toast with pea shoots and avocado! Delicious.
And the tulips continue their show in the courtyard, on the allotment, and at East Ruston Old Vicarage. A must see!
The long awaited tulip season has begun with the first early bulbs bursting into bloom. Our new bulbs from Pieter Nyssan have come out and the monte orange was a flamboyant opener to the season. It was followed by Royal Acres and then Princess Irene and Cardinal Red. The bunches picked on the allotment are filling the house with their musky honey scent. In the courtyard, last years pink tulips in the central bed glow in the evening light. At the same time some of our new bulbs, apricot parrot tulips and belle epoch, have filled the troughs under the window with a warm glow during the day.
Elsewhere in the garden the Rosemary is flowering and the peony shoots have surfaced. On the allotment we have scattered Cosmo seeds in preparation for the floating flowers of Autumn and summers final call.
Under the magnolias and on the hill sides swathes of blue bells flourish. On our walk behind Blakeney Downs on Kettlehill Plantation their soft scent fills the air.
In Blakeney Cut the first tips of samphire can be seen just a few millimetres above the mud, a teaser of samphire on sourdough breakfasts to come. We have resumed our nightly visits to Mariners Hill, or Sunset Hill as we call it, to start the sunset season which lasts until October. The sun now sets North of Wells Pines and over the marsh in it yearly migration to The Point for the solstice. While not yet warm enough to sit with a cocktail, the colours of the evening sky make the trip magical.
Inland the rape fields are vibrant yellow and the countryside seems to glow in their warm reflection. All around wildlife pairs up and this pageant is played out most formally by the bowing pigeons on the rooftops and tree branches. In Holkham Hall’s deer park, and my driveway, the Tawny owls start to roost; their haunting calls drifting in the twilight.
In the kitchen gorse wine is set down, locking the coconut flavours in for a winters day. It will be at least nine months until it is ready.
The Northerly was whipping down the little channel of Blakeney Cut this morning, chopping the water into brown and grey waves. “Fine weather,” observed the solitary walker I encountered, as she turned quickly for home, the Labrador at her heels following with obvious enthusiasm for returning to a warm kitchen. There was a flurry of snow last night, but as I continued out onto the marsh, glad of my fur hat, a sudden rainbow arched across the horizon. It seemed to rise from the Watch House on Blakeney Point and disappear into the steel grey of the sky, before dropping some time later away on the freshes towards Morston and Stiffkey.
Beginning of Spring
This time of year can have quite unpredictable weather. Year to year, and even day to day. The Japanese calendar labels this time with respect to rain water. While rain certainly features, I would describe the last two weeks as, changeable. One day I can find the warm earth under my hands in the garden, followed by snow and hail the next.
The geese continue to migrate, and birdsong can be heard in the afternoons. The current season from March 1-5 is named ‘Grass sprouts, trees bud’ on the 72 Season calendar and I couldn’t agree more. What a wonderful site, the new growth on trees. In the hedges the blackthorn is in blossom and on the verge the alexanders are starting to bud.
In the garden when I look around it does not surprise me the yellow and purple are the colors of Easter. The Grape hyacinths and Anenome blanda are out in the courtyard. And on the road sides is another plant common this time of year that I just call ‘purples’. Their lack of official name does not diminish the joy they give when you see them. Meanwhile, in the cutting garden the first Daffodils have bloomed and are now adorning my dining room table.
Work in the allotment has begun in earnest. Tomatoes, Marigolds, and Leeks are going through the propagator. The earth is warming and we have started digging over the scanty winter weeds before they take hold. It is just too tempting to plant seeds on warm days. After digging over last years cosmo bed I scattered Nigella “White lady” seeds, only to have it snow the following day! All this work justifies a trip to the Cley Deli for their delicious pies for a hearty lunch, and a slice of their cake to follow. In the evenings, beef seasoned for a week and slow cooked for 8 hours, is a weekend treat.
When we aren’t scratching around in dirt, the weekends find us on long walks with a warm breeze, but still dressed for winter.
The kayak comes back into regular use and gives us an upclose look the the birdlife on the marsh. As the boating season approaches, mooring maintenance becomes a priority in preparation.
I am filled with anticipation of warm weather and new life.
Events: Daffodil and Snowdrop Walks at Bagthorpe Hall 22/2 and Horsted House 21/2
Holidays: St. David’s Day, March 1st.