Archives for category: Places to visit

Richard Long's sculpture in the Stone Hall at Houghton Hall's EARTH SKY exhibition

Richard Long’s circle of flint and slate hushes the grandeur of the Stone Hall at Houghton. The Roman emperors, whose fine classical busts line the walls, must be gazing down in confused envy at the monochrome tumble of jagged slabs and rocks which have upstaged them.

Long’s arrangement, a cross within a circle, aligns not to the axis of the room, but rather to magnetic north – a reminder, perhaps, that his works relate first to nature and then to the spaces in which they’re housed.

Standing in the 40 foot cube of Houghton’s Stone Hall, amid an embarrassment of sculpted riches by Giueseppi Artari and John Michael Rysbrack, the realisation slowly dawns it has all been faded into background scenery by Long’s striking installation.

Thanks to an invite from Davina Barber at Norfolk by Design, I had a chance to admire it for a moment in the quiet of the hall a few days ahead of the opening of EARTH SKY, the exhibition of Long’s works which runs at Houghton from 30th April 2017.

Long has been labouring at Houghton for a year and a half, adding to his permanent work, Full Moon Circle, which was installed on the lawn in 2003.

Richard Long's henge at Houghton Hall's EARTH SKY exhibition

Elsewhere, the green space between the driveway and the stable yard is now home to a circle of mighty tree stumps from the estate. Placed upside down, with their roots waving towards the sky like antlers, they will be good company for the deer herds which roam the park. Apparently Long was inspired by his recently acquired knowledge of Seahenge, the 4000 year old wooden circle discovered in 1998 on the coastal sands at nearby Holme-next-the-Sea.

Richard Long's sculpture in the walled garden at Houghton Hall's EARTH SKY exhibition

The Walled Garden, lined with apple blossom and tulips in late spring, features another cross by Long, this time executed entirely in slate and on a much larger scale than in the Stone Hall. It rises in peaks from the impossibly green lawn. Seen from ground level, it appears as a mountain range in miniature, jutting up into the huge blue and white Norfolk sky.

Richard Long's sculpture on the lawn at Houghton Hall's EARTH SKY exhibition

I suspect it is Long’s ruler-straight stripe of local orange carr stone, which slashes through the lawn for more than 80 metres between the house and the Full Moon Circle, which will remain the exhibition’s enduring image. It gives scale to the massive expanse of Houghton’s lawn, leading the eye on and on until it is eventually absorbed in a bucolic haze of fields and grazing herds. This is the runway visitors will now follow to the Full Moon Circle and I’m told you should hope for rain, as the circle’s slates – dry on the day of my visit – shine in the wet.

Norfolk by Design sign at the Houghton Hall exhibition

The stable yard, faced with more of the carr stone, hosts an exhibition of works for sale curated by Norfolk by Design. If Long’s sculptures felt like a chance meeting abroad with a kindred spirit, Norfolk by Design’s collection was much closer to home.

Blakeney Sands painting by Lorraine Bewick at Norfolk by Design's Houghton Hall exhibition

I was drawn immediately to Lorraine Bewick’s landscapes. The wild expanses of Blakeney Harbour at low tide, where I walk daily, are beautifully evoked in her ‘Blakeney Sands’. This is work by someone who understands the middle of the harbour – when the water is out – is as much a journey for the imagination as a trip on foot.

Smoke drawing of an owl by Maria Pavledis at Norfolk by Design's Houghton Hall exhibition

Maria Pavledis’ giant ghost of an owl, created as a smoke drawing, hovered over another of the horse stalls which house the exhibition. The use of smoke seems very fitting for a creature which, at this time of year, Michelle and I often see drifting above the marsh on evening walks between Morston and Blakeney.

Shell art by Blott Kerr-Wilson at Norfolk by Design's Houghton Hall exhibition

I remembered Blott Kerr-Wilson’s wonderful shellscapes from a previous Norfolk by Design exhibition. Their sweeping textures and metallic sheen remain just as striking, especially at the large scale on display at Houghton. There’s something about framing the curving patterns in a rectangular space which seems to amplify the natural form of the shell. Our nearest mussel beds at Morston, sadly, are no longer producing, but the shells are everywhere on the coast. At Freshes Creek, a little anchorage near Stiffkey, the path itself is made of crushed mussel shells laid down over the years by the locals.

Helena Lynch chair at Norfolk by Design's Houghton Hall exhibition

There were bright flashes of colour to catch the eye throughout. A large armchair and footstool by Helena Lynch stands out in bold blues and reds against the wood and cream of the stables.

Pink and white tree by Catherine Cazalet at Norfolk by Design's Houghton Hall exhibition

Catherine Cazalet’s Weeping Pink and White tree uses an amazing shade of almost neon pink, yet somehow seems so calm and natural.

Ceramics by Polly Fern at Norfolk by Design's Houghton Hall exhibition

The progression of spring to summer in Norfolk is an evolving haze of sun and cloud, fields and flowers, expanding days and living outside on the allotment and the water. A set of nine tiles by ceramicist Polly Fern captures the essence of that, or at least how it often feels to us in our little coastal corner of the county.

Norfolk by Design have done a tremendous job of showcasing the diversity and quality of art and craft in the local area, a reflection perhaps of the many worlds which co-exist in this place of farms and beaches, country lanes and fishing villages…and, of course, great houses with great taste for art.

There are more photos in our Flickr gallery or follow @north.sea.living on Instagram.

EARTH SKY, 30th April to 27th October, and Norfolk by Design, 30th April to 30th September 2017, at Houghton Hall. Thanks to Davina Barber for the invitation.

Ah well we have been distracted a great deal since Christmas. No excuses really. However, a season of adventure in the outdoors is upon us and I thought we would just jump back in! Shall we start with some flower power?! 

Tulips! Tulips everywhere! First in my garden! 


They are glorious every year! But the allotment tulips this year outdid themselves! They all bloomed at once instead of in succession over 2 months. But I am not complaining! 

Aren’t I a lucky girl! 

But the major surprise of this season so far was the Norfolk tulip fields. I was not aware of these until mid April, so almost missed them. But now I know, it is not that surprising as our soils and climate mirror that of Holland across the North Sea. Here they grow the tulips for their bulbs! So they clip off the flower leaving the stems to nourish the bulbs before digging them up to be heat treated elsewhere. 

Luckily we found the field as they were cutting or we could have missed the season all together! This one was between Gayton and East Winch, although there are several throughout West Norfolk and Lincolnshire. 


There is a new twitter tag from coachcottage (Instagram account) going around to try and let people know about it next year. #Norfolktulipfestival see you then! 


It’s that time of year again! Watchouse 2016! Four days and three nights in our own little oasis. Last week I casually mentioned it in my post about finishing the boat. What fortuitous timing! We didn’t have to use the raft again! Now, making a bit of a spectacle of ourselves on the quay is a bit of a tradition what with furiously hammering together a ramshackle driftwood raft as the tide races in. This year we had little Snipe. And thank god! On one of the biggest tides this year there was no way we could have controlled it in the currents, even once we could touch the bottom again! We loaded the boat as the tide came in, getting ready to leave at the top of the tide, when the water would not be racing. By this time, however, we were waist deep on the quay and clambouring onto the boat with a large crowd watching. Par for the course really. And we were off!


As ever the weekend was about friends, food, and fun. Mornings usually saw a big breakfast followed by sailing expeditions on Snipe. One morning we headed down to the point and anchored. The boys jumped out and swam around the boat. We girls waited to see if they could get back in. Only barely! The seals were basking as we were!


The lovely Fiona and Jackson from Oystercatcher Catering provided meal after meal of joy! Afternoons saw lunches, kubb, fishing, and yoga in the sun. We really lucked out and the weather was sunny and warm. Later in the afternoon beer and cocktails came out leading up to some fantastic dinners. I don’t know how Jackson manages to produce the quality of food we eat in that ‘kitchen’ (and I use the term loosely). Pallella, rich and creamy fish stew, and mega-BBQ followed by cheese and red wine. There is something about being out in the sun and wind all day that makes you sleep amazingly!

Now, things couldn’t go too perfectly, and on the way back our engine conked out while we were preparing to enter the cut. We threw down our anchor and came up with many possible senarios for getting all of us back to land with our belongings. But lo and behold, up comes our friend Chris who helped us get Snipe back in the water. And who then gave us a tow back…? Bless them! We arrived in style on the quay under tow and created another mild spectacle just as we would have had the raft been there. Its just fate!


Another spectacular year on Blakeney Point. Already looking forward to next year! 


When I first met Marek he had a boat in the garage. That was 11years ago (this Oct!). It was a wooden boat his grandfather had built in the family garage in the 1960’s and was passed through the family down to Marek. It had not been in the water since the 1990’s and needed some serious love. We toyed with renovations every few years but had only managed to sand her down, to what we thought was the base level until August 2015. With a bit of an unexpected windfall we brought her up to Blakeney from her shed in West Sussex for some intensive work. 



I will fast forward through the highs and lows of learning about power sanding and epoxy and skip to this past week or so. With a newly bought engine she was ready for the water!!


Of course two days after her relaunch were some mighty big tides and 40mph winds. What a baptism of fire, for her and us!

Blakeney Quay storm tide with northerly gale

Her triumphant return and maiden voyage (matron voyage?) was our annual trip to the Watchouse on Blakeney Point. With the highest tide of the year (or thereabouts) it was quite a spectacle on the quay loading 4 people and two dogs (for a day trip). And don’t forget ll that lovely food from Oystercatcher Catering


I suppose all there is left is for me to learn how to sail!! 

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. 


We took the Coast Path back East and were treated with a field of purple flowers backed by a field of flax. The air was filled with its honey-sweet scent. 

From here we got a new angle on Morston. 


We strolled down into Blakeney just before dinner and we were ready for a feast! 


Green

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. 


On Mariner’s Hill the tiny white flowers blanket the southface. They spread a little further each year, around the bluebells and fennel. In the evening light they glow like a snow dusting. 


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!


Tulips open


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. 


And hurrah! We have tasted the first crab of the season from Andy’s Crab Shack! A true marker of the shift of the seasons. 

  

Vernal Equinox
The Equinox brings with it the return of longer days, seemingly all of a sudden. The clocks go forward and the evening is extended, so much so that we are now able to take the dog out for his evening walk after work. This treat lasts only six months for me between the Equinox.

  
The boats start to return to Blakeney Quay around Easter. In fact it marks quite a few things. My birthday being this time of year we usually have a rather elaborate tea with more cake than sense. Easter brings with it Mothering Sunday and daffodil walks. The world is bursting into bloom and bud. Blakeney Quay awakens and the tourists return for the first “busy” days of the season. (It feels busy compared to February but I suppose we are never as busy as the south coast, even in August)

  
The gorse is in full bloom and just to be on the Heath above Kelling or Salthouse is to walk through a cloud of coconut fragrance. Cuckoos have arrived on the marsh, and we found frog spawn in the garden. In the hedges primrose blooms and wild garlic unfurls. 

   
 This leads to many a tasty Spring treat. This year we have made wild garlic aioli, mayonnaise, and focaccia. (Try this recipe!) we were also advised to substitute the wild garlic in for leeks in potato soup by chef friend Jackson Campbell. For Easter we had 7 Hour Lamb which was amazingly tender. 

    
In the garden the magnolias are in bloom and we all pray there are no frosts to spoil their glory. Itss fragility may make it all the sweeter. Winter jasmine adds to the yellow overtones of the floral season along with the daffs and primrose. In addition to the ipheion bulbs, our first tulips start to colour. It’s the start of a month or two of drama in the tulip beds.  

   

    

 
Finally April brings with it some truly warm days, so long as you stay out of the wind. We often have our first picnics and BBQ’s on the beach and in the garden. The dunes at Burnham Overy Staithe provide good shelter, or under the cliffs at Weybourne.

   
   
Holidays: Mothering Sunday, Easter

Events: East Ruston old vicarage- Mother’s Day; Chestnut Farm – Snow Drop Walk