Watchouse 2016


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! 

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24 Seasons of Blakeney: April 22 – May 6


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!


24 Seasons of Blakeney: March 22- April 5

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 

A Nice Walk

Such is our life in Norfolk that when we need to buy more coffee we end up on a 10mi walk. From Blakeney up to Wiveton down, the Art Cafe for a scone, and the Grey Seal Roastery for our actual coffee purchase!  

  

   

 

Bonzo enjoyed it too.  

Of course nothing would do but to cross the ford and make our way through the wild flower and spring bulb strewn lanes of Wiveton and into Cley for a sneak peak at the new location for Artemis Antiques and Coffee Shop. (Full report to follow)

   

     

Then we finished off through Cley Marsh on the Coast Path homewards.  Time for a nap I think.

Oyster Catcher Catering

As part of our ‘Winter Recaps’ we can’t wait to gush about our invitation to a fabulous tasting event by Oyster Catcher Catering. I am not food blogger (though we do seem to talk about food, and local food, a lot on here) so I will let the starters speak for themselves!

Heritage beetroot salad with grilled goats cheese and toasted nuts and seeds
Canapes: Goats cheese wrapped in cured ham with oven dried tomato and pesto, cucumber cups with Cromer crab and radish salad, polenta cakes with pickled mushrooms truffel mayo and broad bean

Polenta cakes with pickled mushrooms, truffle mayo, and broad bean

They are as delicious as they are beautiful. 

Wherever possible they provide food and ingredients from the Norfolk area. And of course living in some of the best arable farmland in the UK, great ingredients combined with Chef Jackson Campbell’s imagination and skill leads to an amazing meal. While it is pretty, this is real food. Healthy, filling, local. 

Enough of me, here’s some more…

Seared sea bass with celeriac mash, braised fennel, and prawn bisque

Sea bream ceviche with citrus, herb puree and rocket cress
  

Jerusalem artichoke ‘lasagne’ with blistered tomatoes and balsamic
   

Apple tarte Tatin, vanilla icecream

So many courses! But we had to have it all! On display at the event was a selection of things offered in their Welcome Packs. (which we may have also tried.) What a great idea! When you spend all day trying to get out of the Big Smoke, and arrive late and hungry, what better thing to have waiting for you than delicious local food? I can distinctly remember when we moved to Blakeney and by the time we unloaded the van the only thing being served at the local pub was dessert and a cheese board. If only….

  

So to summarise, catering, meals delivered, and welcome packs. Amazing. 

  

Photography by George Gould and Fiona Diamond

Wiveton Hall Cafe

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The ever popular Wiveton Hall Cafe is back for a new season after some refurbishments and additions. This year, on top of the daily breakfast and lunch, a new wood fire pizza oven has been built and they will be serving from 4-6pm Monday through Thursday. This in addition to the Friday through Sunday dinners.

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Note: Some of the photos are taken from their website.

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

Buying late night dinner at Creake Abbey Food Hall

Creake Abbey Food Hall & Cafe
Creake Abbey Food Hall & Cafe

It was Thursday night and the cupboards were bare. We were wondering what to do for dinner when I remembered I’d seen a post on Twitter earlier in the day from Creake Abbey Food Hall, saying they were open until 8pm on a Thursday.

We’d been meaning to go back after acquiring some delicious local lamb (and not so local olives) on their opening day last month. It seems such a good idea to have a late night opening once a week, and rare among the local delis, so we jumped in the car and headed down.

We arrived just as they were closing up but Steve, the owner, and Tom, the manager, couldn’t have been more welcoming. A glass of wine was offered almost the second we walked through the door (a Mexican white, surprisingly good, and they also have a red from the same producer).

They chatted about how things have been going since the opening and showed us around the cafe.

Eventually we remembered we’d come to buy something for dinner and chose some of the meat balls from the well stocked butcher’s counter. They had minted lamb and spicy beef, so we took a handful of each.

It was then that I noticed the pie: a great hulk of pastry and meat, with a thick wedge already cut. It turns out it is made by the landlady of the pub near owner Steve’s village, close to Halesworth in Suffolk. According to Steve, it won recognition at a local food fair and deservedly so.

Made with chicken and pork, it had a wonderfully herby flavour, spiced with plenty of pepper. The pastry, so key to the success of any pork pie, was thick and hearty.

We added that to our list and, suffice to say, it was stuffed in faces before we’d finished the drive home.

It is good to see this new venue growing. The range of produce is interesting, from local favourites like Candy’s Chutneys, to an extensive and well curated butchery counter.  Combined with the warm welcome, the location among an already established collection of shops at Creake and smart ideas like late night shopping on a Thursday, they look set for deserved success.

We’ll be back to try the cakes in the cafe, some more of the olives, their great selection of meat and maybe even the eclectic wine choices.

Google Maps link.