You feel lucky to live in Blakeney most days, but some especially so. It is always worth taking a little detour when running errands around the village just to walk home down the high street and watch the marsh and sky gradually revealed, framed by the cobbled cottages.
One of the many joys of living in the Glaven Valley is riding the farm tracks to pick up local produce. A favourite monthly jaunt takes me over the fields from Blakeney to Glandford to restock on coffee at the Grey Seal Roastery.
They’ve been supplying us with beans for our home coffee machine since they opened a few years ago. Each month, they select a new variety to try. This time it was a fruity, bright Ethiopian roast. Last month we had a double batch (a kilo of their award winning Three Bean and a kilo of a lighter, experimental Burundi) to slake the thirst of eight of us on our annual Watch House stay.
If you get chatting to the owners at the roastery, the depth of their knowledge and passion for their craft becomes apparent. On my last visit, I was treated to a science lesson which took me deep into the chemistry of how coffee forms its character during the roasting process.
Small wonder these Norfolk-based producers are now attracting international attention for the delicacy with which they bring out complex flavours from their beans. They’ve transformed my own taste in coffee from the traditional, heavy and dark towards brighter and subtler notes.
There are now Grey Seal cafés in Blakeney, Wells, Sheringham and Cromer, as well as their original home at the Art Café in Glandford. Well worth a visit to try exceptional coffee produced by expert baristas (their buns and cakes – all baked in-house – also come highly recommended).
We make our coffee at home with an ageing Delonghi Magnifica 3300. Received as a present about ten years ago, it is truly ‘the gift that keeps on giving’. Not a morning goes by when we don’t wake up excited by the prospect of enjoying an espresso produced from freshly ground coffee.
When it developed a fault a few months ago, the team at the Grey Seal not only helped us get it up-and-running again, they also provided a tutorial on how to service it ourselves. I was able to install a replacement pump without having to send it back to the manufacturers and a serious caffeine crisis was duly averted.
The beans go in the top and then you set the dials to adjust the grind, the quantity of coffee desired and the amount of water used in the brew. The lever for the steamer has long since snapped off through over-use and has been replaced with one I whittled from a bit of oak.
If all goes well delicious, fresh coffee is duly produced with a satisfyingly mechanical whirring of cogs and clunking of machinery. I find it strangely mesmerising to watch in slow motion…
The wind was in the North and West this morning, bringing the tide flooding over The Carnser in Blakeney. One of those gusting, squalling days which speaks of a North Sea changing its temperament and settling into the grumpiness of winter.
A single boat was braving the harbour chop, spray breaking over its bows, as the professionals from the boat yard continued about their business, bringing the leisure craft home for winter.
See our Instagram for a video with a rather different perspective on the same tide…
That wonderful, peculiarly Norfolk pursuit where sails appear to glide over the grass.
This was taken on the Norfolk Broads, but when the tide is right, the same phenomenon may be observed in the creeks between Blakeney, Morston and Cley, as shallow draft boats explore the marsh channels. The water needs to be high enough to navigate, but low enough the hull remains hidden below the grass and reed banks.