Might need a warm, melting memory of Cley’s summer sunsets on a day like today!
From our Instagram, @North.Sea.Living.
Might need a warm, melting memory of Cley’s summer sunsets on a day like today!
From our Instagram, @North.Sea.Living.
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.
Sea Thrift or Sea Pinks
This time of year the sea thrift carpets the marsh with low pink flowers. They seem to thrive here, even in areas that flood. I love watching the incoming tide creep between them and form a pool so that only the flowering tip is tall enough to poke out from the water!
In the verge the elder is now in full bloom and syrup seems to be the obvious choice to save this flavour for colder days. Cakes, cocktails, ice cream. We want to get a bit more adventurous than just cordial this year.
The poppies that brought this area the name ‘Poppyland’ in Victorian times are in their prime as well. This year the field of corn behind Blakeney is full of it. Not sure how the farmer feels about it but it is beautiful!
The avocets should be hatching and they have the cutest chicks. We haven’t spotted any yet but last year there were a few down the Cley channel so we may need to make a trip to look for them and experience the new harbour in all its opened up glory!
The garden has exploded and the red hot pokers, Marek’s favourite, are having a good year. They thrust themselves out from the background of geranium, clematis, lavender, nasturtiums, and California poppies. In the courtyard the roses are performing well. We have four varieties, but my favourites are the lemon scented yellow rose and the sugar scented rambling magenta rose. The succulents are back out full time as the only plants that will survive on my south facing table.
In the allotment high winds flattened some of the artichokes but they were getting a bit too thick anyway, and they have been made into mulch. The strawberries are coming in thick and fast now after some actual sun! The ox eye daisies are rife and self seeding so may need the chop. The squash didn’t make it through the torrential rains but I have put in seeds direct and they seem to have taken. Only a minor delay!
The cutting garden has been producing well this time of year for the first time. The verbascum have always been glorious but they are now also profuse. We have also added a cultivated red scabious and the ranunculus has come up for the first time. I have never had much luck with these until now. I almost gave up, but here they are and I now understand why florists love them so.
On the dinner table steamed fish with a lemony asparagus risotto was a real treat! The samphire keeps coming and grilled sea bass sandwiches are now a staple, if only we had caught them ourselves! Oh well, a little longing is good. You can’t have everything.
On evenings when high tide coincides with sunset we make a special effort to get out in the kayak. So peaceful. Takes away the cares of the day and is a perfect way to get ready to sleep.
Marek’s birthday, on the same day as our friend George, is usually an outdoor affair. This year we had a beach BBQ with our friends from Oystercatcher Catering. A simple affair with sea bass, crab, and an oyster bar (of sorts) on Cley beach. Of course no beach party is complete without a swim!
The first swim of the year will always be cold. That’s half the point, surely? After a winter and chilly spring bundled in layers and coats, there’s something cathartic about the burning freshness of the North Sea, still carrying it’s memories of January’s churning, grey waves.
We cheated a little. Instead of tackling the open sea from Blakeney Point, we walked down the harbour at low tide to a favourite swimming hole. Even when the water is out, there’s enough depth left to swim a few laps.
A weekend of warm sunshine had taken the edge off that first plunge, but there’s still a degree of steeling oneself for a ritual which soon becomes second nature as the season progresses. Clothes off, don’t wait too long in the chill of the wind, tell the dogs to sit, dive under and then call them in: leaping with all their Labrador enthusiasm to save their floundering humans from their folly.
It’s never as cold as you expect and you never regret the decision to go for it.
There’s nothing like the feeling of the sea on your skin and I notice it especially on days when work has called me to the big city. There’s no better way to reconnect with life on the coast than returning home from a day of meetings, cycling to the beach and diving into the waves.
Emboldened by that first foray, I woke early the next day to find the sun already shining and a big tide rushing in past the quay. What better way to work up an appetite for breakfast than another swim? I walked down to the sheltered spot where the channel turns on its way to Morston and dived off the ramshackle old wooden platform.
Without the benefit of a full day’s sunshine to warm it, the morning tide felt much, much colder than before. Puffing against the incoming flow, I managed a few quick strokes of front crawl back up the channel, then let the tide wash me back down to where I’d started, escaping up the ladder to a towel and hearty breakfast.
It’ll get warmer every day. By September, there will be evenings when the water seems to melt into a liquid sunset around you and night swims glow with phosphoresence.
We’ve been living by the sea in Norfolk for two and a bit years. This is the first in a series of four photo essays documenting each of the seasons on this coast. With the glorious summer of 2014 just passing, it seemed the right place to start.
The photographs were mainly shot on camera phones, a discipline with its own challenges.
I returned home to Blakeney Quay after kayaking the harbour on a warm, still July evening. Turning to look back north and west, the quiet glow of the summer night sky continued long after the sun went down. We see this rainbow of the dusk each night from May to July as we walk up to bed, looking out from the staircase window and framed by the gables of old houses. In June it is still there at midnight.
Purslane and muddy sand, the bright colours of mooring buoys and the blue expanse of the Norfolk sky. Taken as we sat for a quick picnic at Burnham Deepdale, on our way to collect weekend house guests from Kings Lynn station – a recurring theme of summer when your family realises you live in a house by the sea with spare bedrooms!
Ankle deep in squelching mud from a walk down the harbour at low tide. It’s always fun to see how visitors from the city react to what our little nephew calls ‘The Blakeney Blurgie’.
Taken at Cley Beach, cooking locally caught fish over a charcoal grill. Light the barbecue, dive into the waves and swim as the smell of the fire drifts over the water. By the time you’re out, the coals are ready to cook. We love it best on a Sunday evening, when the coast empties of weekenders and there’s still time for an evening on the beach before the working week.
Samphire is at its most tender in early summer. We always pickle some to stow away in jars and eat at Christmas. I love to go early on a summer’s morning to cut a few tips for a breakfast of scrambled eggs and samphire on sour dough bread.
The summer of 2014 will be remembered for the endless bounty of strawberries. These were some of our own and, once we’d picked all those, we had them for several months from neighbouring Wiveton Hall and Sharrington, a few miles inland.
Picnicking in the church yard at Cley under an impossibly blue sky.
Taken in the Glaven Valley, between the ford at Glanford and Bayfield Hall. It is a staggeringly beautiful spot and sometimes I’ll just stand on the bridge looking South down the valley, drinking it all in.
It was one of those special days when the summer sun is high in a blue sky, but little patches of coastal fog hung beside the sea. This was taken at Kelling Quag, a remote pond you pass on the way down a long lane to the deserted beach at Kelling Hard.
It is impossible to sit on one of Norfolk’s pebble beaches and not play with the stones: to throw or collect or build. Cley, after a swim.
The sun sets over the water at Cley Beach throughout the summer. We will often sit in the lee of an old fishing boat, between the sea and the pots, keeping warm by the charcoal barbecue after an evening swim.
Having lived in Blakeney for two years and three summers we have only just made our first trip to the Watch House! (Half Way House to you Cley residents) What an oversight!! We should have done this every year, and will from here on in. Our adventure started with a vision. A raft. A swimming platform. This dream has taken us all summer. By which, I mean, we have sporadically made a token effort to build said raft. But the trip was upon us and we had no means of transporting our provisions. So a last ditch effort was made and the raft took form. Largely untested I was nervous it would even float and when high tide and sunset on an overcast day coincide, there is little margin for error. Luckily she floated! A gusty north wind and the tide against us we made quite a spectacle on the quay.
A good while later we arrived and could not have felt more grateful or cozy anywhere else in the world after that ordeal.
The morning was clear and bright and many adventures were had, including mud racing, skim boarding, swimming in the waves, cub, and most importantly the BBQ!
Breakfast BBQ anyone? Bubble and squeak with samphire, sausages, bacon, fried and poached eggs and grilled tomatoes! I always make a point of travelling with a chef!
All too soon it was time to go. We packed up the raft and dragged it out into the main channel. The return trip could not have been more different to the way out! We casually drifted into Blakeney and arrived in style on the quay.
What a trip. What a place. A mile from my house we found a little paradise. Holiday is definitely a state of mind. I can only advise annexing a small spit of land like a pirate to everyone to make you forget your problems.
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. 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.
Last night Marek and I did one of our traditional summer ‘after work BBQ’ at Cley Eye. Until recently we just called this Cley Beach, but after a visit to the Cley Art Festival we realised a bit more of the history here. But more on that another time.
Last night we headed down to the water front around 8:30 and fired up our mini portable BBQ for some steamed fish in foil, pre-baked sweet potatoes, and fresh grilled courgette from the garden. Dinner time entertainment was provided by some little people in and swimming around their grandfather in his kayak. This was until the discovered they were being watched by a young seal! How cute. Once discovered, he splashed them and swam off. All the while a fantastic sunset carried on in the background. The after-sunset was even more spectacular as an orange blaze painted the clouds with purple shadowed background.
The birds were also enjoying their evening, dive-bombing the water to grab the fish for their dinner. Presumably the was what brought our seal friend in the first place.
Dessert was bake banana filled with chocolate from the fire embers. It was a beautiful evening and for a Monday, not too shabby. Who said this was just for the weekend?