Mud, beautiful mud

An acquired taste, perhaps, but the glow of sunlight on the wet mud of shallow East Coast harbours is a beautiful thing. If you feel the same and haven’t yet read Maurice Griffith’s The Magic of the Swatchways, you really must.

From our Instagram, @North.Sea.Living.

Advertisements

The North Sea beckons: facing up to the first swim of the year

image

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.

Mud & rainbows in Blakeney

Mud & rainbows in Blakeney Harbour on the North Norfolk coast

 

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.

24 Seasons of Blakeney: February 5-19th

February 5-19th: Bright Cold

 The current season is Risshun or “start of spring” on the ancient Japanese seasonal calendar. This traditionally marked the New Year on the Japanese lunar calendar and seems an appropriate place to start for our 24 Seasons of Blakeney posts. At first “Spring” sounded overly optimistic for Norfolk this week, but on further reading is suggests that we are currently at peak cold and that things may gradually warm from here on in. Perhaps “spring coming” is closer to the truth. For our calendar I’ve decided on “Bright Cold” for Norfolk at this time of year. 

February 5-19th: Bright Cold

The wild plum blossom in the hedgerow this time of year always makes me happy, and a bit nervous for their delicate blooms. But what a sign of the promise of Spring!

February 5-19th: Bright Cold

For several years in a row now we have gone down to the dunes at Burnham Overy Staithe for a winter walk on a bright sunny day. Mid afternoon has a lovely golden glow with the angle of the sun low in the sky. In photos it looks summer-bright, and aside from our wooly hats it could be mistaken for late afternoon in June. The angle also produces some lovely purple dawns this time of year and they are getting earlier. The pink-footed geese which this coast is known for, have been making their migration, with thousands in the sky. This year we have had a lot of weather from the south-west, where normally our winter winds are fixed in the North, so Snettisham has seen fewer than usual. 

February 5-19th: Bright Cold

February 5-19th: Bright Cold

Tuesday I felt the first warmth in the sun for a long time while doing my semi-annual clean up of the courtyard. The snow drops and Tet a Tet bloomed while the heads of our mixed large narcissa pushed up among them. The allotment year has also started with the first chilli, tomato, and leek seeds going into the propagator. 
February 5-19th: Bright Cold

Marek headed out for the first kayak of the season on a bright crisp morning. Pubs remain a season staple after our chilly walks, while root vegetables, lentils, and roasts make up most of our dinners. And of course Pancake day is another highlight! We are lucky enough to still have carrots from the allotment and winter greens like perpetual spinach to tide us over until spring’s first flush of new produce. 

February 5-19th: Bright Cold

Events: Lexham Hall snowdrop walk 8/2 and 15/2

Holidays: Valentine’s Day 14/2

I have used italics to highlight the main features of the season. 

What does this time of year mean to you? We welcome all ideas to add to this Norfolk Calendar!

February 5-19th: Bright Cold

First kayak of the year in Blakeney

image

There was no denying it was a stunning morning. Cold and crisp, with frost in the shade and barely a breath of wind to disturb the incoming tide under a white winter sun. The only question was whether I could sneak in an outing in the kayak before starting work.

With the winds which have gusted along the Norfolk Coast all winter, this was the first time since the start of the year I’d had the opportunity to take to the water.

I paddled out, justifying the trip in my own mind by thinking I’d combine it with some scouting of the mooring location I’ve been eyeing up for our boat.

One of the great beauties of kayaking in the winter is that the colourful mooring buoys are not hidden by their boats. They stud the water with bright bursts of pink and yellow, contrasting beautifully with the ice blue of a calm winter sea.

I didn’t go far, conscious I ought to be back at my desk by a reasonable hour. Just down to where we might establish our mooring, finding to my satisfaction there was plenty of water, even with an hour of tide still left to rise.

I explored the channel which occasionally fills near the bank, wanting to take a closer look at the boat which had washed up there. She’s a sturdy twenty footer, but must have pulled free of her mooring a few weeks ago, and has been drifting around the harbour on the big tides. Last I saw her, she was on the shingle near the beach, up the Cley channel, but today she’d come for a visit in Blakeney.

A reminder of the care we’ll need when mooring our own if we don’t want her to take off for a solo tour of the harbour!