Phosphoresence beneath the stars in Blakeney Harbour

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We were nearly at Morston, gliding through the creeks from Blakeney, when George spotted it: a luminescent white green arc where the bows of my kayak slid through the water. Suddenly it was all around us. Every paddle stroke and every droplet of water sparkled with glowing phosphoresence.

We could send sparkles shooting from our finger tips simply by flicking water with our hands. There is, no doubt, a scientific explanation for all this, but on a still, warm September night – when the harbour was a black mirror filled with reflected stars and our boats glowed with the water’s soft green fire – I am content to believe in a little magic.

The extraordinary phenomenon stayed with us the whole journey, through the creeks and out into the open harbour as we circled back to Blakeney. It must be seen to be believed, but perhaps it is best equated as a Northern Lights of the sea?

Sunrise over Blakeney Marsh

I woke early and went in search of daybreak.  Standing on the deck of the old houseboat at Blakeney Marsh and looking East towards Cley, I could hear the waves rolling on the sea bank and the birds calling to the light.  The first glimpse of the Sun’s orange and red disc silhouetted the mechanical arm of a digger, now paused in its work of rebuilding the flood defences.

Two bait diggers were walking back down the harbour channel, just ahead of the incoming tide.  I always imagine sunrise to be a quiet time, but instead it is filled with all the excited cries of nature, while most humans remain silently slumbering in bed.

The video was recorded on my phone (a Moto X) and sped up 8x.

Longest day of the year: sunset hike

Well, June 21st is an exciting day for us, but for different reasons. For me and my sun-worshipping, it is the day with the most daylight hours. For Marek, who loves all things wintery and bleak, it marks a turning point to when the days become shorter. Whatever the reason, we both found it a day to celebrate. And what better way than to experience the sunset on a hike.

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We took the last Coast Hopper bus from Blakeney to Sheringham, and there had the best fish and chips on the coast at Straights, followed by a visit to Ronaldo’s of Norwich ice cream shop (monster cookie and chocolate hazelnut, if you were wondering).

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At 7pm we set out along the golf course and walked the coast path back home. Here are some highlights.

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For more of the story in photos click here for the Flickr gallery.

A night to swim

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It was a still evening and the tide was ebbing slowly. Away to the West, the sun glowed red and low behind the Holkham pines. If ever there was a night to swim in the green waters of Blakeney’s harbour channel…

I walked down to the old houseboat and swam back up towards the quay, against the tide, and with Bonzo paddling away beside me, lay back and let the cool evening water drift me back to my starting point.

In the distance, calling across the marsh from Cley, the first big skeins of geese were filling the sky with their clamour, speaking of seasons’ change.

An evening walk on the marsh

Evening sky glow over Cley Marsh

The wind was in our faces and blowing from the West as the sun, shrouded in cloud, fell below the horizon. We were walking yesterday evening through the marsh from Cley back home to Blakeney. The sky, which has provided some spectacular sunsets over the summer, was in a different mood, but no less beautiful. In place of the classic orange disc melting into the harbour waters, Nature provided a maleable feast of shifting hues: colours you would not imagine possible in the sky, from cherry pink to luminous orange.

Set against a stage background of soft blue, grey clouds, these lights shone with intensity.

A few ducks, the vanguard of the larger migrations yet to come, flew fast across the face of the wind. Out on the sea bank, the Watch House stood dark against the dusk, a reminder of how small two little humans are in this wide landscape of marsh, sky and sea.

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

Sunset swimming at Cley

Sunset at Cley Beach
Sunset at Cley Beach

I was out after dinner for a stroll down the harbour at Blakeney when I noticed the wind, which had been blowing all day from the south west, had dropped to a whisper. The pools of water left in the Cut were almost flat calm.

I hurried back home, grabbed a towel and my bike to pedal down to Cley. I arrived about 15 minutes before sunset, swam East for a while and then turned to swim back towards the setting sun in the West.

We haven’t had a calm evening like that for a long time at Cley; just perfect for swim before bedtime and watching the incredible colours as the sun dipped into the glassy water.

Sundown at Cley Beach
Sundown at Cley Beach

Jo Lawrence captures the spirit of the East coast

The Longshore by Jo Lawrence
The Longshore by Jo Lawrence

We often visit the Pink Foot Gallery in Cley when we’re out walking along the coast. Gallery owners’ Sarah and Rachel’s selection, from sculpture to water colours, is always a pleasure to explore – and frequently refreshed.

Time and again I find myself drawn to the paintings they have by Jo Lawrence. The one above, in particular, seems to capture the diffuse feeling of coastal light which occurs when the haze is backlit by a low sun. It reminds me of times I have walked down the Blakeney Harbour at low tide, or kayaked over to the sea bank near the Watch House on the Point and swum in those remote waters.

It is rare to find your own imagination captured, unknowingly, on canvas.

Google Maps link.

First swim at Cley and first of the Cromer Crab

First swim of the year at Cley; colder than it looked
First swim of the year at Cley; colder than it looked

When we moved to the coast last year I imagined swimming in the sea every day. Naively, I thought I’d simply make sure I went in daily, such that a consecutive day would never be that much colder than the previous one. I presumed I’d just gradually become acclimatised if I could stick to this routine.

The particularly bleak spell of Arctic winds and snow from the North East put an end to such plans and the last time I went in was a couple of weeks before Christmas.

I’ve been watching the weather every day since, waiting for a day like yesterday, when the winds were light and from the South and the sun was shining. The water is at its coldest at this time of year, having lost all of its temperature over the long winter, so the key thing is to ensure that, upon emerging from the sea, there’s not a freezing wind chilling you to the bone before you can get dry.

Even with the sun shining, blue sky and a gentle breeze at Cley Beach, I though it best to warm up with a run and a quick bike ride and to pack a big towel and some warm clothes. Suitably invigorated by the exercise, I took the plunge. The water was burningly cold, but I wanted this to be more than a splash and dash affair: if I could swim in these temperatures, then it would only get better for the rest of the year. I managed just a few minutes, time for some frenzied front crawl westwards, and back east again to my start point.

There’s no denying this a masochistic pleasure. At this time of year it is more about the feeling of leaving the water and getting warm than it is about the joy of swimming itself. However, it reminded me how lucky we are to live close enough to swim in the sea daily and the glowing feeling of total refreshment it brings.

Wrapped in a big woolly sweater and windproof jacket, I lay back on the beach, basking in the sun, watching birds and vapour trails making patterns in the deep pool of the sky. The only sounds were of the waves gently churning at the shoreline and, further down the beach, the crab boats getting ready to go out for the first time this year.

Crab boats going out for the first time this year at Cley Beach
Crab boats going out for the first time this year at Cley Beach

The weather, it seems, had been holding them back too. Usually they would have been out earlier in the year, but these two little boats, probably about 16 foot, were venturing out for the first time yesterday.

They launch from tractor and trailer off the shelving shingle beach, loaded with pots for the crab, going out around low tide and returning on the high tide. You can buy direct if you’re there when they come back in.

‘Cromer crab’ is renowned, coming from the waters near a chalky reef that stretches for several miles along the coast. Apparently this unique habitat imparts a particularly delicious taste. The season is just starting and will last until autumn, with oysters and lobster coming a bit later.

I usually buy mine from the little shed in someone’s back garden: look for the sign on the A149 coast road as you drive through Blakeney.