Archives for posts with tag: norfolk

Richard Long's sculpture in the Stone Hall at Houghton Hall's EARTH SKY exhibition

Richard Long’s circle of flint and slate hushes the grandeur of the Stone Hall at Houghton. The Roman emperors, whose fine classical busts line the walls, must be gazing down in confused envy at the monochrome tumble of jagged slabs and rocks which have upstaged them.

Long’s arrangement, a cross within a circle, aligns not to the axis of the room, but rather to magnetic north – a reminder, perhaps, that his works relate first to nature and then to the spaces in which they’re housed.

Standing in the 40 foot cube of Houghton’s Stone Hall, amid an embarrassment of sculpted riches by Giueseppi Artari and John Michael Rysbrack, the realisation slowly dawns it has all been faded into background scenery by Long’s striking installation.

Thanks to an invite from Davina Barber at Norfolk by Design, I had a chance to admire it for a moment in the quiet of the hall a few days ahead of the opening of EARTH SKY, the exhibition of Long’s works which runs at Houghton from 30th April 2017.

Long has been labouring at Houghton for a year and a half, adding to his permanent work, Full Moon Circle, which was installed on the lawn in 2003.

Richard Long's henge at Houghton Hall's EARTH SKY exhibition

Elsewhere, the green space between the driveway and the stable yard is now home to a circle of mighty tree stumps from the estate. Placed upside down, with their roots waving towards the sky like antlers, they will be good company for the deer herds which roam the park. Apparently Long was inspired by his recently acquired knowledge of Seahenge, the 4000 year old wooden circle discovered in 1998 on the coastal sands at nearby Holme-next-the-Sea.

Richard Long's sculpture in the walled garden at Houghton Hall's EARTH SKY exhibition

The Walled Garden, lined with apple blossom and tulips in late spring, features another cross by Long, this time executed entirely in slate and on a much larger scale than in the Stone Hall. It rises in peaks from the impossibly green lawn. Seen from ground level, it appears as a mountain range in miniature, jutting up into the huge blue and white Norfolk sky.

Richard Long's sculpture on the lawn at Houghton Hall's EARTH SKY exhibition

I suspect it is Long’s ruler-straight stripe of local orange carr stone, which slashes through the lawn for more than 80 metres between the house and the Full Moon Circle, which will remain the exhibition’s enduring image. It gives scale to the massive expanse of Houghton’s lawn, leading the eye on and on until it is eventually absorbed in a bucolic haze of fields and grazing herds. This is the runway visitors will now follow to the Full Moon Circle and I’m told you should hope for rain, as the circle’s slates – dry on the day of my visit – shine in the wet.

Norfolk by Design sign at the Houghton Hall exhibition

The stable yard, faced with more of the carr stone, hosts an exhibition of works for sale curated by Norfolk by Design. If Long’s sculptures felt like a chance meeting abroad with a kindred spirit, Norfolk by Design’s collection was much closer to home.

Blakeney Sands painting by Lorraine Bewick at Norfolk by Design's Houghton Hall exhibition

I was drawn immediately to Lorraine Bewick’s landscapes. The wild expanses of Blakeney Harbour at low tide, where I walk daily, are beautifully evoked in her ‘Blakeney Sands’. This is work by someone who understands the middle of the harbour – when the water is out – is as much a journey for the imagination as a trip on foot.

Smoke drawing of an owl by Maria Pavledis at Norfolk by Design's Houghton Hall exhibition

Maria Pavledis’ giant ghost of an owl, created as a smoke drawing, hovered over another of the horse stalls which house the exhibition. The use of smoke seems very fitting for a creature which, at this time of year, Michelle and I often see drifting above the marsh on evening walks between Morston and Blakeney.

Shell art by Blott Kerr-Wilson at Norfolk by Design's Houghton Hall exhibition

I remembered Blott Kerr-Wilson’s wonderful shellscapes from a previous Norfolk by Design exhibition. Their sweeping textures and metallic sheen remain just as striking, especially at the large scale on display at Houghton. There’s something about framing the curving patterns in a rectangular space which seems to amplify the natural form of the shell. Our nearest mussel beds at Morston, sadly, are no longer producing, but the shells are everywhere on the coast. At Freshes Creek, a little anchorage near Stiffkey, the path itself is made of crushed mussel shells laid down over the years by the locals.

Helena Lynch chair at Norfolk by Design's Houghton Hall exhibition

There were bright flashes of colour to catch the eye throughout. A large armchair and footstool by Helena Lynch stands out in bold blues and reds against the wood and cream of the stables.

Pink and white tree by Catherine Cazalet at Norfolk by Design's Houghton Hall exhibition

Catherine Cazalet’s Weeping Pink and White tree uses an amazing shade of almost neon pink, yet somehow seems so calm and natural.

Ceramics by Polly Fern at Norfolk by Design's Houghton Hall exhibition

The progression of spring to summer in Norfolk is an evolving haze of sun and cloud, fields and flowers, expanding days and living outside on the allotment and the water. A set of nine tiles by ceramicist Polly Fern captures the essence of that, or at least how it often feels to us in our little coastal corner of the county.

Norfolk by Design have done a tremendous job of showcasing the diversity and quality of art and craft in the local area, a reflection perhaps of the many worlds which co-exist in this place of farms and beaches, country lanes and fishing villages…and, of course, great houses with great taste for art.

There are more photos in our Flickr gallery or follow @north.sea.living on Instagram.

EARTH SKY, 30th April to 27th October, and Norfolk by Design, 30th April to 30th September 2017, at Houghton Hall. Thanks to Davina Barber for the invitation.

Ah well we have been distracted a great deal since Christmas. No excuses really. However, a season of adventure in the outdoors is upon us and I thought we would just jump back in! Shall we start with some flower power?! 

Tulips! Tulips everywhere! First in my garden! 


They are glorious every year! But the allotment tulips this year outdid themselves! They all bloomed at once instead of in succession over 2 months. But I am not complaining! 

Aren’t I a lucky girl! 

But the major surprise of this season so far was the Norfolk tulip fields. I was not aware of these until mid April, so almost missed them. But now I know, it is not that surprising as our soils and climate mirror that of Holland across the North Sea. Here they grow the tulips for their bulbs! So they clip off the flower leaving the stems to nourish the bulbs before digging them up to be heat treated elsewhere. 

Luckily we found the field as they were cutting or we could have missed the season all together! This one was between Gayton and East Winch, although there are several throughout West Norfolk and Lincolnshire. 


There is a new twitter tag from coachcottage (Instagram account) going around to try and let people know about it next year. #Norfolktulipfestival see you then! 

Just a little seasonal tour of my favourite place….


When I first met Marek he had a boat in the garage. That was 11years ago (this Oct!). It was a wooden boat his grandfather had built in the family garage in the 1960’s and was passed through the family down to Marek. It had not been in the water since the 1990’s and needed some serious love. We toyed with renovations every few years but had only managed to sand her down, to what we thought was the base level until August 2015. With a bit of an unexpected windfall we brought her up to Blakeney from her shed in West Sussex for some intensive work. 



I will fast forward through the highs and lows of learning about power sanding and epoxy and skip to this past week or so. With a newly bought engine she was ready for the water!!


Of course two days after her relaunch were some mighty big tides and 40mph winds. What a baptism of fire, for her and us!

Blakeney Quay storm tide with northerly gale

Her triumphant return and maiden voyage (matron voyage?) was our annual trip to the Watchouse on Blakeney Point. With the highest tide of the year (or thereabouts) it was quite a spectacle on the quay loading 4 people and two dogs (for a day trip). And don’t forget ll that lovely food from Oystercatcher Catering


I suppose all there is left is for me to learn how to sail!! 

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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.

Lime

This season is one of renewal and rebirth in nature. The Japanese calendar refers to it as “awakening of the hibernated (insects)”, but I like to think of in terms of colour; lime. A bright acid green is common to many new shoots before they mature into the various shades of green for the summer, and spring has it in abundance.

March 6-21st: Lime

March 6-21st: Lime

March 6-21st: Lime

On of my favourite bright green plants of the this time of year is the Alexander. Last year we made a delicious chutney with aniseed flavours, but waited a bit too late when the stems had gone woody. This year we are doing it earlier. It is the first foraging produce of the year in our calendar.

March 6-21st: Lime

The animals are awaking  as well with the first frogs in the courtyard and driveway. Around the middle of the month the Great Tit returned to the birch over the courtyard to serenade us with his call. On the marsh, the swallows return as well as the chiffchaff.

  
March 6-21st: Lime

The bulbs are in full swing with daffodils, crocus, hyacinths, and snowdrops filling the gardens and churchyards of the area. Adding to the spectacle are leucojum. The afternoon sun has some warmth in it and we enjoyed our first afternoons sitting the courtyard in the swing. My favorite place to relax. And at the end of the season we can see the first tulip shoots, a sure sign of warmer weather on its way.

March 6-21st: Lime

March 6-21st: Lime

With all the bulbs out the large gardens have started to open to the public and for Mother’s Day we visited RHS Wisley this year.

March 6-21st: Lime

The seedlings for the upcoming allotment year are soldiering on, adding the bright green tone of the season.

March 6-21st: Lime

 

Holidays: Mother’s Day (UK)

Events: East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens open for daffodil season/Mother’s Day, 6/3/16 http://www.e-ruston-oldvicaragegardens.co.uk/pages/view/564/home.htm

Chestnut Farm snowdrop walk 3/3/16 and 6/3/16  http://www.ngs.org.uk/gardens/find-a-garden/garden.aspx?id=17225

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.

The Saturday Map, a day well spent

Maps should tell a story. This one is the tale of our Saturday. If you know these places, you’ll perhaps also understand why it wouldn’t be at all bad to spend every Saturday like this.

    

    

One of the ways I notice the passing of the seasons is the difference in the morning light when I come down to breakfast.

The windows face East and this morning it was all sunlight, shadows, reflections and rainbows.

Morning rainbows

Morning shadows

Morning colours

Morning shadows II

Morning light