Sunset colours on Blakeney Quay, Norfolk

The year marches on towards the season of low, heavy skies and the rich, deep red sunsets of winter. 

From our Instagram, @North.Sea.Living.

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Sunrise time-lapse over Blakeney and Cley marshes

Sunrise timelapse over Blakeney and Cley marsh

The sun rises about a quarter past seven at this time of year, emerging from the low hills behind Cley as you look back across the fresh water marsh from Blakeney. If you’re lucky, you see the silhouette of Cley windmill emerging and the swaying reeds bathed in the glowing light.

This was shot as a video over about twenty minutes on a morning dog walk, then edited afterwards to speed it up.

The walk home

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.

From our Instagram, @North.Sea.Living.

Heading down the ‘road’ for Grey Seal coffee

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.

One of Grey Seal's award winning coffee roasts
One of Grey Seal’s award winning coffee roasts

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.

Coffee and cake on a recent trip the Grey Seal café at Sheringham
Coffee and cake on a recent trip the Grey Seal café at Sheringham

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).

Our ageing Delonghi Magnifica 3300 espresso machine
Our ageing Delonghi Magnifica 3300 espresso machine

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.

Feeding the morning caffeine addiction
Feeding the morning caffeine addiction

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.

Grey Seal beans ready for grinding
Grey Seal beans ready for grinding

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.

A little homemade 'modification' to our coffee machine
A little homemade ‘modification’ to our coffee machine

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…

Coffee