We were in the middle of watching an episode of Grand Designs when Marek looked out the window and saw the sky lighting up with pinks and oranges. The tide was coming in and it all just came together for an evening sunset kayak. So we turned everything off and out went. Here is a taster of that sunset feeling.
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 long awaited tulip season has begun with the first early bulbs bursting into bloom. Our new bulbs from Pieter Nyssan have come out and the monte orange was a flamboyant opener to the season. It was followed by Royal Acres and then Princess Irene and Cardinal Red. The bunches picked on the allotment are filling the house with their musky honey scent. In the courtyard, last years pink tulips in the central bed glow in the evening light. At the same time some of our new bulbs, apricot parrot tulips and belle epoch, have filled the troughs under the window with a warm glow during the day.
Elsewhere in the garden the Rosemary is flowering and the peony shoots have surfaced. On the allotment we have scattered Cosmo seeds in preparation for the floating flowers of Autumn and summers final call.
Under the magnolias and on the hill sides swathes of blue bells flourish. On our walk behind Blakeney Downs on Kettlehill Plantation their soft scent fills the air.
In Blakeney Cut the first tips of samphire can be seen just a few millimetres above the mud, a teaser of samphire on sourdough breakfasts to come. We have resumed our nightly visits to Mariners Hill, or Sunset Hill as we call it, to start the sunset season which lasts until October. The sun now sets North of Wells Pines and over the marsh in it yearly migration to The Point for the solstice. While not yet warm enough to sit with a cocktail, the colours of the evening sky make the trip magical.
Inland the rape fields are vibrant yellow and the countryside seems to glow in their warm reflection. All around wildlife pairs up and this pageant is played out most formally by the bowing pigeons on the rooftops and tree branches. In Holkham Hall’s deer park, and my driveway, the Tawny owls start to roost; their haunting calls drifting in the twilight.
In the kitchen gorse wine is set down, locking the coconut flavours in for a winters day. It will be at least nine months until it is ready.
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.
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).
At 7pm we set out along the golf course and walked the coast path back home. Here are some highlights.
For more of the story in photos click here for the Flickr gallery.
There are signs all around of summer’s farewell in Blakeney Harbour, albeit one protracted by days which continue warm and dry. The dusk light last night was very different from just a few weeks ago, something I only noticed when I looked back over the photos from an evening walk along the Cut. As the sun sets ever closer to the mainland, retracing the steps of the westward arc which took it far out over the sea in mid-June, so the harbour itself changes in character.
The evidence mounts in other ways too. The mooring jetty for the big barge has returned and, one by one, the little boats will start to disappear from their buoys, seeking a cosy berth on land. The car park is becoming sparse and that subtle tipping point has been reached where there are few enough walkers on marsh that people have started to say ‘hello’ to each other again.
You never know when you’ll be treated to one of nature’s firework displays, but last night, a calm and cool night in the harbour, we enjoyed one of the best we’ve ever seen. We took the kayak out just before high tide and paddled out down the Cut, into the main harbour. The sunset behind the hills of the sea bank was spectacular in itself, flooding the water with golden light, but the sky glow which followed was beautiful.
We sat and watched, another kayaker paddling up to join us, and took a couple of photographs. There’s no processing in the photo above, that is really how it looked, although I still find it hard to believe such colours can appear in the sky.
We had an amazing night the other night. Sunset coincided with high tide and it seemed the ideal time for a sunset kayak.
The cloud cover, however, covered the action in the sky but the stillness and calm made it just as atmospheric. As we kayaked along, a couple drinking wine on the back of their moored boat in the cut called out, “um… you have a seal behind you.” And there he was; a young harbour seal. We named him Cedric.
He had been quietly swimming behind the boat out of site just as you come out of Blakeney Harbour. As we went along he followed. We started playing games. If we sped up he would too, but then we would slam on the brakes and he would almost bump into the boat. He’d start on one side of the boat and dive and while we were looking for him he would pop up on the other side and splash us. As we kept up all the way to the sailing dinghies. We turned for home reluctantly, thinking he would continue you on to the point, but no he came back with us. All the way to the quay. At one point we paused and he came up and nosed the boat. Then he took the tip of the oar in his mouth. It was amazing. He was just out for a fun swim and we were lucky to be invited along.
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.