5 Mar 2012

Big Blue Sky

We are taking a break soon, off to the North Norfolk coast - a place that I have been visiting since I was a teenager, caravanning with a groups of giggling girls, camping in tents, staying in hotels and cottages - I have grown up with Norfolk as my holiday destination of preference.
Old Hunstanton
 The marshes and muddy creeks of Burnham Overy Staithe provided inspiration for much of Kevin Crossley-Hollands poetry - especially Waterslain - a sequence of 25 poems evoking characters from the village such
as beachcombers, wildfowlers and local historians (waterslain is an old Norfolk word meaning flooded). see here.  Here are the opening lines of Beachcombers
Faithful as a wordfisher
there he goes, old magpie of the foreshore
Face chafed and chapped like driftwood

Burnham Overy Staithe
Burnham Overy Staithe

What a coast this is
with its saltmarshes and lavender
its channels and dunes
bays and crumbling Ice Age cliffs
lovelier and wilder than its Suffolk neighbour.
Arctic, melancholic, beautiful, treacherous,
with sandbanks and quicksands,
storms and floods,
and never-ending erosion
Peter Sagar
 My earliest holidays began in Hunstanton, but gradually over the years, I have worked my way down the coast, to the wilder, bleaker places - stark in their beauty.  There is just so much space here - vast beaches of white sand, just you and the bird-life, the strong salty smell of the saltmarsh, the creeks winding out to the sea.  A bird-watchers paradise.  And the big, blue sky that goes on forever.


Rainbow over Morston
Storm over Morston

This part of the coastline is designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty - and quite rightly so. It is like there is an invisible thread that draws me back time after time, my spiritual home.

In 1937 Henry Williamson, the author of Tarka the Otter, purchased Old Hall Farm in Stiffkey, which lies between Wells and Morston.  He recorded his experiences in 'The Story of a Norfolk Farm' (1941), the book contains some memorable descriptions of the north Norfolk coast:-

The sea was half a mile from the village, and then steeply down to a pebbly shore and a creek where a fishermans boat was moored.
We sat down on the grass gazing out over the marshes, one vast gut-channelled prairie of pale blue sea-lavender. 
Afar was the sea merging in summer mist and the palest azure sky.
There was no sound: the air was still: not a bird was stirring.
This was the sun I remembered from boyhood days,
the ancient harvest sunshine of that perished time when the earth was fresh ...

Henry Williamson's home in Stiffkey
There are literally dozens of plays and films that have used this part of Norfolk for film sequences see here ,
including Shakespeare in Love ,where the final scene was filmed on the beach at Holkham.

Holkham beach
So, in a weeks' time I will be re-visiting my old haunts, come rain or shine I will be breathing in lungfuls of fresh coastal air and feeling the wind stinging my cheeks red, hear the call of the curlew, and sitting by roaring log fires eating the fishy delights that Norfolk is famous for.  Little wonder I have a soft spot for this place, for all through history people have been drawn to its wild beauty.


  1. Great photos Elaine. This takes me back about 30 years when we used to visit Norfolk when the children were small. We stayed in a converted barn in a village called Causton near Aylsham. From there we would drive out each day either to Holkham, Blakeney, Sherringham, Cromer and more besides. What memories you have given me.

  2. I've really enjoyed your post, it brought back lots of lovely memories of visits to the coast along there through Norfolk into Suffolk. I love the bleakness, wide skies and wonderful sunsets. I have a watercolour of Morston key on my living room wall:)

  3. I don't know Norfolk at all. It is something we say we must do - my husband holidayed there as a child a lot, and until recently had family in Happisburgh.

    The earlier photos reminded me very much of the colours and atmosphere of the Northumberland Coast, those huge jewel blue skies and acid yellow foliage take me straight back to the Farne islands last October - so dramatic and beautiful.

    Enjoy your break, and I hope the weather is as kind to you as in the pictures.

  4. Oops sorry - that should have said Morston Quay!:)

  5. How wonderful to be going off to Norfolk! I've been visiting since I was a child as my Uncle Vic and Aunty May lived near Norwich - Aunty May at 91 still does live there. It's a county I love and now that my son and his family are living near Diss I shall have lots of chances to explore it more. Have you read the books by Lilias Rider Haggard - Norfolk Life, Norfolk Notebook and Country Scrapbook? I think you'd enjoy them. She lived in Ditchingham a few miles from the village where my son now lives. Have a lovely holiday.

  6. A delightful post about a lovely place which I've always enjoyed visiting.
    Have a good time! Flighty xx

  7. Enjoy Elaine. I went for the only time about five years ago and was totally smitten. We camped near Blakeney and spent an idyllic week exploring and paddling. Though the enormous dead sperm whale was a little unsettling - especially as our dog insisted on rollong on its tail! Joy. D


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