26 Mar 2012

The Burnhams

Burnham Market Sign
Burnham Market sign

The Burnhams is the name given to the villages grouped around the River Burn.  Burnham Market is the main village and is known as 'Chelsea-on-sea' as it is full of trendy shops, similar to the ones down the King's Road.  We stopped by there whilst on holiday recently  - it is a charming place and the shops all have quaint frontages, but inside are a labyrinth of nooks and crannies.

Burnham Market
 The picture bottom left is a house on the main street with the biggest pair of rosemary bushes by the front door that I have ever seen.  There is a second-hand bookshop in the village and as Rowan at circle of the year had recommended a couple of books about Norfolk I went in search of them.  The book shop had loads of little rooms crammed with books and with no help from a pre-occupied sales assistant, managed to find the books in question both by Lilias Rider Haggard - Rowan already has one of them on her Desert island books list (part 2) see link above.
Brazen Head bookshop

This is a passage that I found in the Norfolk Notebook:-

Grey and sunless it may have been, but the marsh was full of colour.  The pale masses of the bents, thick and soft as cream coloured fur.  The brilliant emerald patches of young grass round the pools of flood water.  The browns and umbers and golds of the reeds, standing with rain-straight stems and dark plumed heads all leaning one way like the sheaves which bowed down to Joseph, the light shining silver along the spear points of their leaves.  Grey November and the thraldom of winter's hand upon the land.  The cry of the redshank and the distant snarl of the tide on the shingle.  The long line of woods and rounded hills behind - the pewter-grey sea before - this corner of England which once it holds your heart is more lovely than any place on earth.  Beautiful with a hint of secrecy which haunts it, as the memory of a dark and tender sadness clouds the brilliance of a summer day.

I like the way she describes the 'snarl of the tide on the shingle' - I have often wondered how to describe the sound - 'snarl' does it perfectly.

Burnham Overy
 We often pass through Burnham Overy but have never stopped to take pictures before.  There are just a few houses and a watermill but it is very picturesque and in summer with the ducks and swans on the river would be a perfect place to stop for a picnic.

Burnham Windmill
Burnham windmill
 The windmill that you see in Burnham worked in conjunction with the watermill.  The windmill is 6 stories high and is now a private holiday home.

Burnham Overy Staithe is on the coast and provides moorings and launching for boats.

Burnham Overy Staithe
Burnham Overy Staithe
 Burham Thorpe is where Nelson grew up, with his father rector of the local church.  Edmund Nelson moved to Burnham Thorpe in 1755 after his marriage.  Horatio 6th of their 11 children was born in 1758 in a house called The Shooting Box.  Horatio went away to study and after his early years in the Navy, returned for 5 years to Burnham Thorpe with his new wife.

Burnham Thorpe Sign
Burnham Thorpe sign

Lord Nelson Sign
Originally called The Plough
The pub in Burnham Thorpe was built in 1637 as The Plough but fell into disrepair, and in 1966 the new landlord restored it to its 1793 state, renaming it the Lord Nelson.

Finallly, there are several more Burnhams which are residential villages - Burnham Deepdale and Burnham Norton, Burnham Thorpe and Burnham Westgate - as you can imagine, it does get rather confusing.

21 Mar 2012

La Bicyclette

The first day of spring and time to get my bicycle out of its winter hibernation

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The bicycle is a curious vehicle.  Its passenger is its engine.
John Howard

Over the winter months I seem to have done nothing but sit.
Reading, blogging, watching tv.
Time to get the old muscles working again.

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Life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance you must keep moving.
Albert Einstein

So out comes the bike for an early morning trip to the allotment.
The tyres are soft, so a quick hunt for the pump ensues.

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Life is like a ten-speed bicycle.  Most of us have gears we never use.
Charles Schulz

And I set off.  Slowly at first, just to regain my balance.
Already my leg muscles are beginning to feel stretched and a little sore.

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Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race
H.G. Wells

I start huffing and puffing,
my little heart pounding as I struggle with a small incline

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Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia
H.G. Wells

I resist the temptation to dismount and push
- don't give in - you can do this

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The bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women
than anything else in the world.
Susan Anthony 1895

I finally reach my destination, breathing heavily.
I swing my leg over the saddle
And my legs turn to jelly as I try to stand

It is astonishing how unfit I have become over the winter.
Now all I have to do is cycle back home again.
Someone pass me the 'Deep Heat'.

19 Mar 2012

Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont

My taste in films varies, dependant on what sort of mood I am in - like most people I suppose.  Sometimes I go for romance, sometimes something a little bloodthirsty, and sometimes a nice gentle film that touches my heart.

Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont is one such film.  A gentle story of an aging lady who goes to live in a hotel and after falling down on the pavement becomes friends with the young man who helps her.  The story revolves around the residents of the hotel, who are all a little quirky, to say the least - and Mrs. Palfrey becomes involved with them as she settles down to her new life.

Of course, one of the main attractions, is Rupert Friend, a relative newcomer to film then, who has since gone on to appear as Albert in the film about the young Victoria, and the  one-time boyfriend of Keira Knightley.  It is in the same category as 'Ladies in Lavender' and 'Enchanted April' where nothing much happens but is strangely compelling.

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.