Monday, 23 February 2015

Happisburgh to Walcott...

With a bit of bright sunshine today and previous plans for the day going awry we decided to head up to the coast again. I've written about Happisburgh before (almost exactly a year ago, it seems!) - it was a regular haunt of ours when the boys were small. At that time it had a lovely sandy stretch of beach with shallow pools that formed behind the wooden sea defences, perfect for toddler paddling.


Now, huge chunks of the fields that edged the coast line have been swept into the sea - taking with them the houses that balanced precariously on the edge in the last big tidal surge in December 2013.  It has left the beach a curious mixture of layered cliffs, compacted clay and piles of rocks, in addition to the usual sand and shingle...



It is still a lovely beach but has a rather different feel to the busy, family seaside of 20 years ago, especially today with just a few hardy dog walkers... 

This way faces back toward Eccles-on-sea to the East...


Looking North-West, towards Mundesley, the coast sweeps round and the sea crashes onto the black rocks that are trying to delay the erosion...


There are still reminders of the buildings that fell into the sea, bricks and pipes on the beach and wires hanging off the cliff edge...


The old groynes provide a handy perch for the gulls...


The clay base layer protrudes like grey rocks onto the beach but are soft and sticky to touch, making it easy to see how this coastline has eroded so quickly...


Particularly when you consider the force of the sea pounding repeatedly against it...



Today wasn't stormy and the waves were pretty tame but we could hear the shingle being dragged up and hurled against the remains of the wooden structures that are gradually being washed away...


Quite hypnotic to watch and I'll spare you the ridiculous number of photos I took, transfixed by the sheer power of nature. 

We were a bit short of change for the car park so headed back before driving along to the next easy bit of parking at Walcott. From here, we walked back to Ostend Gap, which is right at the end of the stretch of beach from Happisburgh...


From here the beach has a long concrete walkway, pretty much all the way back via Walcott to Bacton, where the North Sea gas station dominates the coast road that runs alongside this strip of seaside and is just visible in the very distance here...


There are large pebbles caught between the panels of the groynes, making them look something like a giant abacus...



Where you can get down to the beach here it's pretty sandy with just a few well rounded pebbles in wavy lines where they have been dropped by the tide...


Walcott beach is a much more commercial little resort, with a large caravan park just the other side of the road from the beach, shops and an ice cream van. Even on a quiet day, the smell of fast food dominated and there were lots of hopeful gulls loitering along the sea wall...



I quite like the symmetry of the zig-zag old groynes, but I have to admit to preferring my beaches where the needs of human beings are a little less catered for and I can smell the salt of the sea rather than chips! 


By this point the little bit of winter sun had disappeared and it was decidedly chilly. Heading back to the car, these made us smile - almost every post topped with a seagull, looking in formation all facing the same way!


I am about a third of the way along the Norfolk coast now, onto the North Norfolk, rather than the Easterly bit. Next stop Mundesley, which I've been to many times but never actually set foot on the beach, Spring sunshine willing...

S x

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Eccles-on-sea...done

I had a sudden need to just get out today, so. in spite of the persistent drizzle, I resumed my trips to the coast, North Gap at Eccles-on-Sea next on my list.

I have to confess that although I'd never visited the beach there, the village has never been a favourite of mine - an odd collection of dwellings that have a slightly shabby look about them. They are grouped just behind the dunes along a network of unmade roads that could win prizes for their potholes!

Perhaps I didn't give it a very fair assessment today because it certainly was pretty bleak, but this is not the most welcoming approach to a beach...


I think this is all part of the sea defences here; when you see how close the properties are to this point I guess this is unsurprising but it did feel a bit like I was walking into Alcatraz.

It opens straight onto a sandy stretch of beach with the rocky defences off the Sea Palling coast in the distance in one direction...


and the concrete barrier supporting the dune towards Happisburgh in the other direction...


The sky had a completely washed out feel - the kind of day that drains the colour out of everything, leaving the sea looking murky. At the water's edge the beach becomes very shingly... 


with great swathes of washed up seaweed strewn across the tide line...


Sometimes these piles of seaweed are mingled with bright reds and greens but today, even this just looked dull and brown...


I have to confess that I wasn't blown away by Eccles beach. It was cold and wet and generally uninspiring. Perhaps its only redeeming feature that it is a bit out of the way so was deserted (probably because all the sensible people were in the warm at home!!). I didn't hang around, by the time I was heading back to the car my camera lens was speckled with rain but you get a feel for just how close the houses are - this is just outside the flood gates looking inland...


Looking back towards the coast, the sea is literally the other side of the narrow dune in the background - I would guess a distance of no more than 100m behind this bungalow...


I'm sure on a brighter day this place might have a nicer feel to it but I don't think I will be returning to this one, much nicer spots along our long stretch of Norfolk coast.

Sorry, Eccles, but was quite glad not to have wasted a beautiful day ticking this one off the list! And I did blow a few cobwebs away up there. Just need a bit of Spring sunshine to pick me up a bit...

Next time maybe...

Monday, 16 February 2015

thoughts on birthdays...

Today, my eldest son is 26... I'm not quite sure how so much time has passed since this amazing bundle of new life was handed to me. I remember feeling that I didn't quite know what I was supposed to do or feel but that there was a powerful and intuitive desire to protect him and nurture him. Twenty two years old and slightly terrified.


Life is not easy. Challenges are thrown at us along the way and our ability to manage those challenges is what makes us stronger people. Sometimes I do better at that than others. This boy has dealt with his own issues - childhood illness & lifelong dietary restrictions, the range of 'stuff' they have to deal with through school years, learning to live independently and travelling...
He loves his family, cats and the outdoors, has had his heart broken and has friends who will be there for life...
At each stage, my heart has been in my mouth much of the time, a mixture of pride and fear and complete and unconditional love. I admire his resilience and his principles. At times, I have been frustrated by the rashness of youth! I don't think the desire to protect ever goes and if I could save any of my sons having to deal with pain and difficulty I would.

Today, at 26, my boy is coping with admirable maturity, courage and strength with illness that has been life-threatening for someone he loves. It isn't something you expect to deal with in your twenties but he seems to be doing ok.

Happy birthday, lovely boy xxx

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

respite...

I really try to be a 'glass half full' person and most of the time I manage but boy, is life throwing some challenges at my family at the moment. None of them mine to share - all I can do is try to be there for my sons & believe that things will get better.

Add that to a job that seems to know no boundaries (accept this is probably my fault...) and the time for me to recharge is virtually non-existant. The beach trips are on hold for now and today (my day off!) saw me sitting down with the equivalent of 2 solid days of writing to do, deadlines looming at the end of the month. 

But a combination of some Spring sunshine and an inability to concentrate meant that in the end I indulged in diversional therapy - a yoga class (have just gone back to yoga after a 10 yr+ hiatus & loving it) and a spot of pottering in the garden.

I managed to remove a couple of bags of dead leaves and broken twigs, plus a whole load of weeds already making themselves known and uncovered some finds, including these...


I can't tell you how pleased I was to see them - not just because it definitely means spring is on the way, but also because it feels like a 'good sign' (and we do need one of those) because I spent 20 years in my previous house trying to cultivate reluctant snowdrops and never managed a sweet little clump like these. Simple pleasures.

Late afternoon and the courtyard had a slightly golden glow but it was still pleasant enough to just sit for a bit and think peaceful thoughts. In retrospect, I realise I should have moved the two bags of cleared stuff before I took the photo but hey ho...


I'm still keeping my fingers crossed that my rather drastic pruning hasn't proved terminal for some of the ancient roses out here but there are definitely new shoots on most of the plants so I'm optimistic. Whether they will actually flower this year remains to be seen.

My penance for a little avoidance therapy is that I've just spent 6 hours this evening trying to inch towards the deadlines but that little time outside was worth it.

Trying to harness and channel that positive energy...
S x

Sunday, 1 February 2015

flowers on a grey day...

Today has been so cold, wet and grey - whilst I really love the coast in winter, I just couldn't bring myself to drive up there to walk in the rain and freeze so the next step of my beaches tour was postponed in favour of a wander into the city, a lazy breakfast with Tom, coffee and welcome chat with a friend and an evening indoors with my knitting!

There has been the odd patch of sunshine but quickly chased away by dark clouds and biting winds.  I have been glad of some early flowers in my little patch of outdoors space which were nodding brightly at me today. 

Pretty, delicate hellebores...


These seem to have an almost papery, translucent feel, weighed down by the raindrops...


And bright, white primroses, providing a splash of light on such a dull day...



This space outside my door is so sheltered by the surrounding houses of the courtyard that it doesn't seem to catch the frost in spite of the bitter temperatures and the bulbs are all racing ahead, making me feel as though Spring really must be just around the corner. I even spotted new shoots on the roses and fuschia today so am hoping they haven't suffered too badly from the severe pruning I gave them after all!

In the city this afternoon we were treated to an impressive display of starlings coming in to roost...





It was quite an impressive, though slighty eerie, sight as more and more birds joined the flock swooping and swirling like some sort of menacing black wave over the top of the shopping centre. They were difficult to photograph clearly on my phone because they were moving so fast. I'm told this is called a murmuration and although I've seen them flock like this in the countryside before, I can't remember seeing it in the centre of the city. Apparently there have been up to 3000 birds and it was certainly quite mesmerising to watch. 

Here's hoping for brighter weather next weekend...

Sx

Sunday, 25 January 2015

seaside walking...& socks!

I've got to confess it took some internal discussion to brave the cold today and make the effort to drive up to the coast for the next bit of my beach exploration. This week has presented its own challenges and I think the 'keep things in order' bit of me needs some consistency so keeping to my self-imposed target seemed important somehow.

The next beach round the East Norfolk coast is Waxham. This is not a new one to me - I hadn't been for years but it was the haunt of my late teens. Once some of us were able to drive this was our 'go to' for evening barbecues in the dunes or on the beach. Bit of a no no now I think, the authorities are much more protective of what's left of the Norfolk dunes which have seen so much erosion over recent years. But it is the stuff of my memories and there were some happy times here, pre-children, when it was easy to get up and wander along the dunes looking for that perfect secluded spot. Somewhere, there is a rather faded photo of a few of us with big 80's hair and batwing jumpers (anyone remember those?!!) on Waxham beach.

This isn't one of the more commercialised beaches - there is no car park, so you just find a spot by the side of the pot-holed road and walk up to the ramp over the sea defences...


I think this is a lovely approach to a beach but it is what makes it something of a challenge with small children. I can remember trying to bring two toddlers and a baby here, having had to park the car at the end of the road and walk all the way back with the paraphernalia required for small people - blankets, picnic, windbreak, toys, buggy (hopeless in the sand but think we thought the baby might sleep in it!) etc etc... After a few trips like that we found alternatives for favourite family days out, so its a good few years since I'd been here.

And it is a beautiful beach. Once you go over the top of that dune ramp, this is what greets you...


Granted, the concrete sea defences are a necessary, but not especially atttractive backdrop, but the sand stretches away from you, even when the tide is quite a long way in like today. Off towards Horsey to the south east and curving round towards Sea Palling looking west...


This stretch of coastline is peppered with rocks that have been dropped to try to arrest the apporach of the sea, each marked with tall stakes in the sea.

I have been really lucky with the weather on these weekend walks and today was no different - the temperature gauge on the car said 3C but there was a bit of warmth in the bright sunshine and next to no breeze.

The breakers seemed full of light...


and we cast long shadows across the sand...


The old sea defences were wooden groynes, which have been supplemented now by these huge rocks...


I know there is good reason for them, but I can't help thinking they look a bit out of place on these beaches - there are no rocks like that in Norfolk, that I know of.

We walked along the beach to Sea Palling - as you get further along here the beach becomes a bit more shingly...


before getting more sandy again, with clear footprints from the people who come here with their furry friends...


There was a considerable range of sizes of dog, if the prints were anything to go by!


The seashore shelves away quite steeply here and we hadn't really noticed how far in the waves were coming...


...until we found ourselves hopping through wet sand to the rocks...


I'm always amazed at just how fast the sea approaches. You think you have loads of time, then suddenly its there!


Sea Palling, although not far up the coast, is a much busier resort. Not so much this time of year, but in the summer it is full of families. There is a car park, amusements, a couple of cafes and a chippie and has a much more 'English seaside' kind of feel (complete with some slightly bawdy menu signs in the style of old seaside postcards!)


It also has a lifeboat station and they were out exercising today...


I have every admiration for these crews, who often have long family histories of involvement with the lifeboats, and provide an essential service in this area where we have so much coastline. The RNLI is a charity I readily support, though today I could only empty the rather paltry contents of my purse into their bucket.

The path up to the dunes at Sea Palling takes you to a point on the Norfolk Coast Path...



This path extends the original Norfolk Coast Path long distance trail from 45 to 63 miles, with an extra couple of sections from Sea Palling to Weybourne and then on to Cromer. The original path takes you from Cromer to Hunstanton and there are plans to open a further stretch from Sea Palling in the other direction. Maybe one day, I should repeat this walk and properly do the coastal walk, as a linear walk rather than several little walks at each beach stretch. Would need to find a bit of time off work though...!

Tom couldn't resist the smell of the doughnuts from the cafe...


There is something particularly delicious about these hot, fluffy, sweet treats on a cold day at the seaside. Never quite understood why they are always sold in fours... although the fact that he managed to polish them off in record time perhaps accounts for it!

On the way back we spotted this submerged stairway...


Makes you realise how far up the sand has drifted, I wonder how much higher it will come?

We walked back along the dune ridge - it seemed much narrower than I recall and from here you can see just how close the farmland is to the sea under those open Norfolk skies...



The sun was behind the clouds by this point and had taken the temperature down with it so we were quite glad to be heading back towards Waxham's little church and the car...


I was also very glad of my latest sock knitting spell - maybe its in my mind but I'm sure these homemade woolly socks are warmer than their shop-bought counterparts...


I tried a different pattern this time and although I like them, think I will probably stick to my old trusted pattern in future, all that ribbing made these much slower. They look a bit uneven in this picture but I promise they are the same length! In fact for the first time ever I bothered to try to match the starting point so that I have (almost!) two matching socks!


On to the next pair now, with some lovely Regia wool - has become something of a therapy at the moment!

Next week, Eccles on Sea, somewhere I've driven by on numerous occasions but have never gone down to the beach, so don't really know what to expect there. If the weather is kind I might make it a longer walk and head on to Happisburgh, where there is a lighthouse that featured on Challenge Anneka many years ago...

Til then...

S x