A Postcard from Cley

Cley-next-the-Sea from the coastal path on the North Norfolk Coast

As I write this there’s a break in the weather and those huge skies which define the North Norfolk Coast are filled with scudding clouds against the brilliant blue above the important coastal village of Cley-next-the-Sea. My wife Teresa and I often come up to this beautiful part of the country.

From Saxon times Cley was an important port on the River Glaven, one of the busiest in England. Fish, spices, coal, barley and oats arrived and left our shores through Cley. Many of the houses in Cley are defined by their gently arched Flemish gables, a reminder of our trade with the Low Countries over the centuries.

As we arrived we were blessed with a beautiful sunset which framed the famous 18th century windmill, a favourite subject amongst artists.

St Margaret’s church dates predominately from the early 14th century, its grandeur speaks of the port’s trade and wealth.

From the 17th century land reclamation increasingly separated Cley from the sea, and although it is no longer next-the-sea it is surrounded by marshes which provide internationally important habitat for rare breeding and visiting birds. The Cley Marshes bird reserve has been in the care of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust which was founded in 1926. Amongst the resident breeding birds are bitterns, marsh harriers and spoonbills which are joined by winter visitors which include numerous wading birds and brent geese.

We love to go out to the shingle ridge where at this time of year it can be difficult to discern where the pale grey sea ends and the sky begins. The wind and rain coming in from the North Sea makes you feel really alive.

The 18th century Cley Windmill against the setting sun

Together with Teresa I’m adding new and precious memories to those of this place from my childhood and our children’s. I would often holiday with my grandparents on this bit of the coast. The adventure would begin with the journey from Sussex in our elderly pale blue Morris Travellers. The pilgrimage to Cley and Blakeney for family holidays has continued across the generations.

It’s fascinating how important place is to us as human creatures, it roots us in the procession of our lives and blesses us, as shared stories of joys and sorrows unite us.

In Sussex Steyning shares a similar story to Cley and was once an important port. The green opposite the town’s magnificent church is said to have been where the harbour was from Saxon times.

I love Sussex and the North Norfolk Coast. It remains to say – Wish you were here!