Sunday, 11 October 2009

A Taste of North Norfolk

Big skies, salt marshes and pure nature make the North Norfolk coast a truly beautiful place to be, and I think we have been blessed with one of the finest weeks of the summer* that's going to make our holiday all the more enjoyable.

The whole point of our break in Blakeney is to relax. There's no itinerary and no over inflated expectations of what we'll experience while we're here either.
Our cottage is tucked away next to the old Friary Farm house and just a short stroll along a country footpath to the quayside.

Crabbers line the harbour, legs dangling over the
quayside at Blakeney

Looking at Blakeney today, it is hard to imagine that it used to be a bustling and thriving port. This was hundreds of years ago, of course, and time and tide have gradually silted up the harbour, meaning that the town is now set back from the coast by a good mile or so.
This, however, hasn’t affected Blakeney’s appeal as it’s quite a popular getaway location. Despite the number of visitors it doesn’t fill up so much that it becomes detracting, and that’s just the way I like it.

Ever popular with children who fill their days with crabbing off the quay, water-filled buckets at the ready as the eager crabbers dangle twine baited with bacon into the muddy channel, Blakeney has a certain charm that gives you the feeling that it is still very much set in a pleasant time in the past.

The tide's out and the mud is perfect for samphire

Sailing boats line the edge of the channel or cut as it’s known, their hulls stranded in the mud waiting for the return of the tide.
I’m amazed at what is able to grow in such a salty environment. There’s sea lavender, sea blight and of course the ubiquitous and very edible marsh samphire.

Although food hunting is not the primary purpose of our trip, we can’t avoid it, as Norfolk is bountiful with fine produce. Seafood is plentiful and it is common to see a crab shed selling not only crab, but local lobsters and mussels too.

Outside the deli in Blakeney

Picnic Fayre delicatessen at Cley-next-the-Sea

Both Blakeney and it’s neighbouring village, Cley-next-the-sea have delicatessens.
We pay a visit to Picnic Fayre in Cley and it doesn’t disappoint. Taking heed of the chalkboard outside we pick up some local homemade lavender bread, a focaccia style loaf fragrant with rosemary as well as the lavender and the added spike from some chilli flakes.

The inviting chalk board

Soft, spicy and scented lavender bread

We also need a bottle of wine.The deli has a good selection of wines from around the world and at a resonable price too, but the one bottle turns into two when a Norfolk sloe wine beckons from the shelf. This turns out to be rather good, not at all ‘home brew’ in nature, but well refined in flavour.

A good country wine – sloe-ly does it!

The place has become quite busy by now, so we stand in a small queue waiting to pay. I’m sure our wait has been engineered so that we don’t miss the pork pies nestling in the counter. They do look very tempting, so we add a couple of handmade, rare breed pork and caramelised red onion pies to our shopping.
I’m so glad we did, as they turn out to be the best we have ever tasted. The pastry is light and and crisp and not at all lardy and the meat is succulent and full of flavour with just the right amount of herbs and seasoning. Perfect

Could these be the best pork pies in the world?

Cley's famous smokehouse

Still on the food trail we cross the road to Cley’s famous smokehouse. Through the small bright pink door we enter the shop and are presented with cabinets full of smoked delights. There's so much to choose from, kippers, buckling, mussels, haddock, red herring… but we decide on the smoked mackerel, naturally cured and smoked using an age old family recipe, they are plump, juicy and full of flavour, making an ideal breakfast.

Just up the road from Blakeney, Wiveton Hall

Slightly dubious spelling but delicious all the same

North Norfolk has so much to offer and when it was time to leave I was feeling hungry for more, but I guess that'll have to be another visit some time in the future…

*Holiday taken in the middle of August

Here are some links for the places I've mentioned:

Holkham Beach is probably the best beach I've ever been too.

For more photos from my trip visit Flickr

Note: This article is now published on the Norfolk Holiday Guide website


mangocheeks said...

I am a bit of envious of that sloe wine bottle. A little while ago My father in law gave me a 'small' taste of sloe gin (given to him by a friend) since then I have been on the hunt for sloe berries to make my own. The wine does look really good.

Victoria said...

My family has a cottage 5 miles from Blakeney, so we visit regularly. I like all the places you mention especially The Wiveton Hall Fruit Farm, it is my number 1 tea shop! If you ever visit again and they are serving their carrot cake you must, must try it, it's the best I've ever eaten.

Cheeky Spouse said...

Hi Victoria,
Ooh I am envious – lucky you!
I fell in love with North Norfolk and have been having reverse homesickness ever since.
I'm hoping to go back again this year, so will definitely have to try Wiveton Hall's carrot cake. Thanks for the recommendation.

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