‘Staithe’ is an Old English word for wharf – a quay used for the loading and unloading of cargo. Initially Brancaster was a busy fishing harbour specialising in shellfish, but in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries it became noted particularly for in the shipping of coal, grain and malt (it was reputed to have the largest malthouse in Europe). With the demise of sailing vessels and the development of other forms of transport, Brancaster fell into decline. There is now only a small fishing fraternity and the harbour is devoted primarily to a large number of pleasure craft
Wells-next-the-Sea was once a busy port, especially in the nineteenth century. It boasted a fishing fleet that fished off Iceland, imported coal for the industrial area of the north east and was a major supplier of malt to Dutch and London breweries. A reminder of the past is still evident in the granary, pictured in the first photograph. The granary ceased production in 1990 and has since been converted into luxury flats. Wells is now primarily known as a seaside resort, but it still has a small fishing industry specialising in whelks, crab and lobster.
The beach at Brancaster has many ‘moods’. At low tide all appears calm and peaceful but the speed with which the rising tide approaches can be extremely dangerous, leaving happy paddlers cut off from safety. In stormy weather the boisterous and sometimes violent North Sea attacks the vulnerable stretches of the coast and there is a constant battle between land v sea.
Beach in October
Where land and level acres of sea merge
seamlessly, waves hypnotically lapping,
endlessly oozing over ridged flats
scattered with brittle quills,bleached shard,
skeleton shells, oceanic detritus.
Drifting awareness of keening gulls,salt on the tongue.
As life blurs into the vast movement
of an ever widening scene, this brief,
vital moment in time imprints
deeply into the palimpsest of the mind.
Once an active small harbour, Thornham Harbour, North Norfolk, has become a mooring at the end of a muddy creek. From the harbour to the sea is a 20 minute walk across salt marshes at low tide, although with spring tides, there is extensive flooding. In addition to its legitimate trading purposes, in the eighteenth century the harbour became notorious for its smuggling activities – wool, tea, tobacco, alcohol etc.
When I view this picture of beach huts – standing shoulder to shoulder like books on a bookshelf – they seem to symbolize the determination of the owners to enjoy themselves. The colours are almost aggressively cheerful and the huts maxinise the opportunity for pleasure and fun, regardless of the vagaries of the English weather! Then, too, there is the camaraderie ……. !
North Norfolk is noted for its flat landscape and its wide expanse of sky. Along the coast the sea breezes produce a constantly changing skyscape.
Sometimes the mood is quiet, with clouds moving gently by.
Sometimes it is busy, with puffs of cloud scudding along, driven by the breeze.
And at other times there is a gathering together, an accumulation of cloud, in more ominous fashion.