As an adult, I’ve made quite a hobby of exploring the locations where favourite novels were set so when we drove up to Norfolk last summer, I felt as though we had driven off the edge of the world and ended up in some other land where everything happens at a different pace. I was in that innocent and gentle world that Ransome had described to me so long ago.
Sky and sea and land seem to come together, and black cattle grazed in the marsh country that runs between the coast road and the beach, reminding me of the Camargue in the south of France. Wildflowers and fragile stems with rustling seedpods grew along the broads and there were hazy purple fields of lavender further inland.
There are the vast beaches that stretch to distant horizons, rolling sand dunes, little sailing harbours among the creeks and salt marshes, and, just inland, gently rolling patchwork fields edged by ancient oaks, churches and villages of pretty brick and flint cottages.
Beachside stalls sell seasonal shellfish, usually crab in an unfussy sandwich, but fresh oysters as well, served up with a slice of lemon, optional Tabasco and a side of lovely, salty samphire
In blue summer sunshine, the heat softened by a gentle salty breeze, it was an all too brief but glorious visit, so thank you Norfolk – and Arthur Ransome - for turning my childhood imaginings into reality!
The Coast: Norfolk
by Frances Cornford
As on the highway’s quiet edge
He mows the grass beside the hedge,
The old man has for company
The distant, grey, salt-smelling sea,
A poppied field, a cow and calf,
The finches on the telegraph.
Across his faded back a hone,
He slowly, slowly scythes alone
In silence of the wind-soft air,
With ladies’ bedstraw everywhere,
With whitened corn, and tarry poles,
And far-off gulls like risen souls.