Friday, 20 May 2011

The Pictures On My Wall (3)

When we think about the coast we picture in our mind's eye a place where the land ends and the sea begins. Usually we expect a line of cliffs to clearly mark the boundary. At the foot of the cliffs is a nice beach. The tide goes in and out, alternately hiding and exposing the strip of sand, but there is never any doubt as to which is sea and which is land. The reality, though, is seldom as simple as we imagine....

....especially if that reality is the North Norfolk coast. Here there is an area of transition as much as a mile wide in places - there is land that seems to want to be water and there is sea that is striving to become dry land. Sand-bars swell up from below the oceans and muddy creeks cut new channels as they wind lethargically down to the sea. You can not even trust your own eyes in this wild and windswept world. A shimmering, glassy stretch of water might just turn out to be wet sand lit by the low sun, while a harmless area of beach may give way beneath your feet. 

What is an alien environment to us though is heaven on earth to so many birds. Waders probe the mud, egrets stalk the shallows, gulls scavenge at the water's edge and flocks of dunlin or knot twist and turn over the salt-marsh. In winter snow buntings and shore larks might be encountered on the beaches while out to sea rafts of scoters or long-tailed ducks may be glimpsed offshore.

And I love it. It's difficult stuff to photograph though. Mostly it's just too vast, too flat and too undifferentiated to make a good composition. It doesn't stop me from trying though and I've got plenty of photographs that look like nothing in particular to prove it! But I think this shot achieves what I intended to show. I like the swirling patterns of the channels in the foreground mud, the way that the distant sandbanks (Scolt Head Island actually) seem to float above the creek and the two figures (if you can see 'em) look lost in this endless no man's land.

The picture also seems to have taken over the room which houses it as the walls and furniture in the room echo the pale blue and rusty browns of the photo. There's a model of a wading bird and various shells on the sideboard and one other photo, also of the Norfolk coast.

Take care.


  1. I really love the second of the photos. East Anglia is a wonderful place, I love it there though I am more familiar with Suffolk than Norfolk. Now that my son has moved to the border of the two counties I'm hoping to get to know Norfolk better.

  2. It certainly is a wonderful area. It took me an awfully long time of hiking through the Alps, Pyrenees, Atlas Mountains and then through most of the British National Parks before I came to appreciate what was just outside my back door. I'll keep an eye out for you in Norfolk.

  3. what a beautiful post - lovely photos and eloquent writing. In a few days I shall post a couple of pics of the Solway Firth - lots of mud and creeks there too.


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