A simple Christmas tradition chez Brown is an escapade to the North Norfolk coast, usually on either Boxing Day or New Year’s Day. If it’s the former, it’s to undo the culinary excesses of the previous day. If it’s the latter, it is to stride with optimism in the reliably cold and clear first day of the new year, while contemplating what the next 525,000 minutes will bring.
After an excessively digital year, it was invigorating to scrunch and crunch across the pixelated shingle beach at Salthouse. I am reliably informed that the last Ice Age forced a glacier torwards the sea, creating a terminal moraine (a.k.a. a long hill) just short of the Norfolk coastline. This shelters the gently rolling landscape of farmland that is indelibly marked on my childhood. Ascending and descending this last gentle hill before the coast conceals the North Sea until the final moments of the journey.
That scrunch and crunch is superb exercise for most of the muscles in your legs. The beach stretches to the horizon in one direction, and almost as far in the other. Distant church towers punch the horizon line, and birds dip below the lee of the dunes in search for shelter. Allowing for complete personal mobility (this is not a disabled-friendly beach) Salthouse is one of the most accessible beaches on the north Norfolk coast. There are no parking charges (and an hourly Coast Hopper bus if that offends you) and the beach is right there, sandwiched in a mini terminal moraine of its own, artificially banked up to form a shingle dune to protect the renowned marshes that shelter between the coastline and the village.
Mounting this bank of shingle, the North Sea presents itself in its wintry glory, and a cold sea sets down to penetrating your clothes following a long journey across the sea from Scandanavia.
This year, my encounter with the North Sea was on Boxing Day. The immensity of a new year had not yet arrived, and naïve ambitions to set goals and resolutions had not yet been nurtured. We walked along an endless beach with no target in sight or in mind, ploughing on against a bitterly humid Baltic wind, sniffling into gloves and remarking on the pale white skulls of long beaked birds that met their maker along the edge of this sea. Half forgotten couplets blew about in the wind, and a modest attempt at poetry to describe the situation was swept away, liable only to be blogged about in shapeless prose a few days later.