yesterday was an adventure – spending the day stranded by the tide at Blakeney spit, arriving on the high tide first thing, and waiting for the next high tide before being able to sail back to the harbour creek.

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the tide was a biggish one (full moon) and by ten we were manoeuvring up the creek, past flooded saltmarsh banks in company with a few early seal trip boats in one Cockle, to save swimming to the second boat, whose mooring was drowned by the tide. no sails; unfortunately there wasn’t enough wind for sailing in the creeks and lagoon, and not enough water later when there was some wind.

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this time there would not be seal-boats full of people landing and wandering past our picnic.

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we manage to transfer to Elsie without falling into the flooding tide, and motor up the stream past incoming early sailors, Skipper standing at the tiller to get a good view –

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it’s not easy avoiding moored boats and sandbanks, even with the outboard.

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very quickly we are heading for the creek on the spit, following Miss Muppet in past the line of sticks in the mud which show the deeper channel. (this is so Arthur Ransom) although we discovered later, at low tide, that to sail in on the left of them is rather better than on the right, as we did this time, as they are on the right bank of the channel. but the tide was so high it didn’t matter.

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the creek is just around the corner from the usual landing place and offers a safer mooring for the boats.

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MM’s first mate waiting to help us tie up.

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the little beach here is drowned at ten-thirty am, and we paddle to unpack the picnic from MM.

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the saltmarsh around under water too; the creek looked like a lagoon reaching towards the seaward side of the spit.

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a recce is proposed to find the right place to spend the day, and we walk across the dunes, which are dotted with little wooden huts, slightly mysterious to us at this point, but during the day various people appeared from/around them, sunbathing, walking dogs, making trips to the beach, and we discover that they are privately owned, like beach huts.

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the spit is a nature reserve; the only way to get onto it except by boat is to walk from Cley or to wade across the mud, the channel and sand banks at low tide.

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the sea lavender in the saltmarsh is still in flower in the silted up parts of the spit behind the dunes

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most of the dunes are small grassy hillocks, full of wild flowers and tussocks of grass

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sea holly

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sea rocket full of bees and butterflies along the edge of the seaward beach

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looking over towards Stiffkey, this is another lagoon formed by the ever growing spit as it deposits beach materials further west

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after forty minutes or so the boats are high and dry, safe to leave for the day.

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we proceed to the almost empty beach fully laden and set up camp.

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magically clean and sparkling waves on a shallow shelving sandy beach have Elsie’s crew changed and in there almost immediately.

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it takes longer for me to get in; twenty five years since I swam in the North Sea – but after a long paddle taking photos and getting my shorts wet I am persuaded.

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the water is refreshing, a bit of a cold sting to it, but pleasantly so. I see a small jellyfish and don’t stay in much longer after that.

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just a gentle swell. a seal pops up behind Elsie’s skipper; he doesn’t see it at all.

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coffee and cake satisfy hungry crews for the time being and we settle down to the sunday papers, keeping an eye on the tide and passing shipping. there are perhaps a hundred common and grey seals hauled up on stiffkey sand bar, lying on their backs with tails curled up in the air. this pretty old crab boat, Harvester, is out for the day; we see her coming in to her mooring much later in the evening, while we are waiting …..

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a wonderful day for wandering about, beachcombing, trying to fish, in MM’s skipper’s case, unsuccessfully, or just lying there, and eating of course.

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the high tide mark turns out to consist mostly of millions of dead ladybirds, those of the huge influx over the past week or so which didn’t fly quite far enough.

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the sea slips away

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huge dark clouds shadow the land and from time to time shade us, but out to sea the sky remains that shimmering blue.

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the retreating tide exposes a wreck, marked by a cardinal point, apparently a fishing boat. the water level goes down another six feet or so below this at low tide.

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eventually we have a very carnivorous lunch cooked on disposable barbecues, sending smoke up the beach in a fairly antisocial manner; huge lamb chops and mackerel fillets, deboned and frizzled; these are declared the best thing any of us have eaten. it certainly beats cooking mackerel indoors where the stink of burnt fish oil lingers for days.

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more lying about/beachcombing. curiosities of the tidemark – the top half of a garden tiger moth –

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we are sitting in-between sea-rocket plants, which rely on the tide to disperse their seeds but evidently use the landplant’s reliable pollinators, and some sort of low prickly green plant.

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the wind, although not unpleasant, continues to blow all day, leaving tiny dunes behind stones or any other object, which gets buried or undermined, depending on its shape.

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low tide.

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objects of beauty

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and others of differing qualities, emerge from the sand.

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we wait for the tide to come back in.

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and wait

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and wait

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until the wreck is covered, then we make our way back to the boats past the old lifeboat house with its lookout

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the boats are still very high and dry at seven pm; we wait another hour, watching the tide creep up the deeper gravel-bottomed zigzag channel of the creek. a parade of boats comes up the main channel; the big sailing barge Juno, turning around into her mooring; Harvester towing a lighter; a raucous fishing boat playing some very loud music, smaller sailing boats and a couple of motor cruisers. people are out late water-skiing, catching the tide with the last of the daylight. at last the water is rushing through into the beach lagoon below our boats.

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it’s quite cold now and we want to be able to get into the moorings before dark. between us we manhandle Elsie and MM, turning them around and pushing them down into the water. they are heavier than you would think and it is only just manageable between the five of us. motoring back with the tide, the light is beautiful; too dark for my camera. we are home after dark.

today I woke dehydrated and tired, feeling like a crisp-fried prune. but what a wonderful day!

olive oil and yoghurt cake with damsons and dark chocolate, adapted from Ottolenghi’s apple and olive oil cake.

a big handful of pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted (in the oven as it heats up)

as many ripe damsons as I can pick from my tree, maybe half a kilo, a kilo would probably be better, cut into quarters and de-stoned

a bar of Green and Blacks 70% cocoa dark chocolate sliced up with a knife

280g plain flour (I used organic pasta “O” flour)

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsb baking powder

1 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

120ml olive oil

160g caster sugar (I used organic granulated cane sugar)

1/2 vanilla pod

2 eggs (large) lightly beaten

2 large tablespoons of plain low fat yoghurt

grated zest of 1 lemon

2 egg whites (large)

1 grease and line 20cm springform cake tin with baking parchment.

2 preheat oven to 170 deg c. (gas 3 to 3.5) sift flour cinnamon, salt, baking powder and bicarb. set aside

3 mix oil and sugar in a fresh bowl. add the seeds of the vanilla pod. gradually add the lightly beaten eggs; the mix should be smooth and thick. add the damsons, yogurt, and chocolate, then lightly fold in the dry ingredients.

4 whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until they have a meringue consistency. fold them into the batter in 2 additions. (Try to lose as little air as possible).

5 pour the batter into the lined tin, add a topping of toasted pumpkin seeds and place in the oven. bake for 1 1/2 hours or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.

this adaptation of the recipe rose beautifully. the damsons turned a rosy red colour, and the cake was brownish. I was tempted to cut it and add a filling of yoghurt, but on the beach it would not have been a good idea.