“Whenever I reach for the boots and binoculars and head out of my door I could go in any direction from the house to find wildlife. Yet something hard-wired in my brain means that the internal compass always trends to the River Yare.” Mark Cocker, Crow Country 2007.
RETURNING home from work in Norwich along the main A146 to Loddon last night, I felt that familiar old tug on the steering wheel: the one pulling me off the main road and inexorably down to the Yare Valley.
Just being on the back road helps you unwind. And then that powerful magnet somehow hauled me out of the car at Claxton and I wandered down to Carleton Beck as a giant moon started to rise in the eastern sky.
We’re lucky enough to go on holiday every summer and I do a version of this every year. I need to make a conscious effort to re-acquaint myself with the sights, the sounds and in particular the smells of marshy old Norfolk. This year we’d been to the Black Forest in Germany where water virtually hurls itself off the steep hillsides, and makes a racket most of the way down. Gradients were everywhere and it really does take a while to re-adjust to these flatlands.
And I do need to consciously re-calibrate. I’m not from Norfolk and occasionally, after a holiday, the lack of that third dimension reminds me of how melancholy I found the landscape when I first pitched up in this corner of England 20-odd years ago. (I still don’t buy “Big Skies” for example. Big skies imply an absence of interesting land to me.) Anyway last night did the job. Colder than the continent of course. Dank and earthy, with the smells of nettles and brambles more pungent for their novelty. Still summer, but with autumn limbering up in the background. The water in Carleton Beck did nothing slowly, but it will make it down to the Yare in the end. Honest.
Do locals need to do this sort of thing every year. Or does it all come a bit more naturally to you guys? And at the risk of leaving you on a complete downer, I’ll close with some wise old words from Cameron Self’s Literary Norfolk website:
“Retreat now into
Old Norfolk: let the sluggish
Waters absolve you.”