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Saturday 14 December 2013

A New & Magical Landscape – Cley to Salthouse!

 Seal Pup, alone and hoping for mother to appear – so sad!

So – today I continued my storm footage at Cley, which is where I ended the day last weekend. I parked up in the Cley NWT Visitor Centre car park and got my rucksack packed up for a very long walk. My route was west along the A149, along Beach Road to Coastguards, on to Salthouse, Gramborough Hill, along Beach Road, back onto the A149, past the duck pond, up the track behind the Dun Cow, across the fields through to Walsey Hills and then returning to the NWT Visitor Centre.

The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. The A149 is now clear, but there is still debris and piles of reeds all along the verges and obviously still on the reserve itself. The NWT has a mammoth clean up job and repairs to complete, before the reserve can be re-opened. It's a good job its not peak season – the Visitor Centre however is open for business as usual. The lower car park is still water logged and closed, so be careful when entering and exiting the higher car park. The beach road to Coastguards is still closed and there are diggers working away, repairing the West Bank. Also the East Bank is still closed because of reed clumps and debris. Beach Road at Salthouse is accessible but there is no car park at all, so only room for a handful of cars along the roadside. Even a 4x4 wouldn't get in that car park, its seriously deep shingle, in fact you would never have thought there was a car park there at all! Quite astonishing!
The car park at the bottom of 'Old Woman's Lane', Cley.

As I walked past the entrance to the NWT Hides (Dauke's, Teal & Avocet) I could see that the board walk leading to them was still there! This was good news! But there were barriers across and this is strictly closed until the whole boardwalk and hides have been accessed for damage and repaired if possible and made safe again. I very much hope that they can be saved. The car park at the bottom of Old Woman's Lane is deep squelchy mud and well – I wouldn't bother attempting to park on there! I continued along the road and could see that the dykes had been stripped out of reeds and looked rather bare. I turned to walk along the Beach Road to Coastguards. There is a 'Closed Sign' and barrier across the road for vehicles, but I was hoping that I might get away with walking through! Still quite a bit of water and mud on the road, and there were diggers repairing the dramatic breaches in the West Bank by the Sluice Gate. On the shingle beach I could see mud type boulders dotted all along the beach – so atmospheric! As I neared Coastguards I could see that the overflow field car park still remained the same. But the main car park, well that's a different story altogether, what car park?! The car park is piled high with shingle and the payhut? Vanished! The shelter is still there, but has stacks of shingle all around it, making it impossible to stand up in on the north side, even for me! I had to duck down to get under the roof and could not stand up, so its seated sea-watching from now on, unless of course someone decides to clear all the shingle out, which they may do I suppose, when they eventually clear the car park. There was an old leather boot sitting on the roof. Bumped into Mark Golley here, who was chatting to another birder so we walked up to Salthouse together. Red-throated Diver seen flying west. The landscape on the beach was absolutely incredible with most of the shingle swept away inland – so beautiful, so different. Sculptured mud banks have appeared all the way along to Salthouse, old posts have appeared and mud boulders were dotted along the shingle – it made exciting and arty farty pictures! Mark pointed out a Red Kite distantly, along with a Kestrel over the shingle ridge towards Gramborough Hill. We found an incredibly cute, fluffy white Sea Pup sitting on the shingle by the water's edge. It looked so sad and alone!
Beach Road, Cley.

 Breach in the West Bank, Cley.

 Diggers working to repair the West Bank, Cley.

 Beach Road looking towards the sluice, Cley.

 West Bank and Beach Road, Cley.

 End of the West Bank and Coastguards, Cley.

 What's left of Coastguards car park, Cley.

 'The Beach Hotel', Coastguards, Cley.

 Looking towards Blakeney Point.

 The dislodged Blakeney Point Information Board.

 'The Beach Hotel', south side, Coastguards.

A local birder assesses the new landscape at Cley.

'The Beach Hotel' north side – even I can't stand up in there now!!!
'The Beach Hotel' north side – for seated sea-watching only!

The new beach scenery, between Cley & North Scrape NWT.

Just west of North Scrape, Cley NWT.

Just east of the entrance to North Hide (that was)
Note: the sea wall disappeared, paths & all vegetation stripped.
Entrance to North Hide, that was!

Just east of North Scrape NWT.

 More Beach Scenes between Cley and Salthouse.

Art in the sand!


The new breach and tidal channel at Salthouse was unbelievable! The amount of shingle that tidal surge had shifted was something else! A colossal gap has been taken out of the shingle ridge to reveal a new and exciting channel, which runs from the sea, through to the marshes, along with a mini waterfall – well to be exact, water cascading over a wide muddy bank, but it looked incredibly beautiful. It was low tide so we were able to get across this channel easily. Looking inland, this channel now joins with 'Sea Pool' as it's known. The landscape here has been completely transformed! Please see my previous post about this new channel being shown on a map in 1649! This is beyond incredible, to think that this new channel has re-surfaced after 350+ years – how exciting is that! But the massive downside to this, is the fact that at every high tide, the water will run freely through to the marshes!!!
Part of the new channel that runs from the sea to the marsh.

East of the new channel, looking towards Gramborough Hill.

 Part of the new channel joining with 'Sea Pool' (far left).

Part of the new channel that runs from the sea to the marsh.

The size and enormity of this new channel is breathtaking!

At Gramborough Hill, the cliffs have become even higher and dramatically eroded. No birds in the bushes at Gramborough. Lots of reed debris around the base of the hill and a couple of Redshanks were in the pools below. Walking up to Salthouse beach car park was weird. It took me a while to work out the new landscape. There was no car park at all – entirely covered in tons and tons of deep shingle. A massive reed clump sat in the middle. It was unrecognizable! Most of the fence posts had either gone or were buried beneath the shingle. The sign for Gramborough Hill was just visible above the shingle! The beach road was covered in sand and looking really beautiful. The best thing about that fabulous walk from Cley to Salthouse was seeing so few people and even better than that, no dogs at all, until we reached Salthouse! Long may the car parks remain closed! – Ok, I take that back, otherwise I will get some heavily worded emails!!!
Erosion at Gramborough Hill, Salthouse.

 Gramborough Hill, Salthouse.

Standing with Gramborough Hill behind me, looking at the car park!

 Standing in the car park, looking towards Gramborough Hill.

Salthouse car park with tons of shingle and reed clump, looking towards Beach Road.

This sign gives an excellent indication as to the depth of the shingle!

The car park at Salthouse!

 Standing on Beach Road, looking towards Gramborough Hill.

Standing on Beach Road, looking towards Gramborough Hill.

End of Beach Road, Salthouse and the non-existant car park.

A sandy Beach Road at Salthouse!

Looking towards Little Eye from Beach Road, Salthouse.

Along Beach Road there were 40 Turnstones feeding on the marsh, west of the road. Reed clumps were twisted in with the barbed wire fence all the way along. At the end of the road by the battered willow trees, we watched a Chiffchaff feeding and drinking from the dyke. Crossed the road and walked along the track behind the Dun Cow. A Merlin was hunting over Arnold's Marsh. Walked across the fields to Walsey Hills NOA – the carpark is mostly clear now, but is still churned up. No birds of note here. Snipe's Marsh is still swamped with reed debris and the East Bank car park is still unusable. Walked back to the NWT Visitor Centre for a very late lunch! Had a lovely surprise when we walked in – there sitting at a table were Pete Snook and Andy Johnson! We all sat chatting about birds, storms and Andy's broken foot! I had soup and scrumptious cake. Note, continued abuse of diet! It was so nice to sit down and I started to feel very sleepy. Chatted with Pat also whilst here, who sweetly complimented me on my storm post, but requested that I included football chat – sorry that's not going to happen! The day had disappeared all too quickly and with the light now gone, I had no choice but to return home!
The Dyke that runs west alongside the A149 from Beach Road, Salthouse.

The Duck Pond at Salthouse.


  1. Yes, doesn't the beach at Cley look absolutely fabulous and fascinating now that it's mostly all sandy with those great lumps of clay dotted all over it. Hope it stays like that, the only disadvantage I can see is that it will attract even more dudes and dogs during the summer. At the moment we've got it to ourselves, so as you say, long may the carparks stay closed!