Tuesday, 23 August 2011

MORSTON AND STIFFKEY

Between Blakeney and Wells Next The Sea are two coastal villages called Morston and Stiffkey. Morston’s salt marsh is run by the National Trust and parts of it can be walked on, but care needs to be taken because of the risk of being stranded by rising tides. The poet Edwin Brock summed up this environment nicely in the opening to his poem called Morston Marshes: “Into this muddy coastline/the North Sea seeps silently/twice a day/under the kestrel’s weather eye.” The creek at Morston Quay is an alternative departure point to Blakeney for the seal trips going out to Blakeney Point. The cottages in the village are in the typical style of the region, built with grey flint trimmed with red brick, and looming above them on a raised piece of land is the impressive All Saints Church.

More flint and brick cottages can be found at neighbouring Stiffkey, which is also flanked by salt marshes, source of a local delicacy, the “Stewkey Blue” cockle (Stewkey is the archaic pronunciation of Stiffkey). The village boasts a church within a church: the round tower that constitutes the remains of an older church, St Marys, occupying the churchyard of the more recent St John the Baptist. Stiffkey Old Hall dates from the 16th century and was built by Sir Francis Bacon’s brother, Nathaniel. The hall is privately owned. Exiting the village towards Wells Next The Sea there is a hill known as Warborough Hill, which is thought to be the remains of an Iron Age barrow.

In the 1930s the rector of Stiffkey, Harold Davidson, was defrocked as a result of immorality charges, having a predilection for young girls. He turned to the world of seaside entertainment, taking part in a series of bizarre spectacles, the last of which, in Skegness, involved holding forth in a lion’s cage in the company of Freddie the lion and Toto the lioness. After accidentally stepping on Toto’s tail, Freddie lashed out and mauled Davidson, who subsequently died from his injuries.  They don’t make ‘em like that any more.

Map of the area.

'Big Sky at Stiffkey' photo (c) 2009, Johnnie Shannon - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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