WATCH television presenter Jake Humphrey read a special Norfolk love letter to celebrate Norfolk Day
PUBLISHED: 00:00 27 July 2018 | UPDATED: 12:48 27 July 2018
To celebrate the first-ever Norfolk Day a special love letter to Norfolk has been written by EDP writers Stacia Briggs and Rowan Mantell.
Television presenter Jake Humphrey, who grew up in Norfolk, did a special reading of original piece.
The full poem is below:
Oh Norfolk, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways – I love thee to your depths and breadths and heights, by sun and candle-light, I love thee with passion, on Norfolk Day and beyond…
Our county is one of the most glittering jewels in Britain’s crown with its royal ties to royalty and a landscape which offers something to everyone, whether they hanker for sandy beaches or unspoilt countryside, atmospheric marshlands that stretch for miles or medieval lanes now filled with the kind of shops that practically command you to potter.
From the quality of the light in the county which has enchanted artists for centuries to the dark skies that attract star-gazers to enjoy spectacular celestial shows, the waterways once filled with wherries and name-checked by Bowie to almost 100 miles of coast fringed with beaches both sandy and flint-strewn, the brightly-coloured beach huts to the stately grandeur of manor houses where doomed Queens were born and where others are said to haunt, Norfolk is a treasury of delights.
Idyllic patchwork fields of gold, green and purple depending on the season are peppered with wind pumps and mills, old and new, extraordinary churches, magnificent barns and villages that lend themselves to chocolate box lids. Ancient woodlands offer gifts of bluebells and snowdrops, ramsons and celandine, honeysuckle and a forager’s feast of fungi.
And when waves and weather and time and tide combine there are moments, minutes, hours when there is nowhere else in the world as perfect as a Norfolk beach.
Cromer, with the sea foaming on to saturated, mirror-smooth low-tide sand; the setting sun flinging fiery colours to gleam across the wet shore and pick out the pier and gothic towers and turrets in shell-sharp silhouette.
Horsey, where in the summer seals will often swim close to human visitors, and in the winter turn the beach into a nursery for their big-eyed, fur-wrapped babies.
Happisburgh, where the red and white striped lighthouse makes every view, of sea or wheat field or flinty flowery cottages clustered around the church, look like it’s been created and curated for a photo-shoot.
And then there is the sheer unlikeliness of some of our Norfolk facts. The footprints found at Happisburgh beach, left in the low-tide sand by a family walking here 800,000 years ago – the oldest known human prints outside Africa, made when we were joined to the continent, but still half a millennia after someone dropped a flint-cutting tool here, the oldest human-linked artefact ever found in Britain.
It is difficult to turn your back on the shimmering reeds and creeks of the wild north Norfolk coast, but when you do look north there is nothing, absolutely nothing other than salt water and sky, between this edge of Norfolk and the Arctic. Set out from here and you will not hit land until you are beyond the top of the globe.
It is a joy to be on the very edge of things, to be the place that people only come to if they choose to come. Other counties are on the way to somewhere else, Norfolk is the destination. But Norfolk is at the heart of so much too. In just about every settlement – city, town, village, hamlet, farmstead – we have an internationally important work of art and architecture.
Push open each heavy wooden door of a parish church and you are part of the flow of countless generations of people who have stepped out of everyday life. They worshipped alongside flights of wooden angels soaring in the rafters at South Creake and Cawston; carved animals crouched on pew ends at Tuttington and Irstead, knights in full armour and their high headdressed ladies drawn in brass on the floor at Felbrigg and Blickling..
These are holy places, and heavenly too. Saints and shrines shine through the landscape in Walsingham, Bawburgh, Dereham. Our rich heritage of folklore is shared in stories and carved into village signs. Off the main roads (gloriously motorway-free) are miles of tree-shadowed or poppy-fringed lanes, a treasure in themselves, but it is not just the rural and the historical that is remarkable in Norfolk - on the edge of Norwich, at the university and research park, scientists are working towards eliminating world hunger, finding new antibiotics, curing cancer.
Norfolk words are precious too, spoken in dialect, written echoing a legacy handed down from Julian of Norwich, the founders of the first library of its kind in Britain, and the first journalists on the first provincial newspaper in the country – and on to the new National Centre for Writing.
The treasure chest is full to overflowing and we’ve only just started – some more: Ice Age pingos, Boudicca’s legacy, deer parks at Houghton and Holkham, walking in the footsteps of the Romans, crabbing in Cromer, mussels from Morston, samphire from Stiffkey, the Nimmo Twins, Great Yarmouth’s Hippodrome Circus, wooden rollercoaster and the rite of passage that is a ride on the Snails, the fact that while most cities in Britain boast one cathedral, we have two.
And of those heights, in our introduction borrowed and adapted from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s much-loved sonnet, we would offer Noel Coward acolytes Roman Camp near West Runton, higher than two Nelson’s columns, or suggest they attempt the Gas Hill Gasp by bicycle and see if they still think Norfolk flat.