Until quite recently I thought the most fascinating thing about Cley, a small village on the North Norfolk coast, was whether you pronounced it Cl-eye or Clay. Even locals disagree about this, and they are all sure they’re right. So they probably are.
However, I recently spent a week living in a house fronting on to the narrow street that twists through the village and forms part of the coast road. This particular street is a Coasthopper and HGV challenge second only to Stiffkey – and don’t get me started on how you pronounce that. But there is much more to Cley than traffic jams.
I already knew about the stunning coastal walk leading from Cley to Blakeney and on to Morston and points west. I also knew about the Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s lovely nature reserve and visitor centre just down the road – marsh harrier, anyone? – and the long, beautiful trudge out to Blakeney Point starting at Cley beach. Ladies and gentlemen, I had tried them all, and they were all good.
But I was less familiar with the village itself: the tiny harbour by the windmill and the intricate and cunningly crafted little brick paths that snake round the back of the 3D jigsaw of beautiful old houses and keep you away from the traffic. The paths on the edge of the marsh and out to the beach road. The “inland” way to Blakeney through Wiveton Hall farm.
I was also unaware of the delicious smoked fish obtainable from the Cley Smokehouse almost next door. And although I knew of the strangely named Picnic Fayre deli, I had forgotten the delicious range of pies, cakes and Pastonacres bread that can be purchased there – among many other delights. It was close by, and we were in and out. Who cares that you can’t buy a daily paper anywhere in the village? You can buy Sunday papers, but that’s another story. Several other stories, in fact
There’s also the George (no Dragon), the Crabpot Bookshop and the church – safely positioned way above sea level and a home for the Cley Contemporary Art Exhibition. And if you’re into art there’s the Pinkfoot Gallery and the Wildlife Trust’s visitor centre – at the time of our visit home to a series of stunning photographs.
The views in and around the village are classic and irresistible, as many a camera fiend will tell you. But if you still think the most fascinating thing about Cley is how to pronounce it, my preference is for Cl-eye, because I rather like the establishment that sells binoculars and telescopes and calls itself Cley Spy.
My friend Dave “Swacking” Cuckoo claims that a Broad Norfolk pronunciation of Clay comes out pretty close to Cleye anyway. But then he would.