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Extract from Echoes of War

by William Rivière

'In Norfolk the freezing wind which roared in the trees around Paston church battered all the flint churches which stood parish after parish along the coast of muddy cliffs and salt marshes and shingle foreshores, frenzied to a St Vitus' dance the blizzard-stunted sycamores and oaks and thorns. In the region of windmills, the storm shrieked in their rusting turning gears, shook their groaning spars.

The anchorage at Brancaster was protected by the island of Scolt Head, but even inshore before the village the white waves reared awesomely around the moored fishing-smacks. All afternoon in the relative hush of low tide the men had checked their warps. They had overhauled mooring-chains, they had laid out kedge-anchors. They had rowed ashore in their cockling scows. Now at high water their smacks were exposed to the undiminished force of the gale; they chucked their tethered heads like frightened horses; they shuddered under the blows of the breaking seas.

At Burnham where Horatio Nelson had learned to sail, at Wells where he had watched luggers loading and unloading, the black tide foamed up the creeks, it flooded the marshes of sea-lavender and marram grass, it stormed against the sea-walls. Off Stiffkey, where at low tide in summer the Lammas family liked to walk their dogs on the revealed sand-banks, by nightfall the harbour bar was a maelstrom thirty foot deep, the tide had advanced two miles inshore, had whelmed the samphire flats and the river mouth and the mussel beds in one navigable welter of crossing pale crest and dark troughs. At Mundesley, where Charles Lammas' father Roland had lived and had his studio at Cliff House, winter by winter yards of what had been his rose garden and tennis court and vegetable garden had been lost to the North Sea.'

Norfolk Poems





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