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Brancaster lies on the North Norfolk coast between Titchwell and Burnham Deepdale. It possesses a spectacular beach - with long, relatively unspoilt stretches of sand and dunes. In recent years, it has become a popular location for kite-surfers.

Brancaster Beach

The beach features in Angela Huth's novel Invitation to the Married Life (1999). Huth, who was born in 1938, was a regular visitor to Brancaster as a child - as her parents had a holiday home in the village. She has always found inspiration and tranquillity in the county and values what she describes as the reassuring 'continuity' of Norfolk life.

The wreck featured in the passage is that of the SS Vina. Originally it was part of the merchant navy - but was towed up to Norfolk by the RAF to use as target practice during WW2. It eventually sank in 1944. Today it can only be seen at low tide.

'That Sunday afternoon Mary and Bill and their dog Trust walked on Brancaster beach. It was fine, but cool. They wore gumboots and thick jumpers against an edgy breeze. Mary had tied a scarf over her head so that only a fringe of grey hair was free to skitter about her forehead.

They had been coming to the beach for years, in all weathers. High summer was the only time they avoided. Then, crowds - people had discovered the empty stretches of dune and sand in the last decade - penetrated further and further along. Although by normal seaside standards the place was still thinly populated, they liked it best when it appeared as they had first known it, long ago, empty but for a lone distant figure looking for mussels, watching the birds or walking a dog.

Over the years they had observed the gradual disintegration of the wreck. Once a sturdy shell of a ship blown up in the last War, it had slowly succumbed to barnacles, seaweed, lashing storms and strong currents. Now, when the tide was out, just a few posts of blackened steel remained - to few to indicate the former shape of the ship's bones. At high tide the two or three posts protruding from the water could be missed by all those unfamiliar with the disappearing kingdom.

There was a high tide this afternoon: sea dull as an elephant's shank in moments when the cloud obscured the sun. Then, when the sun passed, herbaceous blues and greys and greens of a sophisticated garden border.

Mary loved the beach, its ankle-high gusts of sand stinging here boots, its ribbed distances scrunchy with shells, its wind-wrinkled pools blinking fast as troubled eyes. But she did not like the sea. It made her think of death, endings, the remorseless indifference of Nature."

The New Zealand born poet John Gallas (1950- ) - another regular visitor to North Norfolk - has also found inspiration from the county's beaches. Here is his intriguing poem entitled: Sunrise on Brancaster Beach
Bent with gentle heaviness, the old,
bald head of earth, explained in yellow light,
gets licked to life again. The sea looks white,
like gnawed skin ; the wrinkled sand feels cold.
This is the end of night : and from its sleep,
whose sweet corruption burns me like a match
just struck, the world is laboured out. A patch
of peachy cloud turns pale. I shiver. Deep,
deep beyond the air where words, ideas
and minds are kept convinced, I only see
the churning of great planets – one with me,
the rest without. And then the sun appears
and all the earth is warm. And even I
applaud, with half a smile, the bloodless sky.

Gallas, who came to England in 1971 to study Old Icelandic at Oxford University, has had ten collections of poetry published by Carcanet. He currently works as a special needs teacher in Leicestershire.
More photographs of Brancaster




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