We went out on Sunday, for a saunter. The weather window suddenly being kind, blue skies and a bit of a breeze and the flat lands of Norfolk. It’s easy really when you live here to forget how lucky we are, the cliche of our vast skies gets lost as we all head off to places that have those curious walls of land all around them, the Peak District, The North York Moors, Dartmoor, the Chilterns or Wales. One of us has been living in Eastern Europe for the last eighteen months, having grown up here she was quick to comment on the massive expanse of sky, ‘not penned in, it runs from edge to edge’. Our landscapes are made of various states of water, from the scooped out watery mass of the Broads to the fluid ribbon twists of the Rivers Bure, Ant, Yare and Thurne that feed these largely hand-dug pits before slowly fall-off outward into the sea. And we have or mountains of steam, the clouds that form here, not the grey lid we are so familiar with, but our slow moving peaks. The other sense you get is the air, how the air works here. Planted in the landscape there are the old windpumps, set to stop the rising water taking the farmland back to the marsh it once was after it had been the slowly silted Romano-British estuary. These are mirrored by the Turbines at Winterton and in the shoals off the coast. You can stand in this land and watch a sail full of air push through the reeds, a ship of the green desert, the water always there lost below your line of sight.
Heigham Holmes opens once a year, for one day, it is ostensibly still a working farm, mostly beef and milk, a clump of building at its centre. the grass lapping round them, a pneumatic bridge cuts it off from the surrounding land and the village of Martham and the cut lined with boats and pleasure craft that runs down to it. The land is isolated by water, dykes and rivers surround it on all sides. It’s isolated enough that it is believed to be and has been reported as an S.O.E (Secret Operations Executives) base during the Second World War, things being what they are with secrets there isn’t much information; a few aerial photos of Heigham Holmes and scant information point at very little. It is believed that 161 Squadron flew Lysanders, those stalwart short-takeoff and landing aircraft used to drop agents into occupied territory, in this case if it is true, the Netherlands. Nothing visible remains, Lysanders don’t need runways, just grass, there are barns they could have sheltered in, and there are rumours of huts and lookout post now removed. The landscape isn’t giving the story up.
Photos of Heigham Holmes and text © Nick Stone.