Beside the SEASIDE

Painting by Godfrey Sayers

Painting by Godfrey Sayers - Credit: supplied

The shifting sands and saltmarshes, wide wild dunes, flowing and fluxing waves and creeks of the Norfolk coast, have long fascinated writers and artists, says Rowan Mantell.

Godfrey Sayers’ whole life has been coloured by the sea. He earned his living from the sea as a fisherman for many years, has painted and photographed coastal waters for decades, and literally immerses himself in it as often as he can, swimming regularly from early spring to late autumn.

Godfrey was just nine when he started work collecting mussels in Blakeney Harbour. Through his teens, until joining the Merchant Navy at 17, and then in his 20s and 30s, he was a fisherman. Today his life is still bound up with sea and shore, but instead of going to sea to fish, he paints and photographs the rippling ebb and flow of the water, sits on committees to protect our vulnerable coast and, this year, published a book.

Once Upon A Tide is a memoir, a tribute, a lament and a manifesto. “It offers a view from a vantage point that only a few now have,” says Godfrey, who arrived in Norfolk with his Blakeney-born mum as a four-year-old refugee from bomb-blitzed London. His first Norfolk home, with his mother and sister, was at Burgh Castle, near Great Yarmouth. Soon they moved to a railway carriage at Morston, near Blakeney, and today he lives just inland, in Wiveton, where he is chairman of the parish council.

He has been delighted by the response to his book - a labour of love he wrote, illustrated, designed and had printed himself. In Once Upon a Tide he describes a walk out along Pilot’s Path from Blakeney. “Weaving my way through children building sandcastles on the corner sand, I set off as excited as if I were venturing into an unknown land. The first part of the walk was like being at sea, the marsh grass rolling in waves as the wind and cloud shadows brushed over it. Ahead, the most amazing wash of sea lavender to be seen anywhere along this coast, When I reached it I sat on a tussock and admired a most wonderful yet entirely accidental mix of colours. Why do the combinations of colour nature puts together give us such pleasure? Even the distant pines of Wells East Hills, suspended indigo above the horizon, managed to perfectly complement the whole. The lavender changed from rich purple at my feet to the softest blue in the distance. From there it was only a short step to the soft grey/greens of the sea wormwood intertwined throughout. Add the startling counterpoint of gold and russet fescues, and the effect was glorious.”

Once Upon a Tide by Godfrey Sayers is available from Norfolk bookshops priced £19.95.

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