Cley Skies or Cley Days…

The small village of Cley situated on the North coast of Norfolk is a popular destination for tourists and birdwatchers.


Its full name is Cley next the Sea and its pronunciation is a question of debate! Some locals pronounce Cley to rhyme with day and some to rhyme with sky…whichever, it is a lovely little spot in which to spend some time.

The narrow main coastal road twists through the village and in high summer it can become a bit of a bottle neck if a heavy goods vehicle or the regular Coasthopper bus comes through!

There are many charming little houses some decorated with flint, many of which are popular as holiday rentals. There is also a windmill, formerly the childhood home of the singer James Blunt, which can be booked for bed and breakfast. It is an iconic landmark featuring on many postcards and tea towels on sale in the area.


Flint decorates a wall on a building in Cley


Cley windmill the childhood home of singer James Blunt is now offers bed and breakfast accommodation


Dutch gable ends feature often in this and other North Norfolk villages


Modern wall decoration in Cley and in Summer lots of Hollyhocks!


Quirky cat weathervane atop a building in Cley

There are a number of shops too including the popular delicatessen Picnic Fayre and the Artemis cafe which overlooks the harbour.


Picnic Fayre  delicatessen selling lots of tempting local produce on the corner of the main road


The Cley Smokehouse you can smell before you reach it with its distinctive aromas of  locally caught fish being smoked

Also on the road through the village are several galleries selling artworks by local artists and a great bookshop, it’s no wonder the village is a popular destination!

The bird and wildlife artist Robert Gillmor lives in Cley and he is probably best known for his iconic Avocet artwork which became the logo of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Now in his eighties he is still producing great artworks some of which can sometimes be seen at the Pinkfoot Gallery in Cley.


The RSPB logo (copyright RSPB)

Just outside the village is the Norfolk Wildlife Trusts Visitor Centre popular with birdwatchers and visitors all year round. This coastal strip attracts many migrating birds and in Winter large numbers of geese and ducks can be seen on the low lying marshland.


The Norfolk Wildlife Trust Visitor Centre…


…and its wildlife friendly green sedum roof!


Fun electronic sign in the Cley Visitor Centre!


View of the reserve

On to Cley beach… The beach is a popular place for birdwatchers and if a rare migrant bird turns up, it is guaranteed there will be a crowd of binocular and telescope toting birders there!


From the beach car park it is possible to walk out to Blakeney Point. I must point out it is a tough walk along the shingle banks!

There is an easier walk from Cley village to the harbour of Blakeney along raised paths overlooking the marshes.


One of the raised paths approaching Cley…in Summer with field poppies and ox eye daisies in flower


The beach at Cley with a few fishing boats and tractors


Cley beach with a stormy sky out at sea

During Summer 2018 the beach was one of the venues of a sculpture exhibition…

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One of the sculptures on display

On the way to the beach an unusual metal structure can be encountered. An Allan Williams Turret, a prefabricated steel structure left over from WWII. Designed to be manned by two men and a machine gun which could rotate through 360 degrees this one still remains at Cley. Similar to the more commonly seen concrete pill boxes, these formed part of Britain’s coastal anti invasion defences.


One of some 200 Allan Williams Turrets made, this one remains on the road to the beach with the village of Cley in the background

On to Cley church. St Margarets lies on the outskirts of the village and a visit inside reveals some fascinating medieval graffiti!


St Margarets Church


Medieval  graffiti is often inscribed on the pillars and walls of some of the churches in North Norfolk and this one depicts an old sailing vessel



One of the church windows commemorates an unusual little bird which paid a visit to the area in 2008! 


Back to the coast…the flat landscapes in this part of Norfolk are one of the attractions for me…that and the big skies!

The weather can change in an instant and storm clouds can sweep across one minute with bright sunshine the next.


Rain out over the sea



Unusual rain clouds


Blue skies over the reed-beds


View from the East Bank of the nature reserve


Such a clarity of light after the rain has passed over


and beautiful at sundown too!


I have left you with a selection of my favourite “Cley skies” and if you do get the opportunity to visit this part of the world and you like big skies and landscapes and birdlife, I am sure you will not be disappointed.


About Anne Guy

I am a garden designer living and working in rural Worcestershire For more information and to see examples of my work see
This entry was posted in Art, Cley next the Sea, Landscape, Nature Reserve, Norfolk, North Norfolk Coast, Sculpture Trail, Skies, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Cley Skies or Cley Days…

  1. allibeans says:

    Looks like a really interesting place to visit. Your photos are stunning.

  2. Hilary says:

    Anne, you capture the magical light of Cley so well. As a birdwatcher I do indeed know it well. The walk from Blakeney to Cley always bracing but always different.

  3. Nan Quick says:

    Your panoramic photos of Norfolk’s surreal & beautiful seacoast are magnificent and inspiring.

  4. Sue says:

    What a lovely place

  5. Lovely post and photos, Anne. This is a part of the UK I’ve wanted to visit for a long time.

  6. Terry says:

    Another delightful walkabout beautifully illustrated and full of fascinating facts. Thanks

  7. Stunning photos. Cley and the North Norfolk Coast is one of my favourite areas of the UK to visit, better out of the main holiday seasons, but beautiful all the year around. A unique space of huge skies and unusual landscapes. Love it!

  8. I see you also made your way up to North Norfolk during the past two years! Lovely area.

    • Anne Guy says:

      Yes we try to go twice each year in September and January mainly for the birdwatching but love the area. Obviously these trips have been delayed during the pandemic.

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