Cookies Crab Shop on the green at Salthouse is a North Norfolk institution, and nearby Stiffkey marshes are just the place to pick up a sprig or two of samphire.
Beloved of local boy Stephen Fry, who named the A149 North Norfolk coast road his favourite place on earth, Cookies Crab Shop has been serving lip-smacking seafood for three generations. The coast road passes right by Cookies, a flinty shack with fabulous views over to Salthouse Marshes from the tables out front. Salthouse is another of those perfectly proportioned North Norfolk villages – a cluster of chocolate box cottages between church and marshes, with the beach and sea beyond. Having lunched on a shellfish platter, take a walk up past St Nicholas’ lofty tower to Salthouse Heath, for views back out to sea.
In the summer months, wander the salty creeks that line this stretch of the coast and you’ll often see Norfolk samphire gatherers – that fleshier (and many would say tastier) relative of parsley. One of Britain’s few remaining uncultivated crops, it’s a prized ingredient in these parts, though without a permit to pick you’ll risk a fine. Unless in possession of a pair of waders, it’s preferable to sit back and savour it the easy way, with hand-dived queen scallops or whole local sea bream, wood fired from the Josper grill at The Harper.
It’s possible to count the food miles on one hand here, with samphire-rich Stiffkey Saltmarshes minutes away, and of course the coast itself. Teeming with wildlife, the marshes are also carpeted with sea lavender in summer. The drive (or walk) from Stiffkey to Salthouse isn’t dramatic, but there’s something about the light, the air and the edge-of-the-world appeal that makes it easy to see why well-travelled folk – Fry included – keep coming back.
Image courtesy of Chris Everard