Cley next the Sea
Cley next the Sea (to give it its proper name) is a village and one time port on the east bank of the River Glaven close to its mouth.
Its population is around 420, less in winter and more in summer. It sits on the main A149 coast road roughly halfway between Wells next the Sea and Cromer and is located within the North Norfolk Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is about two hours by car from Cambridge, nearer three hours from London and the Midlands, not impossibly remote but far enough to feel different.
What is in and around Cley
The Surrounding Landscape
The marshes to the north of the village are a world renowned wildlife reserve owned by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust whose stylish new Visitor Centre is on the eastern edge of the village.
The beach continues to the west to become the Blakeney Point, also a wildlife reserve, owned by the National Trust. The Norfolk Coast Long Distance Footpath passes through the village which has two pubs and two cafés to cater to thirsty hikers.
Eating and Shopping
Cley has an award-winning Deli, an Art Gallery, a Pottery, a Smokehouse and a second hand Bookshop. Accommodation is available at the Windmill, the George Hotel, and the Harnser as well as at the numerous places offering B&B. Details of all these are available on the Glaven Valley website.
The nearest town is Holt, an attractive former market town some four miles to the south.
There you will find all the necessities of modern life – well most of them anyway. The nearest railway station is Sheringham, six miles east of Cley. There is also an excellent bus service, the CoastHopper (www.coasthopper.co.uk), that runs along the coast from Cromer to Hunstanton and King’s Lynn for those who wish to abandon their cars for the day (or week).
Car park and recycling
There is a large, free, car park behind the Village Hall (signposted from the main road) where there is also a recycling centre for glass and textiles.
The Village Hall hosts various local functions and organisations such as a flourishing WI branch. Plus, of course, the Parish Council…
“Cly” or “Clay”?
Most modern guide books state that the name should be pronounced Cly, rhyming with shy, though it has not always been so. It seems to be derived from the Old English word ‘claeg’ meaning clay or clayey (similar to the modern word ‘clag’) though the Domesday Book rendered it as ‘Claia’.
Early modern maps tended to use phonetic spellings. Speed’s map of 1611 used the spelling ‘Clay’ and that was religiously copied by many who came after him, though by the eighteenth century ‘Cly’ was more common: Daniel Defoe, writing in 1712, used the spelling ‘Clye’ which seems fairly definitive.
Cley Quay, Norfolk – c1900
By the early twentieth century ‘Clay’ would seem to have been back in favour once more, only to be usurped again by ‘Cly’ after the war when many, largely middle class, newcomers settled in the village. Where that leaves the pottery shop ‘Made in Cley’ is a moot point.