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Remembering life at the Point

16 November 2016

Sally Oates shares her childhood memories of Blakeney Point with Sarah Whittley

Born in 1930, Sally was just three months old when she first visited the Point. Her Uncle Billy (William Eales) was the warden in the 1920s and 30s. He and his wife, Aunty May, and son Teddy lived in Point House, now called The Old Lifeboat Station.

“I have so many happy memories from the Point,” explains Sally. “I spent a lot of time with Teddy, who didn’t go to school because of a heart condition.” In fact Teddy went on to become warden after his father’s death in 1939 and with the exception of the war years, where he served with the Royal Navy, he remained warden until the 1970s.

Throughout Sally’s childhood, every holiday was spent with her family happily bumbling around on the Point; in fact, Sally and her brother David were affectionately called the Bumblers. She recounted how growing up there, they were left to run wild. Instead of a nanny, they had Sherry, a massive Labrador cross who would accompany them everywhere. Sally remembers being so tired as a toddler she would come home clinging onto the dog as he guided them back to safety.

They would scramble up the giant sandhills, go cockling, musseling, fishing, collect samphire from the marshes and swim in the creeks. Uncle Billy taught her about the birds, offering her and David two shillings if they could find the first ringed plover nest at the beginning of the breeding season.

They ate well while they were too. Sally remembers large cooked hams and chickens appearing at dinner time along with all the bounty from the sea and shore – mackerel and bass were commonplace, as well as many flat fish.

Aunty May used to have a large wooden box on legs that Sally would sit on in the kitchen in Point House. The lid would lift to reveal a vast stash of flour for the daily baking. So good was Aunty May’s baking, she was frequently asked to cook for holidaymakers, which resulted in the tea rooms opening.

I had a fascinating chat with Sally in her tucked away home in Norfolk, where Fluffy, the newly rescued tabby cat was happily bonding with Sally, boisterously demanding attention.

One of the highlights was being handed an envelope with a strange lump of mangled metal inside. “That’s a part of the Heinkel bomber which crashed on Blakeney Marshes during the war,” cried Sally, who then went on to tell me one of her stories.

“The plane came down right on the marsh, all the crew died except for one poor young boy. When the coastguards reached him, he was shaking uncontrollably, trying to hold up his arms. As well as being traumatized, the young German was absolutely terrified; he’d been told the English would kill him in an instant if he was caught. Well, the men picked him up and took him back to the village where they gave him hot sweet tea and cigarettes. He was then taken away to Weybourne POW camp and that was that.”

As with the rest of the country, the Second World War bought about much change on Blakeney Point. Instead of a warden, Point House now played host to the coastguards. They added the lookout tower you can see now on The Old Lifeboat House to scour the sea and sky for enemy aircraft. Sally told me of a story that still gives me a shiver.

During one of the regular beach sweeps looking for washed up mines they came across a body resting on the sand. They couldn’t discern much from his body, deciding the best plan of action would be to bury him as soon as possible. Soon after his first burial the body reappeared again. Blaming the changing sands they reburied him in a deeper more secure grave but the same thing happened twice more.

They visited the Vicar at Blakeney who declared, “Well he obviously doesn’t want to be buried there.” So they buried him in the churchyard where he remains to this day.