Wells-next-the-Sea, or just Wells to most locals, is one of my favourite towns in North Norfolk. Until recently Wells had escaped the ravages of encroaching gentrification but that's beginning to change. The essential charm of the town is still there though, and as yet there are not too many shops for the red trousered brigade.
One of the things that makes Wells stand out is it is still working fishing harbour. Boats tie up at the quay, parts of which are closed off to allow the fishermen to get on with their jobs, and the signs of industry are everywhere. Crab pots are pretty much ubiquitous, which is no surprise given than Norfolk crabs are the best in the world.
Photography boats and the minutiae of the fishing industry is a bit of a recurring theme for me (see Salty Machines for more evidence). There's an obvious reason for this, and its all to do with the visual aesthetics. Put simply, signs of use are everywhere, and that is something that holds endless fascination.
I'm a strong believer in the importance of objects and the stories that they can tell. By this, I don't mean that objects on their own hold some magical spell over me (although I'm a horrific consumer so that must be partly true). Rather, I love the results of the interactions of people, environment and objects. Take the boat above, you couldn't set out to create such an object, but use and time have created something that tells a story and is, to my eye at least, inherently pleasing.
Of course, you get the classic seaside views in Wells, as the portrait of Leilah and Marsh Magic show above. Talking of marsh magic, you might recall that I mentioned Wells is a harbour. This is a standout feature to me compared to some other coastal towns in North Norfolk (Cromer and Sheringham for example).
Whether on water or on land you have to work to get to the sea. There's a deep channel through the marshes from the quay to the open water. This is the East Fleet, and it cuts its way out to sea immediately north of the quay (and the beach road follows it). This can bring its own problems down on the beach, as the channel has very strong currents that have swept many out to see. Wells is not a beach for the unaware. The East Fleet, also connects with numerous creeks that head out through the marshes to the east of town, and you can follow the Norfolk Coast Path to explore them further.
You may, however, not wish to leave the town. After all, there are a wealth of small shops, pubs and a marvellous traditional cafe (The Nelson), which serves a magnificent pie. For the photographer, there is a wealth of things to make pictures of in town, and an occasional car boot sale at the Ark Royal to hunt that elusive £2 Leica (hah!). Also near the Ark Royal, it would be remiss not to mention the wonderful local cider, although it is not to be messed with (as I know to my cost).
So there you have it, a small portrait of a small town. If you head down be sure to take time to wander through the side streets and the paths around town, make a day of it in fact. When you're hungry you can head to the Nelson, or get chips at French's (and it must be French's - you'll understand the queues once you've had them). If you opt for the fried stuff, it is traditional to sit on the quay side and do battle with the really aggressive gulls. There's also a Dutch barge serving pancakes on the quay, should you be feeling continental. Regardless, go to Wells, have fun, you won't regret it...unless the gulls steal your fish that is!