In the Middle Ages, along with Wiveton and Cley, Blakeney was one of the prosperous Glaven ports, sheltered by the long sandy spit of Blakeney Point, these busy harbours jostled with ships taking sheep and salt fish to the Low Countries. And when the Spanish Armada threatened England, the Glaven ports sent 36 ships to join Drake’s fleet. Eventually silt blocked the sea channels and only small nimble craft could navigate the marsh, the kind used by smugglers. It’s said beneath Blakeney’s narrow streets where so many old fishermen’s cottages are now second homes, there’s a maze of tunnels, created by gangs who once held sway along the North Norfolk coast.
But those underground labyrinths are home to even more elusive beings. Hikey Sprites or Hyter Sprites are rare creatures who haunt woods and marshlands at dusk, peculiar to Norfolk’s strange liminal places. Described by some as spider-like, scuttling on spindly legs, by others as flying on leathery wings, it’s said they’ll suck your blood and steal away children who wander out onto the marsh after dark. Parents warn ‘if you go out alone, the hyter sprites will get you’, though there are also folk tales of hikeys bringing lost children safely home. It seems, like faeries, sprites are nothing if not unpredictable.
Stories told by smugglers to scare off prying eyes? Or fables to safeguard curious children? Dare you to find out!