The story of When Marnie Was There is set in a little town by the name of Little Overton, a fictional town inspired by a real place – Burnham Overy Staithe on the Norfolk coast. Although Studio Ghibli announced that this setting was going to be changed to a village in Hokkaido in their adaptation, some friends and I still wanted to seek out Marnie’s original home base – just because we are dedicated enough Ghibli fans and because it is more fun to explore the UK by traveling to random places instead of completing the usual checklist of famous sights for foreigners.
Here’s a Google map screenshot with Burnham Overy Staithe marked (just so you can get a sense of its relative location):
Probably no one in Burnham Overy Staithe knows of Marnie, probably no one has ever read the book – or if they did, they have likely long forgotten. So don’t expect any signposts or other Ghibli tourists, what you will find are locals relaxing by the seaside and ambitious wanderers hiking miles and miles of the Norfolk coastal path (which is part of a National Trail). Even so, it is easy to imagine the story of Marnie unfolding in Burnham Overy Staithe as there is at least one clear sign: a windmill tower that also appears in the book. The pictures above, on the left, show the building on the Japanese and the British covers respectively, on the right and below are photographs of the real windmill. None of the images released from the animation however yet show the windmill. There are the dunes, with the high grass in which Anna, from whose point of view the story is told, sometimes sees Marnie appear and disappear as if by magic. We encountered a few people and a gorgeous chocolate lab puppy along the way. I picked samphire, a sea vegetable. It’s the sort of food item that has been mostly forgotten. I first came across it when living in the Netherlands where it’s known as zeekraal and have since discovered that it pops up in the fringes of cuisines from several seaside countries, including Turkey, Greece (a different variety) and the UK. After much googling, I even found a Japanese name for it – アッケシソウ or akkeshiso. You can pick it yourself or, in the UK, fishmongers will often sell it very cheaply. I often buy it from the fish stall at farmers’ markets. Mostly we hung out on the beach. A group of people nearby was flying a kite. We were chilling in the sand – eating food we had brought along, napping post-meal, taking pictures, stretching and doing some gymnastic jumps (long story). The village, which is a 15-minute walk inland, was peaceful and quaint. There were no shops, nothing, only a sort of pub / restaurant (‘The Hero’) with restricted opening hours and family houses. The latter come with charming names like Lazy Winds. And gates and doors are wide open. There is some water inland, separate from the sea, which is where these boats are mostly used. I couldn’t really find Marnie’s manor, but as we spent most of the time on the beach, there wasn’t really time to look for it. It is a random place to visit, and it certainly takes quite a while to get there from London – approximately 3.5 hours one way – but we enjoyed every minute of it. Pity we could not stay overnight. Bonus Bits:
- How to get to Burnham Overy Staithe from London: take a train from King’s Cross (that one from Harry Potter) to King’s Lynn (takes just under two hours). From King’s Lynn, catch a local bus to Hunstanton (leaves from in front of the train station, ~40 min), then another local bus to Burnham Overy Staithe (leaves from the same bus terminal as the Hunstanton bus, ~40 min).
All the When Marnie Was There posts:
- “Fine on the Outside”: Music Video for「思い出のマーニー」(Omoide no Mani/When Marnie Was There)
- 「思い出のマーニー」(Omoide no Mani/When Marnie Was There): We Have a Trailer!
- 「思い出のマーニー」(Omoide no Mani/When Marnie Was There) Images and Character Profiles
- Update on「思い出のマーニー」(Memories of Marnie): First Images, Theme Song & More
- Book Review: When Marnie Was There & Musings on the Studio Ghibli Adaptation-to-Come
- Introducing the Next Ghibli Project:「思い出のマーニー」(Omoide no Mani/When Marnie Was There)
For those who prefer a gallery of all images: