Up slightly earlier than usual as we had an appointment for a bird walk at Holkham at 10:00 and I also had some back exercises to do. My back was improving I’m not sure why but I was determined to do the same each day to ensure what ever was working continued. I had homework from the osteopath, hot and cold packs, walking, driving and stretches I did while walking.
The website said meet at the car parking hut, but it was not clear where it was and it appeared to have lived to make way for a repair to the culvert at the entrance. Helen managed to track down the ranger, and get the complimentary parking ticket included in the £5 walk fee. We were the only real birders so the walk was a bit light on birds but we did learn a lot about the estate, and the warden was very knowledgeable about all the surveys they do and the contributions they make to the national record keeping.
The walk took in both the hides the George Washington and the Jordan tower hide, from where we saw four Spoonbill, one of them flying. The route back was via the beach was became a bit of a slog, and we were glad to be back on hard standing. Back at the car we decided to head to Cley Spy for lunch.
The art cafe does some very nice lunches most of them vegetarian, I had a falafel salad, and Helen home made beans on toast. The reason for heading to Glandford what primarily for lunch, but also to have a browse around Cley Spy and do the Bayfield woodland walk.
After a lovely lunch we headed out on the walk, it was warm and humid so quite energy sapping. The highlight of the walk was Jays and Treecreeper. At Bayfield Hall we stopped off at the wildflower cafe for a quick refreshment then finished off the last mile of the walk back to the Glanford commercial centre where we were happy for a sit down in the comfortable car seats.
We were up relatively early and left the hut at 09:30, to park up at Burnham Overy Staithe, the plan was a loop inland taking in Burnham Market or Chelsea by the sea as some call it.
We left BOS via the road not falling for the apparent footpath that seems to join the village but is in fact a dead end. Then we crossed a rape field with views of the windmill, and the marshes. We chose to miss out the big loop to the sea instead took the footpath to Burnham Norton village, a sleepy place with lots of gardeners tending the holiday cottages which seemed to make up the majority of the properties. The path to Burnham Market was up hill which is unusual for Norfolk, we saw hares running a mock in a ploughed field.
On the out skirts of Burnham Market there are dome very impressive properties. We had lunch at The Hoste, avocado and black olive sandwiches. The till rung up £9 but the menu said £8, they apologised and adjusted the bill, and the sandwiches tasted even better. After lunch we took a gamble on the route and headed for a dismantled railway marked on the map not knowing whether it was a right of way, but it turned out to be OK.
We sat for a while at a track junction and saw Whitethroat, Yellowhammer, and unusually Red Kite which a while ago would have been rare in North Norfolk. Back in BOS we sat on a bench and watched the world go by, as well as a group of four swifts that were buzzing us. We popped into Burnham Market on the way back to the hut, then Burnham Deepdalr for petrol, and finally the Adnams shop at Holkham for a bottle of wine.
Down at the Wells quay Helen went off shopping and I visited the chandlers then did a couple of time lapse sequences of the harbour.
I was confused over the distance from Windsor to Cookham, I got it in my head that it was 15 miles but it turned out it was only 10, so a nice distance. A work colleague lives in Cookham, so I sought advice re parking. I aimed for being in Cookham at 09:00, as the buses worked at that time. For the first time the satnav did not suggest the M25 so I went via Beaconsfield, cross country.
I parked up and found the bus stop and by chance Max was there, and offered me a lift to Windsor, what a star. We walked back to his house and uncovered his convertible Mercedes, I would arrive in Windsor in style thanks to Max. I started at the Riverside station, and ignoring the map did not cross the river so I did a 1/2 km detour having to double back. My first stop was Boveney Lock to start this blog entry, usually I got the chance on the bus or train.
At Dorney Lake I cheated by taking a very slightly short route taking in the Olympic rowing venue, there was a lot of activity going on, with rowers training and a Triathlon, just finishing. I say cheating but in the very loose terms, because my plastic map of the path takes you that way because when it was printer the path had a detour. The weather had turned out gorgeous, blue skies with con trails building as the morning went on. I was down to my T-shirt, but it was cold when stopped. At the end of the lake where the Triathlon had taken place a coffee stall was still open so I stopped for a coffee, I was at mile 3.88.
As you approach Maidenhead the Riverside houses are very opulent, I imagine they run into the millions of pounds. Quite a few own the bank but the foot path cuts the house off from the river. Just before Maidenhead you pass under the brick railway bridge built by Isambard kingdom Brunel, it has the widest and lowest self supporting brick arch. It looked to me like it needed a bit of TLC there were bushes growing out of it.
At the Maidenhead bridge at Windrush VW (where I bought my Golf) I crossed the river and stopped in the Blue River Cafe for lunch, of Toast vegetable and Haloumi sandwich, which came with chips, I washed it down with a pint of orange and soda. While munching away I spotted my first Sand Martins of the year, as well as a Grey Wagtail. Unusually I started to get a blister after Maidenhead and my pace slowed a bit. Opposite Cliveden I rested for 5 minutes on a handy bench, it was peaceful and quiet until two elderly ladies came along and sat down and started nattering to each other.
I tried to contact Max as I got back to the edge of Cookham, but had to leave a message. Once in Cookham I took a look at the Stanley Spencer Gallery, which is £5 to look round but worth it as the paintings are curiously interesting, they are slightly impressionist and often contain the depiction of some biblical scene. By the time I had looked around the gallery Max still had not contacted me so I headed back to the car, then home.
I investigated my blisters when I got home they were not particularly large but they we deep and in an awkward position on the ball of my feet right near the base of my second toe in. I was using my new lined socks from Tesco which were fine on the first outing but had subsequently bee washed, the lining and the out seemed to be fused together and resisted being pulled apart. My theory is that the linings should slide over each other to stop the skin being stressed, and the lack of that property caused the blisters. I will revert back to my old thin silk lined socks that I wear over normal day socks in future and make a note to source some more. I bought them from an outdoor shop in Liverpool Centre more than 10 years ago and they have served me well I only hope I can find a replacement.
We had a Sunday to ourselves and following a recommendation from my parents, I suggested Wisley RHS might be worth a try. The weather forecast was overcast with a promise of some breaks on the could and it was the middle of winter, not the best time to visit a garden, but we threw caution to the wind.
I picked Helen up after church at about 1020 then we headed off around the M25, the road to all venues. I missed the turning off of the A3 so we had the pleasure of visiting a plane called Burpham! The detour was slight and we were soon parking up. Given the time of year the car park was surprisingly busy we were in the last few rows of the third and final car park.
I had checked out the membership options on the RHS site, and enquired whether the single membership which allowed for a “family guest” would stretch to letting the wife in, it did so £42 later I had one year’s entrance. Given that adults pay £12 all I had to do was to visit twice on my own or once more with Helen and we were quids in.
We took a look at the map and decided that the cafe at the far side of the entrance was the place to head for as it was more or less coffee time. The cafe was heaving by the time we got there it seemed like every Londoner had decided to have coffee or lunch at the Wisley RHS cafe. We did however manage to find a table inside amongst the screaming 5 year olds. The coffee and walnut cake was great shared with Helen and the cappuccino was good.
Our next stop would be the glass houses where they had a special feature for the winter, butterflies from exotic lands were in one section. The queue sign suggested a 20 minute wait did not seem like too long, so we waited and it did not. The man controlling the entry said the sun had made the glasshouse hot so people were moving though quite quickly. Once in it was great there were lots of different types of butterfly, most of them much larger than the British varieties. They seemed quite tame too, sitting on leaves and allow me to take their photos.
From the glass house we headed up hill towards the apple tree collection, at the top there is a great view over the site. From there we headed kind of back towards the entrance. We looked in on the alpine area and I took a pan of the small glass house. The bonsai were interesting nearly all were over 50 years old and one was 150 years old, clearly not a hobby you should start a when you’re tire if you want to see the results of your efforts. The veg growing area was impressive and almost inspired me to sort out my two metre square patch at home.
We headed toward the restaurant and cafe for some lunch, it was about 13:10 and the food hall was Ramos but once we had got some food we found a whole courtyard in the the sun where no one wanted to sit, we had the place to ourselves then shared it with another couple. The food we chose was Parmesan butternut squash baked in filo pastry with a celeriac and beetroot coleslaw and a couscous salad, it went down a treat.
After lunch we wandered towards a bird hide in a far corner of the site, where the pines and heather collections are. On the way I suggested that we might see a ringed neck parakeet and would you believe it about a minute later one flew over and perched in a tree ahead. For once I had my binoculars with me and we got a good look. I have seen enough now to be able identify them was they fly over, with tree long tails and fast fighter jet like flight. There is a public footpath that runs through that part of the park and the park path goes under a bridge to allow the path to be bordered by chain link fence and barbed wired, then strangely at the other end you can get into the park with just a sign suggesting you should not and a couple of CCTV cameras as a deterrent.
We had to exit via the gift shop which was very comprehensive, and had a good book department which along with all the other tut meant that Helen spent some time browsing then spending (ed: Helen was ushered too fast out of said gift shop!). I did buy a device that allows eggs to be decapitated. The journey home was smooth and without traffic issues, we chose the M40 Beaconsfield route just for a change. I will look forward to visiting again throughout the year to see how the plants and flowers change throughout.
With two weeks holiday to look forward to we eased into it slowly. R and L had a welcome party for J round at his parent house. It was great to catchup with some people we had not see for quite a few years.
R was showing off his Ogle car and K was showing off his immaculately restored Land Rover convertible I thing it was number 62 off the production line. The Ogle is the only one still on the road.
Sunday as a short drive got see H&N in their countryside residence on the Essex Cambridgeshire Suffolk border. They lurcher puppy call Wilco which was as made as a bag of badgers. We went for lunch at a pub where Dick Turpin was born one of many pubs in Essex which have claims to the highwaymans heritage. After lunch we watched the start of the Grand Prix then headed further east to Southwold where we had a room booked at Sutherland House.
We could not check in to the hotel till 18:30 sort we wandered down to the pier and I took a few photo’s as the sun was low and the light was that special Suffolk light. Helen won 78 tickets on the slot machines and cashed them and gave the receipt to a young child who was on the premises.
We walked back to the car then drove to the hotel where we managed to find a parking space nearby which would mean that we did not need to move the car till 10. The room was big well furnished and has an ornately moulded ceiling. We had a table booked for 19:00 and it was a good job that we had booked a table as the restaurant was full after we had sat down for 10 minutes.
We were given complimentary amuse bouche as while we waited for our starters, smoked salmon, caper berry, and horse radish on a shaped piece of toast. Helen was given a veggie one after refusing the salmon, it was cucumber and onion marmalade I think they may have put it together in a panic, but hHelen said she enjoyed it.
The starters were crab tian for me and goats cheese pannacotta with walnut pesto for Helen both very tasty. For a main I had skate with potatoes soufflé and Helen had goat cheese (again) on potato soufflé again both were very tasty. We had eaten at lunch time so we forewent desert.
Then it was early to bed the real holiday would not really start till Monday and everyone was at work. Bring it on!
A local walk was planned for the day, to save having to drive anywhere. We headed out down to the beach then turned left and headed towards Sizewell. Interestingly the coast is being eroded away, and they have built up the defences with wire cages full of rocks but they are on top of big sacks made of a felt material full of sand and rocks. After a bit of a slog on the beach keeping clear of the waves that washed in we joined a coastal path which for Suffolk was fairly elevated.
At Sizewell beach we found the cafe closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the public loos in a bit of a mess. We headed up the road To a pub called the Vulcan arms just opposite the entrance to the nuclear power station entrance. The pub sign included Dr Spock, the aircraft, and the Greek god of ironmongery and black smithing. We were a bit early so sat in he pub garden for 10 minutes until it opened. It was a bit early but we all had sandwiches as from the map it was clear that the was no obvious option for the lunch on the way back. I took the opportunity to do a time lapse sequence.
The route back would head in land via the RSPB land called Aldringham walks. Helen spooked a green wood pecker, and we came across a very large tit flock possibly 75 birds. We also spotted plenty of butterflies, including Monarch and Speckled wood. The route back took bought us out a the golf course, past the house in the clouds and eventually to The Dolphin pub, where we enjoyed a well earned pint.
J made his lovely Cajun stew for dinner and I made a sort of apple and blackberry strudel which was served with either ice cream or custard. Then we sat down to watch the great British bake off before going to bed.
We were up early had, breakfast then left the hut at 09:20, destination Hickling Broad NNR, about two miles walk. It was a pleasant walk, mainly by track and footpath, we arrived at the visitors center and attempted to book a place on the 1030 boat trip but unfortunately it was full, but there were some places on the 13:30 so we booked that one in instead.
As we had three hours to while away we started off slowly with a coffee, whilst we sat and drank our coffee we were surprised at the number of birds we spotted just sat there; Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Robin, Tits etc. We set off around the reserve stopping off at the Cadbury hide, named after the family who purchased the land and then donated it to the NWT some years ago. The Cadbury family still have a link with the reserve as they lease a lodge deep in the reserve and next to the edge of the open water. When someone is staying they raise an appropriate flag, today a flag with a Marsh Harrier was flying. We did not see much from the hide the I think because the water levels where so low the habitat was not how they had intended it when the hide was built.
In the next hide we thought that a situation was in front of us until Helen spotted a Water Rail. The Water Rail is a very elusive bird normally only observed briefly when they venture out of the reeds. The low water level was to hep us in this situation, the edges need the reeds where the rails would normally feed was dried up forcing it to wander out into the open. We saw it forage slowly and then go into a small patch reeds where we lost sight of it but our patience was rewarded when it came back out into the open for a while before a short flight back into the reeds. Along with the Black Tern yesterday the Water Rail wold be added to the weeks highlights.
Next it was down to the far edge of the reserve and past the Lodge leased by the Cadbury family, where we headed back towards the visitors center making the walk into a circular one. We ate the sandwiches we made back at the hut with another instant coffee then we walked back into the reserve to find the mooring for the boat trip.
There were not many birds to see on trip I think we were just there at the wrong time of year, all the winter wildfowl had left and the spring/summer migrants delayed by the delayed spring weather. The guide had some interesting facts to convey to us, one that stuck out was the story of Emma Turner who was a victorian naturalist who got permission to use an island on the broad which was used for hunting. She had a house boat built and a hide then lived there for the next 25 years, photographing and recording the birds.
We walked back to the hut and got back at 16:30 so we had a long day out in the field. We ventured out to the The Swan pub at Stalham an Adnams pub where the food was great.
It has been some time since I did a blog post, so here is one to cover the weekend. Friday was quiet I had noodles for tea while Helen was out for an early meal at the pub. We found the comedy series “2012” on Netflix so watched a couple of episodes, then retired to bed early to make the most of Saturday.
Saturday morning we were up early Helen, had a few things to do, so I busied my self in the garden. We now have a big flower pot with mixed herbs in it. I actually excavated our composter and spread some of it about on the veg patch I created a couple of years ago. I have onions and garlic growing which I planted before Christmas and they seem to be coming on well. The gap between the onion rows seemed wide enough to get another crop in between, so I put in three rows of different lettuce and a row a radish seeds. I have some seeds which have started to sprout, in a plastic tray divided into one inch square plugs, I need to wait before transferring them to the veg patch.
I put some dough ingredients into the bread maker, before picking up Helen, the plan to have a walk around College Lake. The weather was gorgeous, the sun was shining and it was pretty warm. Having not been out bird watching for a while it was a real treat to see some of the spring birds. On the trees were the usual tits, but Helen spotted a Willow Warbler, and could then hear a Chiffchaff. In the scrape viewable from the octagon hide, we saw Snipe, Little Ringed Plover, and Redshank as well as the usual ducks, geese and swans. Next stop was to be Tesco for some Pizza ingredient, remember I put on the bread dough before i went to pick up Helen.
Suitably stocked up with pizza toppings we headed to Wilstone reservoir, I had heard reports of Arctic Terns passing through. We parked up and climbed the bank, but there was no sign of any of the bird we might expect. No Martins, Swallows, or Terns not even a common Tern, so we jumped back in the car and headed home, to find the dough had not risen very well probably something to do with the out of date yeast. As it turns out the dough did rise when in the oven but not as good as it could have been, but the pizzas were divine.
Sunday started with a trip to church for Helen and a lazy start for me watching the London Marathon on the TV. Before Helen got back I decided I would have a go a making some bread by hand. I chose a wholemeal recipe and added some walnuts and seeds to the mix. I used some yeast that was almost out of date (there is a pattern emerging here) which needed mixing with sugar and warm water to make it work. I mixed everything in a bowl and then kneaded it for about 10 minutes before putting the dough in a bowl to rise. Helen got back and we decided so make the most of the weather by having a walk round Dancersend Nature reserve. We left the dough to rise.
The reserve was pretty quiet considering that this the the first real warm weather we have had fro some time. Spring was here for sure, leaves were emerging from the tree branches and wild flowers where staring to bloom. We spent about an hour and half strolling around the perimeter of the reserve, highlights included Chiffchaff (heard by Helen), Nuthatch, Buzzard and a couple of Greater Spotted Woodpeckers trying to attract the attentions of a female. We headed back to the house and I finished off the bread, knocking it back, kneading then covered it in seeds and left it to rise before scoring it and chucking it in the oven.
I then mowed the lawn and did some weeding in the flower beds, I have plans that this year I am going to make and effort with the veg patch and the rest of the garden, whether it lasts all summer remains to be seen!
After a hot night we were up and ready for breakfast at 08:10, I had scrambled eggs and mushroom had Helen had beans and hash browns, the toast was lovely made from home made bread. We gathered our stuff and walked down the road to the Stiffkey bus stop to get the bus to Burnham Deepdale, only to find the next bus was not for another fifty minutes! What should we do? We decide to get the bus going the other way and have a coffee at the Cley NWT cafe. On the way to Cley we realised that we would not have enough time for a coffee so we got off at Cley village stores, and waited for the bus going the way we wanted.
After a five minute wait we were on the right bus going to our chosen destination, we wanted to walk from Burnham Deepdale to Wells next to sea about 10 miles. We passed though Burnham Market on the way which had a craft fair going on around the village green, it looked interesting but the place was heaving and it was only 10. When we got off the bus we realised how hot the day was, the weather man had promised 30 degrees. As we headed out along the sea wall we both began to realise that the whole walk may not be managed. When you get close Burnham Overy Staithe you hit a kind of false summit, the sea wall heads back on it self, which was very disheartening to Helen and a few expletives were heard.
At the quay of Burnham Overy Staithe there is a chandlers/general store which sold cold drinks, it was very welcome. Inside it seemed to be air conditioned, we lingered deciding what drink to purchase. We sat on a railway sleeper in the shade outside, a woman was trying to find some where to tie up her small terrier Helen offered to hold on to the lead but the offer was turned down on the basis that the dog would probably go for us so could we warn passersby not to get too close! While the lady was a way the dog snarled a lot at the passing people.
The quay is a popular spot as there is a free car park and you can cross a shallow creek and then get out to a lovely cut off beach, seems every man and his dog was heading out there, it looked like a scene from war of the worlds when everyone leaves town in a mass exodus. We contemplated getting the bus to Holkham but in the end continued on our walk. After another couple of miles we were in the sand dunes, next stop was a paddle in the sea. It is surprising how cooling a paddle is, I think the cold temperature on your feet combined with the stiff sea breeze, just hits the spot.
Holkham beach is vast, and we were walking at the sea edge for over an hour. We can across some some very trusting Sanderlings and Ringed Plovers. At one point we stopped and sat down to have some lunch we had purchased some cheese and onion pasties the day before. Our choice of spots was not interesting, we were at the far edge of the nudist area, and every so often a nude man would make circuit strutting his stuff. Helen &I have have some experience of nudists beaches, not as nudists you understand, we just have this uncanny knack of coming across them when out of walks. Male couples tend to gather at the fringes of them and the Holkham one was no different. We walked on and slowly the nudists dissolved away and clothed beach users took over. The beach was tough on bare feet so we decided to head inland to the pine forest to continue the walk in the shade.
On one side of the forest there was a lovely breeze which combined with the shade of the trees was bearable but as we got deeper in to the forest the breeze went and the heat took over. We were starting to discuss the ice creams we were going to order when we got to the Wells ice cream shop. When we got to the ice cream the queue was massive so we walked on to the town along the sea wall, when we got there we had just about had enough. I popped in to a shop while Helen checked out the bus times. The buses seemed to be running late, but we made good use of the time downing two 7 Ups and two bottles of water between us.
Eventually the bus came 40 minutes late it turns out there was a bad accident around Holkham and the traffic was being sent round the Holkham estate. We purchased our tickets and requested being dropped off at the Red Lion in Stiffkey, one of the services offered by the coast hoppers is that you can be dropped off anywhere safe on their route. After 10 minutes in a very hot bus we were dropped off outside the pub. We rested a while before a shower and then went down to the bar, Helen had veggie lasagne and I had wild mushroom and pea risotto, both dishes got the thumbs up. For desert we had another drink, then retired to our room well replete.
Thursday of our Lakeland holiday saw us waking up to rain, and mist over the hills. We had check the weather report at the pub last night, and already had vague plans to drive to RSPB Leighton Moss, which claims to be the largest reed bed in the North West. The rain and mist made up our minds RSPB would be the destination today.
The drive took about and hour and twenty, on mixed roads, a bit tedious but it was raining and we had the Desert Island Discs archive to while the time away. We (or should I say TomTom) found RSPB Leighton Moss easily. Once parked up I said to Helen “where are the binoculars?” We had managed to forget them back at the hut. In future we must both make sure we do binocular checks before we leave to visit a reserve. All was not lost, the RSPB will loan binoculars to forgetful members, like us FOC.
The helpful volunteer on the desk kitted us out with binoculars in exchange for Helen’s credit card, then gave us a virtual tour of the reserve. We headed out to Lilian’s hide apparently opened by John Prescott, the main attraction is the gull roost. We could not spot any other gulls than black headed, but there were a few ducks about. When we got a sense that the rain had eased off we made a break for the next hide.
There was not much to see from the public hide so after a quick scan we moved on to the Low Hide, not much going on there either, but it was a good place to watch the Marsh Harriers, and the Swifts flying past. It stopped raining so we took the opportunity to walk back to the visitor centre for some RSPB lunch. On the way we saw and heard Reed Warblers and Reed Buntings.
At the cafe Helen had from the Kiddies menu beans and a veggie sausage (called sunshine beans on the menu great value at £2.10) and I had a Lancashire cheese baguette. Next we got drove down the road to the beach side hides that over look the marshes.
From the Eric Morecombe hide there were some Black-tailed Godwits, Little Egrets, Redshank, and plenty of Avocets, with chicks. From the Allen hide more Avocets and some Oyster catchers all with chicks. Next it wasa back to thje visitors centre to check out the last two hides.
Great views of Lapwings flying close in front of the hide, and a Gadwall pair. The lapwings were so close we could hear their wings beating against the air. We also saw a flock of 8 Little Egret fly over, which I think is the most I have ever seen so close.
The Tim Jackson (died in an accident bird watching!) hide has recently bee rebuilt, and a lovely hide it is. A bit more activity lots of Gadwall out the front with the usual gaggle of Black-headed Gulls. Over the back of the lagoon we could see a Red Deer and a young doe gambling back and forth without any care, the velvet covered antlers of a stag could also be seen in the long grass at the edge of the reeds. On the way back to the shop I noticed a small mammal running towards me on the path I stood still and signalled to He’ll to do so too, the small creature stood and looked at me for a bit then ran into the under growth. Most likely it was a Weasel but it could have been a Stoat. We left the reserve at 16:30, to take a mountain pass home.
The mountain pass through Ulpha and across Birker fell did not disappoint, the climb up was very steep, but once we were up on the fell, the road flattened out and you could see far ahead, and the descent down into Eskdale was quite restrained. The pass had cut quite some miles but no time off the journey.
We were back bay 17:45 and felt we had made the most of the day by driving whilst it was raining. then doing the wildlife whilst the weather cleared up, culminating with sun as we drove over the mountain pass. We quickly dumped our stuff at the hut and headed back to Brook House Inn at Boot, some of it’s great beer and food.
The food lived up to our expectations, and was excellent, the menu was a fluid as it was yesterday, as we arrived some choices were removed and new ones added. I had the last Deep fried king prawns, with salsa, salad and chips, before that was taken down, and Helen had Feta and Spinach pie with boiled potatoes and a salad. As for beer we both had the Hawshead Brewery Windemere Pale.