I woke up with a slight headache, I call it my travel hangover, always the second day after travelling. I took my time having breakfast and left my accommodation just after nine. I chose to walk and headed towards the city center, grabbing a coffee on the way. By the time I had reached the Botanical park, the headache was gone. The weather was sunny, warm but there was a cool breeze.
The gardens are up high overlooking the bay, on the way up I stopped to take some pictures of the view above Jacobs ladder, locals were walking up and down to get exercise. At the visitors center I got a guide to the birds in the park and then went for a stroll around. Pokémon is still big it seems on Ox, I kept bumping into groups of people tapping away on their phones, sometimes the group was as big as 25.
There were plenty of birds to spot, including a White Ibis pair flying over, whilst I sat in the shade of a large Eucalyptus. I was at the café at 14:00 so I opted for a late lunch, of fish and chips which would save me having to got out in the evening. I had a table with a view across the gardens, the bay and the Perth skyline beyond. Fish was battered Flathead fillets very handy because they form.long fingers which make it easy to eat with your fingers.
Time was getting on so I decided to head back to the apartment via a different route to see some new stuff. I passed thought a very neat area that seemed to contain the Perth parliament buildings, in the trees leading to it were the every present Rainbow Lorikeets. Then I passed through a shopping area which was like any shopping area. Just close to my destination I discovered the Perth Mint which contains the world’s largest gold coin, unfortunately it was to close in 30 minutes, so rather than wasting £10 I chose to leave for another day.
I grabbed some supplies for dinner and retired to my room to watch the Grand Prix and process my photos.
As expected I was awake at some point in the night, my body needed to adjust. I checked my phone, wondering what to do on Saturday, I came across Rottnest island, only a few miles off the coast of Perth. I figured I figured I would probably be up early so getting the 10 o’clock boat would be easy, or so I thought.
I woke up quite sleepy at 07:00 so I forced myself out of bed and had a quick breakfast. The drive to Fremantle where the shortest ferry goes from was straight forward. It was the first view of Perth in daylight, it was just like the promotion photos you see clear blue sky with not a cloud in sight. Luckily once in Fremantle there was signs to the the Rottnest ferry.
I decided my best bet was the days bus pass, with stops all round the island I could get on and off as I pleased. At about stop four, the bus driver mentioned a volunteer was there to talk about the island and walk to the next bus stop. Mimi the volunteer had moved to Australia 44 years ago, and it turns out had lived in the Chilterns around Chartridge, an area I knew well. She was very informative, I spotted Pelicans, Nankeen Kestrel, and even saw a King Skink.
I walked on to another bus stop after Mimi returned to her post. I got a bus to the stop near the lighthouse, where for $10 you could climb the stairs to get a view over the island. The lady doing the tour has a distinct Scottish accent. The building was made of stone from the island, had been built twice each team by aboriginal prisoners, and took 7 years each time.
From the lighthouse I followed a trail to skip a couple of bus stops. I got to the bus stop just after the bus was due so I waited for a while, but realised I must have missed, so I carried on the purple trail, and I was glad I did. The trail eventually runs along the beach at Strickland bay, which is beautiful and with the sun shining the sea was a bright turquoise. At the end of the beach I checked the bus time table, I had 30 minutes to get to the next stop which was close by, so I got a time lapse set.
It was quite hot out, and I think I was a bit jet lagged so I was not up for a lot of walking so I got the bus for a few stops. Whilst waiting I saw three Osprey. The bus had to stop to let a King Skink get out of the way. I got off near a salt lagoon hoping to see some waders, I dipped on the waders but there were some Pacific Shelduck, same shape as the European ones but much darker and brown where I would expect white. A few bus stops down I got back on for the last leg back back to the settlement where I got a cheese and onion sausage roll and a custard tart for lunch. I had to watch out for the Australian Ravens and Silver Gulls from stealing my food, and the very tame Quokka hung about eager for a crumb. My next venue was the small but informative museum which told the human and natural history of the island.
The ferry was due in about an hour so wandered around the settlement, and stopped at the beach for a time lapse. Then headed to the boat with 15 minutes to spare. I managed to get one of the few seats outside being solo makes that easy as you just need one space. The seat was next to Linda the volunteer who had showed me round the lighthouse, which was a stroke of luck, as she put me into a couple of ideas. Beaches in the way home and imminent sunset, and in particular Cettesloe Beach where there is a Rainbow Lorikeet roost very colourful birds but noisy and a nuisance apparently. I had a mission, but before I spotted the migrating whales from the back of the boat.
I parked up at Cottesloe beach and immediately saw groups of Rainbow Lorikeet flying in and I could hear the squabbling in the Norfolk pines. Down at the beach everyone was waiting for the sunset, so I joined them and got some fine shots in the warm light. It was dark when I left, but I navigated my way back to where I started and as a bonus I got a parking space round the corner from the apartment which was free till 08:00 Monday.
I dumped my stuff and headed back to my new favorite Italian restaurant where I had prawn and courgette fettuccine in a light creamy tomato sauce. My Little Creatures pale ale was delivered by the chef, perhaps they consider me a local now! I retired to the apartment just before 20:00 I had some photos to process.
An exciting opportunity came my, a few months back I was on the phone to our FD and he asked me in passing if I could go to Australia to help out with an ERP implementation, “When do I leave?” Was my response. My wife saw it as a great opportunity, although we would miss each other for the couple of months I would be away. It wasn’t long before my departure date came round, I would be flying to Perth on a Qantas flight via Dubai.
I didn’t sleep too week the night before, as is usual when I have to travel the next day, I think it is the anticipation, that makes my mind busy. Helen had the day off so we had a leisurely breakfast together. The driver was early, so it was a quick good by. It would be really strange to be apart for so long, even when Helen was at university most weekends Helen was back.
Did I mention business class? Our company policy is that if your flight over a certain time you can request to go business class, I figured it would be rude not to. The driver was very friendly and we discussed are various hobbies and travel stories. He dropped me off at Heathrow Terminal 3, and I found the Business class check in. Once checked in I was informed that there was a fast security queue as well as access to a lounge.
The lounge had various sections, but it was a strange time to be there between breakfast and dinner so I settled for a coffee and a glass of water. We were called to the gate and I tried a timelapse, but had to balance the camera on a radiator, and the shutter was enough to make the camera move, so it did not work out well. I had a window seat, and luck was on my side as no one was in the seat next to me.
I settled in and sent my last emails and Facebook posts, before airplane mode was required. Champagne was offered but I resisted, settling for a glass of wine with my four course meal. Bread and a small salad starter, followed by a potato cake and salad, followed by some sort of Kufta with dhal and rice, and finally lemon tart. There was still 4 hours to Dubai when I had consumed all that.
The lie flat beds sound very appealing, but in reality in the noisy setting of an aircraft, ear plugs don’t work, so sleep is very difficult. Don’t gete wrong it is nice to be able to lie flat and change postition, but they are quite hard and the gaps between the cushions where the seat articulates are never in the right place. Give me a proper bed any day. With about an hour and a bit to go the lights came on dim, and coffee and more food was distributed around the cabin, thus making the slim chance of sleep even more remote. I sat up and smelled the coffee, and a nice coffee it was too.
The lights came on fully about an hour before we landed slightly early despite hold for a 360. The business class queue through security was short, I had my boarding card so there was no messing about. Apparently the temperature outside in the middle of the night was 35 degrees Celsius, luckily the airport was air conditioned, however you got a sense of how warm and humid it was as we walked up the gangway to the terminal building. Dubai is just like any other airport, but multiplied. The same shops, and food franchises. I had a wander round before heading up to the lounge which was massive. There was plenty of food on offer, as well as drinks you just help yourself. I settled for an apple juice, I did not need any more food.
My fellow passengers and I turned up at gate A9 at the allotted time and hung around for a bit while the airline employee took phone calls. Eventually we were told there would be a delay so we all sat down on the lounge again. There was only about a 30 minute wait and we started to board. Interestingly there was an ad-hoc bag search at the gate, they confiscated my water from the previous flight.
The Emirates business setup is better in my opinion they stagger the seats so you can get in and out with disturbing your neighbor if they are lying flat. You have your own little pod with handy shelves to stow stuff. The TV screen is much larger. I found a film I had been wanting to see for a while, The Founder, about the beginning of the MacDonalds business empire, I enjoyed it. I find it hard to watch films in planes as I am easily distracted.
The air stewards came round with a thin mattress for the seat which seemed to make all the difference, as I although I was not aware of getting any sleep I think I did doze off for a few hours. We were served a breakfast at the beginning of the flight, then the lights were dimmed for about six hours. There was a lot of activity in the cabin as I guess there was always someone who could not sleep or needed a pee.
I got up for a pee just before the lights started to go on, and ventured by accident into first class looking for a vacant WC, I was soon shooed out. I passed the bar in my search, and returned with my camera to get a picture of myself drinking coffee! The bar area is quite roomy, and bright. Sweet and savoury food items are available, as well as nuts and olives. Our lunch order was taken when I got back to my seat.
For lunch I had an Arabic Mezze which included Shanklish which is a traditional cheese, they describe it as stinky cheese. Main course for me was grilled cod with a lentil dahl and vegetables. It was all served on Royal Doulton bone china! I skipped desert, and there was an hour and twenty to go. They came round with the fother and final hot towel of the flight during which I had crossed the equator, and was in the southern hemisphere for the first time.
Getting through immigration and customs was a breeze, I had registered my passport so could use the machines, I told them I had no infectious deseases, and they wavedcme through customs. Perth is quite a big airport with 4 terminals, I would be dropping off the hire car at a different one. The car was automatic and has satnav but I was not impressed, it was already dark and every so often the arrow on the satnav had me off road so it was difficult to determine when I should turn. Eventually after a few wrong turns I found a multi-storey car park close to the apprtment that had been booked for me.
The apartment has a kitchen diner, bathroom (with washing machine and tumble dryer) and bedroom. I dumped my stuff and ventured out to get some food, settling for a really close family run Italian, I had pizza and a beer called One Fifty Lashes on the way back I stopped off at a supermarket for breakfast supplies. Then to bed for a long overdue sleep.
We picked a great weekend for the weather, the forecast was sunny cloudy, we were off the stay a couple of nights at the Crown and Castle in Orford. I dealt with a couple of administrative items before we left at 09:30ish, round the M25 and up the A12, traffic was relatively ok apart from the usual black spots on the A12.
We chose to head to Minsmere RSPB reserve first, for a walk to Lighthouse cottages, for lunch, then back to the the reserve via the hides. The heather was in fine bloom on the heath, as we approached Lighthouse cottages, the Dartford Warblers were about but quite elusive, generally spotted disappearing into the heather.
At the NT cafe we had a drink and scone/cake then headed down to the beach and onto the east scrape hide. There were lots of Sandpipers and Black Godwits to mention a couple. We sent a while enjoying the wildlife and then headed back to the visitors centre in the hope of seeing Bearded Tits on the reeds overlooked by the flood defences. Helen had a quick peruse around the gift shop, then we headed back up the road but took the turning to Orford.
We got the last parking space at the Crown and Castle, settled in then went for a walk down to the harbour and quay. The village is full of old cottages many of them looked like holiday cottages. It is a looking village, very typical of rural Suffolk.
Our dinner was very good the highlight for me was the skate main course. We were quite tired and retired to our room by 21:00. Breakfast was at 08:30 and the dinning room was quite quiet, I had poached eggs on toast and Helen had French toast and maple syrup. We planned to go to Orfordness by boat so we grabbed some lovely bread from the Pump House bakery in the village, and some cheese from the village shop, then headed down to the quay we missed the first boat but were lucky enough to get in the 10:20.
There were reports of a Ted Necked Pharalope and we teamed up with a bird watcher in an attempt to find it. We walked to the wardens hut via the blue route which is where it was seen, but we failed to spot it. At the wardens hut we had a look at some moths the researchers had caught over night. The Tiger Moth was most impressive with its bold camouflage colours.
Next stop was a building with some impressive binoculars mounted on top, good for viewing distant things as they were rock solid. From there a gravel path led to the red and white lighthouse, where we stopped for a rest on the gravel bags used to shore up the coast line and stop the lighthouse falling down. The trek along the shingle beach was tedious and led us to a group of buildings where we stopped for a rustic sandwich.
We were determined to see the Pharalope so we decided to do the blue route too, which is the more remote of the paths in the spit. It takes you close to Alpha Mist which is still a broadcasting installation for the BBC world service. The track back to the jetty had passing places, we decided that it is hard to imagine that they would ever be used because all vehicles have to arrive by boat.
Close to the jetty Helen spotted a brown mammal approaching, it was a hare. We stood for a while and although it was aware of our presence it came very close and wandered across the track and into the grass right in front of us. One of those amazing but rare wildlife encounters. We had a short wait for the ferry boat after getting out tickets back from the warden who checks everyone is off the island.
We stopped for a coffee at the tea room where Helen was harassed by a wasp, while I watched the tide almost reach the cafe terrace. I fancied an ice cream from the van at the car park but the queue was too long so we headed back to the hotel and had a half of Adnams each on the terrace, and as always after a day out in the fresh it it tasted better than normal.
On sunday we had the routine cooked breakfast and sadly we checked out and headed out of Suffolk, but before we left we would have a few things to check out. First as we left orford we spotted the school used in the Detectorists where teacher and partner of the lanky bloke taught. Then we went to an RSPB reserve called Wolves Wood near Hadleigh in Suffolk the plan was to walk from the reserve to the church that featured in the same BBC 4 comedy. It turned out you could not easily get from the reserve because it would have meant leaving the trail, so we did the trail then headed bay car to Aldham Church which is a stunning little church set on a small rise at the end of a country lane. I took some photos and a timelapse which turned out to be useless because the breeze move the camera.
next we visited my Aunt and Uncle for a cup of tea and cake, then headed round the M25 to visit a big M&S to get some clothes and grab some supplies for dinner. We were home by 16:00 and had had a very enjoyable weekend.
My Sunday was free so I thought I would fit a walk in. I had previously looked at the Outer Aylesbury Ring but could not see a way to easily do 12 ish miles especially with Sunday public transport, however another look at the OS on line maps and I had realised the route from Princes Risborough to Aston Clinton was 12 miles, and a bus at 09:09 and train would get me there before 10:00. A plan was hatched!
I was early for the bus but not with enough time to pop home and get some headphones which I had forgotten, much to my annoyance. The bus stopped outside the station and my ticket to Princes Risborough was only £2.80 on a railcard. Coffee and Snickers were procured but I almost ended up on the wrong train when I boarded the one on platform 3 instead of the correct one on 2. I had a minute to spare.
I had planned a route from the station but did not follow intended route but used a more interesting gated road. I tried in the high street ti get some earphones but failed. It was a long hard slog to get out of Princes Risborough and on to the top of the hill. Steps had been built in the upper parts and they seemed to go on for ever. I welcomed the rest at the top whilst chatting to an old boy who had walked up to listen to aircraft traffic on his scanner.
The view from Whiteleaf was stunning as there was little haze. The path then dropped down into Cadsden where the Plough pub/restaurant was not quite open for a coffee, and it was a bit early to be stopping for a coffee break. The path then goes up again then across a hill where you can get views of Chequers. The route from there to Edlesborough takes you through an unusual natural Box Hedge, which extends across the whole of the valley.
A coffee would have been good but it was the wrong Sunday at Edlesborough church, so I headed off towards Bacombe Hill, where I encountered the steepest hill of the day. On my way up I pass a group of families coming down. I was not sure if it was easier going up or coming down as the path was a bit slippery from the recent rain. At the top the rain started so the poncho came out again, until I was at the monument, where I rested and took a timelapse sequence, which turned out to be shaky because of the stiff wind. I had made a point of steadying the camera.
Down in Wendover I stopped for a sandwich and a coffee at what I call Two Poundland but which is actually called No 2 Pound Street. I took my time as it started to rain and I was on no rush to get started again. I chose to walk around the edge of Halton and ended up walking through a new estate there. It seemed like a great place to live really close to Wendover woods and quiet. I headed across the road and down to Harebridge lane then around the end of Halton Airfield, where I saw a glider land. Then it was through Aston Clinton park and home.
It was a god 12 mile walk with no complaints from my back things were looking up.
I felt confident enough about my back to attempt a 12 mile walk, after a couple of weekends ramping up the mileage. I considered the next stretch of the Ridgeway but decided a local walk would allow for an easy rescue if I needed it. I arranged a very much appreciated lift to Wing with Helen’s dad. He dropped me off at 10:00 at the edge of Wing where I picked up the OAR path, heading towards Mentmore.
It was easy going to start with the path going slightly down hill, a short up action dumped me out on the last hundred yards of the road to Mentmore, where I stopped for a rest on a bench, and consumed my Snickers for the day. The path is well sign posted with the OAR logo however it is small and nearly always stuck or nailed to another sign so you have to look carefully.
From Mentmore it was again down hill to the railway, which is great train robbery country, however the path does not pass the famous bridge which is a Mike down the track from where the path crosses. Soon after the railway the path hits the Grand Union and stays on it for the rest of the days section, which ends up in Aston Clinton on the disused Wendover arm. I would finish the section at Stablebridge.
I passed a few sights of a note a lady duck a and some Ducklings who were surprisingly trusting, and some barnacle geese which were too. There were some signs about dredging along the way and a I noticed some bits of metal at the side of a the towpath on occasions, most of it of little interest, however I did come a cross a cigarette machine near a bridge, which was open. It was full of mussel shells presumably emptied by birds.
At about mile 6 I found a bench at a lock keepers cottage to rest and eat my sandwiches, Red Leicester in wholemeal Babs left over from our veggie burgers the night before. At Marsworth the path leaves the canal to take a detour though the village, only to join it again at the reservoirs. I stopped for coffee and cake at the Bluebell tearooms where the queue of two took some time while a spotty teenager was trained on the till. I sat outside and ate my chocolate cake which had spent to long on the cooler, the sparrows were not so bothered and wolfed down the crumbs I offered. I tried to get them to eat out of my hand but they would only get with 12 inches.
Between Startops and Wilstone reservoirs there were quite a few groups of Duke of Edinburgh kids with large packs. The renovation of the Wendover arm was a bit further forward than the last time I was around. It is taking quite a while I suspect that without more funding it will be quite a few decades before it is finished. I rested for 10 minutes on a convenient bench at the point where the renovation stopped then finished off the section.
The bus pulled away as I pulled into the village of Ashbury, the next one was in almost 2 hours time. I was back on the Ridgeway to do the second section from Ogbourne St George to Ashbury, and o had left home a few minutes late due to Osteopath homework, which had added exercises since the last visit.
I parked up the car and did a quick circuit of the village to get the joints going after being sat in the car for over an hour. I hatched a plan, got to the Rose and Crown pub for a coffee and see if I could arrange a taxi. A Swindon company quoted me £23 which seemed reasonable especially as they could be with me in 30 minutes rather so I would be where I wanted to be before the next bus arrived, which would also have involved a taxi journey from Swindon.
I sat in the pub garden and waited, the weather was overcast with a slight breeze, the temperature cool perfect for walking, however the weatherman promised very hot in the afternoon possibly as high as 30 centigrade!
The taxi arrived about an hour after I called, the friendly driver was quite chatty. He dropped me off at the bus stop where I had finished off last time. The oath rise steeply to the top of the ridge, but then it leveled off. It looked a bit like it was going to rain, but the weather held off, still it was just a little cold.
The path was good walking as it was almost a tarmac path and being a byway wide enough for a car. The sun started to break through the cloud and the weather warmed up. The views from the path wee stunning as the air was clear after the nights rain, and spring meant all the greenery was fresh.
I did not come across many other people on the route, but I did pass a Land Rover twice with a young family in it presumably out for a driver in air conditioned comfort rather than enjoying the fresh air outdoors. I cut the walk slightly shorter than planned because my leg was giving me some jyp. The path eventually descended and bought me out at the pub where I started.
The weatherman promised a wet day for our last full day in Norfolk, and we woke up to rain. We took our time there was not compelling reason to get outside, but we did eventually. As we passed Cley it was still raining hard so we cruised on past and grabbed some petrol at a garage in Sheringham before returning to Cley.
The what;s about board for the day was a very short list probably because no one could be bothered to get out to a hide and back. We decided to take a look at the set of three hides near the centre, it was a cold and damp walk out and there was not much to see the usual crowd of Avocets and Shelduck were there the highlight were some baby Shelducks making and appearance from underneath their mother.
We walked back the the visitor centre and had coffee, cake and a pee before heading out again to the new Babcock hide which had been worth a visit the day before. We were not disappointed the Common Sandpipers and the Ringed Plover showed well in the scrape just in front of the hide. The walk back to the centre was even wetter, we lingered and watched the superb video in the exhibition space, some really good photography and time lapses.
We felt we had made as much of the day as we could given the weather so we went back to the hut and tidied up to save some time in the morning when we would reluctantly leave Norfolk. We had a meal at The Moorings to look forward to after the great meal we had one evening earlier in the week..
The weather promised to be great day, sunny and quite still. We decided a walk from the Cley NWT visitors centre would make for a pleasant day. We arrived at the visitor centre at just before 10 and had to wait a few minutes to get in and check the what’s about list. Of note was a Black Winged Stilt at the Quag which is a lovely small body of water a couple of miles east down the coast, a place we were quite familiar with,
We made goo progress until we got to a sea breach which I estimate was over a kilo-meter long. We reached a rest point on a hillock and I checked out the car park in the distance to see if the coffee van was there, alas it looked like it wasn’t. We rested for a while then continued the trudge as we got closer I checked out the car park again it looked like there was a coffee van it looked like just another blue van, but it had a queue of two waiting.
We grabbed a coffee from the man in the van and wandered up to the next little hill to enjoy it. On the way I noticed a drone flying over the marsh. We got to our favourite bench on the hill for a spot of sea watching, when suddenly a woman started shouting at her partner to get the bee off of her, he said he could not see any. Helen stepped in and explained that the noise was the drone over the marsh which sounded like a bee!
We headed off to the Quag, and managed to get there by avoiding pebbles all the way. There were some cows in a field and we noticed, unusually, a Bearded Tit fly in and settle briefly. We sat for 5 on a large lump of wood probably washed up in the winter storm to see if it emerged again, but it did not. At the Quag itself things did not look promising although there were some scopes trained om the water no one seemed to be looking though them. We took a look ourselves then moved round a bit and tried again, the Black-Winged Stilt was behind a small island and was not showing really well. It was a first for us they are quite rare in the UK and normally found in the south of France.
We walked up the lane to the coast road and checked the bus times, we had time for a coffee so we used the junk/book shop and tea room. Just before the bus we due we went out to the stop but the bus was just pulling past, I had read the timetable wrong. We had a 30 minute wait so had a quick browse around the junk then sat on the war memorial and watched some children doing cycling proficiency lessons until the bus came.
It was early afternoon at the NWT centre so I had coffee and cake and Helen a cheese scone, then we headed to the new Babcock hide. We were pleased to be able to watch Common Sandpipers and a Little-Ringed Plover. We got back to the hut at about 17:00 and spent the evening watching the Woman in Gold staring Helen Mirren which we both enjoyed.
The weather forecast was a mixed bag, and there were differing opinions. I went with the met office app which does an animated rain radar, and prediction as it was the most optimistic of the options. Given the weather uncertainty we decided Blickling Hall National Trust was probably the best bet as it offered both indoors and outdoor options. We were not early getting up and left the house at about 10:30 which was perfect as the house opened at 11:00.
There was some rain during the drive there but it was much brighter when we arrived, at the car park. There is a new system in the car park and you have to present your membership card to the ticket machine to park. Some people were having trouble with one machine and a queue was forming, so Helen went off to find another machine. My card albeit not valid for entry worked first time, then Helen returned with another ticket, so I gave mine to the people having trouble. I got told off at the welcome hut for not having the right card, but you have heard that story already.
As the weather was fine we took the chance to do the long walk around the perimeter of the estate. It was quite warm and I was soon down to my t-shirt, it was a lovely walk if a bit humid, the light was great to show off the greens of spring. Eventually we got back the house but our path was blocked by tree felling, so we had to do a detour to get around and to the cafe for lunch. We were almost the last people in the queue before they shut the doors because they had run out of tables. The people queuing got complimentary brownie cake for their trouble. I had the leek and potato soup and Helen a cheese sandwich.
After lunch we had a look around the house and grounds close to the house. The walled garden was again well tended, and the house had an Indian influence. The second hand stamp and book shops were our last port of call before heading back via Cromer and the coast road. We stopped off at East Runton to look at a surplus shop but they did not have any poncho’s.
For dinner we went to the Moorings and had a very nice meal, which we liked so much we booked a table for Friday.