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.
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.
The weather man promised a mixed day bright start with an increasing chance of rain as the day in folded. We decided on Cley for an early walk then the Bird Photographer of the year exhibition and Felbrigg National trust property for when it was raining.
We left the house before 10 and drove to Cley which is just around the headland so to speak. There was the odd spit of rain but we checked in and then headed out to East Bank to see what was about and have a look at the new hide/shelter. There were plenty of Avocets, the odd Ringed Plover, the usual Redshank, as well as little brown jobs (Sedge Warbler and Reed Buntings). The highlight was a couple of Weasels running along the track at the bottom.of the East Bank.
The new shelter although windowless was a welcome shelter from the wind and rain, we shared it with an elderly couple competing on id’ing the bird first. We took a quick look at the sea which had taken over the bank which makes the walk to the car park relatively easy, making it look like a real hard slog. We scanned the sea for seals and seabirds but there was not much to see, so we headed back into the wind to try out the hide near the visitors center.
There was only really Avocet to see from the hide, so we did not stop long. Back at the visitors center the exhibition was not quite ready, so we headed to Felbrigg planning to return via Cley on the way home.
We parked up and Helen threatened violence if food and coffee were not forthcoming, however my back needed straightening so I risked a wander up to the house and back before we ventured in to the cafe. At the ticket office I was informed that my NT card with an expiry date of June 2018 was not valid, because the previous one, due to expire June 2017 was still valid. They let me in but warned me that I needed to use the old one until June. It was not clear and they did not tell me when I could start using the new one, however just like you do when you receive a new credit card I had already destroyed the previous card.
At the cafe we had some lunch I had crab sandwich and Helen backed potato with baked beans,. The house is fairly interesting it had last been lived in back in the 20’s so there was not a lot of contemporary stuff which I really like. I was able to give one of the volunteers some advice on his diet to help with his gout based on someone I know who managed to stop gout by changing diet, it is all about reducing the reducing your intake of purines apparently. Helen went to have a look around the shop while I sat in the courtyard and tried to get pictures of Chaffinches scrounging crumbs from the tables.
On the way out we had a stroll around the extensive walled gardens, which in my opinion are the jewel of the property. I was amazed at the number of Blackbirds around the gardens. We drove back via Cromer to Cley where we had a look at the fantastic photos of the Bird Photographer of the year exhibition. We had a walk out to the hides to get 10,000 steps on the fitBIt there was not anything that we had not seen earlier, Helen was disappointed to not see Bearded Tits.
Back in Blakeney I picked up an Amazon delivery from the post office then we went back to the house and had veggie sausage sandwiches and salad for tea, then settled in for the evening to watch Patriot on Prime, and a couple of beers from my Adnams mini keg of Best Bitter.
First full day in Blakeney we were up at reasonable time but did not leave the house until just after 10. We drove out to Holme NWT and would work our way back to Blakeney with a few stop offs.
Although it had been raining on the way there by the time we got to the reserve the sun was out. At the gate we blagged our way in by saying we were going to renew our membership, which Helen did while I straightened my back out. We then headed for the pines where a Spotted Fly Catcher had been seen. It did not take us long to find, posing in it’s distinctive more upright pose that other birds of it size. We then headed along the boardwalk along the dunes until there was an opportunity to get on the beach a mile or two down.
It was nice to be away from the crowds at one point we seemed like the only souls on the beach. We wandered slowly along the beach back to level with the pines and headed back to the visitor centre for a coffee then got back in the car and headed to Titchwell stopping on the way at Thornham deli to grab a vegetable pasty to eat at Titchwell.
At Titchwell the recent spots board was interesting, I wanted to see the Turtle Dove and Helen the Yellow Browed Warbler. We headed first towards the Fen Hide. We saw two baby pigeons in a nest and heard Reed Warblers but failed to get the birds we wanted. We headed straight out to the sea and sat and ate our pasties in the edge of the dunes. After Helen went to hunt for waders on the sea edge I took a timelapse set on the brick building rubble on the beach.
We headed back into the reserve and stopped off at the modern looking Parrinder the highlights were Turnstone and baby Avocets, being protected by all incoming birds by a parent. We tried again for the star species but dipped, however on the way out to the car park we got fleeting glimpses of another Spotted Fly Catcher high in a tree.
We stopped off at Deepdale on the way back where Helen bought a couple of books. Back at the hut I had a shower before we went to the White Horse for dinner. I had the Bream on roasted fennel and saffron potatoes and Helen the Haloumi salad both delicious.
Another holiday in North Norfolk! We haven;t been for just over a year. We left the house just before 10 and obeyed the SatNav which took us on the M25 to the A1M then Cambridge way and through Thetford forest via Mildenhall and Lakenheath. We stopped and at the Lakenheath watching area but as promised by the website it was like most weekends, nothing was happening, so we stretched our legs for 5 minutes and carried on to Swaffham where we grabbed supplies at the Waitrose.
The cottage was a bungalow just off Mariner Hill and had a parking space which is very rare for Blakeney. Parking was a challenge but a neighbour put us right, the parking for the cottage was not outside by the other side of the next door neighbour. I would have loved to see the plans for the cluster of houses, because there were parking spaces belonging to houses opposite and orphaned well kept gardens. We unpacked and I did me Osteopath homework to sort out my back, then we went for a walk.
We walked to Cley along the sea wall the weather was warm despite the breeze, and the weather for the week promised more of the same if not warmer. At Cley we got the bus back to Blakeney, had a swift half and booked a table for Sunday evening then retired to the hut for some more back exercises and a salad dinner. We watched Babs on iPlayer which I thought was average and Helen really enjoyed. Helen then watched Graham Norton Show while I went down to the quay to get some pictures of the Sunset.
Since the first week of our holiday I had seen reports on Twitter of an Osprey at Weston Turville reservoir, a local to home reservoir. It is pretty small as reservoirs go there is a sailing club but they sail small boats like Lasers. I would say it is about 200 metres by 300-400 metres. I thought I should check it out, so I dropped Helen off at her folks and popped round.
The signs were good there were bird watchers there with scopes and binoculars. I enquired about the Osprey it had apparently made an appearance earlier and caught two fish, but had not been seen for a while. Time lapse and birding are quite complimentary as you can set the camera up and use the waiting time to watch for birds. That is exactly what I did, I tried out my new panning device bought on Amazon for less tgat £20, basically a good quality kitchen timer.
I had done one sequence and popped over to start a new one, taking in the sailing rave tgat had just started and noticed that the other bird watchers had got all excited. The Osprey was back, it circled over the water for a while, giving me a chance to get some shots, as it passed over the bank end of the reservoir, then headed off towards Stoke Mandeville. Mission accomplished, next I popped up to Coombe hill to get some more sequences, there was s nothing like doing something to get proficient at it, the old 10,000 hours theory.
I put the GoPro on the panorama plinth at the monument, at the top of Coombe hill, it got some funny looks and some questions but I managed to do 20 minutes which equates to 120 degrees of panning. Some people were I view at times but I hoped that it would add to the final video, remember every day is a school day.
The rest of the day was spent processing photo’s and videos and catching up on missed TV especially “This is England 90”
The tour of Britain was passing through the area and I had the day off so I thought I would go and have a look. After consulting the maps for the route I figured Kop Hill, a category 2 climb, would be the best place to see them as they would be going slower on the ascent. I figured that parking spaces would be at a premium in the area so I needed to have a plan. Looking at the ap there is a parking area about a mile away on a parallel road with a foot path leading to the whiteleaf car park.
Before heading out for the race I had and appointment with Roman Britain. There was an open day on Bishops field where an archaeology dig has been going on before a new housing estate is inserted into the space. There is an obvious track way across the field where the ditches which bordered the road showed up darker. The road was part of the Icknield way. They had some interesting finds on top of the usual bits of pot and animal ones they found a skeleton of a woman and in another spot the skeleton of a small child. I met up with Helen and parents to have a look around, and gave them a lift home on may way to Kop Hill.
On the way to to my parking spot, i had to negotiate many cyclists down the narrow country lanes. The parking area was about two thirds full probably unusual for a week day, so others had probably had a similar idea. The foot path was a familiar as I have walked in the area quite a few times in the past. It took about 25 minutes to get over to the whiteleaf parking area and I was glad that I parked else where as the car park was overflowing on the road leading to it. A short walk following the crowds that were gathering got me to the top of Kop hill where I walked down a few hundred yards to get to the steepest section, whch would make getting photographs easier as the cyclists would be going a bit slower.
It was not long before we saw some action, marshals and police on motor bikes and the odd official car drove ast and everyone cheered them by. There was not much room on the road due to spectators and it was not yet closed to traffic s the odd car tried to negotiate us who were spilling on to the tarmac. Eventually the motor bikes and cars got more frequent then word went out that there was a break away 6 minutes ahead of the bunch, and they were not far off. As if on queue they then appeared hauling them selves up the steepest part of the hill, then some minutes later the buch appeared passed and then the stragglers trying to keep ahead of the broom wagon passed followed by all the team cars and it was all over and very everyone started to disperse. I walked back to the car headed home again negotiating cyclists on the way, my next job was to pack for our holiday week in Croyde Devon.
Fairly early start on Saturday we picked up Helen’s parents and the dog and got away on schedule at 10:00, destination, Clevedon and Tyntesfield National Trust, which was just past half way on the journey and beyond Bristol a pinch point for M4/M5 travellers. We made good time and the roads although fairly busy kept moving all the way until we turned off towards Tyntesfield. Helen and I had been to Tyntesfield before when we had the good fortune to be able to say the weekend in the house when R who works for the National TRust was house sitting to give the property manager a weekend break.
We arrived at the house from a different direction the last time we visited from above the house on the Farm side, where they had built a large parking area. The place was pretty familiar as I had previously been for a run around the grounds. We headed straight to the cafe for a coffee and to get a slot to look around the house, we managed to get a 13:00-14:00 entrance slot which suited us perfectly. After coffee Helen loked after the dog while went with her parents around the house. The house was exactly as I remembered it not much had been moved, and I even got to see the bedrooomwe had used those years ago.
I managed to get a few panorama sets one f the chapel which although needs some further processing came out well, despite the low light, people in the way and having to hand hold the shots. We found Helen outside the cafe, and we left the property at 14:30 which would get us to Croyde for a bout 17:00. The going was good n the motorway but we got stuck behind a few lorries on the single carriage road, with very few overtaking opportunities. We arrived at the house just before 17:00 the sat nav took us down some very small roads for the last couple of miles.
I cooked a really tasty minestrone soup for tea the recipe came from the Guardian saturday cook section. It was mirepoix with tomatoes, green beans, grated courgette,canneloni beans, and spinach stirred in at the end, it was a very hearty soup with not much stock. I will most likely do the soup when we are home and freeze it for eating during the week.
The Eelsfoot pub at Eastbridge Suffolk near Southwold, is a gem of a pub we found quite a few years ago when we rented a cottage in the village. We have probably managed about two trips a year since. This year we were there for new year but have not managed to visit at all since. We both had a days holiday to take so just to keep up our records we booked two nights.
We left the house at what for us was a tardy time of 10:00 so we did not get to my aunt’s house until 11:30. After catching for an hour and suitable filled with coffee and cake we headed back onto the A12 destination Minsmere RSPB, and arrived at about 14:00.
We had a late lunch of cheese toasties and hot chocolate. On the way out I was tempted by a small pair of Swarovski binoculars, Helen owes me a birthday present but although the 8×25’s were lovely they were expensive at £400 and I would have liked to have tried a pair of 10×25’s so we left them for another day.
It was the middle of December so the light would be gone by 16:00 so we decided a walk out to island mere hide and back before some Christmas shopping in Southwold. It was raining so we did not spend much time on the way to the hide looking for birds. We joined for other hardy souls who were having to peer through windows covered in rain drops. We were so rewarded by a bittern fly by over the reeds across the water. There was not much else to report home about. The rain stopped so we took the opportunity to walk back to the visitors centre for some RSPB Christmas shopping.
Next stop would be Southwold just 25 minutes drive away. Parking is usually difficult but late on a rainy Friday afternoon in December there were plenty of spaces in the free car park near the top of the high street. We were quite successful on the Christmas shopping front, sometimes things just come together when you don’t try too hard. We just came across thing that made sense for the people we still had to buy for! I saw a male onesie in a shop window coloured grey and red stripes, luckily no one on my Christmas list deserved it. We got to the pub at about 17:30 so we chilled out in our well appointed room till about 19:30 as H&N would not be joining us until after 21:00.
The of first pint of Adnam’s is always the best way one and it did not disappoint. We had some great food I had cod and chips and Helen had cheesy chip and a side salad there was some ying and yang going on there somewhere the salad cancels out out the chips doesn’t it? N&H turned up at 22:00 they had not had the day off like we had. We caught up and discussed where we should walk on Saturday.
We woke up at a reasonable 07:30 and took our time getting ready for breakfast at 08:39. Very precise time you might think, N had suggested 8:30/9 and we thought he meant 08:39, but it was within N’s range. They have changed the breakfast routine at the pub you used to fill out a form the evening before but now they make to order. It does mean you can make up your mind at the last moment. It turns out that we prefer the pre-ordered breakfast. We sat down and had to wait quite some time before we were asked if we wanted coffee or tea, then once that had turned up we waited again before our breakfast order was taken. In all breakfast took over an hour!
The weatherman had offered us sun all day for Saturday and we were not disappointed blue sky horizon to horizon. We took the path from East bridge to the sluices down by the sea. The sluices are being renewed and there is lots of machinery and temporary piping. In the gorse we spotted a pipit but could not decide on water or rock, a stonechat was also perched as usual on top of a bush. from the east hide we saw some waders amongst the usual ducks, including godwit, redshank, and knot. The star duck was a single male pintail. Next stop was coffee at the coast guard cottages, and some of my mums Christmas cake from last year, which we had to freeze on large lumps and take on weekends away over the course of the year, it lasted well and was a much better alternative to an energy bar.
We headed across Dunwich heath in the hope of seeing dartford warblers, it did not take us long to find a few, quite close in and given the low winter sun, the views were cracking. Towards the end of the Heath we took a path which would lead us back round to the visitors centre at Minsmere RSPB where the cafe provided a great late lunch, including parsnip soup, baked potato, spinach bake and cheese and onion toastie. Suitably replete we headed out to Island mere hide where we were hoping to see bitterns, but we failed to see any, but we did get great views of a hen harrier, a bird I have never see before. It was very distinctive with light grey wings tipped with back feathers at the extremities. We left the hide at about 15:30 hoping to see some barn owls over the fields near the pub but they were not out hunting. We got back to the pub at 16:30 and retired to our rooms and agree to meet up at 18:00 in the bar, it had been a long day and we anticipated an early night.
The sweet potato and chickpea curry went down well so did the Adnams, the Eelsfoot won the annual best cellar award, so you would expect it to be good. We were relatively restained and retired to bed at a reasonable 22:30. Next day the sun was shining when went to breakfast at a tardy 09:00, when service was a bit more friendly and swift. We packed paid the bill and headed to the visitors centre at Minsmere RSPB. We did a quick loop along the new sea wall to coastguard cottages then through the woods and back to the reserve where Helen and H did plenty of shopping. The weather had clouded over and it was threatening rain. We had some lunch in the cafe but had to sit outside because a coach party had taken over most of the cafe. We left at 13:30 and made good time to be home at 16:00 with rain all the way. A great weekend with a lucky weather window.