Blakeney 2017 – Cley NWT in the wind and rain

Blakeney harbour
Blakeney harbour

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.

Angry Lesser Black-backed Gull
Angry Lesser Black-backed Gull

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..

Blakeney 2017 – Cley NWT and The Quag

View of Cley marsh with blue sky
View of Cley marsh with blue sky

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.

The new Babcock Hide overlooking Watling Water Cley
The new Babcock Hide overlooking Watling Water Cley

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.

The coast road at Cley
The coast road at Cley

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.

Blakeney 2017 – Blickling Hall National Trust

Blickling Hall
Blickling Hall

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.

Blickling Hall
Blickling Hall

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.

 

Blakeney 2017 – Holkham walk and Cley Spy woodland walk

Holkham Beach
Holkham Beach

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.

Bayfield Hall
Bayfield Hall

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 decided to stay in for dinner and had salad.

Blakeney 2017 – Cley NWT and Felbrigg NT

Servant Corridor Felbrigg
Servant Corridor Felbrigg

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.

Avocet Cley Marsh
Avocet Cley Marsh

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.

Sedge Warbler Cley Marshes
Sedge Warbler Cley Marshes

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.

Blakeney 2017 – Holme and Titchwell

Holme beach
Holme beach

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.

Holme beach
Holme beach

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.

Blakeney 2017 – The journey there

Cley Windmill view
Cley Windmill view

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.

Blakeney harbour sunset
Blakeney harbour sunset

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.

We were looking forward to the  rest of the week.

Thames Path – Marlow to Sonning

Marlow Thames View
Marlow Thames View

The stretch would be Marlow to Sonning, 15 miles by the time all the walking was done, more than usual but a good test of the effort I have been putting in. I was up at 07:00 and left the house at just before 08:00, time was tight because I thought the bus from Sonning was at 09:00. I got stuck behind lots of Sunday drivers on the way which was frustrating.

I was not sure where to park in Sonning but there was a small parking area just by the river which I spotted straight away. It turned out the bus was at 09:13 but I had a half mile walk to the main road at Playhatch roundabout, I made it with time to spare which was a good job because the bus was 5 minutes early. The one way to Marlow cost £5.10 and would take approximately 45 minutes, not too bad. A few walkers got on the bus getting on at various points, but none as far out as me, I started wonder if I was biting off more than I could chew?

Henley on Thames
Henley on Thames

I made short shrift of leaving Marlow, all paths lead to the river they say. For a couple of miles the path was a bit slippery from the recent rain which was tedious and hard walking. It did not take long to get to Hurley lock where I was able to make use of the only reliable facilities until Henley, however the cafe was closed so no coffee. I watched the canoeists enjoying the turbulent water of the weir. We then passed .section 2hixh was fields to one side and steep chalk cliffs on the other, clearly the river was very slowly inching it’s way north.

After leaving the riverside to cross an estate where i saw a herd of deer being fed, many of them in white coat, i got to Aston where the Flower Pot hotel was not yet open so I dipped put again on coffee, however back down at the River I rested for a while on a convenient bench and ate the Pain au raisin I had purchased at Marks and Spencer on Saturday evenigot

Model of St Moritz rail station
Model of St Moritz rail station

After Hambleden lock I a family in bikes were shouting at the family dog because it has dived into the Thames after a couple of mallards, no soon had it got out of the water it was off across the fields chasing some more, much to the dismay of the patents and embarrassment of the children.

There is a big clue that you are approaching Henley the river widens and becomes very straight with a buildings in the distance. As you get closer you can see the rowing clubs and fields for the parking required. My feet were feeling the miles at that point and I was in no mood for extra foot steps so I dipped into the first cafe I found. It was packed but my order was taken and delivered swiftly. The coffee was great and the Haloumi and pesto/tomato sandwiches hit the spot, although it occurred to me that the salty cheese might make me thirsty later.

Sheds and Tents on the Thames
Sheds and Tents on the Thames

I soon got away from the crowds of Hnely after passing the national rowing museum, on the riverside on the out skirts. Then it was rural for pretty much all the way to Sonning. Not far out of Henley there was on the far bank a traditional boat house and near by on the same property a very modern house. Although you pass Shiplake on the path you really are no where near the village it self and it’s amenities. As I walked the last few miles I started to feel the length of the walk, mainly because I was suffering from a blister on my right foot, and I think as a result I had changed my gait which was causing leg ache. Add to that my thirst as a result of the salty cheese, it was not an enjoyable 3 miles.

Sonning could not come soon enough, and it did not take long. I found the car again ok, and had to stop for two drinks on the way home to satisfy my thirst. Moral of the story is that 12 miles is the sweet spot not too long but a reasonable distance. Looking at the books when I got home I had almost reached half way, and had less than 100 miles left to do. The next few legs would get closer to home.

The National Trust Living Tradition London Bus Tour

RMC 1453 front view
RMC 1453 front view

Quite a few weeks back I signed up for a tour of some buildings around London in a vintage London bus. I put it in the diary then forgot about it, till Helen the diary supervisor reminded me. I eventually found the tickets hidden away in the back of a draw, where I had put them after printing at time of booking. The tour kicked off at 10:30 but registration and hopefully chance to grab an upper deck seat, began at 10:00.

Google maps suggested that the 08:45 from Berkhamsted would give us plenty of time to spare. We managed to grab a free parking space, the train left on time, and we got seats at a table, however the man sat next to Helen was tapping away on the table all the way to London I could tell it was annoying her, but it made a change I’m normally the one to be reprimanded.

Richard Greens modern art gallery
Richard Greens modern art gallery

At Euston we got the Victoria line to the lines namesake, Victoria station then we headed to 20 Grosvenor Gardens, where there was quite a gathering around a green double decker. It was raining lightly and it took an age to get on the bus as they were handing out audio devices and tote bags as everyone got on. It may have been more efficient to load the bus then distribute the devices, but we will never know. Helen and I managed to get a couple of the remaining seats on the top deck just at the top of the stairs on the driver’s side.

The bus is an RMC1543 one of the most popular by all accounts. We first stopped on Bond Street where we all got off and they guide told us about the building belonging to Richard Green the old masters art dealer, who had another building built opposite to sell more modern art from. Then we walked via the Burlington Arcade where the modern floor was of interest. Heading towards Piccadilly other buildings were pointed out. We were then told to buy lunch, I had sushi and a tuna and mustard onigiri, and Helen had a nice looking sandwich. We met back on the bus and headed to the Queen’s gallery attached to Buckingham palace.

St James square London
St James square London

A lady from the architects office who designed the Queens gallery gave us a talk about they challenges of designing a wing to fit in with the rest of Buckingham Palace, which had been added to by many over the years. We got back on the bus and headed to our next destination which were some houses in Regent’s Park, on the way we headed up Park Lane which apparently is one of the (if not the only) section of road in central London that is not 30mph, it is 40mph. The bus driver had a go at braking it but even with the run up, taking the bends at speed (relative) he hit some traffic about 2 thirds in and only managed 35 mph. The tour has a history of record attempts they currently hold the record for the number of circuits of the Elephant and castle roundabout in a vintage bus they did that whilst looking at a building on the roundabout.

At Regents park we jumped off the bus and took a look at the 6 houses built on the edge of the park they were all very large and each one was an example of different styles of architecture, e.g. Venetian, Doric, Gothic etc. We all stood outside as the tour guide explained them, we had the curtains twitching on one of them and an armed policeman keep his eye on us from the other. The policeman was keeping an eye on the entrance to Winfield house the the residence of the American Ambassador has the second largest private garden in central London, after that of Buckingham Palace. Helen enjoyed the paparazzi effect.

One of eight houses in Regents park London
One of eight houses in Regents park London

We skipped the Camdem Packington Estate as we were short of time so the next and final stop would be the Highbury Gardens, which Prince Charles has some connection to in that after the famous Carbuncle affair, more care was taken over the design of buildings. The development was a combination of housing association flats with low rental for local and shared ownership with 5 year no interest mortgages combined with private ownership flats. All mixed together so that it was not obvious which flats were which. We looked around one of each type and I must say it felt a bit awkward, in fact too awkward for Helen who opted out, however the two where the people were in made us feel very welcome and were proud to show off their homes.

It was a short journey on a full Victoria line tube train back to Euston where we got the 15:54 train back to Berkhamsted. The day was interesting I now have a better feel for the architecture of London but I am not sure I would repeat it unless the subject matter was of real interest as architecture is not really my thing. Having said that the tour was very well organised and the people running it friendly and informative, I imagine it took some organising.

Thames Path – Cookham to Marlow

Bourne End Sailing club
Bourne End Sailing club

Planning further ahead on Saturday evening I realised if I could do the short 5 miles between Cookham and Marlow it would give me better option for the next leg, so I headed off the Marlow to get the train to Cookham. It turned out that the trains were not running, but there was a replacement bus service running, I had a twenty minute wait. Before leaving the have I taped up the blisters on my feet with some non stretch medical tape it seemed to make a world of difference.

It was not clear where the bus would stop, so I positioned myself with a good view of the whole of Station Approach, where the bus was reputed to hang out. A coach turned up and and I asked for a ticket to Cookham, the drive said I’m not taking any money, to the three of us waiting just got on. There are no ticket machines at the station so getting a ticket was going to be a challenge. I sat back and enjoyed what might be a free ride. No one wanted to take my money at the other end and the station was closed, so thanks for the free ride Great Western Railway, if you want your money get in touch.

Hawthorn just outside Marlow
Hawthorn just outside Marlow

The weather driving over was very cloudy but turned out to be the overnight rain clouds being dispersed by the sun. I soon found my way to the path and crossed the river on a footbridge at Bourne End, then I came across a sailing club about to start a race. I had a go at a time lapse of the race in progress. It took two goes as most of the race took place down river from the start line where I first started the photo sequence.

Just outside Marlow I found a convenient bench for a chance to rest and take in the Thames silently flowing past. The final leg into Marlow did not take long and you have to head inland a little. There is a church yard right on the river next to the old iron/steel suspension bridge, where I got some photos. I headed up the high street and ended up in a Starbucks where I sampled one of their Peru Piccino which is a double restretto with a small amount of milk and froth, I thought it was very nice, just the right balance of coffee and milk. It was a great day for a walk and set me up nicely for the next leg.