Eelsfoot Inn and Minsmere weekend.

The Lord Nelson, SouthwoldFirst I would like to thanks Steve for this post hes texted me to check if I was OK as he had not seen any posts for a while. Angela also gets a mention as she also mentioned the lack of new material. So spurred on by our fans here is a post for our weekend away at the Eels Foot Inn, yes another weekend at the excellent pub.

We left work on the dot and went back to base camp grabbed our luggage and set off to Hotel Baldwin where Kev n kids, had delayed thier departure so we could doa a quick “Say hello and wave good bye”. Mum made an excellent pasta dish despite having been eaten out of house and home.

We were up in good time as the cleaner were due at 09:00 and we had to get to the Lord Nelson by 12:00 to meet H&N, we had our doubts about them being thier by that time but we could not let them get there and us not be their. We decided to take a slight detour via Harleston (where we heard for N&H and yea they were running later than they anticipated) and then Denton to check out the grand parent grave. We did a quick tour of the shops in Harleston and had coffee and cake on the less busy back road that cirecles the main part of town.

We set off again and easily remembered the route to Denton, we we parked up at the church car park and without too much trouble found the head stone. I quickly took a set of panorama shots so watch this space for the results.
We left for the final leg of the journey, which was very pleasant as the weather was fantastic and the country side stunning. We arrived at Southwold around about 13:00 and went for a walk down to the pier as H&N were going to be another 30 minutres.

Beach Huts, SouthwoldThe high street and sea front were packed, it was the end of half-term and everyone seemed to be making the most of the weather. Down on the pier we had a quick look at the Down on the pier show http://www.underthepier.com/ which is a strange version of the traditional penny arcade and consists of machines to take your money but they are all somehow mechanic and brilliantly crass. Neil had a go on the frogger style game involing a zimmer frame crossing the road but the screen image came from a really camera pointing at a model road with moving lanes.

Met H & N at Lord Nelson, for a pint, and something to eat, I also paid for a T Shirt which they promised to post when new stock came in. Next on the agenda was some shopping. Both bookshops closed down and W H Smiths are moving in. N and I stood watching them replacing the wooden floor. Not very successful shopping trip but brought some heidi & cheese onion pies for lunch the next day. I took the opportunity to rtake another set of papnorama pictures, which when I get back to my own house will certainly post if worthy.

We left southwold and headed to The Eels Foot in it was late afternoon, lucky someone was around to let us have our room keys. We quicly settled in then walked a few hundred yards down the road to look at the field where the Barn Owls hunt. We were not let down, it is amazing how you can almost guarantee to see an owl as long as the weather is right. We saw at least two which at one point were both perched on the fence of the house on the bend.

Back to pub where N and Helen headed to the bat at 6pm in order to secure a table. Good job as 5 mins later they were all full. I joined them later and H was already there. Food was the usual fare I had fish n chips, and few pints of Adnams, wisely we were in bed by 10pm.

Desktop backgroundSat am – cloudy, misty. Excellent fry up with veggie sausages, muchrooms, toms n scambled eggs, with beans on toast and a sausage for Helen. We then performed an elaborate car shufffle where by we left my car at Warblerwick then headed back to the pub in N’s. The women watched the Grand Prix qualifying. When they returned, we headed out circa 10.45am, fortunately remembering the pies for lunch.

We walked towards Minsmere but then headed off through the woods behind the reserve. We were hoping that mushroom season would be at its high, however the dry weather seemed to have delayed their growth and there were not as many about as we had hoped, Helen got a few pics though. Excellent views of a goldcrest then turned right towards Dunwich Heath. Wallked past the pie bench of yester year. No sight of Dartford warblers on Dunwich Heath. Crossed the road then into the dark and into spooky pinewoods that lead to the Dunwich cliffs and priory remains. As ever I was determind to peer over the cliffs although H backed up wisely once the word overhang was mentioned. Followed the path down to Dunwich itself. Sun was shining by now so we voted for a quick pint at in the beer garden of The Ship pub (which, should you ever find yourself pieless in the vicinity, does good food).

Windmill in the reed bet at WarblerswickDown to Dunwich beach, where we ate the pies along with some chips from the cafe at the beach. A couple of brave swimmers. Discussion of choice of route for the next leg to Walberswick, where we plumped for the least populated option. So it was up the road past the church (passing several ladies with bodrums, the purpose of which we will never know). Headed up the stony track alongside Dunwich forest, overlooking the marshes. We saw excellent views of a goldcrest, and a jay and chaffinch enjoying the puddles. Past some rather lovely houses to a view over the march at Walberswick, where we saw lots of wildfowl. Through a gate onto the reserve itself and followed the raised path sea defence through the reedbeds back to Walberswick. Drove back to Eels Foot Inn for a rest I was soon aback out thpugh, back to the Barn Owl field, where I saw no less that 3 owls a marsh harrier and couple of unidentified waders flushed by the owls quartering the fields. What a a great spectacle for early Saturday evening, far better than Strickly!

N and Helen headed off to try to make sure we got a table, whilst I had a shower. They were lucky to get a table as the pub was very busy with a couple of large parties but as usual service and food were good. Neil & N had veggie lasagne. A few pints/glasses were drunk, and we ended up chatting to a friendly chap who had a Scottie dog, and who was a frequest visitor to the area, in between climbing the hills and mountains of Britain (including camping in the snowy Lake District last winter!). One last drink and some bemused observation of the rather drunk party who were drinking Zambuca (rather them than us!). Then off to bed and remembered to put the clock back too.

Up for another excellent breakfast at 8.30am, a bit of a record in that none of the party were suffering from hangovers. We must be getting older & wiser ūüôā Watched the start of the Grand Prix then off to Minsmere for another walk. There is a great deal of development happening at Minsmere, on the Visitor Centre, North Wall & sea defences. Off through the woods to the edge of Dunwich Heath. Fleeting glimpses of a bird we would have loved to have been a Dartford Warbler however we just did not see enough of it to be sure. Saw an optimistic mushroomer but he only had one in his basket.

Across the heath sighting a large group of deer grazing in the heather, then a coffee stop at Lighthousekeepers cottages. It was getting a bit chillier with the sea breeze. Another brave swimmer who then proceeded to disrobe entirely. We peered stalwartly at the sea until he had had a chance to gather himself together and then a trudge across the shingle towards east Hide. Saw a small flock of greenfinch and cormorants en route. Hide was busy but we did not have to wait too long for a window seat. Lots of wildfowl and black-tailed godwit, a couple of Berwick swans and three avocet. Then on to sluice bushes. Saw a robin and heard a wren, but no rare warblers unfortunately! Then back towards the visitor centre, admiring a ruff, redshank and little egret on the way.

We had some lunch at the visitor centre and spotted an unexpected treecreeper near the cafe. Then becauses we had’nt eaten our own bodyweight this weekend, thought we should probably have a cake, purely in the interests of supporting the RSPB you understand. Then it was, sadly, farewell to H&N and homeward bound down the very lovely A12, M25 & A41.

Coat on coat off, coat on coat off

Heather and trees
Heather and trees

After a very pleasant evening in the Eel’s Foot with a few pints and an enjoyable chat with a couple from Cambridge whom we happened to sit next to, we were again up early for the Eels Foot fry up.¬† Unfortunately no vegetarian sausages but lots of toast so very well fuelled as we checked out and headed off to Minsmere.¬† The choice for today’s amble had been subject to much discussion, but decided we could not do better than simply do a circular route centring on Minsmere safe in the knowledge that a coffee and excellent cake could be assured at the end of our walk.

We parked at the visitor centre and grabbed a “what’s about” to get a heads up of what we should be keeping an eye out for.¬† Not many people about yet and we headed off through the woods and soon came across a tit flock in an oak tree, which included two treecreepers, a greated spotted woodpecker, great & long tailed tits.¬† We stopped at Bittern hide, unfortunately not repeating Neils success on Saturday but saw good views of a little grebe and chick.¬† Continued to Island Mere where we saw a bar head goose, which is one of thos e “does what it says on the tin” birds, i.e. is a goose with striped bars on it’s head.¬† Usefully.

Coastguard cottages Dunwich
Coastguard cottages Dunwich

We pottered on in the sunshine, so coats off, crossing the road at Scotts Hall where a berry laden treee held tantilising views of, as ever, unidentified warblers.¬† The down the bridleway towards Dunwich Heath.¬† The mushrooms has started to appear and Neil got a few photos and the chance to try out his fish eye lens.¬† Another tit flock but could’nt spot the accompanying goldcrest that could be heard and more flipping mystery warblers!¬† Reached the Heath where is was getting a bit busier as the sun drew people out but we took to long way round and managed to secure the seat at the centre of the heath in another unsuccessful attempt to spot Dartford warbler.¬† It’s a bit worrying after we did not see any yesterday

and hope that is just us getting there at the wrong time rather than the after effects of a tough winter for them.  We did manage to see the stone chat so that and a cheese toastie at Lighthouse cottages was some compensation.

Refuelled we went down to the sea where, despite there being a chilly wind there were several swimmers.¬† We called in at East Hide to see the sanderling, black tailed godwit, avocets and wildfowl and walked on round the reserve.¬† We reached on point where several birders were starring intently at a bush at a ……..wheatear! A lovely looking bird but we anticipated a mega from the number of watchers.¬† Neil whispered he initially though it must be some special sort of wheatear.¬† Sun came out so Neil took his coat off, then of course it went back in again.¬† The BBC should use his coat wearing a some sort of weather prediction method.

Carrot cake, yummmm
Carrot cake, yummmm

Then lastly we popped into West Hide where it was surprisingly quiet after yesterday, until we spotted the sparrowhawk perched on one island which explained the rest of the birds shuffling quietly away on titpoe.  We saw a distant greenhank and another avocet.  The back to the visitor centre  for coffee and cake and some light shopping (me) before heading back Chiltern-wards at 3.00pm.

A perfect day

We were in bed early last night, and I woke up about 06:30, by 7 I had had enough so I got up and went down to island mere hide. I parked near Scots Hall (not sure is that is allowed!) and walked into the reed beds. No one else was in the hide, the mere was quite full of water after the recent rain, and there were not many birds about. Geese were flying in and out in formation, and I spotted a juvenile Marsh Harrier. I had not bothered getting the scope out but then spotted a Bittern on the far side, by the time I got it set up the bird had gone.

Ragwort
Ragwort

Soon after I spotted another one further along this time I had the benefit of the scope, it was at the edge of the reeds looking up in the classic pose, then it barked and flew along the reeds and dropped out of site. Just before I left I spotted another one.

Breakfast was as usual great but they did not have veggie sausages but they promised some for tomorrow. After breakfast we sorted out our gear and headed in land along the Minsmere river.

The we then did a second side of a triangular route across Westleton heath where the Heather was in full bloom very purple and very fragrant. There were two distinct colours one very vibrant purple the other more pastel in colour. It was still early’ish and we had the place almost to our selves and the weather was getting warmer and sunnier.

Number 98
Number 98

By the time we got to Dunwich church we had not had a break so we sat on the bench and had half a snack bar each. After a nice rest we walked up the village high street and down to the fish and chip shop over looking Dingle marsh and the car park. Helen had veggie burger and because she said it is the law that if they are offered they have to be taken in case the proprietor thinks demand has dropped. It turns out that the burgers were deep fried vegetable fritters and there was no bun! I ended up having one of them.

Once Helen was tired of the wasps we went over to the beach where there were a few swimmers bracing the North Sea temperatures. After some time relaxing on the beach we headed back up the hill towards the light house cottages.

Just past Grey Friars we heard a great but distant thunder clap. To our west there was a very big and dark anvil shaped cloud, and it was heading our direction. Soon after it started to rain, but as soon as we had unpacked the poncho and got it on the rain had stopped. The storm was heading past just to the north of us, we surmised that if we had stayed much longer at Dunwich we would have got soaked the storm continued to flash and rumble for the next half an hour. We found a bench on Dunwich heath and looked for Dartford warblers, but apart from stonechats and wood pigeons we were out of luck. There was a brief flash of grey at one point but not good enough to get an id of any bird.

Hail stones
Hail stones

At coast guard cottages we had coffee and shared a cake, then a bit of sea watching and a pee. We then headed down to the beach and on to the main part of Minsmere RSPB reserve. The storm was heading away out to sea but you could still see lightning and hear thunder. Over towards Eastbriddge we could see some more dark clouds so we got a speed on, the plan was to go to a hide for a while before heading back. We just about made the hide before it started raining trouble was the hide looked out over scrapes but hey were empty because the Terns that would normalhangout there had left for sunnier clims, so I put on my poncho and Helen her rain gear and we walked back towards Mere hide in the hope of seeing another Bittern.

The rain did not last long and the sun came out the light was warm and brilliant for taking photos, so I did! Not muchaction going on in the hide, which was deserted. We got a few more ticks that had evaded us earlier in the day (Tufted, Great-Crested Grebe, and Little Grebe), but no Bittern in site. Later a man turned up with  a 500mm f2.8 Canon lens (£5,000) hoping to get a Bittern fly by, if he got one the light was perfect. Feet suitabkly rested we left the hide for the final push back to the hide it was already 17:30 and I reckoned it would take 30minutes to get back to the pub, Helen reckoned longer 40minutes.

Storm over abbey
Storm over abbey

Rather than take the road back we turned away from The Eels Foot and walkked past Sotts Hall and joined the bridleway that runs parallel. We were both knackered and Helen needed a fruit bar to avoid a trough, 35 minutes later we were at the last corner before the pub, so I guess Helen was right about the time it would take to get back.

All day we had failed to find a Tit flock but just as we got back to the river Minsmere we spotted one so Blue Tit and Long-tailed wer added tothe day list. Then I spotted a Treecreeper it was really close and hunting insects on the small branches, the view was fantastic. Suitably rewarded we headed back to the pub it had taken 40 minutes!

We had walked about 12-13 miles and been out for just short of 9 hours which is  probably a record for us. We quickly freshened up and heaed to the bar for a well earned pint and some pub food, the end of a perfect day.

Absolutlely Peeing it down

Just to prove we can be predictable we are off to The Eels Foot Inn for the August bank holiday just like we did last year. However this year we have no excuse we are just going because we want to and we can.

We left my folks at about 11ish after having spent the night. Dad now has iPlayer via the Wii I gave them.

The famous Minsmere blocks
The famous Minsmere blocks

We stopped for a comfort break on the B1120 at the South Suffolk show ground which was a collection of shacks trying to be a village of shops. I was not convinced but the broccoli, stilton and sweetcorn pastie was lovely. We got to Minsmere at about 14:00 parked up and headed the wrong way round because the north wall is shut till February 2012. We had ticked off most of the waders on the what’s about sheet from the west hide, then headed off down towards the bushes around the sluice, for some reason they call them the sluice bushes.

We saw some little brown jobs then headed on to the east hide where some RSPB staff were adjusting a pump to stop something flooding while the north wall works progress. We had some great views of godwit, sanderling, and ruff.

On the way back retracing our steps it started to rain so we popped back in the first hide to wait for it to stop. We finally spotted the ringed plovers that had evaded us up till that point.

We were in the hide for about an hour and it looked like the rain was really set in, but eventually we noticed that it had stopped. We headed back to the car park then were soon back at The Eels Foot Inn.

Thistle
Thistle

We were in the bar early it guaranteed a table and means we would be in bed early and therefore ready to get up and go early in the morning. I had fish and chips again and Helen had veggie lasagne both were very good. There is a new chef and looking at the specials the food is getting better. Not that it was lacking previously, just that apart from the usual pub fare there are some more unusual dishes, tomorrow I may have smoked haddock, leek, saffron and pea risotto!

Glorious Sunday round Minsmere

Fungi or Lichen
Fungi or Lichen

We woke up to a sunny but fresh morning, Helena d Nik were up for a walk from Minsmere so after breakfast, and settling the bill (food and drink as usual came to more than the accomodation) we parked up at the reserve temporary car park, and headed out towards the Bittern hide which we soon followed by the Island Mere hide from where we got great view of Marsh Harrier and Smew.

We then headed out towards to Scotts Hall and on to the footpath that leads over to Dunwich Heath. We did not stop at the NT tea room but headed round the heath an straight back to the reserve and into the South Hide where the north wind was blowing straight into the open windows. Now that the sun was out the hides and footpaths were packed, unlike yesterday when we saw no one. We must be real hardcore!

Helen and Nik needed to head off home so we went back to the reserve tea room for some lunch. Unfortunately they had run out of parsnip back and baked potatoes, I think that had been surprised by the influx of visitors pent up by the poor weather the day before. We got some bird food from the shop, 20% off, then headed back to the car and said goodby to Helen and Nik.

We also headed back and made good progress door to door the journey was 2:30, with one stop for some bread and some salad for tea. The M25 was busy but was always moving.

Walk in the rain

Snow drops
Snow drops

We were up for breakfast at 09:00, but lingered because the weather did not look promising. We left the pub at about 10:00 and dumped my car at Warblerswick the plan was to walk back to the pub, via Dunwich, the heath and Minsmere. After a short beach section we headed in land across the marshes and reed beds, toward the disused windmill. It was grey, not too cold, and not raining we were out in the fresh air so we were happy.

When we got to the windmill we found that the footpath was closed and fenced off, we decided we would do what other people had done and carry on regardless, we had walked all that way and we had not had any warnings that might have made us take an alternative route. The half made p[ath was very muddy as it had been laid with grey clay from the marsh, then there was  a section with gravel which was like walking on a beach, but it soon passed and we were heading past Dingle Great Hill (all of 12 feet in elevation!). We walked throught the woods overlooking Dingle Marsh and saw seom lovely isolated houses and soon entered the village of Dunwich a lot of which is now under the sea.

Hats drying in front of pub fire
Hats drying in front of pub fire

The planned stop at the fish and chip place was cancelled because it was closed, from November to March, it was also raining and there was no shelter. We ended up in the The Ship Inn for lunch rather that having the Heidi Pies we had bought in Southwold the day before. I had some shell on prawns, and the others had goat cheese toasties which looked really nice. We had to eventually drag our selves out of the pub and into the rain.

We headed up the hill then eventually over and onto Dunwich Heath where we were hoping to see Dartford Warblers, but there were to remain elusive. It had started to rain so we stopped off at the NT Coastgaurd Cottages for tea and cakes. Whilst we were in the cafe it stopped raining but it soon started again as we headed down off the heath to Minsmere, and the south hide.

During the whole walk we had not really seen a soul and the south hide was no exception, we had ¬†the place to oursleves it was a welcome break from the rain. There was not much to see as it was a bit early in the year, but we managed to¬†identify¬†a Med Gull and a Little gull. We woke¬†Helen¬†up and set off back to the pub via the sluices, just as we turned in land at the sluices it started to really rain, so mush so that I had to get the poncho out. We walked the last mile or so in the pouring rain, but still managed to add Barnacle goose to the weekend list. As we go back to the pub the rain stopped, Nik and I went off to pick up the car and the Helen’s went off to see if they could see the barns owls.

In the way back to the car we came across quite a few Muntjac in our headlights. We picked up the car went back to the pub, watched the remaining half of England thrashing France at rugby and then headed to the bar for something to eat and drink. Another great day despite the weather.

Minsmere and a Friday off

Coastguard cottage Dunwich heath
Coastguard cottage Dunwich heath

We are off to The Eels Foot this weekend to meet up with Helen and Nik. The Eels Foot if you don;t follow the blog is a pub in a village called Eastbridge just on the edge of the RSPB reserve at Minsmere, it has a couple of features which attract us back, the beers is excellent (Adnams is my all time favourite), and it is a close as you can get to Minsmere for accomodation.

We set out after the rush hour and the plan was to meet up in the Lord Neslon in Southwold at about 13:00, we headed down the A41 but soon turned off when we heard that the M25 was closed both ways between the A42 and the M1, it turns out there was a 6 car pile up. We wasted a bit of time but ended up taking the shorter but slightly longer cross country route involving amongst other roads, A14, A12, A505.

At about 12 we got a call from N&H, they had been way laid by and antiques shop and would be late, so we went to Minsmere for a quick circuit of the reserve and an excellent lunch at the visitors centre. Then we met up at the pub at 14:00.

The pub was followed by a some shopping, I bought a paper. I also managed to get some pano shots of the main square, but the light was grey and overcast so the results might not be that good. It seems ever since I have been wanting to take panorama shots the weather has been not conducive.

Cattle grid with critter ramp
Cattle grid with critter ramp

After shopping we headed of to the pub, via the long spiral route, due to my navigation. We just had time to see if the owls were out, and get a shower before eating in the pub in good company. The menu did not have so many veggie options as usual but we made the most of it all the same.