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.
We decided that we would stop at Duxford air museum run by the Imperial War Museum, because we has passed it on so many occasions but never taken to opportunity to take a look around. So we got up early enough to be out of the property by 09:00. We dropped by the Adnams shop at Holkham to pick up some Macon wine we had enjoyed during our stay. The shop however did not open until 10 but the man inside beckoned us in, asked for a box thinking it would be 6 bottles but he came back with a 12 bottle box, we said what the heck and bought it anyway. The man said it was one that could be kept for a while as it improved with age but this one was already great to drink, we have to agree with him.
The traffic was light, and the weather warm and sunny. We passed Lakenheath but there were no planes to be seen taking off or landing. We were soon at Duxford and in the queue for tickets. We chose the £23 year passes as the extra £5 would be recouped if we visited within a year.
We visited the American hangar first which is quite new, it has an excellent collection is if US aircraft, including a B52 Stratofortress a real monster of an aircraft. The only minor niggle for me was that it was not always obvious what each of the aircraft were but given the size of them I guess. Then we visited the two restoration hangars where they classic aircraft are restored, to their former beauty.
We then had lunch, I had a great sandwich and the coffee was good too. Because we had the year pass we decided that we would finish off with a quick look around the Air Space museum then head off home. We took a better route home that we would have done normally heading toward St Albans and a short stretch of the M1 at Hemel, we knew of it but have never managed to actually try to navigate it. It is straight forward and easy to follow once you know it.
Last full day of holiday in Norfolk, so we thought a walk along the marshes would be a good idea. We parked up at Blakeney public free car park on the land side of the A149, it is very handy for the bus stop. We had a 17 minute wait and the bus was late, the bus driver seemed set on making up the as he was speeding along taking the corners faster than necessary especially with a full bus with people standing.
We got off at Camping Hill bus stop and took the footpath opposite which leads to the marsh edge, where we turned East towards Morston. We stopped about halfway and did a bit of leisurely bird watching we were rewarded with a couple of Common Sandpipers. Next stop was Morston where there is a National Trust tea room, we stopped for a coffee and I had a Stilton, leek and walnut bake which looked like a cake, it was very tasty.
At Blakeney yet another coffee was consumed then Helen went window shopping while I walked out to the marsh to see if there was anything worth taking pictures of. When we got back to the hut we had a quick tidy round so save time in the morning. We had a reservation at a great little restaurant in town called The Golden Fleece.
We wandered down to the quay a little earlier to have a look and to give me a chance to take pictures of starlings with my big lens. Helen got bored quite quickly and decided I should stop before one of the local fishermen using the quay got pissed off with me sneaking around. The food at the Golden Fleece was great I had fish and chips and Helen had a goats cheese burger. I washed mine down with a couple of pints of Adnams Nelson.
Holkham Hall itself is not only open on Thursday during the week so we reserved it for a visit. We surfaced about 08:00 and arrived at the entrance before 10:00, the fee was £3 but I asked about the beach car park and the guy told us if we have a £6.50 beach ticket for the day it included parking at the hall, so we turned around and got a beach ticket. We planned to have a wander in the forest looking for Goldcrests and then a walk on the beach later.
The entrance fee was £15 each, which included all the venue’s. The hall itself did not open until 12:00 so we took a look at the field to fork exhibition which is a show case for the Holkham farm business. The only exhibition is interesting and very well done, the guides are very informative, and the video of the seasons on the farm is a visual treat. Next we wandered around the lake to the walled garden. By the lake there were lots of Greylag with young one pair had a brood of 8 fairly large goslings which appeared to be unusual as other pairs averaged about 3.
The walled garden was a work in progress the gardens were a bit sparse, and even more so as they would probably be at their best in about a month’s time, the green houses were being renovated and not open to the paying public. There was evidence of cafes but probably only open in the peak season. Back at the café we stopped for a coffee and there was a mass exodus at 12:00, I guess for the house opening, Helen browsed the gift shop while I updated the blog and drank my coffee.
The house is a real gem, photography is allowed so I made the most of it by taking a few panorama and HDR sets. There are a lot of paintings by well known artists, including Gainsborough. The rooms are better lit than many National Trust houses, all in all I would say it is a very well presented privately owned historic house. After touring the house we headed for the cafe again for a bite to eat, being out of season there was no queue and the weather which had been getting better all week was warm enough to sit outside.
Down by the lake there was an electric boat that did tours of the lake for £4 a head. It was a very pleasant cruise on the lake the boat hand had only started the job a week before as a rest of being in the right place at the right time. We saw plenty wildlife including what we think was a Sandpiper. We took a look at the back of the house but it is all private. Helen grabbed a cake from the cafe and went down for a wander around the beach, which was very pleasant and we were in the lee of the wind the other side of the forest. It was very pleasant sitting in the sun on a bench. We could see some birds out on the sea but even when we walked to the shore line on the way back we could not figure out what they were they were too far out for our binoculars.
For dinner we had some pesto pasta from the deli we visited the day before in Burnham Market it was almond, pistachio and rocket pesto and was very good it made a really creamy sauce. Whilst watching TV with one eye on the ponds outside the windows we spotted a Common Sandpiper, however the 16 baby mallard seemed to be done to less than 10.