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.

Capital Ring – Boston Manor to Hendon Central

Rubbish on Horseden Hill
Rubbish on Horseden Hill

Keen to get back on the Capital Ring after two weekends off due to a weeks holiday in Kent, I was up early, on the 07:46 Metropolitan train from Amersham, destination Boston Manor. The weather was a bit grey with a chill in the air but the forecasters promised sunny with showers later on. The journey to Boston Manor was a bit tedious as twice i would have to travel up a branch line only to have to reverse to go a couple of stops up another branch. Annoyingly I missed a connection at Harrow-on-the-Hill so waster 12 minutes.

At Rayners Lane I crossed platforms to get the Piccadilly line, interestingly the trains seemed really low, and there was a step down to the train, i guess the trains have to go in smaller tunnels, and the Rayners Lane platform is slightly higher than most, turns out the all the Piccadilly trains are low. I changed again at Acton Town and got on a Heathrow train, full of people and their luggage, it always makes me wonder where they are all flying off to.

Harrow on the Hill high Street
Harrow on the Hill high Street

The path follows the river Brent for a while passing factories and through a couple of golf courses. It all becomes a bit urban at Greenfield where a main road and railway needs to be crossed. I took the opportunity at Westway Cross retail park to grab a coffee which i drank outside in the sun, i also eat a pain au raisin that i had purchased a at Local Sainsbury earlier.

Horseden hill was a hard slog and when I eventually go to the top to enjoy the view it was somewhat spoilt by the rubbish left behind bu some people who had picnicked there. Down the other side of the hill and on the flat I was passing through what was clearly a very old Oak wood, judging by the size of the trees.

Harrow School Building
Harrow School Building

Next up was Harrow when I walked up the high street, which was almost deserted, I guess it was the school holidays. I made the security guard a bit twitchy by stopping to take photographs of the historic buildings. I was quite tired by this time and the walk to the edges of Wembley was a challenge with not much to see.

In a moment of madness I had decided at this point to see if I could do a long day as I had been just making the 10 miles on some of the previous days, target changed from Wembley Park to Hendon Central. I got to Brent Reservoir and had a longish break to build up my strength for the next few miles. It was a pleasant place to stop I could watch the boats in a sailing race whilst enjoying the warm sun.

The Windermere Pub Kenton
The Windermere Pub Kenton

I really had had enough by the time I got to Hendon Central, which was quite familiar as I would sometimes pass down the road when I have occasionally driven into London. Looking at Google maps it the journey bac was going to be a ball ache. I consider a taxi to a Metropolitan tube station but in the end waited for an 83 bus, which took me to Wembley Park, ironic that I had already walked past it.

I had a 30 minute wait for the next Amersham train, I guess I had just missed one. The platform was crowded by families with small children dressed up as princes and princesses it turns out that Disney on Ice was at the Arena. I was glad to get back to Amersham but still had a chore to do get dinner from Waitrose in Chesham.

 

Capital Ring – Wimbledon to Hanwell

I had been looking forward​ to this section, finally I would be onto a more pleasant section, Wimbledon to Hanwelk would involve two trenches of parkland and two stretches next to water. The parklands are Wimbledon Common where i would be on the look out for Wombles, and Richmond Park where i might spot some deer an other wildlife. At Richmond i would be back next to the Thames and then follow the river Brent. All that sounds much more interesting than the walk so far, although it started to improve on the last stretch.

The weather promised to be cloudy but bright and unseasonally warm, potentially 16 degrees. I consulted Google maps, and there was not much between car and train when i took into account total time as Hanwelk is a bit out of the way, and difficult to get to Wimbledon from. I opted for the train as it would allow me to be more flexible.

I had got a cramp as i stretched when i woke up and my calf muscle was sore and torn, i thought it would ruin my day but i reckoned the walking would do it good.

I got a free parking space but just missed the 08:01, but the fast 08:11 was soon whisking me away to Euston. I went wrong at Earle’s court and has to double back as i got the train going down the Richmond rather than Wimbledon branch, but lost less than 10 minutes. At Southfields I then managed to walk a couple of hundred yards in the wrong direction.

It was not long before I got to Wimbledon Common, after passing the car park full of Chelsea tractors I was soon in woods and fields, and immediately spotted a Goldcrest and mistle thrush. The air temperature was high enough for me to walk with just a t-shirt. Eventually I came to a road which is the border between Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park, interestingly it had a separate crossing g for horses riders who were everywhere. The deer in the park were obviously thriving, there were notices about the cull which has just finished.

Richmond Park is distinctly different in terms of habit, I guess the deer have some influence over that. Again there were plenty of Londoners make the most of the open space and weather. The path is straight forward straight then a 45 degree turn which I missed so walked the long way around an enclosed nature reserve. On the far end there is a car park with a coffee shop which I made use of, it was time for a rest.

There is a lovely meadow after you drop down from Richmond park called Petersham I’m guessing it is not built on due to flooding and I bet is has some rare species on it. The other side of the meadow I hit the Thames but on the other side of river from where I had walked the Thames Path. Soon I was in Richmond, near the bridge there was some boat building and repairing going on in the sun. There was a prty atmosphere with alll the Rugby fans gathering outside the pubs for a beer and some lunch before the match later on.

Whilst stood around taking in the atmosphere a guy walked past he looked professional and had a TShirt on with a website http://richardwalkslondon.com/ on investigation Richard McChesney is a serious walker and has plans to set a record for the first non-stop walk around the M25, he reckons it will take 48 hours, and for the whole time is is not allowed to not be on his feet. I would struggle to do 48 hours staying awake let alone havng to stay on my feet and walk.

At Isleworth i had to take another detour when builders had blocked a section of the river path. I joined the river again at a pub called Town Wharf, where i had  a conversation with a local at the bar turns out he has an interesting job, locksmith at the British Museum. I was keen to sit down so had to make my excuses, i hope i did not offend. The jumbo fish finger sandwich went down a treat on the Riverside terrace. I was sat next to a bunch of Scotland supports who thought they were going to beat England at Twickenham!

Eventually you leave the Thames for the Brent, i realised that getting to Hanwell and then getting home for the Rugby would be a challenge so i bailed out at Boston Manor station. Interestingly the first stop was Northfield which was an interesting balance seeing as i started at Southfields. At Leicester Square there was lots of chanting as more Arsenal supporters got on and supporters of another team were on the platform.

I comfortably made the 15:54 from Euston but that would mean missing most of the first half of the rugby. I got the BBC radio app loaded and got most of it when there was a signal.

Capital Ring – Penge to Wimbledon

I fell out of love with the Capital Ring I think because I started it at a time when the days were short, and the first few legs were very urban and not very inspiring. I have been doing some more local outings which made a change. I liked the idea of doing walks with an overall aim or purpose, so I took a look at the map and determined that one more leg and I would be back into a more interesting part which would last for most of the rest of it.

I checked the weather and determined that Saturday was the right day, Sunday promised rain all day. I was up early and aiming for the 08:11 from Berkhamsted. It looked like things were going well, I got the last free parking space at the station, then realised that I would make the 08:01, I got my ticket and had time to get a coffee as the train arrived, I walked out of the coffee shop as the train doors opened.

Three generations of males joined me at the table I had on the train, boy younger than 10, father and grandfather, they were off to Manchester to watch Bournemouth play Manchester United. I commented that Bournemouth did not sound like they belonged in the Premier division, apparently a few years back they had collection buckets going round the stadium to keep the club going.

The start took me up Crystal Palace hill qhuch was the start of a long section high which descended and ascended often. After a particularly steep climb I came Streatham Common where a handy community cafe served me a cortado and a pain au raisin. I rested for a while taking pleasure in watching all the joggers that spring had bought out many of them having to break for bro a walk, probably due to lack of practice over the winter months.

The path crosses quite a few commons some of them divided by roads. I passed through Streatham and Balham before eventually reaching the edge of Wimbledon, where the houses got grandeur. Wimbledon was full of more joggers and appropriately people playing tennis. The weather was reasonable qarmand sunny perfect weather for getting out of the house.

I decided to go to Southfields station to to ensure I had done more than 10 miles, luckily for me there was a chip shop just opposite the tube entrance so I stopped for some and was given a high portion I only managed half of. The journey back was via Victoria and Euston. I was back in Berkhamsted before 16:00.