The Eelsfoot is where the 2014 Springwatch crew stayed as it is close to Minsmere RSPB, the presenters stayed at the Ship Inn at Dunwich, which was apparently to keep them apart after having worked together all day. today we set out to prove that it is not far enough by walking from the Eelsfoot to the Ship Inn and back again.
We headed off at 0930 there was a bit of a chill in the air and a jumper was necessary. We headed towards Minsmere but then headed off the road up the track that goes past Hangmans New Wood, which was a mistake which we figured out later when we got back. We were hoping to the take the path that leads to Saunders’ Hill and then cross the road at Scott’s Hall Farm but we ended up heading towards Westleton so had to veer off before we got there. Then we found that the “open access” area was closed, so we had to walk to Scott’s Hall Farm anyway, not a great navigational start to the walk we have done quite a few times!
We started across Westleton walks and came across a guy watching a Tit flock, the usual suspects were present Great/Blue/Coal/Marsh/Long-tailed tits and for a bonus we spotted Treecreeper and an almost certain Goldcrest. The weather was starting to get quite warm I had to take the jumper off. We carried on passing Grey friars, then the Friary at Dunwich and finally the chip huts down at the beach. My grand mother thought it was the best fish and chips in the world and I got taken there more than a few times when I was at school. We had coffee and shared a bowl of the chips. I’m not sure they were as good as I remember but a welcome snack all the same.
Sat on the beach in the sun for a while the walk was a long one so we wanted to take our time. We shared a Snickers bar for an energy burst then headed back up the hill destination the National Trust Coastguard cottages for coffee and cake. Once on Dunwich Heath we scanned the heather for Dartford Warbler but although we had fleeting glimpses I would not add the to the holiday list. We did get great views of a Wheatear but they have a habit of sitting on on prominent perches and their sand colour makes then easy to spot.
I had coffee and a very nice apricot and almond cake, and Helen had hot chocolate and cheese scone. I took a panorama set and managed to get the same bloke in the pictures who was in the one I did at the chip hut he probably thought I was stalking him. We headed down to the North wall at Minsmere and noticed that a twitch was happening in the field to the west of the north bushes, we theorised that it would be for a Wryneck and we were not wrong. We stood around for about 10 minutes but being impatient birders we soon got bored and moved on to the visitor centre for a quick fruit juice before the final push back to the pub via the Island Mere hide, where we hoped for a final chance to see Bearded Tits.
We had quite sore feet and were quite tired by this point we had probably walked about 8 miles and had another two to go. There were quite a few people in the island mere hide, but we found a seat each at the new windows, which seem to have replace the traditional lift up windows you find in most older hides. We saw a marsh harrier and some ducks in the distance, then a kingfisher was hovering but the Bearded Tits were elusive as the dartford warblers, although a lady nearby claimed she had seen some but despite scanning the area she pointed out we dipped out.
Rather than taking the direct route back to the Eelsfoot along the reserve approach road, we climbed the hill to Scott’s Hall Farm so that we could take the cross country route which is a much more pleasant walk and you don’t have to give way to cars every minute as they leave the reserve. Doing the route that way round enabled us to understand where we went wrong on the way out in the morning, we had left the reserve road too early.
Back at the pub we freshened up and relaxed for and hour then enjoyed Sea Bass and chips and Goats cheese salad. All washed down with the obligatory Adnams bitter. After a long day on foot we retired early to bed.