Lesser Grey Shrike Leiston Suffolk

Last full day of our holiday in Thropeness, the party is splitting into different factions. Helen and I went for a walk hoping to take in a rare bird that has been spotted less than two miles away from the hut. The others went for a walk to Aldeburgh to look at the giant clam sculpture.

Trevor on tour Lesser Grey Shrike picture
Trevor on tour Lesser Grey Shrike picture

I spotted the bird sighting on the  UK400ClubRareBirdAlert site which is run by Lee Evans. Apparently according to the blog “A first-winter LESSER GREY SHRIKE is present for its fourth day in Suffolk after being discovered on Sunday by two novice birdwatchers who eventually notified RSPB staff at Minsmere RSPB after they had enjoyed a few beers in the Eels Foot Inn at Eastbridge. John Grant quickly made his way to the location and confirmed the bird’s identification. It has been showing well in the paddocks immediately SSE of Halfway Cottages, just east of Leiston town (situated on Sizewell Road about a mile down from the main Leiston to Yoxford road) at approximately TM 463 621. Park sensibly opposite the Cottages and respect the privacy of the residents. It constitutes the 9th record for Suffolk following singles at Hollesley Common on 22nd-23rd May 1970 (trapped & ringed), Walberswick Heath on 7th June 1973, Lakenheath on 4th June 1977, Lound Waterworks from 10th-12th September 1989, Walberswick Common on 25th May 1996, Thelnetham Fen in Suffolk Breckland on 29th June 2006 (singing male), Shingle Street from 8th-11th July 2006 (adult female) and at Trimley Marshes on 14th September 2009 (first-winter).”

We are staying about two miles from the cottages so we set out for a walk that would take in the site in the hope that after 5 days it was still there. We came across a couple walking a dog and puppy, the puppy seemed to wary of us and took some cajoling by the owners before it would walk past us and then it did as fast as it could. We covered some ground that we had covered the other day when we walked to Sizewell beach. After having to consult the map a few times we took a pretty direct route to halfway cottages, then identified the paddock by the group of people with scopes. The shrike was sat on top of a bush and was very visible, John Grant let Helen and I have a look through his scope which gave us the opportunity to see the bird in detail. If I had seen it myself I could only have identified it as a Shrike, as it is the first one I have ever seen, so to see a rare Lesser Grey Shrike was a real treat.

Minsmere beach
Minsmere beach

We hung around for 5-10 minutes observing then walked toward the sea just south of Sizewell where there is a cafe attached to a camp site. We had a coffee then headed back along the coastal path to the hut, in time for a cheese sandwich for lunch. Helen and I then caused another split by heading off to Minsmere RSPB for the after noon while another faction went for a walk on the beach and three others went for a £30 30 minute sea blast in a rib boat from Southwold harbour.

Helen and I  parked up at the reserve then headed in land and took a footpath on the right that headed over Dunwich Heath in hope of seeing Dartford Warblers. We were not disappointed we saw two Stonechat and about 5 or 6 Dartford Warblers which the heath is famous for. At coat guard cottages we had a drink and shared a piece of lemon drizzle cake whilst enjoying warm sun. I was down to a single layer just a t-shirt was warm enough. We headed down to the beach and on towards East Hide (our favorite), on the way Helen spotted a single seal out on the water and we had a look at an RSPB sculpture made of plastic found on the beach, which was being used to inform people of the issue that plastic is and how it pollutes the sea, as it gets broken down into smaller and smaller bits, it affects the wildlife, as it gets into the food chain.

There was not much to see from the East Hide just the usual suspects ducks and a few godwit. On the way back we stopped to look for Bearded Tit from the new sea defenses, but failed to spot more that a pigeon and a blue tit. After a look around the shop we headed back to the hut to tidy up before heading to The Dolphin pub for a meal.

Bike ride from Eastbridge to Warblerswick via Dunwich

View of Coastguard cottages Dunwich
View of Coastguard cottages Dunwich

Even though rain was forecast we had booked bikes for 10:00 from The Eelsfoot at Eastbridge, which is a very nice pub to stay for the weekend. We left the house at 09:30 earlier than usual., which was good because the rain was forecast for 14:00. At the pub we picked the best bikes out and T lent us his pump to get the tyres nice and hard.

We headed off keeping to the tarmac road that leads to Minsmere RSPB then took a right at Scotts hall up a shortt slop then took the bridleway on the right which headed over to Dunwich heath. When we hit the road that leads to the Coastguard cottages we went left and headed toward the beach at Dunwich. At the cafe we had tea and coffee and T and I shared a doughnut that they make of the premises when the fryers are not doing fish and chips, which are the main fayre of the establishment. If you are ever in the area I would recommend stopping off for a lunch of fish and chips, I have been visiting the place for over 30 years.

Suitably refreshed we headed back in land then found another bridleway that eventually turns into a tarmac road called Lodge Road, which starts at a fantastic looking house over looking the marshes then over the sea.We soon found ourselves in Warberswick and met up with the rest of the party who had chosen the car for the days outing. We took a look at the harbour and the famous ferry across the river Blythe, 90p for people or bikes dogs go free. The we headed back to the center of the village where a tea room supplied us with a great lunch, I had a tuna mayonnaise baguette.

View of Coastguard cottages Dunwich
View of Coastguard cottages Dunwich

After lunch we decided on a different way back, we left Warblerswick and took a left turn along a bridleway, which eventually dumped us onto the marsh were conveniently there were board walks to make the cycling easier. Then we did a stretch of  sea wall which was new and nicely paved with two layers of different gravel. We left the sea wall and headed towards some trees which formed the only high spot around then we picked up a track that lead back to Dunwich, where we went towards the beach but headed up the hill past Greyfriars abbey ruins, then tracked back the route we had followed earlier, back to Eastbridge. The last 3 or 4 miles were done in the rain pub my poncho served me well and none of us got very wet, so once again we had made the most of the weather.

C cooked her tomato risotto with veggie sausages in it, which was very nice. A game of scrabble followed.

The university of life boat race

House in the clouds Thorpeness Suffolk
House in the clouds Thorpeness Suffolk

Up at a reasonable time with plan for a walk and then some messing about in boats on Thorpeness meare. We walked out bast the house in the clouds and then at the disused railway headed out and around the RSPB reserve called North Warren. The reserve is basically a big marsh and reed bed surrounded by woodland. We were not really looking for birds but spotted green woodpeckers, buzzards and kestrel. Insect life included probably most of the dragon flies, and a big caterpillar, it could have been a fox moth one.

Swan at Thorpeness Meare Suffolk
Swan at Thorpeness Meare Suffolk

At the far end of the marsh there is quite a lot of board walk, which keeps you off the boggy ground. Once the circuit had been done we ended up back at the Mess the over priced sandwich shop opposite the meare. Suitably full we wandered over to the boat hire place n the meare, we planned for some messing about in boats. The party split in two some got straight in a boat for and hour and a half session, some others including me went back to the hut to dump some technology and change into more suitable clothing.

I was disappointed that I cod not hire a sailing boat, the buggy running the place said he had a bad back so was unable to his out the sailing vessels. He did explain why but I did not really get what he was saying. The three of us rented a boat, and I started off the rowing. It did not take long to get back into the hang of things, we had a couple of races which the other side won then the hour was soon up and we headed back to port.

Next on the list was a beverage, J insisted we get some duck food, which the cafe sold. It meant that we were invaded by swans desperate to get some of the food action. Some of the party retreated to another table whilst I hand fed the swans.

We walked back to the hut via the beach. Later T and I were dispatched to the Golden Galleon in Aldeburgh to get fish and chips, which we thoroughly enjoyed but we will never know if the other place which was recommended (and closed on Wednesdays). Later while I typed the blog post the girls did their piss pots club which involved doing a water colour portrait of me, luckily they were able to do most of the painting from memory as I went to bed early.

Thorpeness to Sizewell and back

View of Southwold in Suffolk lighthouse
View of Southwold in Suffolk lighthouse

A local walk was planned for the day, to save having to drive anywhere. We headed out down to the beach then turned left and headed towards Sizewell. Interestingly the coast is being eroded away, and they have built up the defences with wire cages full of rocks but they are on top of big sacks made of a felt material full of sand and rocks. After a bit of a slog on the beach keeping clear of the waves that washed in we joined a coastal path which for Suffolk was fairly elevated.

At Sizewell beach we found the cafe closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the public loos in a bit of a mess. We headed up the road To a pub called the Vulcan arms just opposite the entrance to the nuclear power station entrance. The pub sign included Dr Spock, the aircraft, and the Greek god of ironmongery and black smithing. We were a bit early so sat in he pub garden for 10 minutes until it opened. It was a bit early but we all had sandwiches as from the map it was clear that the was no obvious option for the lunch on the way back. I took the opportunity to do a time lapse sequence.

View of Southwold church in Suffolk
View of Southwold church in Suffolk

The route back would head in land via the RSPB land called Aldringham walks. Helen spooked a green wood pecker, and we came across a very large tit flock possibly 75 birds. We also spotted plenty of butterflies, including Monarch and Speckled wood. The route back took bought us out a the golf course, past the house in the clouds and eventually to The Dolphin pub, where we enjoyed a well earned pint.

J made his lovely Cajun stew for dinner and I made a sort of apple and blackberry strudel which was served with either ice cream or custard. Then we sat down to watch the great British bake off before going to bed.

Aldeburgh and back, then Minsmere

Aldeburgh Beach clam sculpture
Aldeburgh Beach clam sculpture

A leisurely start to the day, but we knew we had to make the most of the weather as rain and wind was promised at 14:00. So we left relatively early at 10:30 and headed along the coast to Adleburgh. The wind was against us as the storm which was centred to the west of us was bring winds along the coast. We spotted just above the beach the ideal house for Helen and I it looked quite modern with an asymmetric roof, the the clincher was the vast open plan, glazed ground floor and the bedrooms on a second floor.

Just as we got to the edge of Aldeburgh we popped onto the beach to have a look at the controversial sculpture of the scallop on the beach. Apparently it weighs five tonnes and is made of stainless steel. To me I think it looks like it belongs and is a nice addition to the beach. Further into town we checked out the statue of Snoops a dog near the boating pond. There were no flash boats on the pond just kids with the cheap local sailing boats.

We found a cafe with sats outside (we had the dog in tow) and ordered tea and coffee all round, then we had to put up with the choices of some hooray Henry’s talking about their big night out and how they lived in Chelsea and traveled often to New York.

Aldeburgh Beach tractor
Aldeburgh Beach tractor

We took a less direct route back which had us turn left on the main road out of town then take the footpath thought the church where Benjamin Britten was buried, then onto a disused railway track to the edge of the lake at Thorpeness. The path along the lake ales you pas the disused windmill and the house in the clouds which is a five bedroom follie which our can rent.

It started to rain as we approached Thorpeness but no enough for us to get really wet. Popped to the ullage shop for some lunch provisions, but be choice was limited as it was about to close and their stock control system really worked, Helen and I had boiled eggs.

We decided we would take a drive out to Minsmere then spend a couple of hours bird watching from the shelter of a bird hide. As luck would have it the rain stopped when we got to the RSPB reserve, and we headed out to the South hide. We spotted red and green shank and the usual
ducks. Then we headed out to island mere just in time for it to start raining again. Helen spotted Bittern which I missed because I was tinkering with my technology, but we both saw the three great white egrets and a marsh harrier.

We returned to the hut to find the others were in the Dolphin pub, so we joined them for a great meal, which we enjoyed enough to book another night. A couple in a table next to us turned out to be from near Wobburn, and had connections to Aston Clinton and Halton, it’s a small world.

Home to Thorpeness via Anglesey Abbey

Angelsey Abbey
Angelsey Abbey

The annual family holiday is due this year at Thorpeness in Suffolk, which by all accounts is a strange place. We could get into the rental at 16:00 so there was no rush to leave the house, the plan was to stop at the national Trust property Anglesey Abbey over near Cambridge. We were away at 11:15 and after a pretty uneventful journey via mainly motorway and dual carriage way we arrived at the abbey at 12:00.

Anglesey Abbey was mediaeval priory which was eventually owned by Lord Fairhaven who turns it into a family home. He was find of Dahlias and they feature a lot around the house and grounds. There is also an annual Dahlia festival featuring the best Dahlias you’re ever likely to see on one place.

We walked around the grounds then had a look at the working mill, followed by the main house and then some other of the grounds before having lunch in the visitors centre. The house was one or the more interesting houses in that the contents were relatively modern compared to other National Trust properties. There were also quite a few paintings mainly of Windsor castle. Lord Fairhaven seemed to be a collector of things I noted pictures of birds, jewellery crosses, paintings of Windsor castle, and Chinese stone carvings. After lunch we headed back on the road to the twilight zone that is Thorpeness.

We took the tourist route which is a pleasant drive but not suitable for the VW cruise control as there are too many bends and you have to keep adjusting the speed and it is not so bad when you have some one to follow as when they break so does the Golf, but the road was very quiet so no one to follow.

Thorpeness Suffolk view
Thorpeness Suffolk view

When we got to Thorpeneas it took a tour of the village MD a mobile phone call to find the rental cottage which was very nice. Plenty of rooms down stairs and more than one TV to save any arguments over which channel to watch. WiFi was soon found and connected to but the speed was a bit rural at 1.6mb down and 1.2mb up.

Rooms were soon allocated, bags unpacked, food stored away and we could begin to relax. A short walk via the beach and the shallow boating lake was in order. It became clear that Thorpeness was a weird place a subject that I will entire to in a later blog entry. By the time we got back it was time to eat. We had come prepared with Waitrose prepared salads so it took no time at all to take the lids off of the products and get stuck in. We also bought a selection of cheeses amongst which was a wedge of Bleu D’Affinois my favourite new cheese, and it was the only one that was completely demolished.

After a game of Scrabble I went to bed looking forward to a walk on Sunday.