Since the first week of our holiday I had seen reports on Twitter of an Osprey at Weston Turville reservoir, a local to home reservoir. It is pretty small as reservoirs go there is a sailing club but they sail small boats like Lasers. I would say it is about 200 metres by 300-400 metres. I thought I should check it out, so I dropped Helen off at her folks and popped round.
The signs were good there were bird watchers there with scopes and binoculars. I enquired about the Osprey it had apparently made an appearance earlier and caught two fish, but had not been seen for a while. Time lapse and birding are quite complimentary as you can set the camera up and use the waiting time to watch for birds. That is exactly what I did, I tried out my new panning device bought on Amazon for less tgat £20, basically a good quality kitchen timer.
I had done one sequence and popped over to start a new one, taking in the sailing rave tgat had just started and noticed that the other bird watchers had got all excited. The Osprey was back, it circled over the water for a while, giving me a chance to get some shots, as it passed over the bank end of the reservoir, then headed off towards Stoke Mandeville. Mission accomplished, next I popped up to Coombe hill to get some more sequences, there was s nothing like doing something to get proficient at it, the old 10,000 hours theory.
I put the GoPro on the panorama plinth at the monument, at the top of Coombe hill, it got some funny looks and some questions but I managed to do 20 minutes which equates to 120 degrees of panning. Some people were I view at times but I hoped that it would add to the final video, remember every day is a school day.
The rest of the day was spent processing photo’s and videos and catching up on missed TV especially “This is England 90”
We had a lay in finally surfacing at 09:00, we are really recharging our batteries. By the time we had had breakfast and got sorted it was 10:20. We headed away from the hut by climbing to the very top of the garden and then taking the footpath down into Polzeath we thought it might save some time but in the end it didn’t. The storm had passed overnight and the sun was out, but we went prepared for showers. The sea was quite rough and lashing the rocks at the bottom of the cliffs. We stopped for a rest, a look at the view and a time lapse on an out crop. Helen pulled her usual trick of being the first to spot seals, an adult and young pup. Her day was now fulfilled!
Just around the headland there is a plaque marking the spot where the poet Laurence Binyon composed the poem “For the Fallen” in 1914:
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we shall remember them.
I’m sure you will recognise it from the remembrance services, and it was quite fitting that we were there on the day of the Battle of Britain anniversary.
On the lee side of the Headland out of the wind it really was quite hot and we decided that rather than walking the long way to the Bee Centre we would head back across the inland part and onto the beach. The far side of the beach we found a cafe that sold a nice coffee and we sat there and watched the world go by for a while. We were back at the hut by 15:00 and although we had forgotten to put the rubbish out in the morning we noticed that the bin men still hadn’t come so I did two sets of steps up to the house to put the rubbish away.
We spend the rest of the afternoon lounging around on the terrace watching the sea in the distance and reading the newspaper. We went down to the beach to watch the surfers before we ate, the light was not good as it meant shooting into the sun and through haze. The meal was OK I had seared tuna and chips, and Helen a pizza.
London seems to be a weekly commute for me at the moment. This Saturday I have managed to get tickets for a tour of the Navy ship, HMS Bulwark moored up in Greenwich for a few weeks. To make a day of it I thought I would walk from Rotherhithe which will complete the walk I started last weekend when I walked from Rotherhithe to Tower Bridge.
Waiting at Berkhamsted there were quite a few groups of people with picnic hampers clearly some outside event was on. The train was relatively busy but I got a seat with a table for the coffee I purchased on the platform. The train was running 7 minutes late.
I chose to tube it to Rotherhithe, then I kept to the Thames path as much as I could, it turned out to be quite a long walk and at Deptford high street I thought about getting a bus but the next one was in twenty minutes so I carried on walking. By the time I got to the Cutty Sark I was quite tired of walking. There was a sort of French market on and I bought A veggie quiche for lunch the whole transaction done in French. I followed that with a coffee and a pee at the Greenwich museum the cafe was a bar as well and brewed its own beer in the big atrium of a bar in big copper brewing things.
I joined the queue at about 1245 for the 1300 trip. I had a spare ticket and offered it to a guy carrying a camera, I don’t think he really understood what I was offering him, he said yes bit then disappeared. Luckily for a young lady in the queue near me I was able to offer her the spare one. She had registered but could not get the eTicket up on the screen of her blackberry.
Her name was Natalie and she was a bored commercial lawyer and was thinking of joining the Navy as a legal reserve? We were soon herded into a tent for 10 minutes of how great the Navy is and why we contribute taxes to the service which provides value for money. Then we were herded onto a jetty where our launch to take us to the Bulwark was waiting. Once on board I tagged onto one of the guided tours of he boat. We visited the control room where they play war games the helicopter deck where we were able to go into the cockpit of the helicopter parked there. In the control room I noticed they were still using Windows XP that probably explains why the government has agreed to pay Microsoft for patches post them making the OS end of life. We also went into the depths of the vessel where we got to see the landing craft which can be launched out of the back of the ship.
We were on board for about an hour and a half. Were were herded back to the pontoon to pick up the launch to take us back to land at the Cutty Sark. I was quite tired by this point so decided to take the most quick and direct route back possible. Google t0 the rescue, a Tube station was near by bit the line was closed further down the line so down 10 flights of steps on to DLR then off at the next stop up some steps, onto a bus that went all round the houses and eventually to another DLR station where I got a train to Bank, then the Northern line to Euston where I was two trains ahead of the Google suggestion.
At Berkhamsted I picked up Helen who was shopping for dinner then we went home for Pizza and salad for me at least an early night. A tiring but enjoyable day.
Last day in Norfolk, weather promised to be windy with frequent shows and we were not let down. The plan was to take a look at the board walk at Barton Broad, as recommended by Ross the boat man, and then take a look at a Nation Trust property probably Blickling Hall. It was only a short drive to Barton Broad, we parked up we had a choice of any parking space clearly a popular place. The board walk was about 1km walk, down a narrow country road we didn’t meet any traffic but we did get a shower so the poncho was donned.
We soon found the entrance to the board walk, which is really well built, according to the notices they had to put in some piles 6.5m down to hit solid enough ground to support it. The walk is circular out over the wooded marsh area and has an observation point. We stopped off and watched from the observation point, spotting terns, plenty of grebes, and we heard what we thought was the call of a water rail. Another shower came along as we sat there so the poncho came out again and we huddled under it. When the rain stopped we headed back to the car park and were soon caught out again by a shower this time very heavy. Helen who had left the car unprepared and without poncho got a bit wet.
Next stop was to be Blickling Hall, an Elizabethan building, with parks and gardens. The sky was grey when arrived so we did the tour of the house first. There are two levels to the house and it is typical of NT properties lots of old stuff, signs on chairs telling whether you can or cannot sit on them, and signs on other stuff telling you that you could not touch. I was impressed by the long room which apparently was build so they could exercise when the weather was inclement and later housed the best library in the National Trusts possession.
There were some impressive trees in the park land one in particular looked old and looked like it had spawned newer trees (albeit very old ones) where he limbs of the main tree (now a dead stump) had touched the ground and rooted. When the next shower came along we popped in for a coffee, and shared a granola cake, then we headed out and had a game of croquet on the lawn. Although we could not figure out the rules by reading the instructions, we made some up and Helen won.
The gardens are extensive and there is some great topiary, but were not really that impressive from a bloom point of view I suspect because it is a bit early in the year, but you could see the potential. My guess is that in a months time the beds will look really impressive. We had a go on the hoopla game at Helen’s insistence, she claimed to be the Bucks under 10 champion, but in the end failed to score and so it was one all in the competitive stakes for the day.
In one of the side buildings there was an art exhibition and more interesting in another was details of the how the local land had been used during the war as an air base called RAF Oulton. It appeared to be mainly used for Boeing made bombers, which makes me suspect that it was somehow connected with the Americans They also had a few planes painted black which were used for special ops.
We were back at the hut at about 17:30 and had enjoyed the day.
The plans for today were centred around visiting Horsey Wind pump at Horsey, so following a leisurely breakfast we left the hut, and headed off. We are staying only about 10 minutes form the pump, which is run by the National Trust our plan was to do a circular walk, so see some seals by the sea and possible take in a boat trip from the mill, however just as we arrived outside Horsey I had a spontaneous change of plan, and we parked up at a beach car park. The car park was pay and display but the pay and display machine was locked up inside a mini container, so we saved ourselves a couple of quid.
The beach is accessed via a gap in the dunes which run along this part of the coast. The weather was great for taking photos as the haze of the last few days had cleared and the blue skies were covered in fluffy clouds. The weather forecast for most of the country was gales and rain but there was a chance that we were in a corner that would just miss all the bad weather. On the beach the wind was increasing but the sun was out and it was pleasant enough. The tide was going out and there was a stretch near the surf that was solid thus making walking easier. We headed south which was where we were told by Helen’s colleague the seals hang out. We soon started to spot waders on the beach ; Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Dunlin, and also Little Tern hunting over the sea. We walked for about a mile and spotted plenty of seals in the sea popping their heads out of the water to keep their eyes on us, then we came across probably about 200 seals lying on the beach between two break waters.
We headed up into the dunes so as not to disturb them, where we found somewhere to site down and watch them and have a snack of Christmas cake. I took the opportunity to take some time lapse photos with the GoPro. Next we headed back to the car the weather was still holding out but the wind was building as forecast. We drove the mill itself and parked up at the NT car park , another free be as we are members. The nice man at the cafe invited us in and explained about the mill, told us to get on the boat trip you need to put your name on the “automatic” booking system and was happy for us to us the cafe to eat our sandwiches. Helen when off to put our names on the booking system while I went and got her binoculars form the car, then we went had had a look at the Mill/Pump, which if you don’t mind steep steps gives a great view from a platform at the top. Back at the cafe we got a coffee and the man tempted Helen with a box a bargain cards, how did he know that Helen is a sucker for a card? We took our coffee’s outside and sat in the lee of the building and had lunch.
We took a stroll round the broad for a bit to kill the 30 minutes before the boat trip. It turned into a private boat trip, as we were the only people booked on it. Ross Warrell who runs Ross’ Norfolk Broads River Trips it turns out has a connection, I mentioned that I went school fairly locally and he said did I know his borther Adrian turns out he was in the class below me, what a small world we live in. The boat trip was great Ross really like bird watching and essentially the trip turned into a bird watching trip. We saw loads of Marsh Harriers, Sedge Warblers, Reed Buntings, as you would expect but we also had a fly past by a Cuckoo and great views of two Hobby’s. We both really enjoyed the trip and would thoroughly recommend it, Ross is really the star of the boat with his knowledge of birds and his relaxed attitude to the whole tour of the broad.
Back on dry land we went back to car to decide what to do, we had probably an hour to do something but could not see anything on the map that took our fancy. We had been out in the wind all day and wanted something a bit more sheltered. We headed to Winterton-on-sea to see if we could get a coffee and found a gem of a cafe called Dunes Cafe just off the beach car park.We went in expecting nothing special, but inside it clearly was not you usual beach cafe, they had an expresso machine, a great collection of cakes, and the menu looked great too. On the wall there was evidence that it had featured in the press, with framed articles.We opted for the homemade red velvet cake which was a chocolate cake with beetroot and a butter cream icing, it was lush.
Whilst we had coffee I noticed there was a coast watch hut and a couple had been invited in to take a look, so after we left the cafe I wandered over to see if I could have a guided tour too. The man in the watch tower was just packing up as his shift finished at 16:00 but he very kindly agreed to show me around and tell me what he was up to. The watch is run form 08:00 to 16:00 each day and concentrates on smaller craft i.e. those not on the AIS system. Apparently the one at Winteron is covered by only 8 volunteers. I noticed on the table he had a note about a dead dolphin being reported on the beach to the south, backing up his comments that public treated them a lot like to the place to report anything from lost keys to lost children. We talked about local pubs and he recommended the Nelson Head at Horsey.
We got home we checked out the website for the Nelsons Head it looked good and promised to yo accommodate any diet, Helen gave then a call and checked that they did veggie food and booked a table. The pub is a strange place in the back next to the var park there was a car van with a staffie at the window. In the pub it was like your tradition establishment with all sorts of brick a brac hanging from the walls including, a very large shot gun with a six foot barrel with a gauge of about an inch and a half, apparently it was used to shot many ducks with one shot. The food was average but the beer was great. I had Brain’s Bitter and Helen had Nelsons Revenge.
Up at reasonable time with breakfast sorted, we left the house at 09:22 destination Cley Marshes, and a day bird watching. The route was familiar along the A149 which runs from around the North Norfolk coast from the broads at Yarmouth to Kings Lynn. We usually don’t like to spend too much time driving around when we are on holiday but the draw of Cley Marshes and the potential for bird watching was too much to resist.
The one hour journey was shortened somewhat by three episodes of The Archers, and my attempt to break my fuel usage record. The adaptive cruise control on the golf tends to accelerate smoothly and economically and the A149 has some long stretches of 50mph, by the time we parked up at the Norfolk Wildlife Trust car park we had achieved 61 miles per gallon which is very impressive.
We checked in at the visitors center had a pee and set off around the reserve, in a clockwise direction, which is not the way we usually walk around. At the first group of three hides it was great to see plenty of waders out on the scrapes; Ringed Plovers, Godwits, Dunlin, Sandpipers, Turnstone to mention a few. We then headed out to the beach car park where alas the cafe and loo are no more, following a storm a few years back the temporary structures have been removed. We walked on to the north most hide where we had some of A’s great Christmas cake that we had frozen just after Christmas. Then we stopped for sandwiches at the bench on the south east corner, where I also tried a timelapse with the go pro. We checked out the final hide nearest the visitors center, before we went in for a coffee and some well deserved apple cake.
Next stop was Cley Spy binocular shop where I had an opportunity to try our loads of binoculars, including a tempting set by Opticron at £299 DBA 10×25 Oasis W/P which give a great bright image, and pack down really small so would be perfect to keep in my rucksack when out for a walk. I picked up a bargain mini ball tripod head for £39 instead of the usual £55.
On the way home we picked up some supplies at Waitrose North Walsham. I had a plan for the evening after we had eaten, which was to try our the raptor watch point at Stubb Mill, apparently you can often see 10’s of Marsh Harriers and other raptors. I drove up to and parked at the visitors center but when I walked up the lane as I understood you were supposed to, I noticed that the gate was lockable. Despite looking at all the notices at the reserve there was not indication of when the gate would be locked, so I got back in the car and drove down to Stubb Mill. There were signs that suggested that they prefer people not to park there, I squeezed the car up against a bank next to the watch point, and kept my fingers crossed that no one would come and tell me off.
The sun was about 30 minutes from setting and was shining on the scrubby fields in front of me, but apart from the odd crow, cow and deer there was not much happening. I took some pictures and set up the gopro to do some timelapses, as I waited. Just as I was thinking I had wasted my time and that they only roost in the winter, I started noticing Harriers arriving in their ones and twos! My guess is that they were all Marsh Harriers but I did see one that I thought was grey on top which would make it a Hen Harrier, but I will not be putting it on my list. Then I started to hear not only a Bittern booming but a Cuckoo, well Cuckooing. I can imaging that in the winter when they are not breeding and it is cold they the sight is quite spectacular.
We were up early (well I was) in anticipation of going on holiday, to Hickling Green for a week. We had booked a cottage, and my parents were joining us for the first couple of nights. The cottage would be ours from 16:00 so we had plenty of time to get there, and had left the packing to the morning of the day of departure, however as usual we were all packed and ready to go by 10:00, we had 6 hours to do a 3 hour journey.
The plan was to stop off at RSPB Sandy to buy some binoculars that Helen had promised me for my birthday. It took only just over the hour to get to Sandy the RSPB headquarters. We parked up and it started to chuck it down with rain so we ran to the shop and visitors centre, however we did not stay for long, there was no cafe and the optics selection was not that great and no one seemed interested in selling, I would wait till we are next at Minsmere where they have a bigger selection and knowledgeable staff on hand.
Now we had a dilemma where to stop off next? There were a few options, we fancied making the most of our National Trust membership, Wimpole Hall and Anglesey Abbey were near, too close in fact, but we had visited previously. We settled on Ickworth Hall which would take us via Bury St Edmunds thus avoiding Thetford which I feared would be busy as there was a 40mph long stretch of road which was being widened. Thetford has always been a bit of a bottle neck and we have experienced delays passing through on the way to the North Norfolk coast in the past.
We stopped for a paper to distract Helen from my driving, and arrived at Ickworth Hall at about 12:30. The weather was warm with blue skies and white fluffy clouds, perfect spring weather for taking photo’s, although we would have to be wary of possible down pours. The main feature f Ickworth Hall is the massive rotunda building that forms the middle of the hall which had two impressive wings as well, one of which was an up market hotel.
First things first we used the facilities then headed for the restaurant, which was not the usual queue up with a tray and choose your fare variety but a wait here for a table and the be waited on variety. We stood by the wait here sign and despite catching the eye of one of the waitresses stood about dong nothing, it was not until two further groups of people had turned up that we got some attention! We ordered spring vegetable gnocchi (Helen) and smoked salmon and bread (Neil) from a waitress who called Alune who quickly came over and took our order when we looked up from our menu, excellent service. The food tasted great and the coffee was great, the next challenge was to pay, we went over to til,and again despite being noticed by a couple of waitresses no one came over to take our money, until we had waited a few minutes!
We exited via the shop, but Helen forewent the shopping delaying it till later in our visit. Next we went out to the sunny side of the building to get some pictures. There were plenty of Cowslips and Primroses under some Magnolia bushes which kept me distracted while Helen smoked the evil weed. The gardens were well maintained, and manicured around the back of the house, and around the front the landscape was more parkland but there were thousands of daffodils in flower to add some foreground to my pictures.
The house was quite interesting it seems that it had been built in phases over the generations as each generation fell on good and bad times. The rotunda must have cost a bit with all the curved components required to build it. Helen and I speculated how they might of done the floor boards were the cut curved or cuts straight then bent to shape. I reckon they were bent to shape it would have been very difficult to get the curve correct and I guess you would have ended up bending them a bit anyway to make them fit with the others.
We left the hall at just after 14:00 and the sat nav was predicting and arrival at Hickling Green at 15:57 perfect. The drive was pleasant especially with the Golfs adaptive cruise control dealing with the throttle pedal. We passed through territory that was familiar to me as we got closer to and passed Norwich. We were soon following signs for the broads and arrived at Hickling Green at 15:58 not a bad prediction by the sat nav.
The cottage we had rented from Norfolk Country Cottages was well appointed and equipped, we would be very comfortable for our week. After settling in we took a stroll down to the broad at Hickling itself and took in the area on the way. We decided that many of the houses were weekend cottages but there also seemed to be a really good sense of community, with many notices for clubs and society meetings and events going on.
That evening we went to the Greyhound Pub to eat, we had booked a table but judging but we probably had not needed to. The fare was pub food mainly fried but that suited me fine, Helen and I had veggie burgers dad had seafood medley and mum had some chicken dish which to her surprise came in a bun. Helen and I decided not to have a dessert but I ended up eating half of dads lemon meringue sundae which was really tasty, you really can’t go wrong with cream, ice cream and meringue with a lemon sauce.