Home to Hickling Green for a holiday

Ickworth Hall NT
Ickworth Hall NT

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.

Primroses at Ickworth Hall NT

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.

Magnolia at Ickworth Hall NT

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.

View of field from Hickling village

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.

After getting up early we were in bed early too!

Tommy Cooper walk

Trees abstract

It was not raining so only one thing to do, make the most of it and go for a walk. We picked up the inlaws and headed up to Swan  Bottom, and parked up at the Swan inn, then headed out for the usual circular walk.

The weather was grey but no rain, temperature was about 10 degrees. The ground was quite soft under foot on places. The whole walk took about 2 hours and looped round towards The Lee and back.

Valley view

At the pub we all had sandwiches and shared a couple of bowls of chips. There were plenty of locals at the bar one of then thought he was a comedian and decided to test out some of his jokes, ready for his performance at the local talent show. Some of them were good and he did a good Tommy Cooper impression. Turns out he was a skier, had a German mother and was born in Australia, quite some ancestry.

The food was duly washed down with a pint then we headed back home for some Raspberry Pi hacking. The plan was to get one up and running on a wireless LAN with a static IP.

Busy weekend

Stag and deer

Helen was away at the weekend and I am off to Belfast this morning so you will be treated to a blog post of my busy weekend. I dropped Helen off at the train station of Friday evening then settled in for an evening in front of the TV, followed by going to bed early, as I had plans.

I was up at a reasonable time grabbed some breakfast and a strong coffee and headed out to the woods at Ashridge, the rut had started so I might be able to get some pictures. The weather was perfect for photography a clear atmosphere and a few whit fluffy clouds against a deep blue sky. I parked up in a car park which is close to a large open field where the stags tend to congregate and do their strutting about.

Walking through the woods I spotted the odd deer and a couple of stags, but they are hard to get pictures of in the shaded woods. 100th of a second at ISO 800 is about all you can hope for, still the new 40D I’d slightly better at high ISO’s than the old 20D. I did a circuit of the field and took a few landscape shots of the trees which were just starting to turn autumnal. The deer were gathering but there was not a lot of action, and I had other things planned.

Thames view around Little Wittenham

On the way back through Tring I called in at R’s but I got know answer, so I went home and had some lunch then headed over to Wendover for a haircut, which was more eventful than usual when the guy having his haircut in the chair next to me had his ear snipped with the scissors. He got a free haircut and I thanked my luck stars I was not their 5minutes earlier is I might have been in that seat. I grabbed a paper and went home.

I gave R another call and got hold of him, and popped round for a coffee, it was good to catch up. Then I was back to the woods to have another crack at the rut. I was not disappointed. Two stags were on the rise in the field and occasionally challenges came from the edge of the field, which drew the stags down closer to where I had positioned myself and within lens shot. At one point I saw charging and crashes as their antlers clashed. I left at about 17:30 clearly sunset is the best time of day.

I grabbed an M&S curry on the way through Tring then went home to watch Hard Candy on Netflix, which although got good reviews was rubbish, I lasted 30 minutes in. Again I had a fairly early night as I was going to give the deers another chance in the morning. There was not much action in the morning at 08:30, but it was nice to be out in the woods when it is quiet, on such a nice morning. Next it was back to the house to make Tumbet for a quick Sunday evening meal, you can make it ready to put in the oven for later. This time I used new potatoes which I boiled and skinned red peppers for a jar, which made it easier to prepare and tasted great.

Ewelme view

I was due to pick Helen up at 1600 from Didcot so as the weather was again great I headed out early to Little Wittenham to get some pictures around the river Thames. I grabbed my 10-22mm lens and polarising filter, it was to be one of those days. Over and around Little Wittenham there is some thing called Earth Trust, which I must find out some more about, it looks like they have been planting trees and putting up walks and generally doing stuff for nature conservation.

Helen’s train was on time and the Tumbet was great we watched the film Tyranosaur, which although very hard hitting was very well made, a great story and well acted. That’s what I call making the most of a weekend.

Panorama service resumed

If you have been reading my blog you will know that I have battling with php and the  javascript created by PtGui but finally I have a script that will display panorama’s that I can store on the site. See the example below example, I took it when we were away at New Year, near Snape Marsh, in Suffolk.

A productive if wet weekend at home

Vegetable korma 4 portions

Luton Airport Monday 07:50 it must be EZY181 to Belfast, and just because it has become a tradition here is a blog post.

The weekend was a real wash out, but we did manage to get some stuff done round the house.

We went to the pictures on Friday to see Salmon fishing in the Yemen, which was not a cinematic great but an excellent film with a great story line, well worth watching. On the way home we went to Tesco for the ingredients for a Korma curry paste.

On Saturday I was up early and gave the kitchen a quick wipe, then once helen was up I put up two roller blinds, one at top of stairs the other in the back bedroom. Two more windows and we will be 100% blinds.

Then it was off to Wendover for me to get a haircut and Helen some shopping therapy. Luckily for the bank balance there was no queue at the barbers so Helen’s spend time was kept to a minimum. It was still lashing down with rain.

Once home I got out my laptop with the aim of finding a way to present my panorama tours on the web. The method needed to have an HTML5 option as I want it to work on ipads and iphones. I found a project on google code called Bigshot http://code.google.com/p/bigshot/ it looked promising. It used the Microsoft deepzoom format, but also came with a wrapper that allowed the directory structure to be stored in a single file with a php script to serve the images out on demand. It was interesting to see such an approach.

Tried as I might I could not get the thing to work, my javascript knowledge is just not good enough, I did however learn a lot about debugging js using chrome and firefox, so the hours were not wasted. In the end I have reverted back to using the utility that comes with ptgui http://www.ptgui.com/which produces a set of images and page with html5 and flash options, it is also gyro scope aware which means you can move around with a device and the panorama moves with you. My plan is to develop a php script to display a panorama directory based on parameters passed to it. As for Bigshot I might have to revisit it someday.

Helen made the most of the day by putting the stuff in the garage that belonged in the dining room back where it belonged, and sorting out a couple of the kitchen draws that have become draws of small stuff we can’t be bothered to put away in the right place. Later in the after noon I made the curry paste, a massive two large Bonne Maman jam jars full. I got the recipe from Jamie Olivers website but used it as a guide. So in summary despite the continuous torrential rain we got quite a lot done.

We watched a film whilst eating home made Pizza, which this time we left to rise rolled out for a more puffed up base, it was called The Ides of March staring George Clooney. We were not very impressed, the story was a bit difficult to follow and I think you needed to have an interest in American politics.

On Sunday we had booked up for dawn chorus walk at Dancersend NR, but the organiser phoned up the Saturday evening and cancelled, the reason was weather and the slight risk of falling branches, but the main thing was that we would not really be able to hear anything with the appalling weather.

Cholesbury church

I dropped Helen and Gladys off at church then continued with the panorama project. The rest of the day was spent at home relaxing, and making tea for a couple of visitors. Abida (arriving with an excellent homemade banana cake)reported that there were trees down all over the place as she tried to get to Tring station but ended up at Berkhamsted.

Later I made a vegetable korma with the paste I made the night before. I used Cauliflower and baby aubergines as a base, and included green beans and peas at the end. It turned out really well which is good because of the amount of paste I now have! I made enough for 4 portions to be frozen.

Mixed bag day

Blakeney sunset

The weather so far had been great but this morning it did not look as good as it had been. We got the bus t0 Stiffkey with a plan to walk back to Blakeney. The bus as usual was on time and we were soon walking out to the sea on the foot patch that runs from the antique lap ship, in the centre of Stiffkey. It was dry.

Once we got to the marshes it started to rain and continued all the way to Blakeney. On the path we saw quite a lot of birds, including a flock of I think Golden Plover and two Spoonbills. We emailed the Spoonbills in to Bird Guides dot com and got a polite email back thanking us.


We had some lunch back at the hut then we all went separate ways, some went shopping, but Helen and I went to Salthouse for a short circular walk via the Quag, where we have seen some interesting birds on the past. When we parked up we noticed that the old post office at Salthouse was now open as a shop/butchers, previously it has always appeared closed, and derelict. We walk down the lane to the Quag not much about apart from a flock of Goldfinch. Once up on the sea defences the going got tough with all the shingle, and Helen spotted three seals or the sane seal three times. It was a very pleasant walk over familiar ground.

When we got back I had a shower then  noticed that the sun was out, and very low, looked like there could be a nice sunset, so I headed down to the quay at Blakeney to get some pictures. The sunset was not as good as it could have been because there was some cloud low on the horizon. I made the  most of the low sun light and tried a series of pictures which I home to turn into a panorama.

All in all despite the weather a great day out in the fresh air, better than work any day.