London – Robot exhibition at the Science Museum

My back was still not right, but I managed a 6 mile local walk the day before so I thought I would go a bit further a field, but I was not up to the Ridgeway. Scanning the what’s on on London sites I was reminded of the robot special exhibition at the Science Museum, so I booked myself an 11:00 ticket, giving me plenty of flexibility on time. If things went to plan I would get the tube there then walk back through the London parks back to Euston on the return journey.

I was up early, and managed to get the 08:06, but no coffee as the station cafe is shut on a Sunday. I grabbed the Victoria line to Green park then the Piccadilly to South Kensington. I got out of the pedestrian tunnel early in favour of fresh air and as luck would have I exited right opposite a Le Pain Quotidian where I grabbed an excellent coffee and even better Raisin Danish, which was essentially a Pain Au Raisin but twisted not twirled. I was a bit early and there was just one person and child outside the entrance, I joined them and therefore started a queue, which by 10:00 was a few hundred yards long.

Being the second person in the place meant that I could have a few sections of the museum to my self. I headed straight down to the far end of the ground floor, where there was a section about machine learning. One machine took my photo then deduced I was happy (smiling) and estimated to be 50, I was happy to take that. Next I headed up to the top floor where there are some aircraft and a load of aircraft engines through history, something I was not aware of despite previous visits. I worked my way down to the first floor stopping off to look at some of the stuff, my favourite bits are the mechanical simulation machines, the economy, tides etc. The Robots special exhibition was good and not too crowded, it marked the history of the development of robots, from automata through to the latest ones made by Honda, Toyota etc. Some of them you could interact with.

I had planned to walk back to Euston via Foyles. In Hyde Park I chanced upon some american expats plying baseball in the corner of a field. I got chatting to an older guy who explained that they were not all from the embassy some were bankers and other business people. He asked if I played, I was able to explain that I had when I was young played in the little league. I had to turn down the offer of a game because of my back, which was a shame.

I headed to Buckingham palace via Wellington Arch and Constitution Hill, then down to The Mall, to Admiralty Arch when I took a couple of pictures of one of the Seven Noses of Soho , which are brasses noses on several buildings placed by an artist making a point about the prevalence of CCTV in the city. Next was Trafalgar square where I was starting to flag, my back was hurting. I was amused by a Chinese lady shouting at a group of Chinese children having their picture taken on the steps to the National Gallery. The children wee very polite and obedient I think the lady was just power crazy. I am not sure who they all were but the adults in the group had DSLR’s and a 4k professional video camera.

I jumped on a 29 bus for a couple of stops, and had a look around Foyles computing section, but was not in the mood for buying. It is a short walk to Tottenham Court station and grabbed to the Northern line to Euston. I grabbed a sandwich, then waited for the train to be given a platform. The train was delayed because they were waiting for the police to take a person who had assaulted the guard to be taken away.


The Ridgeway – Overton Hill to Ogbourne St George

Typical Ridgeway path view

After a successful testing of my back finishing off the Capital Ring, it was time for a new challenge, The Ridgeway. I got up early as getting to the far end would take some time 1:30 to Ogbourne St George then another 1:30 of buses to get to Overton Hill. The final miles of the M4 and A346 was typical of the countryside I would be walking through, rolling chalk down which was looking great in the spring light, even under the overcast skies.

View from the Ridgeway

Parking in Ogbourne St George was easy, a sleepy village with a pub, B&B, and hotel. I had to walk about a mile to the main roan to find the bus stop, then had a 25 minute wait for X5 bus at 09:46. It was a good job i did not try for the earlier bus because there wasn’t one. The X5 never turned up but the 80 at 09:52 did, and I was soon in Marlborough. A coffee at Nero wash down a pain au raisin, while I considered my next move, the 42 passed through West Overton and departed in 30 minutes so I scrubbed the idea of a taxi to keep costs down.

I had to walk a mile to the start of the Ridgeway at Overton Hill, my FitBit had registered 3 mikes by that point. Just before the start I took a quick look at The Sanctuary a stone and wood circle. The beginning is a by way and as such is a series of white scars caused by off roaders, which luckily for me are banned from 1 October to 30 April. The path keeps to the ridge, as you would expect to, he views are distant, a.x there are barrows and stone circles to be seen all over the landscape.

Barbury Castle from the Ridgeway

There was a codd wind blowing so i did not hang about, the occasional breaking of the clouds bought welcome warming sunshine. The path was fairly quiet considering the status of the path I passed a few walkers and a couple of mountain bikers. I had a ack lunch and stopped at about mile 4 of the trail.

Ogbourne St George from the Ridgeway

There were plenty of birds about and they were easy to spot because the land scan had few trees so they congregated in the odd hawthorn that edged the path. I spotted Twite, Skylarks, Lapwing, and Chaffinch to mention a few. The path rolled with the hills but stayed high all the time, one of the higher points was Barbury castle which is now just earth banks, I’m not sure what it looked like when it was first built. I stopped for my second sandwich after the castle on a long grass stretch, called Smeathe’s Ridge and used for gallops, it had stunning views all around.

Ogbourne St George Thatched Cottages

The trial descend as it gets to Ogbourne St George and I left the path 200m before the bus stop I started at to take a look at the river that runs through, it was a bit of a disappointment because it was dry. It gave me a chance to see the rest of the village as the car was parked at the other end of the high street. In all I had done just over 10 miles of the path, so if I could keep that rate up and slightly more I should be able to do it in another 7 sections. Lets wait and see if I manage it.

Norfolk 2016 – Home via Duxford

We decided that we would stop at Duxford air museum run by the Imperial War Museum, because we has passed it on so many occasions but never taken to opportunity to take a look around. So we got up early enough to be out of the property by 09:00. We dropped by the Adnams shop at Holkham to pick up some Macon wine we had enjoyed during our stay. The shop however did not open until 10 but the man inside beckoned us in, asked for a box thinking it would be 6 bottles but he came back with a 12 bottle box, we said what the heck and bought it anyway. The man said it was one that could be kept for a while as it improved with age but this one was already great to drink, we have to agree with him.

The traffic was light, and the weather warm and sunny. We passed Lakenheath but there were no planes to be seen taking off or landing. We were soon at Duxford and in the queue for tickets. We chose the £23 year passes as the extra £5 would be recouped if we visited within a year.

We visited the American hangar first which is quite new, it has an excellent collection is if US aircraft, including a B52 Stratofortress a real monster of an aircraft. The only minor niggle for me was that it was not always obvious what each of the aircraft were but given the size of them I guess. Then we visited the two restoration hangars where they classic aircraft are restored, to their former beauty.

We then had lunch, I had a great sandwich and the coffee was good too. Because we had the year pass we decided that we would finish off with a quick look around the Air Space museum then head off home. We took a better route home that we would have done normally heading toward St Albans and a short stretch of the M1 at Hemel, we knew of it but have never managed to actually try to navigate it. It is straight forward and easy to follow once you know it.

Norfolk 2016 – Stiffkey to Blakeney

The quay at Morston North Norfolk

Last full day of holiday in Norfolk, so we thought a walk along the marshes would be a good idea. We parked up at Blakeney public free car park on the land side of the A149, it is very handy for the bus stop. We had a 17 minute wait and the bus was late, the bus driver seemed set on making up the as he was speeding along taking the corners faster than necessary especially with a full bus with people standing.

We got off at Camping Hill bus stop and took the footpath opposite which leads to the marsh edge, where we turned East towards Morston. We stopped about halfway and did a bit of leisurely bird watching we were rewarded with a couple of Common Sandpipers. Next stop was Morston where there is a National Trust tea room, we stopped for a coffee and I had a Stilton, leek and walnut bake which looked like a cake, it was very tasty.

File name:Sailing boat from Wells next the Sea harbour

At Blakeney yet another coffee was consumed then Helen went window shopping while I walked out to the marsh to see if there was anything worth taking pictures of. When we got back to the hut we had a quick tidy round so save time in the morning. We had a reservation at a great little restaurant in town called The Golden Fleece.

Starling at Wells next the Sea

We wandered down to the quay a little earlier to have a look and to give me a chance to take pictures of starlings with my big lens. Helen got bored quite quickly and decided I should stop before one of the local fishermen using the quay got pissed off with me sneaking around. The food at the Golden Fleece was great I had fish and chips and Helen had a goats cheese burger. I washed mine down with a couple of pints of Adnams Nelson.

Norfolk 2016 – Holkham Hall

Holkham house view

Holkham Hall itself is not only open on Thursday during the week so we reserved it for a visit. We surfaced about 08:00 and arrived at the entrance before 10:00, the fee was £3 but I asked about the beach car park and the guy told us if we have a £6.50 beach ticket for the day it included parking at the hall, so we turned around and got a beach ticket. We planned to have a wander in the forest looking for Goldcrests and then a walk on the beach later.

The entrance fee was £15 each, which included all the venue’s. The hall itself did not open until 12:00 so we took a look at the field to fork exhibition which is a show case for the Holkham farm business. The only exhibition is interesting and very well done, the guides are very informative, and the video of the seasons on the farm is a visual treat. Next we wandered around the lake to the walled garden. By the lake there were lots of Greylag with young one pair had a brood of 8 fairly large goslings which appeared to be unusual as other pairs averaged about 3.

Marble hallway at Holkham Hall

The walled garden was a work in progress the gardens were a bit sparse, and even more so as they would probably be at their best in about a month’s time, the green houses were being renovated and not open to the paying public. There was evidence of cafes but probably only open in the peak season. Back at the café we stopped for a coffee and there was a mass exodus at 12:00, I guess for the house opening, Helen browsed the gift shop while I updated the blog and drank my coffee.

The house is a real gem, photography is allowed so I made the most of it by taking a few panorama and HDR sets. There are a lot of paintings by well known artists, including Gainsborough. The rooms are better lit than many National Trust houses, all in all I would say it is a very well presented privately owned historic house. After touring the house we headed for the cafe again for a bite to eat, being out of season there was no queue and the weather which had been getting better all week was warm enough to sit outside.

The Library Holkham Hall

Down by the lake there was an electric boat that did tours of the lake for £4 a head. It was a very pleasant cruise on the lake the boat hand had only started the job a week before as a rest of being in the right place at the right time. We saw plenty wildlife including what we think was a Sandpiper. We took a look at the back of the house but it is all private. Helen grabbed a cake from the cafe and went down for a wander around the beach, which was very pleasant and we were in the lee of the wind the other side of the forest. It was very pleasant sitting in the sun on a bench. We could see some birds out on the sea but even when we walked to the shore line on the way back we could not figure out what they were they were too far out for our binoculars.

For dinner we had some pesto pasta from the deli we visited the day before in Burnham Market it was almond, pistachio and rocket pesto and was very good it made a really creamy sauce. Whilst watching TV with one eye on the ponds outside the windows we spotted a Common Sandpiper, however the 16 baby mallard seemed to be done to less than 10.

Norfolk 2016 – Red orange white and blue butterflies

North Norfolk marsh view

We were up relatively early and left the hut at 09:30, to park up at Burnham Overy Staithe, the plan was a loop inland taking in Burnham Market or Chelsea by the sea as some call it.

We left BOS via the road not falling for the apparent footpath that seems to join the village but is in fact a dead end. Then we crossed a rape field with views of the windmill, and the marshes. We chose to miss out the big loop to the sea instead took the footpath to Burnham Norton village, a sleepy place with lots of gardeners tending the holiday cottages which seemed to make up the majority of the properties. The path to Burnham Market was up hill which is unusual for Norfolk, we saw hares running a mock in a ploughed field.

Burnham overy staith view of marshes

On the out skirts of Burnham Market there are dome very impressive properties. We had lunch at The Hoste, avocado and black olive sandwiches. The till rung up £9 but the menu said £8, they apologised and adjusted the bill, and the sandwiches tasted even better. After lunch we took a gamble on the route and headed for a dismantled railway marked on the map not knowing whether it was a right of way, but it turned out to be OK.

We sat for a while at a track junction and saw Whitethroat, Yellowhammer, and unusually Red Kite which a while ago would have been rare in North Norfolk. Back in BOS we sat on a bench and watched the world go by, as well as a group of four swifts that were buzzing us. We popped into Burnham Market on the way back to the hut, then Burnham Deepdalr for petrol, and finally the Adnams shop at Holkham for a bottle of wine.

Down at the Wells quay Helen went off shopping and I visited the chandlers then did a couple of time lapse sequences of the harbour.

Norfolk 2016 – Another Short-eared Owl

Sea bank at Cley next the Sea

After a late start we decided a walk from Weybourne to Salthouse would be a good way to start the day. We drove to Salthouse then waited for the bus to Weybourne. I had left my phone in the car so walked back to get it, luckily the bus was late, the fare was £1.60 each.

The bus stop in Weybourne s outside the pub but we took the beach road, then turned West at the sea. Before we left the village we popped into the village shop and purchased some goats cheese  baked on bread product for some lunch en route. There was a lot of construction work going on I had a theory that they were laying the cables for a new off shore wind farm. There were boats off shore and big reels of cable. It turns out I was right and it is controversial

Norfolk coast boat and tractor

Around Muckleborough we passed the strange weather monitoring station that makes a strange whistling sound. We then dipped and n land a bit to take a look at the Quag where we have seen some rare birds in the past, however there was not a lot to see. Back near the sea we spotted a Short eared Owl flying away from us, which landed out of sight. We thought it may have been the one we saw on Saturday.

We had lunch on one of the grassy mounds where we found a convenient bench. I took the opportunity to grab some time lapse sequences. It was not along before we turned in land to Salthouse where the car had patiently waited. We had some time to spare so we thought a visit to Glanford would be nice, there is a shell museum, a cafe and our favourite binocular shop Cley Spy.

The Shell Museum, Glandford, North Norfolk

The shell museum is a gem of a place, started 101 years ago by the owner of Glanford Hall, Sir Alfred Jodrel, as part of a complete restoration of the village. It originally housed, his personal collection but has expanded by many donations one from many locals and people from far and wide including Sir Alec Guiness. As we left the Shell museum the church bells rang three o’clock, followed by a few notes from what we thought was a hymn, then about 30 seconds later there was another hymn, we thought it was very twee.  Next up was coffee and cake at the Art cafe, where we had a devine coffee each and I had a piece of carrot cake. Finally we did a bit of browsing in Cley Spy, the biggest collection of binoculars I know with friendly staff to boot.

We could not find anything to buy at but I was tempted by a Joby Gorilla Pod in metal, complete with ball head for £99. We booked a table in town at the Golden Fleece they do Pizza. The meal was great I had a monk fish curry, and they sold some lovely real ale, I went for the Adnams Ghost Ship. I took my camera with me because the light was low but it helps to take the battery with you which I had left on charge. We booked a table by the wind for Friday night.

Norfolk 2016 – Black headed yellow wagtail

View of Cley next the Sea

A&C were due back home today and C had the Spurs Chelsea football match to attend, so we got an early start at Burnham Overy Staithe the plan was to walk back to the Cafe at Wells next the sea. We parked up at 09:30 and headed out along the sea wall the windows was blowing and we were glad of the layers we had with us. On the west side of the wall in the mud we saw quite a few waders highlights included Golden Plover.

It was much warmer when we were out of the wind and after some distance on the beach we headed into the pine forest in search of Goldcrest but we dipped. Helen’s foot had been playing up so we stopped for a rest at the hide for 5 minutes, before resuming. The walk was a lot longer than we expected, and we were glad to the get to the cafe, where we all had a drink. We thought we might get some nice food back in tow.

View of Cley next the Sea

We cheated and got the miniature train back to Wells. It was an experience not to be forgotten and one I have never done before, it also saved us the long boring walk along the sea wall with the rest of humanity. We managed to get a table at the Wells Deli and I had a wonderful bowl of noodles vegetables and prawns in a chilli broth, it was excellent. We went back to the hut and grabbed A&C stuff then they dropped Helen and I back at the car. It had been great to have their company for a couple of days.

Helen and I drove to Titchwell RSPB which tuned out to be quite an adventure, first we blagged our way in because we could not find our current membership cards. The guy at the gate told us that there was a Black Headed Yellow Wagtail about and pointed out where it was on the map. Neither of us had ever seen one, and they do not feature in all bird ID books. Down on the path we saw a load of bird watchers scanning the area it had last been seen, but it had started to rain and so we did not hang about.

Holkham Beach and dunes Norfolk

The next hide did not seem to have much wildlife about it so I suggested we went to the Parrinder hide a bit further down the path. We found and empty hide but noticed that there were a lot of people in the one next door. We scanned the water in front of the hide and started to spot the odd wader or two, there was not much about to write home about. I noticed that the people next door were looking in a certain direction so I trained my binoculars there too. After about a minute I chanced upon a canary yellow bird with a black head, there it was the Black Headed Yellow Wagtail. We watched it for a while and had great views before it disappeared behind a bank.

Windmill at Cley next the Sea

Whilst all that was going on it occurred to me the people on the bank might not know, so I checked them out with my binoculars and someone had obviously radioed the news over to them, as they all decamped over to the hide next to the one we were in. When they got there a few of them were disappointed an grumpy because it has moved out of sight. Some of them came into our hide to see if the angle afforded a view but it did not. We left the hide soon after, and when we got back to the bank some birders had managed to get a view of the bird on the bank that was out of view. We saw some of the grumpy ones heading back to where they started.

Helen and I got a look through one of the scopes it was a very distant view. We had been very fortunate. On the walk back to the visitor centre we told a few people where to see the bird and quite a few epople had arrived to take a look. We headed home for some dinner (salad) and an early night.

Norfolk 2016 – Walk from Salthouse to Blakeney

View of Wells-next-the-sea Norfolk

We were up relatively early and were aiming to get a bus from Blakeney village hall to walk back to Blakeney, taking in a coiple of coffee stops. A made us some porridge for breakfast, and we followed that up with some toast, we were all set to walk at least until lunch time. The weather was sunny and slightly warmer than the day before.

It did not take long to get to Blakeney and the car park was not very full. We had a ten minute wait for the bus which arrived full of passengers but the bus almost emptied before we got on. The bus fare was £2 a head one way to Salthouse green. The weather was fine with wispy cirrus clouds, the type of Norfolk big sky weather I like. We took the beach road towards the sea and then turned west. The walk was a bit of a slog because NWT now let the shingle banks collapse in the winter storms.

Holkham Beach Norfolk

We stopped often to look for birds and I spotted what I thought was a Short Eared Owl, it was close in but flew away from us. Some other birds watchers further down the road confirmed by my sighting. The last time I had seen one was on the path between Cley and Blakeney quite a few years back. When we go to the East bank we noticed a new open hide had been built where a bench used to be, we stopped and tried it out, but most of the waders were over the far side further east. I took the opportunity to take a time lapse sequence of the stunning sky. We heard rumours of a Spoonbill and were chuffed to spot it close in further down the bank.

We stopped of in the NWT visitor centre for lunch which we had outside as the weather was noticeably warmer than the day before. I had a crab sandwich for a second day running. I took the opportunity to remove my thermal under layer. C took the opportunity to visit the Cley Spy shop to get replacement rain guards for her binoculars  which she had lost the day before.

Next stop would be Blakeney, and we headed into Cley then took the path that passes the Windmill rather than the busy road. Three of us grabbed an ice cream at the Cley Deli which went down well, and gave us an energy boast for the sea wall walk to Blakeney. Soon after the start of the path we spotted what might be Bearded Tits and after some perseverance we got great views which were a first for C.

News papers sold from a windows in Cley next the Sea

We were quite tired by the time we got to Blakeney and did not hang about  as there were a lot of people about. On the walk back to the car we tried phoning a few restaurants to try to get a table for 4, we we did not hav much luck until we called the Edinburgh Hotel which had a table for us. At first we were a bit worried as to why there was a table available, however when we looked at the website it looked OK and sold pub grub.

We got back to the hut and rested after the long walk. The pub seemed like a genuine local with lots of Norfolk accents to be heard at the bar. I had some great fish and chips with a very generous portion of mushy peas washed own with a pint of Woodfords Wherry and another of Nelson bot very quaffable. By the time we return to the hut we were ready for bed and soon were sleeping soundly.

Norfolk 2016 – It’s all about the journey

Big Norfolk sky at Holkham

No Thames Path for a couple of weeks as we are off to Norfolk for a week, staying at Wells-Next-The-Sea. We were up in good time so much so I took the opportunity to get a long over due haircut in Wendover. It was at the front of a queue of 3 when they opened, and left shorn when there were 7 in the queue. We had invited A&C to stay with us on the Saturday and Sunday nights.

We left the house at 09:30 and took a route via Hemel Hempstead and Hatfield, then on to Thetford and beyond. Helen contacted A&C via SMS it turns out we had made similar progress they were slightly ahead and warned us about traffic in Fakenham, which enabled us to take a cross country route. We agreed to meet up at Cley NWT for a bite to eat. After eating we decided to grab some food from the Cley deli them go to the hut and sump our stuff then go for a walk.

Holkham Beach Norfolk

We walked from the hut out along the sea wall to the caravan site and them the coat guard watch hut. We walked along the beach where there were some seals. I convinced everyone that we should walk all the way to The Victoria then get the bus. On the way we saw some Brent geese and later some meadow pipits. We arrived at the bus at the time of what turned out to be the last bus which luckily was running late and so we got the bus.

For dinner has stuff we had bought at the Cley deli. The blue soft cheese was lovely. All in all a good journey and a great time with good friends.