Tuesday, 4 September 2012

24 hours in North Norfolk

When the opportunity for a short break presented itself a week or so back we quickly decided a trip to the North Norfolk coast was the best option. Overnight accommodation secured at The Linksway Hotel near Hunstanton, we headed north in the August sunshine. Three hours at the mercy of the SATNAV provided a relaxed meander through the changing landscape of northern East Anglia, the device finally depositing us at the RSPB's Titchwell Marsh Reserve by mid-afternoon. 
The car park was near to full, as one would expect at one of the UK's premier bird-watching sites, visitors boosted in number by holidaymakers attending one of the reserves regular family activity days or using it as a base for the hike to the beach. Once through the visitor centre we set off through the mixed woodland that dappled us in shade and sunbeams before bursting out onto a huge skyscape and the vast reed-beds of the reserve proper.
Entering the Island hide, we were immediately up close and personal with feeding waders who picked their way through the silt of the shallow lagoon in front of us.
Curlew Sandpiper and Black-tailed Godwit
Curlew

Avocet
After a thrilling hour with terrific views we moved on, watching a little egret in the burnt red coloured marginal grasses before arriving at the Parrinder Hide. Looking out onto the same freshwater lagoon our different perspective uncovered a special site for the UK as a pair of Spoonbills, unaware of their celebrity status, dozed in the afternoon sun. Too distant for a half decent photograph, they were none the less significant and represent a breeding foothold in this country that one hope's will swell in number significantly in future years. We returned to civilisation via the reedbed walk, a sparrowhawk passing by at head height as we looked for dragonflies dancing across the water surface or hawking across the swaying beds.
The Parrinder Hide - Titchwell's magnificent salt and fresh water lagoon watching complex
Lapwing
Black tailed Godwits scapping

Greylag Geese

After refreshing ourselves at the hotel we popped down to Hunstanton beach to see the sunset - a little disconcerting to do so on the east coast - and then went to order dinner at a pub in Holme-on-Sea. 
Kite surfing off Hunstanton Beach
Sunset across the Wash
Over dinner we discovered that the pub in the village of Holme in which we were eating was located very close to the site of the remarkable 'Seahenge', a neolithic monument constructed in the early Bronze Age. Seahenge was one of two monuments found on the beach. Holme I as it is known, was made up of a circle of 55 timber posts surrounding an upturned oak tree and clearly suggested a ritual function in it's construction. Following it's discovery in 1998, it was eventually excavated after much local controversy and now resides in  the Lynn Museum, Kings Lynn after years of restorative work at Flag Fen.
Seahenge in 1999, photograph by John Sayer
The next morning, the rare treat of a cooked breakfast awaited. Slightly heavier, weheaded east along the coast road, navigating our way through the throngs of visitors to Wells-next-the-Sea, then pressing on to Cley Marshes. Parking in the beach car park we walked along between the gravel beach and the edge of the marsh with the sea to our backs, adult swallows swooping and calling as they fed juveniles still showing a vsible gape on a wire fence. Further on a little ringed plover distracted us in a small pool until we dragged ourselves away and pressed on, eventually reaching the busy Swarovski Optik Hide to catch another glimpse of a pair of Spoonbills, this time surrounded by cormorants and myriad other waders.
Swallow
Spoonbill pair with cormorants
With our ticket rapidly expiring we returned to the car,then dropped in on the Norfolk Wildlife Trust visitor centre, tucking into tea and cake with a huge panoramic view of the marshes to entertain us.The credit card took the strain on a new pair of binoculars after some very helpful advice from a gentleman from CleySpy in the adjacent shop - a pair of Hawke Frontier ED 10x43 binoculars fitted our needs perfectly and I thoroughly recommend them.
It was now time to head home and during a rest stop at theGrimes Graves neolithic flint mine  near Thetford we reflected on an event filled 24 hours that saw us discover a little more about the north Norfolk coast, take in two new nature reserves and add a few valuable 'ticks' to our life and year lists.

Further Information
RSPB Titchwell Marsh
Hunstanton, Norfolk,
PE31 8BB
01485 210779
titchwell@rspb.org.uk
Reserve website - click here
Downloadable map of reserve - click here


NWT Cley Marshes
Cley, Norfolk,
NR25 7SA
01263 740008
titchwell@rspb.org.uk
Reserve website - click here
Downloadable map of reserve - click here

4 comments:

  1. Marvelous trip - lovely photos. I'm fascinated by Seahenge, too.

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    1. Thanks Mel. One wonders what else is/was under the sea off that coastline - http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/apr/24/uknews.archaeology

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  2. Yes, I want to go on this itinerary.

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