07
Feb 17

Norfolk

Grey and cold February, with nothing to look forward to until like the Easter (oên bachs!). We decided to pass some of that greyness in Norfolk, see if we can still find the seals on the beaches, and see some National Trust places as well. Our expectations were not high for anything, as February is after the seal pupping season, and NT estates are actually closed Jan+Feb, so you can only really see the gardens.

Sunday 5.2.
Started off reasonably early from our place, weather not too shabby even if bitingly cold.
Our first stop was at the Anglesey Abbey, where the spectacular gardens were busy with the snowdrop season. The Abbey is a Jacobean-style house with gardens and a working watermill – Lord Fairhaven, wanting to inspire and surprise visitors, created a spectacular garden with planting for all seasons and a cosy house in which to entertain. Insides of the house were closed for visitors, but we did have fun in the gardens and the Lode Mill.

Snowdrops

Lode Mill

Anglesey Abbey

Anglesey Abbey

Pretty place, but we have a busy programme for the day, so off we head towards Oxburgh Hall. Zooming along on the A10, we saw a spectacular cathedral on the horizon, and decided to make an impromptu stopover – in Ely. On our clever devices we learned that the Ely cathedral is an Anglican cathedral with origins in AD 672 when St Etheldreda built an abbey church. The present building dates back to 1083, and cathedral status was granted it in 1109. Architecturally it is outstanding both for its scale and stylistic details. Having been built in a monumental Romanesque style, the galilee porch, lady chapel and choir were rebuilt in an exuberant Decorated Gothic. Its most famous feature however is the central octagonal tower. That was all very interesting, but we still didn’t know how to pronounce Ely – my guess was that it’s pronounced like Eli [Cash] from the Royal Tennenbaums, but we had to know for sure! No better person to ask than the visitor info guy in the cathedral itself, so Iest went for it and asked him how to pronounce the name of the village. The poor guy’s eyebrows were raised so high they almost fell off his face and in a stiff yet high-pitched voice he repeated ‘Village?!’ – so, for next times we know that once you get yourself a cathedral, that apparently makes you a city, no matter how small. But, we also learned they pronounce it [ee-ly], as in the fish, eel, which they used to have plenty of or something. We quickly checked out Oliver Cromwell’s house too, and went back on track with our plan for Oxburgh Hall.

Canon Gins!

Ely Cathedral

Oxburgh Hall is a 15th-century moated manor house Built in 1482 by the Catholic Bedingfeld family. The interiors were also still closed for the winter, but we enjoyed the moat with its swans, and the surrounding gardens. I got a small pot with a chopped off chunk of one of the plants, so if it survives, we’ll have a nice Oxburgh plant on the balcony to remember. By now we were really hungry and so we walked over to the nearby pub for a proper Sunday roast.

Oxburgh Hall, moat and swans!

Oxburgh Hall

Monday 6.2.

Our nice hotel

It was the hunt for the seals mostly (ultimately unsuccessful tho), exploring the coast and beaches, and a couple of NT estates.
First, we made it to the Titchwell RSPB reserve, which was awesome. Full of knowledge on the winter migratory birds to see from last night’s Country File programme we watched, we went straight in the marshes. The reserve has both freshwater marshes and sea beaches, and birds really abound. The weather was sunny and we had a blast.

Water Rail

Unknown

Unknown

Unknown

Unknown

Unknown

Redshank

Then we swung by the Brancaster beach, endless golden beach, and also an NT place.

Brancaster beach

Gina on the beach

We had high hopes for the Blakeney nature reserve with respect to the seals, but we were not lucky. The local seals were gone and the boat trip to see them off the coast was already gone for the day. We tried an adjacent beach at Cley by the Sea, but to no avail. There was really not much else to do, so we had lunch at the Dunn Cow, and pressed onto another closed NT estate at Felbrigg, one of the most elegant country houses in East Anglia, and also Blickling estate.

Felbrigg

Blickling Estate

Afterwards we were quite tired for the day, so we found a great little place for tea & cakes, and then headed to our hotel. We decided to live a little, so we went to the hotel bar in the evening, which had a nice fire going, and only two other people in it, so we had a nice cup of tea there as well.

Tuesday 7.2.
The day for exploring Norwich on our way home. It was cold and drizzly, but the building still looked quite spectacular. The cathedral was begun in 1096 and constructed out of flint and mortar and faced with a cream-coloured Caen limestone. The cathedral was completed in 1145 with the Norman tower still seen today topped with a wooden spire covered with lead. Norwich Cathedral has the second largest cloisters in England, only outsized by Salisbury Cathedral (where we were in January anyway). The cathedral spire, measuring 96m, is the second tallest (yeah, also Salisbury takes the cake).

Inside Norwich cathedral

Norwich cathedral

We were not really so keen on visiting the Norwich castle, which is a bit boxy, even though It was founded in the aftermath of the Norman conquest of England when William the Conqueror (1066–1087) ordered its construction because he wished to have a fortified place in the important city of Norwich.

Norwich castle

Instead, we decided to drive up to Horsey beach to see if we could still be lucky with the seals. And lucky we were! In a rainy weather and rough sea, we found a whole nice colony of seals, casually chillin on the beach. We were super excited, and spent a lot of time with them, and got really close too. It was the perfect cherry on top of our Norfolk trip, and we were ready to go home. (A couple days later it was reported that £50 million worth of cocaine was found washed up on a beach in Norfolk, so I guess we could have been even luckier, but still, the seals were cute!)

Gina and the seals

Iest & seals

A happy, chilled seal

A dramatic seal


09
Oct 16

Richmond Park

With autumn casually creeping in, we decided it would be great fun to pop over to Richmond Park for the afternoon, a chance for us to look at some greenery, and hopefully catch a few stags/deer and some wildlife that the Park has to offer.

After a nice drive west, we arrived at Richmond Park, and headed straight over towards the ‘Isabella plantation’ that’s located in the middle of the park. The plantation offered a couple of nice ponds, where a large number of ducks were playing – and thanks to Gina’s awesome ‘Bird book’, we (well – Gina) was able to name the ducks. Much to our surprise, we spotted a Mandarin duck! This is what the RSPB has to say on them:

The male has the most elaborate and ornate plumage with distinctive long orange feathers on the side of the face, orange ‘sails’ on the back, and pale orange flanks. The female is dull by comparison with a grey head and white stripe behind the eye, brown back and mottled flanks. They were introduced to the UK from China and have become established following escapes from captivity.

Mandarin Duck

From here, we headed over to the big open plains where we spotted our first deer causally chilling behind a tree. We decided to continue walking in, where we stumbled upon another – a Stag that was chilling in the tall grass with it’s antlers poking out of the grass. We spent a bit of time with him, getting all the photos we could:

stag-2
deer_gina

We did a nice casual loop around the ‘main’ field, and started heading back towards Terell. We were getting hungry at this point, so we decided to drop into Richmond Town, which itself is also a very pretty, nice little town! A stroll down the high street proved fruitful – both in terms of food (pizza!), and a couple of comics for me :D


05
Jun 16

Horniman & Seven Sisters

Another nice weekend on our hands, decided to potter around a bit, nothing serious. On Saturday, we went to the Horniman Museum and Gardens, which was quite nice and we also saw the Horniman aquarium with loads of little creatures. Then we drove down to Crystal Palace for lunch in a nice hipster place (the type that is a cafe but also a vintage crap type shop, managed by three guys in skinny jeans, one of whom brings the coffee late on purpose just to be able to make an excuse for ‘having to get the grind right’ – so, right down our alley, and by ‘our’ I mean Iest’s).

Hipster lunch

Hipster lunch

On Sunday we decided to go all the way to the coast to Seven Sisters, which gave us an opportunity to drive through some nice english Sussexy countryside. We arrived at about noon, which turned out to be super busy on a sunny Sunday, so once again, we had a problem parking. Eventually we found a spot, and finally made it out of the car into the sun. In the visitors’ center we got a little seaside life guidebook, which was on sale and is from the same series I already got the bird book and insect book, so I am all set now for my nature explorations. Then we walked the usual path along the river bed toward the cliffs, and in the meanders of the old river branch we saw a beautiful grey heron, very majestically owning the place. And not only that, there was also a little egret sharing the space, all white with a black beak and yellow feet, elegantly wading the waters. We were very excited to be able to observe them, and took many cool pictures.

Heron & Egret living in harmony

Heron & Egret living in harmony

When we had enough, we continued the South Down Way path away from the river and up on the cliffs. It was a beautiful day, so there was a lot of people, but the cliffs were nice and shiny and it was a pleasant walk. We then made it down to the main beach for a little stroll in the cool water.

Seven Sisters

Seven Sisters

All seven of them

All seven of them

By then of course we were already really hungry as we had no lunch or snacks, and so we started to make our way back to the car. On our way down we saw a great looking pub in Friston, called Tiger Inn, but when we got there around four they were not making food yet. So we drove back to the Cuckmere Inn by the Seven Sisters’ park, and we definitely did not regret (egret?) our choice! From the deliciously refreshing virgin cocktails through rustic bread starters and big burgers to the freshly made desserts, everything was perfect. Plus, the outside terrace where we were sitting was flooded with scores of little birds, waiting for crummies and being all cute. A great finish to the day. Well, except for the drive back that was still awaiting us but Iest totally covered that. I managed not to fall asleep throughout, although I did have a couple of weak moments. Fortunately there was and 80s hour on the Heart radio, so that helped to revive the zing in Terrell for the rest of the trip.

Cuckmere entrée

Cuckmere entrée


30
May 16

Cymru/Wales

So we had a long weekend on our hands, and the first weekend in a long time that i didn’t have to work, so a great opportunity to head up to Wales and have some fun. In addition, we had just acquired Terrell, our new bff, so everything was set up beautifully. The only problem was that the forecast was stubbornly showing downpours for the whole three days, but that as well got sorted shortly before the weekend, and we were ready to go.
On Friday night of course the whole of London town had the same idea to get out and we got stuck in traffic for hours, eventually arriving at our destination super late, after what would probably have been a nice drive through Snowdonia, had it still been light when we were doing it.

But on Saturday, we woke up into glorious sunshine and were happy to be there. We decided to once again go up Snowdon, which we don’t do very often as it is kind of a tourist highway, and especially on the top there is too many people due to the train. But, it is still a nice walk via many of the routes, and from time to time should be done. We decided on the Ranger’s path up and down to Rhyd Ddu, a trail we last did several years ago in lots of snow and frost (&sun). This time, the sun was with us as well, and already arriving to the trail we had some doubts about our choice as all the parking spots were gone, a clear sign that the combo of long weekend and sun brought all the boys to the yard to play. We decided not to be discouraged, found an alternate parking spot and took a hike up from there through a nice farmer’s land to meet up with our ranger’s path. From there, we saw quite a few people, but it was not too terrible, and the walk was very nice overall.

Sheeps

Shortly before summit we got immersed into a thick fog/cloud that wrapped the top of Snowdon, and upon arriving at the top we met the real crowds who had gotten there by the cog train. With no views and the crowds of twerps there was no reason for us to spend much time, and we quickly retreated down to Rhyd Ddu path, which was mercifully sparsely populated, and descended into the sun again. The rest of the walk was lovely and uneventful. Later we bought all the stuff for a four-bean chilli and fell asleep quickly, all sunned out for the day.

Wyddfa

Wyddfa

Down to Rhyd Ddu

Down to Rhyd Ddu

Down to Rhyd Ddu

Down to Rhyd Ddu

On Sunday, with great weather continuing, we wanted to finally take out our sea kayaks. But for that we needed to run a number of errands, from picking up Iest’s kayak from the bodyshop in Anglesey, to buying and installing roof racks for Terrell, to getting a number of missing items like life vests and stuff. So by the time we were ready to go, it was mid afternoon. We didn’t mind very much though, as the days are long and it was warm and sunny, so we took them down to Aberdesach and set out for some paddling around. There was a bit of wind, so we had some nice mild chops to play with, and I was awesome and Iest will need to get better if he wants to keep up with me. But at least i had some time to take nice macro beach pics while waiting for him to catch up. Beautiful day overall.

IMG_7593

On Monday we needed to make our way down to Llundain again, but since we have Terrell we were much more flexible and decided to first go to Beaumaris for a trip to Puffin island. I wanted to go on kayaks but Iest was a scaredy cat and so we went on a little boat with other people. It was nice though as well, as the skipper knew a lot about all the birds and animals and showed us everything. We saw:
– Shags: check
– Puffins: check
– Guillemots: check
– Razorbills: check
– Cormorants: check
– Loads of seagulls: check
…and of course seals, who were very cute as always, just chilling on the rocks in the sun.
Afterwards, we started to make our way down home, stopping over to give Terrell a proper shower, which he needed after the weekend. Surprisingly enough, we didn’t get stuck anywhere in traffic on the way, and had quite a pleasant trip.

Going to Ynys Puffin

Going to ynys Puffin

Shags

Shags

Seals

Seals

Cormorant

Cormorant


30
Mar 16

Wales Easter

As usual, we headed up to Wales for Easter. Hurricane Katy was also heading up, so we had to give up kayaking plans, but otherwise we were totes on the top of our game – hiking, sea, sunsets, birds, oen bachs and family time, all check! Plus, awesome time with my macro lens.

We did a nice little hike up the Roman steps to Rhinog Fawr, down by Harlech. Saw a Red Grouse on the way too.

Up Rhinog Fawr

Up Rhinog Fawr

Down Rhinog Fawr

Down Rhinog Fawr

Red Grouse

Red Grouse

Sunset before the storm, from Dinas Dinlle.

Sunset

Sunset

Also a nice hike our fave Yr Aran, the Vatican way this time, with some nice views on the snowy Snowdon ridge.

Gina and Yr Wyddfa

Gina and Yr Wyddfa

Cwm Llan a Yr Wyddfa

Cwm Llan a Yr Wyddfa

Up Aran

Up Aran

Up on Aran

Up on Aran

Down Aran

Down Aran

Spectacularly windy trip around Morfa Nefyn, sort of sunny though. No seals!

Morfa Nefyn

Morfa Nefyn

Macro throughout. Getting really good at it, should be selling them for postcards!

Macro

Macro

Oen bachs everywhere!

Oen bach

Oen bach


13
Mar 16

Hampstead Heath

Sunny Sunday, spring is almost here, so we made our way to Hampstead Heath to give some air to my mini drone. Plus also to find the parakeets and possibly other birds.
We were not so lucky on the drone front, it still pretty much does what it wants and then it ran out of batteries.
BUT we were super lucky on the birds! We saw:
– parakeets (all green, check!)
– geese (of some kind, not check, we don’t know what they are)
– and a KESTREL, and not only that but we saw him catch a mouse and munch on it in the sun in the tree (check check check!) Love my monocular.

Parakeet

Parakeet

Geese

Geese

Kestrel

Kestrel


07
Feb 16

Rainham marshes

Nice February Sunday we decided to explore the Rainham marshes, for some fresh air and possibly birdwatching. We managed to get the right train and in no time we were walking on the pretty circular boardwalk through the marshes. Sun was shining, wind was blowing, and birds aplenty. With the help of my monocular and my pretty birdbook we had a blast.
Confirmed sighting – a Coot (check! but no picture, they were too far)
We also saw some tits, geese and all kinds of other creatures.

Geese

Geese

Rainham marshes

Rainham marshes