RSPB Titchwell

A flock of Golden Plover

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

The RSPB reserve of Titchwell is on the North Coast of Norfolk. There are a series of inland lakes from the sea which are great feeding grounds for a variety of birds. From the hides we saw plenty of wideon and flocks of lapwings and Golden Plover. In the surrounding marshes are flocks of brent geese and curlews.
After a sandwich and coffee at the cafe we headed down to the beach beyond the sand dunes. There was an expanse of sandy beach bathed in December sunshine. With hardly any wind it was relatively warm although not quite enough to go for a dip in the Wash, as the sea is called around here.
On the beach there were oyster catchers, standing around looking half asleep. Turnstones made their way along the high water line of razor shells, turning over mussel shells looking for food. Sanderlings ran across, their legs going like clockwork. Walking along the beach there is the crunch of the razor shells, impossible to step around as they are everywhere. There is a breath of wind through the maram grass of the dunes and the gentle crash of waves up the shallow beach. The cry of curlews from the marsh and every now and then an oystercatcher flies across giving its high pitched ‘kleep-kleep’ alarm call.
Talking with other people we should have seen eider duck and long throated divers in the sea but maybe they had really high powered telescopes.
There is a hide over the fens where a waxwing had been reported but we saw nothing. In any case, a blanket of cloud came over, signifying a front moving through so it seemed a good idea to head back. The days are not long here. By 2.00 is seems as though dusk is approaching so time to head indoors for tea and toast.


Thursday walk at the Warburg Reserve


Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

In the morning it was the coldest day of the year or felt like it. I wanted to just stay in bed and read my book in the warm but I had no excuse not to go to work so I dragged myself up and made some tea. Outside it was sleeting and dark. I went to work and through the morning the weather gradually improved and as it was my afternoon off I was excited to see the sun had come out and it was going to be a good afternoon.
I went to the Warburg Reserve. This is my favourite place for an afternoon walk and I like to return to it at regular intervals. I take photographs of the same trees in different seasons. I met one chap with a bike and a dog but otherwise it was all quiet.
The beech trees were completely bare of leaves but the sun cast long shadows on their trunks. A buzzard was soaring overhead and calling out. I saw two deer run across the track in front of me. I sat in the hide for a while but didn’t see any birds. On the upper ride, I saw some marsh tits working the upper branches of the trees.
I did a circuit of the woods and completely forgot to try out my walking meditation. The trees were too captivating and there is one magical section of the woods where there are strange and twisted trunks sticking out the carpet of dead leaves. It was almost spooky with no sign of life.
As the sun started setting I climbed back out the valley. The sky was clouding over. There is one lone tree standing in a ploughed field that I wanted to photograph. The mud was like clue sticking to my boots, tripod and bag but it was worth it and a good finale to my Thursday walk.

A walk along the gorges of Galamus to the Monastery of St Anthony.

Monastery of St Anthony

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

It’s not a long walk but spectacular and most of the time in shade. The afternoon has the best light for photography. Start by parking in the large carpark at the southern end of the gorge. The parking is free and there is even a free bus waiting to take us up to the Gorge. There is a second car park at the start of the walk but this is often full. There are numberous friendly guides to help. At the far end of the car park there are some steps down and we follow these carefully as the rocks are a bit slippery as they are so well worn with age. The path is a shaded walk amonst olive trees and you have good views of the monastery all along the path. It meanders around and then you climb up to the monastery itself. The whole place is carved out of the rocks and the chapel is especially wonderful and cool. A shaft of light comes in above the entrance and illuminates the subtle blues and creams of the limestone interior. It is dedicated to St Anthony and many pilgrims come this way.
There is a shady cafe for refreshment and a good chance to unwind and watch the rock martins wheeling around the gorge interior. There is a  dangerous little path down to the river if you want to paddle but we didn’t go there.
The path continues on up through a tunnel in the rock and comes out at the half way point along the gorge road. You can walk on along the road that winds its way precariously along the edge of the cliff. Watch out for the strong winds! We turned back along the road and took the bus back to the car park.

Holy Island Walk

Holy Island

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

A perfect walk around Lindisfarne
This surely has to be one of the best walks in the country. A round of Holy Island. Check the tide tables before you go because you have to navigate a causeway that gets flooded at high tide. Otherwise its a beautiful drive across the sands to the island.
This walk is only about three miles distance but takes much longer than normal to walk because there are so many distractions on the way. You can extend the walk easily be taking diversions among the dunes.
Arriving on the Island across a causeway is an exciting start and you park in one of the large car parks and make your way through the town to the harbour. We did this walk in the afternoon and so we picked up some crab sandwiches from one of the cottages and some local prawns from a fish monger. Make sure you go for the local ones – they are smaller than the more attractive tiger prawns but who wants to eat something flown in from miles away when the smaller ones are the tastiest and haven’t travelled as far.
The harbour is the best place to sit down in the grass and contemplate the view. There are boats on the mudflats, the view of Lindisfarne on its rock in the distance and the overturned boats turned into huts, once used for the herring industry. They make stunning photos.
When you are have feasted, make your way to the left of Lindisfarne and follow the track which was once used to market limestone to the kilns.
Opposite Lindisfarne there are the walled gardens. Then a few hundred yards you reach the shoreline where it is worth scanning the horizon for birds and maybe some beach combing. Turn left and follow the coastline along and you reach the lough which is a fresh water pool supposedly dug by the monks to supply fish to the abbey. There is a hide and it is worth spending some time looking out over the reeds. We saw Little Grebes amongst the reeds.
From here the path heads behind the dunes and you can extend your walk by crossing the dunes to the shoreline. Be careful here, there are peri-peri burs from New Zealand growing. You should check your clothes so that you don’t spread the burs outside the region.
From the dunes, the path goes inland back to the carpark.
This is perhaps one of the finest and most interesting short walks in the country. The afternoon would have perfect if there had been somewhere open for tea but typically, come 5.00pm, all the tea shops shut even though it was a lovely afternoon. Bring a thermos!

Walk to the American monument on Islay

The American monument

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

An excellent short walk of about an hour on the cliffs to the American monument perched on the cliff tops. Warning – do not attempt this walk in the mist as it easy to walk off the cliff tops!
Park in the car park on The Oa peninsula. You can see the monument on the cliff tops ahead but this is a triangular walk. Walk down the track and turn left round some houses. You get a good view to your left over the coast line and a large waterfall down to the beach. The track gives way to a path that is well signposted through some metal stiles. If you can’t see the signs through the mist you should turn back now because it will too dangerous to continue. You soon reach the cliff edge and turn right to follow the edge along. Eventually you climb up a little way to the large monument commemorating a ship wreck in the First World War.
The path back is well trod and goes direct back to the car park.
On this walk you should look out for choughs with their red legs and beaks and unusual cry.

Head in the Clouds

Head in the Clouds

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

Suffolk walking
We stayed at a comfortable bed & breakfast near Snape and Aldeburgh. It is called Briar Cottage and has a great website.
From here it was a short drive to Minsmere bird reserve which is fantastic. There are so many different habitats. Woodland, marsh, coast, lakes. We saw the rare bittern, marsh harriers, the avocet, many lapwings in the fields, bar tailed godwit, berwick swans and many more.
I liked the coast – the sea was like a mill pond. Dunwich heath is owned by the national trust and the coast guard station is now a NT restaurant perched on top of the cliffs. There are some old cottages that you can stay in and they look idylic.
Our dawn trip was to go down to Aldeburgh and catch the sun coming up over the sea and the marshes. In the evening we went to Southwold to take photos of the pier, lighthouse and colourful beach huts.
Suffolk is a forgotten corner of England. You don’t go there on the way to somewhere else – its the end of the road and its glorious.

I could spend days just walking around the Minsmere reserve footpaths keeping a lookout for birds and then pottering along the beach to Dunwich Heath. However, a good walk is just outside of Aldeburgh. Drive along the beach road to Thopeness and park at the beach car park. Cross over the road and find the entrance to the Bird reserve. Follow the path inland across some flooded fields full of geese, depending on the time of year. There were some Russian white fronted geese around but I didn’t spot them. After about a mile you hit an old railway line. Turn right and follow along inland parallel to the sea. Then turn right again through a golf course and past the strange red ‘House in the clouds’. This is an old water tower converted into a house and you will catch glimpes of it around the walk. There is a beautiful windmill here too. At Thorpeness, have a cup of tea and rest. Then follow the beach back to the car. It’s a simple rectangular walk of about 3/4 miles with plenty of interest and bird watching.

Pinkworthy pond

Pinkery pond
Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

Pinkworthy (pronounced Pinkery) pond – a short walk on Exmoor.
Birds – stonechat and buzzards.
Position – Exmoor – Challacombe – Simonsbath road – park at Goats Bridge.

Time – 2 hours.
Supplies: The Black Venus pub and stores in Challacombe.

I love this walk and I am always trying to get people to come out with me to do it when I am staying at my mother’s in North Devon. For some reason I often end up doing it in winter. Last time I went out with my brother from Belgium and it was a complete bog on top and we went up to armpits in mud. This time I was alone and it was a cold winter’s day with a bit of frost around. Never mind because you can imagine that you are Johnny Kingdom up here looking for deer. I reckoned it would be a good day for photography. I had spent the morning chopping logs so had earned my keep so to speak. I packed a thermos of hot coffee and a sandwich and set off. It was very cold so I had several layers including my new undersocks and an old quilted waistcoat that my mother found in my wardrobe.

I have been reading recently a book about Henry Williamson and Tarka the Otter. Williamson wrote that Tarka had visited Pinkworthy Pond so I was interested to see if I could see any sign of otter. I was inspired by a nature detective book set in the Lakes: Lake District Natural History Walks (Paperback) by Christopher Mitchell. I had a scout along the perimeter of the lake looking for clues but it was too cold and I didn’t have a magnifying glass so decided to leave this until another time.

Park at Goat’s Bridge – there is a little layby just after the bridge.
Turn up the track towards the Pinkery centre and follow the track up by the small river Barle. Look out for stonechats as you go up this way as I often see them and today was no exception. They appeared by the road – one perched on some twigs by the road and kept flitting around me. As you get nearer the centre look for a footpath that strikes off to the left and skirts around the centre and a wind turbine complete with information board. Set off up a hill bearing to the left to reach the river again and a style. Once through the stile we are really up on to the moor. Soon on the right you will pass some pools that in the summer are packed with frogs. Further on look out for the path veering off the right up the hill. If you carry on straight you will come to a halt and have to back track. As you climb higher, you will see the dam of Pinkworthy pond ahead. The water streams out of a tunnel and it is possible to walk through the tunnel to the lake but I have never tried it. Then through the stile at the top of the path to reach the pond or small lake that has been dammed. A good spot to take cover from the wind is down near the water outlet.

You now have a choice of different routes.
Turn left and climb up to Woodbarrow gate. It is really boggy up here but today it was frozen over so the going was good. I went through the stile at the top to the barrow and sat looking out over the moor and it really is a peaceful yet desolate area looking out over a vast plain of moors towards the sea. I sat and ate my sandwiches and drank a welcome cup of tea. The piece of malt loaf went down a treat up here. The wind was so cold that my fingers were freezing. I have these new gloves that are fingerless with mitten covers that can be velcroed back so that you can operate your camera. They are good but if you leave the mittens off your fingers freeze quickly.
After the barrow I turned left and headed down again following the wall with its windswept trees. I saw a deer along here and took some photos. Johnny Kingdom would be proud of me. The path reaches the road and you turn left to head back to the car park. I used to always walk back the same way but I quite like this diversion and it makes a good short circular walk. But there are some different ways of doing this walk so route B for the more adventurous. I shall post option B soon….