We’d been to Slimbridge about four years ago and I was struck by the beauty and sheer wilderness of this place. Then I had difficulty telling one kind of bird species from another; this time around I managed just a bit better. Although truth be told we felt a little out of it with our really useless binoculars compared to other people who’d come armed with enough tripods, cameras and state-of-the art binoculars to launch several space-ships.
Anyway I digress. It is the peacefulness of the place (if you shut everyone else out), the dramatic winter colours and textures, the variety of birds that, despite the cold, keep us coming back.
I’m biased but the one thing I really miss is seeing those wide, open Norfolk skies.
We ventured back for our annual walk on the Wherryman’s way this August. We had lovely weather for it although we did have to hide from the wind and occasional short but sharp shower that came our way.
Last time we had walked as far as Buckenham Ferry, so became our start point this time round. My as I stepped out of the car it was blustery. So blustery that a shrew made a not so very convincing attempt at trying to cross the road to the pub. I’d never seen a shrew before but John managed to get it to scamper away into the grassy verge just before a car approached.
We walked for about ten minutes on the road through Langley where from a distance you can see the some of the remains of Langley Abbey. Then the sugar beet factory in Cantley that was to dominate the landscape for a good part of the walk loomed large in front of us. It seemed really hard to reconcile this large industrial building with what I already knew of the place; that it was in fact where a merchant ship carrying goods sunk in the mid-fourteenth century. However if I looked the other way the landscape was beautiful in a really wild, rugged wind swept way (with a lot of drizzle mixed in for company). I loved it and just couldn’t stop take pictures (I did take some of the factory as well not just the landscape).
We had lunch sitting with our backs to the Broads and gazing out across fields. From the corner of my eye and if I lined them up properly I could see both a restored windmill and one that had fallen into decay. The dried grasses atop the huge drifts towards towards the waters’ edge were breathtakingly beautiful. Or to put it another way I took an inordinate amount of photographs. So much so that we didn’t progress as far as we wanted to on our walk. The wide open skies here reminded me very vividly of Edward Seago’s depiction of the Norfolk landscape that at times I thought I was actually looking at one of his paintings.
Soon our walk left the side of the River Yare and took us alongside the River Chet towards Hardley and Hardley flood. At times with the water level higher than where we were, walking it felt a little eerie and no more so than when we were navigating through a maze of undergrowth with a clearing of dead trees sulking to the side. Dragonflies in large numbers fluttered past but thankfully not any mosquitoes or biting flies unlike last year.
Our journey on the Wherryman’s way ended at Chedgrave which will be a good point at which to pick the walk up from next year. John then cobbled together a shortcut which involved road walking which was by far the worst part of the walk and something I won’t be in a hurry to repeat. And neither will John.
It’s fair to say I was just a little curious to find out what spring would bring this year, having moved house last October. For the last four years spring to me signaled the arrival of frogspawn in our pond and although we have a pond in our new house I wasn’t sure that it would be the same. The garden needs a lot of work and all through winter looked so miserable and empty as opposed to the garden we had left behind which was full to bursting with plants and just about tamed (but then allowed to be carefree most of the time).
How wrong was I! Just over three weeks ago I glanced into the water and there it was; two large bubbles of frogspawn. With the warmer weather by last Saturday the frogspawn had turned into a wriggling mass of tadpoles. And then I discovered the pond was also home to a colony of newts. Not only that but little corners of the garden are springing their own colourful surprises as well as reminding us that this is going to be a labour of love and will evolve at its own pace.