Monthly Archives: June 2016

Weekly photo challenge : Partners

Insect & flower.  Pollination.  Perfect partners for both species and for us humans.


Note that this insect is a Hoverfly (Flower fly in United States I think).  It does not sting!



Norfolk Broads : Stubb Mill, Hickling

Beyond Hickling Nature Reserve – Sunday 20th June 2016

Walk down a grassy track for about 3/4 of a mile from the Hickling Nature Reserve and you’ll find yourself standing next to an ancient mill tower, surrounded by marsh at the rather ominously named Raptor Roost.

The Oxford Dictionary (online) definition of Raptor : 1.  A bird of prey eg eagle 2. Informal, Dinosaur.

My goodness how fantastic it would be to spot a Dinosaur coming across the marsh and settling down for the night. This is, in reality, a place (viewing platform) for seeing some quite spectacular birds such as Cranes, Marsh Harrier, Owls and even Bitterns.  Keen twitchers troop down with all manner of binoculars and scopes with tripods and quietly huddle together as the light fades during the winter months.

Thinking about dinosaurs for just a minute I remember going to see the film Jurasic Park when it first came out at the cinema with my sister. Afterwards the two of us (in a very girly way) ran slightly hysterically, because we thought we had heard ‘something’, back through a dimly lit car park to the safety of my car.  How our imaginations got the better of us that evening!

Going to the Raptor Roost to watch the local wildlife is also an evening outing, best in winter, where thermals are an absolute must as it is freezing standing about waiting for the sun to go down and something to happen. Been there, done it, will probably do it again.

This, however, was a midsummer stroll.

Right next to the roost is Stubbs Mill. Built of Norfolk red brick in 1795 this tower drainage mill is now Grade II Listed.

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The mill door was open and we peaked inside.  Immediately we came face to face with large dusty and slightly rusty cogs and wheels, the old workings of this building.  By the window there were a couple of large information boards which included old photos of the mill workers and family that lived there.

As it happened today was ‘open day’ to the general public.  This is a one day a month during the summer event.  What a stroke of luck!

Drawn to the small staircase we were told that it would be ok for us to venture up the old wooden steps.  “Go all the way up to the top if you want”.  Off we went up the stairway which curved with the wall to the first floor.


Tim standing at the first floor landing (photo below).


Apparently this mill is only one of a handful in the Broadland area with evidence of living accommodation.  We saw two fireplaces.  The families, who only lived on two floors, would have needed them.  But imagine how noisy it would have been living so close to all that machinery.

Talking of which, the lady who we met on the ground floor (and offering some very interesting historical information) was married to a gentleman whose family had actually lived here.  Four generations of Nudd family lived in the mill then later in an outbuilding looking after the waterways and land…..going back 200 years. I found that amazing.

This was our view from the window on the 1st floor.


This is Tim disappearing through the hatch onto the 2nd floor.


This is where you can start to see the restoration work that has recently taken place.

A project by the Broads Authority included the renewing and refitting of the top cap and other internal work.  This project took on the training of five millwrights – such a vital trade to ensure these heritage sites and structures are maintained.

Here is the 2nd floor with stairway up to the top cap and Tim photographed at the top of the stairway looking back down.


The restoration has meant that if the money was available sails could be fitted.  I think that would be so worthwhile not only for us but for generations to come.

On the edge of something big

We have spent many years exploring the Lakeland Fells.  Green valleys, lakes of all sizes and the mountains, what’s not to love.

People have said to me “doesn’t it always rain?”.  Well maybe we’ve been lucky or maybe we’ve just got on with it and ended up enjoying ourselves whatever the weather.  I tend to remember lots and lots of sunny days with only the odd wet or windy one.  As this blog grows I hope to prove that the weather up north is, believe it or not, often very nice indeed.

This post is all about a ridge. The sorts of thing that struck fear into our hearts when we first ventured out onto the footpaths of the Lakeland fells. The sort of place that we would never have dreamed we would explore.

Now the thing is that I’ve always been a bit short of those vital triggers that tell any normal brain that certain activities might be a bit dangerous, ever since I could stand or possibly before that!  Tim, on the other hand, has always made sure that he (and now we) ‘live to see another day’ – he has a sensible survival instinct. For that I thank him.

Our first proper ridge walk – September 1999

September 1999 – Tims 40th year.  As long as the weather was good we would do Striding Edge and so we did.

From Glenridding village the path takes a gentle but continuous path upwards to a place called ‘Hole in the wall’ – which is now a stile over the wall.  Once there (after about 1 1/2 hours walking) you get a glimpse of the ridge and the top of Helvellyn, the third highest mountain (fell) in the Lake District.

The photo below was taken close to the hole in March 2010.  I’m sat on ‘the wall’ and the wall leads right onto the ridge and up onto Helvellyn which is the plateau beyond that.



Its decision time at this point.  People stand and stare at the scene trying to take it all in if it’s clear, trying to imagine it if it isn’t !  As you can see the weather in March 2010 was perfect but we didn’t have crampons with us and Tims survival instinct told us that it would be far too dangerous to attempt – the rock being thick with ice, so we took a snowy route up onto another nearby fell that day.

Back to September 1999.  It was also clear and with dry rock and no wind it was safe to proceed.  It’s no fun in mist, fog or rain and we had actually turned away from this very point earlier in the year to save it for another day.  Oh my goodness were we disappointed.

So up we went. Now this airy ridge has a bit of a reputation for being quite scary and when you come across a plaque ‘In memory of Robert Rooking of Patterdale who was killed on this spot on 28th day of November 1858 following the Patterdale Foxhounds’ it might not help your nerves if you’re feeling a bit jittery.

However, even though there are fairly long drops on both sides there is a rough track just below the crest if it all gets a bit much.

This is the view we had back in 1999.  A photo of a photo – no digital back then.


We were up early to do this walk and I can’t see anyone in this photo but as we were making our steady way across we were joined by other intrepid explorers – all of us heading for ‘the top’.

Now right at the end there’s a down climb of about 10 feet on a bit of rock known as a Chimney.  It’s here that a small crowd can often be seen waiting in a bottleneck.  Thankfully not too busy when we were there – we crouched down and climbed, facing into the rock.  It’s a shame we didn’t take any photos at this point because it was quite a moment.

Finally we had a scramble up the head wall of Helvellyn to the top.  It was here, where there is another memorial, that my legs went to jelly.  Even so I think we practically skipped to the cairn and trig point on the summit and enjoyed the view. You can see the ridge over my shoulder on the right.



The first of several thrilling ridges for us.  Here we are – fashions come and go but mountains generally stay the same!



Our local Little Terns

Twitching just sneaked up on us – fairly recently, perhaps over the last 5 years or so.  It’s the sort of thing that people don’t admit to or are embarrassed about but now that we are safely into middle age we just don’t care.

So, every now and again we grab our bins (binoculars) and head out in search for something to spot.  Sometimes to a wildlife reserve, other times when we are just walking in the countryside.  Not always to watch birds but other animals too and these may be totally unexpected or we go out on a mission !

Wednesday evening, out on a ‘mission’ to Winterton Beach we found our local Little Tern colony.  These tiny sea birds fly in from Africa every year and simply nest on the sand, amongst stones.  They are precious because their numbers have been declining rapidly so much so that they are often watched (day & night) by wardens in an effort to protect them while nesting.

The following photos include our approach to the beach with the information board, the fenced off nesting area.  Unfortunately no photos of the birds up close but it was a lovely evening.






Weekly photo challenge : Pure

May and June – months we look forward to in the British Isles.  Longer days and with them the flowering of late spring plants.  It’s my favourite time of the year.

Here is a ground covering plant called Cerastium, commonly called ‘Snow in Summer’.  It made me think that I could include a photo of the flowers for this challenge – made up of pure white(ish) petals.

I had to include two photos – the second one sneaked in because of the photo bombing bee!




Sanctuary, solitude and steps

Majorca, an island in the Mediterranean, is heavily dependent on tourists and last week we joined that happy crowd taking a very convenient two hour (ish) flight from our local Norwich (International) Airport.

We stayed in a rather nice hotel in Puerto Pollenca which is near the north eastern tip of the island.  We’ve been to Majorca a few years ago – once staying at  Cala d’or (south east) and another time at Camp de Mar (south west).  These previous trips were before we got into really loving all things hilly and mountainous.

So, here we were now, just a stones thrown from the Serra de Tramuntana, with walking boots at the ready.

Tuesday 24th May 2016

Pollenca old town is a short bus ride but we took a taxi as we were being far too British at the bus stop. We love to queue, say no more!

Once out of the taxi we headed off following the ‘Calvari’ signs. The town is made up of narrow streets with small shops and cafes and two or three squares.


In a corner of the central square, Placa Major, is the large 13th century Church Esglesia de Nostra Senyora dels Angels. The walls and ceilings inside are quite impressive.


Beyond the church, the ancient Calvari Steps lead up and out of the town to a small chapel. Lined on both sides with mature Cyprus trees and some small properties the 365 steps might be a struggle, especially in the middle of the day or height of summer.  We thought  they were relatively easy! After taking a respectful peak into the small church at the top (it really is small) we treated ourselves to a cool drink from the cafe next door. Sitting in the shade with the occasional scent from a flowering Jasmine, it was bliss…

The view back down to the town was really very good from the top of the steps. However, our eyes were looking beyond the town to the hill opposite, to the Puig de Maria. A couple of quick photos and we were soon making our way back down and cross town to start our ascent.



Alongside the main road there was a sign which told us that it would take an hour from this point. We came across these sorts of signs in Switzerland last year – they usefully tell you how long a walk should take rather than the distance.

The path starts off as a driveable road but that changes gradually to a rough track then eventually to a cobbled path. The only way to get to the very top is on foot, zigzagging in tight hairpins with occasional glimpses down through the trees. It was warm and we saw only a couple of other people.

Near the top there’s a sign which tells you that you only 10 minutes more to go. Yay. This hill is only 330 meters high (1082 feet) but fairly steep walking.

Finally the monastery comes into view. This is the Santurari de la Mare de Deu del Puig. Built in the 14th century there is a chapel and monastery which housed nuns from the local area. The nuns have left but walkers now can spend the night in basic accommodation here.


We crept inside – it was time for lunch. Along a corridor we found a small dark room with counter and a menu – listed on a piece of paper which was pinned to the wall. A man appeared to take our order but was unable to speak English so we ended up pointing at the menu to make our selection. The baked tuna baguette that arrived with olives, tomatoes and chillies, sprinkled generously with olive oil, was delicious and very reasonably priced.

There are areas to sit outside but as it was hot we sat inside in a room with shutters at the small windows, dark furniture, tiled floor and lots of beams. We were all alone and we whispered to each other….it was cool (in both senses of the word), it was very atmospheric.

Back out into the sunshine we explored the outside, took lots of photos then sauntered back down. The views were fantastic of the surrounding countryside, the mountains and the bay of Pollenca.


We felt like real pilgrims.