Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pelican on Hickling Broad (?)

Well, no! I snapped this Dalmatian Pelican in the Danube Delta last week - where I was with with Honey Guide ( , being guided by Daniel Petrescu of ( see also Danny's website )

I had a brilliant time - thanks Danny - and found an almost uncanny similarity with my own Broadland haunts.

The birds were amazing and a little different from what I'm used to on the Broads. Not only White and Dalmatian Pelicans, but Squacco Herons, Night Herons, Little Bitterns, Red and Black Necked Grebe.

I think I'll start a campaign to twin the Broads with the Danube Delta - please join the campaign if you can!

In the meantime you might want to add your protests to those of other bird minded people against the planned errection of 21 wind turbines on the rocky saddle of the Bespeke Hills the only high land that divides the Delta from an adjacent lake. Pelicans and migrating raptors using the hills to gain altitude are likely to be minced!

Brancaster Ring

This walk has it all. Like Jesus you can walk by the seaside and on the hills above the sea. There are woods and wayside flowers, birds, heritage sites . And to top it all, there’s Noah’s Ark(!), or something that looks like it, the man in the moon (!) and a love story waiting to be discovered.

. I parked the car at Brancaster Staithe and walked east along the Coastal Path, past fishermen’s huts and boats high and dry on low tide mudflats. At Noah’s Ark I turned inland going a little of my route to look into Burnham Deepdale’s round-towered church.

Next to the busy coast road the cool interior is an oasis of calm. The church has some notable medieval glass – that’s where I found the man in the moon - as well as an interesting font with carved labours of the month around the edge. Across the road there’s a great café too!

Passing the café on my left, I took the next left uphill, along a metalled road through rolling farm land and into a shady wood with noble beech trees.

At Barrow Common I took the path that leads over the hill and down to the coastal road once more . Across the road is a large open space. An interpretation board identifies it as the site of Brandonium, the Roman shore fort. There’s nothing much to see. The once lofty walls were used as a stone quarry by later builders going into local churches and flint built cottages.

Sometime, in the 4th or 5th century, someone left a betrothal ring here. A tragic loss, buried for safe keeping, or thrown away? Who knows! There’s a love story waiting to be written! What ever the back story, the ring remained undiscovered until 1829 and now resides in Norwich’s Castle Museum.

The design is conventional. The heads of a couple face each other. The inscription makes it special, the oldest Christian artefact in the county. It reads “VIVAS IN DEO” – live in God. A recipe for Christian living then as now. At the edge of the marsh I turned right and walked back to the Staithe as swallows swooped over the reed beds

The walk is half Norfolk Circular Walk No.9 which you can find on the internet at You can get to and from Brancaster Staithe on the Coast Hopper bus service.

New Buckenham Common

I just can’t help myself! Each daisy and dandelion is a miracle , but I’ll still make the pilgrimage to New Buckenham Common to see the green-winged orchids! These flashy flowers also grow on the limestone hills of Galilee. I sometimes wonder if these were the flowers of the field Jesus spoke of who’s natural beauty far outstripped King Solomon’s designer label elegance. Conspicuous consumption on clothing and cosmetics are a near necessity for many who gauge their worth against the ever shifting orthodoxies of fashion. The orchid remains a fragile yet unchanging thing of beauty. Its scientific name is Anacampcis Morio, morio from the Greek for fool. The flower is said to resemble fools cap. Contemplating beauty and foolishness, I recall the well known phrase or saying, “if the hat fits wear it!”

Green-winged orchids maybe the stars of the show, there is also a full supporting cast on New Buckenham Common: buttercups, cuckoo flowers, meadow sweet, cowslip, meadow saxifrage – even the names are poetry. In the early summer whitethroats and blackcaps sing from the bushes. In and around the ponds, hidden from sight, great crested newts go about their business.

If you were coming by car you could park just outside the village of New Buckenham Turning left off the Norwich Road you’d easily find the car park by the swings. When you continue along this bye road you eventually come to a closed gate blocking your way, turn onto the common here and walk around the bushes and you’ll be close to the main populations of green – winged orchids

I suppose one aspect of our consideration for the flowers means that we ought to make our journeys with a minimum carbon footprint. Sadly, the buses from anywhere to New Buckenham are a dead loss. So maybe there’s a case of getting on ones bike.

That green-winged orchids grow in such profusion on New Buckenham Common is due to the consideration the Norfolk Wildlife Trust lavishes on them. The great thing is they, and other conservation organisations will have a reserve close to where you live where you’ll be able to enjoy all the wild-flowers without too much travelling. You can check them out on the Trust’s website or in their Reserves Handbook available either on line, or from one of the staffed reserves visitors’ centres, or by post from:
Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Bewick House, 22 Thorpe Road, Norwich. NR1 1RY Telephone 01603 625540