Archive for the ‘Norfolk’ Category

Highlights of 2017:Barn Owl

Posted: January 10, 2018 in Birds, Natural History, Norfolk, UK

Continuing my highlights of 2017, I must include the wonderful opportunity I got to see and photograph Barn Owls whilst we were on holiday in Norfolk.

A crisp chilly morning and I was on my way to Norfolk / Suffolk borders with the local RSPB group. Our first stop (apart from a comfort stop) was at Lynford Arboretum in Norfolk. This is a known wintering site for the elusive Hawfinch, the largest of the UK finches. This autumn has seen an eruption from the continent with many more sightings than normal, so hopes were high. As we walked down the track, our attention is drawn to a Common Kestrel in a tree in the adjoining paddocks.


And then it became clear that there were small birds in the top of an adjacent tree – these turned out to be a flock of Hawfinches. Unfortunately, they are too far for decent photos, but they can easily be identified through telescopes.




Hawfinch. Photo by Sergey Yeliseev (


Six birds flew off, going away from us, and another 2 were still in the tree which brought the total seen to 8. I understand that a flock of up to 11 has been counted here in the past month.

Walking on down the path we came to the rear access to Lynford Hall Hotel and someone had put out some seed on one of the posts of the bridge over the stream. This attracted in a lot of woodland birds including Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch and Great Tit.

A Kingfisher was seen travelling back and forth along the stream and as we retraced our stops 2 Hawfinches were seen again in the top of a tree.

Making our way back into Suffolk we stopped at Lackford Lakes, a large complex of lakes adjacent to the River Lark. It is a good site for wintering waterfowl, but like many places in the UK, they don’t seem to have arrived yet in any great numbers, presumably due to the recent mild weather. Still a few have made it like this Drake Goldeneye which fed most of the day in front of Winter hide.

Another nice sighting was a small flock of Bullfinches seen near Paul’s hide

There were also a number of Marsh Tits at different places around the reserve but I couldn’t get any decent photos of them. Other birds seen included Tufted duck, Common Pochard, Eurasian Teal, Robin and Gadwall.

This was my first visit to both these sites and I look forward to visiting again in the future.

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Common Goldeneye [sp] (Bucephala clangula)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Common Snipe [sp] (Gallinago gallinago)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Common Kingfisher [sp] (Alcedo atthis)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Marsh Tit [sp] (Poecile palustris)
Coal Tit [sp] (Periparus ater)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Eurasian Nuthatch [sp] (Sitta europaea)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Mistle Thrush [sp] (Turdus viscivorus)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
Common Linnet [sp] (Carduelis cannabina)
Eurasian Bullfinch [sp] (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)
Hawfinch [sp] (Coccothraustes coccothraustes)


On the way back from a trip to Peterborough, Sue and I stopped off at Welney Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust for lunch and a couple of hours bird watching. From the main hide, we could see that the number of Whooper Swans present had risen significantly since our last visit back in mid-September with arrivals from the breeding grounds in the artic.


Also present were good numbers of duck species which also make their home for the winter on the washes of Cambridgeshire and Norfolk


Eurasian Wigeon


Common Pochard


Northern Shoveler (m & f)



Pintail (m)

The star birds of the day, although only seen briefly in flight were a group of 3 Common Cranes, which flew into the far side of the reserve before disappearing into the vegetation and out of sight. These once very rare birds are now increasing in numbers due to re-introduction programmes in Somerset and East Anglia.

Common Crane (Photographed Slimbridge Dec 2013)

Despite being the first weekend in November, we also saw a red admiral and a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly and a pair of Common Darter Dragonflies, witness to how mild the autumn has been.

Red-legged Partridge [sp] (Alectoris rufa)
Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Red Kite [sp] (Milvus milvus)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Common Crane [sp] (Grus grus)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Common Snipe [sp] (Gallinago gallinago)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Dunlin [sp] (Calidris alpina)
Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Eurasian Skylark [sp] (Alauda arvensis)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow [sp] (Passer montanus)
Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

Norfolk Skies (2)

Posted: October 19, 2017 in Landscape, Natural History, Norfolk, UK


Some more cloudscapes from our recent trip to Norfolk

Norfolk Skies (1)

Posted: October 18, 2017 in Landscape, Natural History, Norfolk, UK



Regular readers will know I have a fascination with skies. On our recent trip to Norfolk, the mixed weather we encountered certainly gave me lots of opportunity for photographing the wonderful cloud formations


St Margaret’s church, Hardley is located in the Norfolk Broads, an area located in the east of the county formed of river-fed connected lakes and much beloved by the boating and sailing fraternity. Whilst not as isolated as St Mary Houghton, St Margaret’s too stands in open fields with only a couple of houses nearby, testimony to the farming communities which it once served and which have now disappeared.


It is not clear when the church was originally built (it has been suggested that the chancel arch dates from the 13th century), but records of the Great Hospital in Norwich (owners of the manor of Hardley) show that in 1456 a decision was taken to rebuild the chancel and two years later they authorised the replacement of the roof. This might suggest that the original building had fallen into disrepair or out of use before this date. The work was completed by 1461. The church contains a number of features which date from this rebuild. The 15th-century font has an octagonal bowl on a stem supported by lions.


The 15th-century wall paintings were discovered several years ago during redecoration

There are 3 panels, St Christopher, St Catherine and a consecration cross which probably dates from the time the church was re-consecrated as a place of worship after the 15th-century rebuilding.


The chancel screen dates from the 15th century and the simple pulpit is from the Jacobean period (early 17th century).



Despite being close to the impressive Priory, St James Castle Acre is a large Church not much smaller than the Priory church itself. A church has existed in Acre since at least the late Saxon period as it is recorded that when William de Warrenne found Castle Acre Priory in 1090, the priory was granted income and control of ‘the church at Acre’


During the 14th and 15th century it became an important stop on the pilgrim’s way to the shrine at Walsingham and the church was rebuilt in the Perpendicular Gothic style. The church contains a number of interesting 15th-century features;

– a hexagonal font


– a wine-glass pulpit with paintings of Latin biblical scholars


– Rood screen with paintings of the 11 disciples plus St Matthias.


The priory was founded by William de Warrenne, Earl of Surrey on his land at Acre in Norfolk. The first Earl together with his wife had journeyed to Rome on pilgrimage and stopped at the monastery of Cluny in France. He subsequently invited the Cluniac order to establish a priory at Lewes in Sussex. It is not clear if it was this William or his son, also called William, who invited the Cluniac monks to establish a new house on the families land in Norfolk at Acre.


The priory as it would have looked before the dissolution


The west end of the priory church


The cloisters of the priory formed the centre around which all the other buildings were arranged

The Prior’s Solar and a fragment of medieval wall painting from the Prior’s chapel suggesting that it would have been highly decorated

The priory was very successful and continued to grow until the time it was surrendered to the crown commissioners in 1537 on the orders of Henry VIII. The land was given to Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk won had the priory buildings demolished with the exception of the Priors lodgings which were converted into a private residence.


The Prior’s lodgings showing some of the changes that occurred when it was converted into a private residence

The ownership passed to Edward Coke, Earl of Leicester in the 17th century and has remained in the Coke family ever since. The site is now managed by English Heritage.


The remains of the Inner Bailey and curtain wall

William de Warrenne came to England in the army of William the Conqueror and fought at the Battle of Hastings. Afterwards, he became one of the King’s most trusted magnates. He was made Earl of Surrey and acquired lands in Norfolk through his wife. He chose the village of Acre near Swaffham as his base in the area.

Castle Acre is one of the best examples of a Motte and Bailey Castle from the early Middle Ages and the fortifications that remain give you a good indication of quite how formidable these castles must have seemed.


Outer Bailey


Outer Bailey c 12th century


The original castle was a moated Manor House but in the 12th century, the fortifications were improved, including the building of a keep to replace the Manor House.


13th century keep which replaced the original manor house


Remains of 13th century keep


Ditch surrounding Outer Bailey

However, by the end of the 14th century, the Earls of Surrey had moved on to live at other estates and the castle had been abandoned.



The church of St Mary at Houghton-on-the -Hill is possibly one of the most important churches in England. In it are found some of the earliest religious wall paintings still existing in the country.


Roman tiles (? from nearby villa site) reused in Norman wall


Evidence of earlier (? pre-Norman building) included within the Norman wall

There has been a settlement at Houghton-on-the-hill since Roman times – a Roman villa has been identified on the site from crop marks in a nearby field. It is believed to be a church on the site since Saxon times and a church was certainly in existence at the time of the Doomsday book survey in 1086. Shortly afterwards a Norman church was built on the site of the Saxon one, incorporating some material from the earlier church and the nearby Roman ruins.






In the 12th century, a south aisle was added to house the remains of Sir Robert de Neville, a local landowner, who was executed for ‘having a criminal conversation with a lady’ which probably meant having an affair with a married high-born woman. This was later demolished in the 14th or 15th century.


South side of the church, showing the outline of 12th Century South Aisle.

In the 15th century the original round tower collapsed and was replaced by a square tower. From the 16th century, the village began to go into decline as people moved away. In the 18th century, the medieval chancel was demolished and was replaced by a much smaller one.


Site of original altar and outline of pre-18th-century chancel

By the early 19th century only a few cottages remained around the church and changes in the management of the estate in the early 20th century further added to the dispersion of the local population. The last service was held in the late 1930s and it was subsequently abandoned. It remained a ruin until a local resident Bob Davey began a campaign to restore the church and it was early in the restoration work that the 11th-12th-century wall paintings were discovered and the importance of the church fully recognised.