Monday, February 27, 2012

Bayfield and beyond. A short walk in North Norfolk

The view towards Blakeney Church from
 Cley Beach in late winter with brent geese flying by

North Norfolk is one of those special parts of Britain that has been less impacted by the Twentieth Century than most other places. The salt and fresh marshes, the sand and shingle beaches, the straggling web of quiet lanes between brick and flint villages in a patchwork of woods, fields and meadows across the gently rolling landscape. This is an idyllic location preserved thanks in no small part to not being on the way to anywhere. As with many out-of-the-way places Norfolk is a haven for all kinds of wildlife, especially birds. The long sand and shingle coast projects into the shallow North Sea and is the first landfall for many migrating birds and wondering vagrants making this county one of the supreme birdwatching areas in Britain.

Old oak trees are a rich source
of food and habitat for birds
and insects
The well known sites such as Titchwell, Holkham, Blakeney Point and Cley are justly famous, boasting large numbers of resident and migrating species as well as outstanding rarities. It is, however, possible to go for a walk almost anywhere along Norfolk coast or in the rural hinterland and gather a species list that would be the envy of many birders in the majority of the UK. As an example, the three-mile circular Bayfield Bird Walk that passes our Glandford shop takes in a mixture of open arable fields, plantation and ancient woodland and river meadows. It is a gentle walk with shallow gradients and firm paths, taking around an hour-and-half to two hours to complete and there's even a café half way round (soon to be two when the eagerly anticipated Art Café opens in the next few weeks). Unremarkable as this sounds the diversity of habitats and the environmentally conscious farm management of the Estate makes it possible to get a respectable tally of species at any time of the year. Two weeks ago I picked up my binoculars, scope and camera and headed out up the track. By the end of my meander I returned with a bird list including marsh, coal and long-tailed tit, treecreeper, nuthatch, goldcrest, lesser redpoll, common buzzard, sparrow hawk, little egret and white-fronted goose. As well as the birds there were common frogs, muntjac and roe deer, bluebells just starting to come up and snowdrops. One of my favourites are the magnificent veteran trees. These are not hard to spot on account of their size and the fact they don't move around very much, but they represent great continuity in the landscape over many centuries, Bayfield having some oaks that were likely saplings when William Shakespeare was just a little-known actor who could write a bit. All in all not bad for short walk on a quiet Friday afternoon!
Snowdrops by the path.
Click for more photos
from the walk

The relaxed nature of my perambulation was not impeded by taking my scope with my thanks to the Cley Spy Mulepack, turning my 80mm Swarovski and tripod into a comfortable backpack, leaving my hands free to use my binoculars and camera. Without the Mulepack I would have probably not taken the scope with me and so missed out on close-up views of the female sparrow hawk in the woods. The features of the Mulepack are demonstrated by the boss in a video on our website.

Cley Spy

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