It was raining early on Friday morning so we decided against the seal trip to Blakeney Point and returned to plan B which was to visit the Norfolk Wildlife Trust Reserve at Cley Marshes which was only a few miles away.
Cley Marshes was bought by the founder of Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Sydney Long, in 1926 and it was the first Wildlife Trust reserve in the country and began the movement which led to the eventual formation of 42 Wildlife Trusts.
In the Middle Ages Cley marshes were covered by the sea at high tide and boats were able to travel along channels into the harbour near Cley church. "The Eye" an area of higher ground was then an island surrounded by marshland. In 1649 banks were constructed to protect the village from flooding by the sea and to provide more land for animal grazing.
Habitats on the present day reserve include saltwater and freshwater marshes, grazing land, scrape pools, a coastal shingle ridge and reed beds - sections of the latter are cut in winter to create reed beds of varying ages to attract a wide variety of bird species. The cut reeds are sold and used as a material for thatching.
It is a superb reserve for birds with such "goodies" as Bitterns, Avocets, Bearded Tits,
Pink-footed Geese etc., and mammal species such as Water Voles and Otters.
As the rain had now stopped we headed off first for the hides that overlooked Whitwell and Simmond's Scrapes and Pat's Pool.
The windmill in nearby Cley.
Avocet, Dawke's and Teal Hides - all thatched.
View from one of the hides
Pink-footed Goose (a "life" tick for me)
Timothy silhouetted - enjoying his birdwatching but still exceedingly miffed that he was minus a coat, hat and mittens!
We retraced our steps and walked to Bishop's Hide that overlooked Pat's Pool and Carter's scrape . Highlight of the walk was a Stonechat sighting - no photo I am afraid the camera focused on the background and left the bird a blur!!!
At this stage it looked as if it was brightening up as the clouds cleared and the sun came out but it was not to last.
View from Bishop's Hide
The real highlight from visiting this reserve was a sighting of not one but two Marsh Harriers. We watched them interacting with each other and hunting for about ten minutes. The last time I saw this species was many years ago at Leighton Moss.
Speck in the centre of the photo below is a Marsh Harrier - to be honest I couldn't be bothered using the zoom and trying to get a photo - I was happy just to watch them.
We had planned to walk along the East Bank to the shingle ridge and beach but it was starting to rain as we came out of the hide so we returned to the visitor centre for tea and cake.
The visitor centre is superb with a cafe with views over the reserve, a gift shop, exhibition area and education centre. It is eco-friendly with a green sedum roof, green technology including a wind turbine, ground source heat pumps, solar water heating and a rainwater harvesting system.
Ruth Galloway books by Elly Griffiths on sale in the shop :) Driving around this coast brings the books to life especially when seeing the salt marshes and when we drove past Briarfields (we nearly stayed overnight there) which is mentioned in the "The Woman in Blue" which I have just finished reading.
Rather than following the coast road after leaving Cley we cut across country to King's Lynn before making our way home. I managed to persuade B to stop off at the village of Little Snoring (I kid you not - what a great name for a village!) so I could visit another round tower church.
According to the church guide book EK Wall's "English Place Names" says that the names of Great and Little Snoring originate from the first wave of Saxon invaders in ~450 AD. They were settlements of Snear's people (Snear was a Saxon invader who had the nicknames of "Swift", "Bright" or "Alert"). Little Snoring is located in the ancient "Hundred" of Gallow.
The church of St Andrew with a detached round tower dates from the Saxon period with a llth century nave and was built where the ground rose and is separated from the village by a stream. The church is dedicated to St Andrew who was an Apostle and brother of St Peter. Many East Anglian churches are dedicated to St. Andrew.
The round tower at this church was built before the Norman Conquest. Many of these towers are close to the sea or an estuary suggesting that they may have been look-out towers for invaders or used as a place of refuge. The windows are usually very small suggesting a defensive function. The tower here has small slit windows with trefoil heads and just one working bell inscribed "Pack and Chapman of London fecit 1770". The present conical tiled roof probably dates from around 1800.
The South Doorway consists of 3 arches - the innermost is a Norman round arch, surrounding this Pevsner suggests that the stone of what was once a broad round arch was re-assembled to crate a narrow, sharply pointed arch. The arch continues with Early English (c1250) capitals decorated with foliage. Apologies for poor quality of photos - it was around 3.30 p.m. dull and gloomy with very low light.
The font is "Norman" and has a round bowl decorated with foliage.
The piscina (where chalices were washed) in the Chancel dates to ~1250.
The windows range in age from Norman to Tudor - once they probably contained stained glass which was smashed after the Reformation.
This window is dated to c.1330 - "Decorated" or "reticulated"
This window is dated to c1250 - "Early English"
These windows located on the side of the Chancel are dated to the reign of Elizabeth I = c1580
I didn't like to spend too much time in the church as B was sat in the car (this time without a paper to read!!) and so managed to miss a rare coat of arms of James II and a plaque with records of members of the RAF who used the church when flying from Little Snoring airfield in World War 2.
It was a lovely break although I wish we could have stopped longer. I could spend months exploring Norfolk with all it's wildlife reserves, beautiful churches and picturesque towns and villages.
All photos taken with the Canon Bridge SX50
Reference : Information leaflet on NWT Cley Marshes
Guide Book to the Church of St Andrew Little Snoring by Ann and John Gurney
Welcome to my blog. I have been interested in natural history from an early age and we have tried to create a garden attractive to wildlife. I also enjoy reading, photography, collecting fossils, visiting historic buildings and gardens and supporting Aston Villa. Please feel free to leave a comment and, if you would like to email me, my email address is ciraggedrobinsATgmail.com - remember to replace AT with @. Thank you for visiting.