Big Skies

The sky was enormous, seemingly stretching for ever in all directions. The vast mud flats of the Wash lay before us, wading birds strutting through the mud and plucking tasty morsels from the goo. Kestrels hovered over the salt marsh, wings beating furiously as they searched for their prey. Behind us the farmers were working overtime to harvest their crops before the forecast rain arrived. It was the summer bank holiday weekend, so of course rain was forecast – anything else would have been unnatural.

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We started our walk from the southern bank of Guy’s Head, not far north of the the border between Norfolk and Lincolnshire, all the while keeping our eyes open for seals. We’d left the van parked a short distance up the river Nene, where two similar looking lighthouses marked the entrance to the murky waterway, guiding shipping safely inland.

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Further upstream the Crosskeys bridge spans the river. Built in 1897 the swing bridge is still operational today, halting traffic on the busy A17 to allow commercial and pleasure shipping through. We hadn’t come for the engineering though. Like many visitors to the area we were here for the wildlife that is attracted to the nutrient rich mud flats.

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We chose a campsite at a pub, figuring if the weather got too bad that at least we’d have somewhere to hide from the rain, but for now the sun was still shining and the clouds only just starting to gather above us. It wouldn’t be long though, the farmers knew it and they worked their harvesters long into the night.

Awaking to dry skies, we headed for the RSPB reserve at Frampton Marsh. Our timing was not great, the end of the summer being too early for the autumn’s mass migrations. But none the less, the wardens were excited about a rare bird that had arrived. We followed their instructions and found the bird at the location they described. No idea what it was called, but it was black and white (not the one in the photo, that’s a lapwing and not rare).

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When the rain finally arrived it was heavy and driven fiercely by the wind. We made a hasty retreat to the campsite in the hope that it would clear overnight. As the rain drummed on the roof and fat wet droplets ran down the windows we cocooned ourselves in the snug confines of the van, wondering if it would let up enough to even make a dash for the pub.

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Monday was quite possibly wetter, so we set a simple goal of fish and chips by the sea, maybe taking in a lighthouse along the way. We followed the coastal road around to Old Hunstanton and ticked off the lighthouse from the day’s to-do list, then continued on east. A quick stop at Blakeney to see if we could see some seals found us quickly retreating to the safety of the van as the rain became horizontal.

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Heading further east we made a random left turn into the busy seaside town of Sheringham and settled in to watch the grey expanse of the North Sea while eating our lunch, ticking off the second and final item on our day’s to-do list.

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