Beautiful Broads

Norfolk Wildlife Trust boat

Norfolk is a gorgeous county. Many of its coastal towns and villages, such as Cley and Brancaster Staithes are still wonderful havens of peace and tranquillity, where the simple holiday pleasures of rock pools, buckets and spades and great seafood still rule the day. Perfect for a relaxing English  seaside break. Just a little further inland, are the Norfolk Broads; a winding trail of waterways that provide a haven for birds and wildlife.

Inspired by the glorious early June weather, we decided to head off to the Broads recently, in search of British birds and wildlife.

A bit of research lead us to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust which manages a number of nature reserves in the region.  We’d booked ahead to join one of their wildlife spotting boat trips and duly joined skipper Maurice and a couple of other visitors for what turned out to be a truly idyllic two hour journey through the reed beds.

It was like stepping back in time.  On the larger expanses of water, people were busy with the traditional ‘brown boat’ sailing dinghies, streaming along in the wind, for all the world as if they’d just dropped out of ‘Swallows and Amazons’.  The more sedate sailors were pottering around on houseboats and day cruisers, or sitting on deck in the sunshine with a mug of tea.Coltishall riverside pub

On our eco friendly electric boat, we were able to chug quietly up and down some of the narrower channels, keeping a sharp eye open for anything interesting along the way. We were rewarded with close up views of many birds, including Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers and there were so many Marsh Harriers soaring on the thermals above us that we lost count.  Our eyes popped as we saw a grass snake swim from one side of the reed bed to the other and Swallowtail butterflies fluttered around in a mesmerising aerial dance.

A one stage, we briefly left the boat and climbed to the top of the Trust’s special viewing platform, to take in a panoramic view of the Norfolk Broads, with sailboats dotted like tiny handkerchiefs in the distance.  We fancied that we might have glimpsed one of the region’s breeding pairs of Cranes, but had to concede that it was in fact a Grey Heron lurking to fool us.

Topped off by a pleasant saunter around the reserve’s nature trails and finally a leisurely pub lunch, it would be hard to imagine a more perfect English summer’s day out.  It didn’t cost the earth, we learned a lot about the area and our visit helped to provide a little bit of the money that the Trust needs to keep protecting this precious environment for generations to come.

Who could ask for more?

June 21st, 2010 | Comments Off on Beautiful Broads

Medicinal weeds and wild foods

Identifying Sweet CicelyToday I set off to find out more about medicinal weeds and wild foods. I didn’t have to travel to the Australian outback and hook up with Ray Mears, I simply set off for Forge Dam in Fulwood, Sheffield and joined a guided walk being led by local herbalist Calder Bendle.

It proved to be a completely fascinating two hours. About 10 of us trundled along after our expert, who explained that there would be plenty of opportunity to taste things along the way. We all swapped apprehensive glances, as he clearly wasn’t referring to a tea break at Forge cafe.

We needn’t have worried though, as he most certainly knew his stuff. The first tasting was of Sweet Cicely, which has a beautiful sweet aniseed flavour and can be used for all manner of things, from sweetening sour fruits in cooking, to the creation of herbal remedies for disorders such as indigestion. Although it looks uncannily like Cow Parsley at first glance, it wasn’t long before we got the hang of the differences and we all started making our proud identifications of the plant as we wandered along. You wouldn’t think that Forge Dam was so full of plants, but during the walk we discovered the amazing properties of no less than 20 plants that we wouldn’t have given a second glance to without the endless knowledge and enthusiasm of ‘Bendle’

The event was organised by Sheffield Environment weeks and is one of more than 200 activities taking part throughout the city, which aim to promote environmental awareness.

I went along out of personal interest, but it was very valuable and I’m sure that some of the information I gathered will be of great use as I develop my new range of greeting cards called ‘natural healing’.

May 14th, 2008 | Comments Off on Medicinal weeds and wild foods

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