"Oh we're not real twitchers" protested Mum as she passed one of two telescopes to Dad and placed a spotting scope in her pocket to protect it from the incessant rain! I'm not sure anyone other than 'real' twitchers would have travelled one and a half hours to Bempton Cliffs fully aware that only cold winds and rain awaited their arrival... I say only wind and rain, but actually rather a lot awaited us at the RSPB cliffside reserve, and my noted lack of protest probably serves as a marker on my journey to becoming a 'real twitcher'! Having passed through the cosy and friendly (only thing missing being a tasty local beer served on tap!) RSPB centre/shop that serves as the entrance, I found myself mesmerised by thousands of sea birds rising and sinking from the sharp line drawn by the cliffs. The wind and rain evaporated (metaphorically speaking, unfortunately) as we watched gannets, fulmars, razor bills and guillemots! The walking at Bempton Cliffs is relatively easy (in a good way) and captivating. The RSPB also offers guided walks but given my folks' tendency to stop without warning for twenty, thirty minutes at a time meant we thought it best to decline. On one such stoppage, we (Mum) managed to pick out a puffin nesting with her telescope. I should probably point out, being May, (I know, it's August now (!) this post has been on the back burner for a little bit) there were only a few puffins around, so we were thrilled to find one! This is a great area for a family walk, even in miserable weather! There's also plenty of walking options for those looking for a longer/more challenging ramble too. There is no question that I'll be returning! It's the norm for me to mention a pint of local ale consumed at the end of my walks, but with my parents being more tea and scone people, I thought I'd refer to another custom equally common to that of a pint. On many of our walks I end up buying CB one of the little RSPB pin badges (found in RSPB centres and all good local pubs); on this occasion I bought her a gannet pin- no reflection on her eating habits, honest.
It's hard to imagine a nation with quirkier hobbies than the UK... That said, I saw a news piece once about a man in Belgium who dressed up and behaved as a penguin at weekends; but maybe that's more a comment on the news than hobbies. I digress, what I'm trying to say is that there seems to be something distinctly characteristic about many popular British pastimes. Continue reading Counting Hobbies at Thursley Common National Nature Reserve
Hot Cappuccino, warm cheese scone and some chocolate fingers. If only every walk could start that way! The RSPB Saltholme cafe is something to behold; with its vast Robocop visor-esque windows that allow people to sit down in the warm, eat, drink, watch nature and photograph all at the same time... I'm pretty sure this is my Dad's idea of heaven! However as a photographer, the cafe feels a little like two big blokes standing either side of you at a urinal... Intimidating lenses every direction you turn! Having plucked up enough courage to get my camera out of my bag (not in the sense of the previous euphemistic metaphor) and remove myself from the cosy warmth of the cafe, I joined Caroline and her family who had somehow got ahead of me. I say somehow, getting distracted and falling behind isn't an uncommon trait. Saltholme is a great place to take a walk. Obviously there's visitors who take their sport seriously, but everyone is friendly and it seems very good for families. We went for a short stroll really, rather than a walk. The conflicting landscapes where the industrial North meet the resilience of nature is humbling to witness and stirs up a range of responses. There really is a super abundance of wildlife. We were lucky enough to see a short eared owl on several occasions as we walked around the wetlands, which for me at least was pretty exciting! I really loved my visit Saltholme Wetland Centre, I think it's a fantastic introduction to wildlife walking and would recommend it to anyone. I'm certainly going back, but maybe with a bigger lens!