My Sunday Photo – February 18th, 2018.

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While we were out for a walk at Strumpshaw Fen, Mark spotted a kestrel hunting over a field. We stopped to watch and were amazed when it landed nearby – and even more so when it stayed long enough for me to take photos.

A volunteer in the information centre said it was a young one so maybe that’s why it was less cautious? Even with Freya’s non-stop chatter it stuck around for a bit.

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Hope you’ve had a good week – especially if it’s been half term.

To see what other people have submitted for My Sunday Photo please click on the camera below.

Also, please pop back tomorrow when I have another Behind The Book interview – this time with the amazing Elisabeth Gifford.

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Norfolk Adventures: Felbrigg Hall.

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Quite often when I visit an historic home I admire the grandeur on display, ponder how much it costs to heat in the winter and perhaps imagine myself flouncing up a sweeping staircase in a long silk dress but very rarely do I ever think “Yes, I could live here”.

I’m not sure what it is about Felbrigg Hall because it’s as opulent and impressive as the others but as soon as I entered I just felt…welcome.

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It possibly had something to do with the volunteers, who were all so friendly, and the fact that there’s a lovely treasure hunt-style activity for children involving a magnifying glass and a photo book but I think it’s more to do with the feel of the place.

It’s just homely. I felt like I could sit in the library and read a book in my PJs (not when it’s open to the public) or happily enjoy a family Christmas dinner in the dining room (hopefully cooked by someone else).

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The 17th century house and the estate were left to the National Trust following the death of the ‘last squire’, biographer and historian Robert Ketton-Cremer, in 1969.

A descendent of the Wyndham/Windham family, who owned Felbrigg for some 500 years, he inherited the house on the death of his father in 1933. There’s a well written history of the hall and some of its fascinating past inhabitants here.

I was quite taken by the tales of William ‘Mad’ Windham (1840 – 1866) who apparently had a bit of a thing for uniforms. Not only did he dress up as a train guard at local stations, which caused a few problems, he also presented himself as a policeman and ‘patrolled’ in London. He seems to have remained quite the character – in later life even buying himself a coach and pinching customers from established routes by offering free lifts between Norwich and Cromer.

He was far from the only intriguing person attached to the house and it was fascinating to discover more as we explored.

There was some controversy (link to a story in The Guardian) surrounding Felbrigg earlier this year but when we visited last month, on a day that started slightly damp, all seemed well.

What can you do there?

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Everywhere you look there is something interesting to see at Felbrigg and Freya loved trying to match the photographs to the various rooms. You can tour downstairs and upstairs rooms, including the great hall, with its stunning stained glass, dining room, lovely library and several bedrooms, including the Chinese Room with wallpaper hand painted in China (which required a costly specialist to put up).

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We stopped for a bite to eat in the cafe before heading outside to the wonderful walled garden. Because our party had a variety of different ages we only got to see a small section of the garden but what I did see was stunning (my camera was very happy).

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There is a fabulous play area for smaller visitors, which includes sandpits to dig in, miniature wheel barrows, forks and what I think might be a willow house with a tree stump table and small wooden benches (here’s Mark enjoying it).

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Should you want to go a bit further afield, the estate also has 520 acres of woods, with rolling parkland, a lake and buggy-friendly paths.

What did we think?

Our trip included four generations and they all loved it. Freya was the one I was most worried about but almost as soon as we arrived (and she found some hobby horses to trot around on) she was happy. She loved exploring inside and outside too (as we all did). A great family adventure.

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How much does it cost?

A standard charge for an adult (without gift aid) for the whole property is £10.40 and £5.50 for a child. You can also just pay for the gardens and there is a family ticket available. Full details here. Don’t forget to check opening times before you go.

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Things To Do In Norfolk: Banham Zoo.

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Victoria crowned pigeon.

There are so many things I like about Banham Zoo – and that’s before you even get to the animals.

We’ve been visiting once or twice a year since Freya was a baby – more for Mark’s benefit at that time – and she really loves it now, especially because there are two cheetahs among more than 2,000 animals – and Fuli, from The Lion Guard, is her absolute favourite.

Set in 50 acres, it opened in 1968 with a collection of parrots and pheasants before acquiring a colony of monkeys in 1971. Since then it has gone from strength to strength – often crowned Norfolk’s Top Attraction by various organisations – and in 2013 it became part of the Zoological Society of East Anglia, a charity which also owns Africa Alive in Suffolk.

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Sri Lankan Leopards having a play.

The staff, who all seem to do lots of different jobs (when we visited in winter the same lady who painted Freya’s face also drove the train and fed the cheetahs), are always so friendly and happy to answer questions. What’s more they really seem to love all creatures great and small – and are especially invested in the ones they care for. That comes across so well in the way they talk about them with such pride and passion.

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Blue and yellow macaw.

I also want to mention the food, which is simple but oh-so-delicious. I had to compliment the lady who served us on one visit because, even though I only had a jacket potato with cheese and beans with a lovely fresh salad, it was perfection. For some reason I never expected that at a zoo, maybe I should?

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Red panda (cuuuuttttee).

Ok, but what can you see?

Of course, what you really go to the zoo for is the animals. On our most recent visit, it was all about the birds for me so I thought I’d share a few photos here.

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Sam the bald eagle.
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Great grey owl.
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Hooded vulture.
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African Harrier Hawk.
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And again.
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Ruppell’s griffin vulture having a snack.

There are also reptiles, fish, amphibians and invertebrates, such as the red-legged millipede I got to hold on one visit, mammals, like Freya’s favourite below and a Siberian tiger which took me by surprise on a previous trip, and also domestic livestock. You can find a list here.

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If you want a break from walking, there is a fantastic indoor Amazing Animals display, which has been really entertaining every time we’ve been, a birds of prey demonstration, which was very special for our family recently, and various animal feedings to watch.

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Red ruffed lemur.

Two of my favourite things are the lemur encounter, where you can walk through their enclosure and get very close, and also Eureka! Anamazing Oasis. The latter is always so warm that my camera steams up but on our most recent trip it was a bit cooler in the afternoon and I managed to get some photos, including of the Victorian Crowned Pigeon at the very top and this Postman butterfly.

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The eagle-eyed might also spot a sloth among the exotic trees and plants. You can find out more about the animals in this area here.

Freya, who has endless energy, also loves the outdoor children’s play area and the small indoor softplay area, where she also gets her face painted.

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If your legs get tired from all the walking/playing you can also take a ride on the safari road train (although it’s worth doing this anyway for the accompanying talk).

All in all, it’s a great day out for all ages.

What does it cost?

Discounted tickets can be booked online before you go, all the details are here.

In May 2017 online prices were – adults, £18.15, children (three – 15), £12.95 and there are various concessions. Season tickets are also available.

The zoo runs both on-the-day and pre-bookable animal experiences, which look a lot of fun. As do the birthday parties (am I too old?).

For details of how to get there and everything else, please click here.

Hopefully I have all the names of the animals correct but I’m no expert so if you spot one you think is wrong, please let me know.