To celebrate Freya’s return to health we went on a little after school/work trip to get a hot chocolate this week – with a quick detour to capture this beautiful sunset on the way.
From Mousehold Heath you get stunning views over Norwich (here’s a daylight one from last year) but it was the uninterrupted sky that I was interested in.
I always feel really exhilarated being outside at sunset and Freya enjoyed the adventure too (I should point out she’s facing me in the photo and not looking into the sun, which she knows is dangerous).
Why not check out what other people have been taking photographs of for My Sunday Photo this week by clicking the camera below.
“Now can I make a sandcastle?” Freya asked, as if standing mere feet away from a colony of wild seals was something she did everyday.
While her reaction was a tad anticlimactic, Mark and I were awed by the sight of so many seals, flopped on the windswept beach before us.
Originally from the Midlands, seeing seals, and the sea in general, was a rare treat for him growing up – and even though I spent much of my childhood by the water, it has never lost its magic, particularly when a shiny head bobs up amid the waves.
When we were first dating I took him on a trip to Wells, in North Norfolk, where we went on a boat trip to see the seals (grey and common) at Blakeney Point, which was amazing.
We’ve seen one or two in the sea during our trips to the beach over the summer but when a friend posted on Facebook about his recent visit to Horsey Gap, which is within the Broads National Park, I knew we had to go.
While Sunday dawned dark and drizzly, by midday the sun was out and the sky a brilliant blue and so, after Freya’s nap, we packed a picnic tea and hit the road.
Horsey is about a 45 minute drive from Norwich and just down the road from our favourite beach at Waxham. I can’t believe we haven’t been there before – it just goes to show how much more of our adopted home-county there is still to explore.
In the summer it looks like it would be a lovely unspoilt sandy beach to while away a few hours in the sunshine (with no facilities to speak of, just like Waxham) but in winter it becomes home to a colony of grey seals.
Apparently about half the world’s grey seal population is found in Britain. While they spend most of their time in the water they come ashore for the breeding season. You can find out more here.
Even when we arrived at about 4ish with the sun already starting to set, the car park, which is owned by the National Trust, was still really full. We managed to find a spot, pay the parking fee and were soon following the big white sign that read SEALS.
It’s quite a walk for a three-year-old (and the mum who has to carry her) but absolutely worth the one and a bit miles. The path was dotted with large puddles after heavy rain recently and while it was great fun, if you happened to be in your pink wellies, it is not particularly pushchair (or wheelchair) friendly.
We started off sticking to the path but Mark spotted a second world war pill box he wanted to explore and so we continued walking up in the dunes and then did the final bit on the beach.
It was easy to see where the seals were by the small crowd of people standing watching them. We were quite frankly amazed by how close some people were.
Apparently during the main pupping season, from November until March, when there are normally hundreds of seals on the beach, they are much more protected.
Many thousands of people (I’ve seen figures of 30,000 and even up to 60,000 reported) make the trip to see them in the winter months and, as I understand it from talking to people who have been there, the beach is cordoned off with special viewing platforms available for visitors during that time. This helps to prevent the seals being disturbed but also protect the public, as seals move faster than you think, especially when protecting a pup, and can bite.
It is easy to understand why people come. Grey seals have long, almost dog-like faces, with gorgeous dark, rather sad eyes. I couldn’t resist taking about 50,000 photos of the adults so I can only imagine how many I would have snapped if there had been furry white pups too.
On Sunday I would say there were between 40 and 50 seals where we were and they were more curious than anything, from what I could tell.
We walked back to the car just as the sun was dipping over the horizon and I had some more fun with my camera while Freya, now sandcastled-out, enjoyed some more puddle time.
Top tip: Wrap up warm. It’s windy on top of the dunes and you want to be able to enjoy the experience for as long as possible.
Want to see the seal pups? Check out our return visit here.
Every October, for the last few years, I’ve felt like I’ve been cast adrift.
While I still go through the motions of daily life, it’s as if someone untied the rope and I am gradually floating away from the world and everything in it.
I know it’s because of the anniversary of my first pregnancy loss. The devasting day that changed everything, certainly me, forever. But it’s more than that.
Almost like a perfect storm.
The excitement of September and the first signs of autumn seem to fade and the reality of cold, dark mornings, leading into wet, dull days and ending with early, often uninspiring, sunsets, seem to gang up and add to my overwhelming feeling of sadness.
But not this year.
This year, it’s the strangest thing.
If anything, I feel more connected to the world, to him, our Oscar, than ever. It’s like I’ve some how been plugged into the planet and everything is appearing in glorious technicolour.
Oh the sadness is still there. Even after five years, I still feel like there is someone missing from my life, from my side. That little boy to walk to school, hand in swinging hand, to take to the park in search of conkers or to moan at for jumping in puddles in his trainers.
While I still think of him often – and even more so this month because not only is it the anniversary but it coincides with Baby Loss Awareness Week when so many more people are sharing their stories – it’s not the same.
There is no less rain but often there follows the brightest of rainbows and I search for them now. (Incidentally, this appeared as we were getting ready to take some flowers to the woodland burial ground.)
Some days can still feel dull but it’s the chance to turn on the lamp and blanket the livingroom in a warm, cosy glow.
And whereas before I would almost welcome the darkness of a sunset where the clouds are doing their best to try and close the show, now I look for the glimmer of light fighting its way through – and often it’s there.
It’s a nice, entirely unexpected, feeling, this mental shift. It’s like I’ve had an eye test and been given new glasses enabling me to see a beauty in even the dullest of things.
I know that “time is a great healer” and counselling played a massive role in helping me cope with my grief. Of course, caring for Freya also keeps me busy but I really think our little woodland adventure is behind this new positivity this year.
Before we went my head was in the same old place. I was dreading October and ready to write the month off, as I have done since 2011.
Taking time out, even for a couple of days, being surrounded by the woods and able to sit outside and just breathe, seems to have anchored me.
I’ve always known the importance of the natural world, especially the benefits to health, but this is the first time I’ve been able to stand back and really feel, deep down, its healing capacity.
Maybe that’s because while we are often outdoors, we are normally doing something. There is no time to just be – and that’s what I want to do more of.
I’m not saying that if you go and sit outside for an hour it will cure all your hurts and ills. I wish it could. We all have different stories and this is one page in mine. Who is to say if I will stay this positive for the rest of the month – there are only so many times even I can enjoy being soaked by the rain.
I thought it was worth sharing though because last year I couldn’t write anything about the anniversary, I just didn’t have it in me (I simply posted a photo). This year is different. It almost feels like a gift.
Baby Loss Awareness week ends on Saturday with a global Wave of Light. Please join us in lighting a candle at 7pm and leave it burning for at least an hour to remember all the babies who have died too soon.