Things To Do In Norfolk: St Mary’s Church Ruins, East Somerton.

St Marys

Some think of it as the witch’s finger while others know it as her wooden leg.

Whatever you believe (or don’t believe) about the oak tree growing within St Mary’s Church in East Somerton, there is no doubt the ruins are the perfect setting for all sorts of tales.

I’d heard of the crumbling church in the woods before but I was reminded of it recently by a story in one of the newspapers I used to write for. This time it captured my imagination and I knew I needed to visit.

IMG_8337
Not that easy to spot from the road, even going really slowly.

Dating from the 15th century, it is thought the grade II perpendicular-style church was in use up until the last part of the 17th century, although latterly as a private chapel for the inhabitants of nearby Burnley Hall.

Only the roofless nave and tower remain but it’s easy to imagine how impressive it once was. Nature is very much reclaiming it now, in a rather beautiful way, with the oak tree at its heart.

According to one, rather gruesome, version, a witch with a wooden leg was caught near the church and buried alive underneath the nave. From her leg, the mighty tree grew, destroying the church as retribution for her death.

IMG_8272

It’s said if you walk around the tree times, her spirit is released. I wish I hadn’t told Mark that because, not one to believe in “such rubbish”, he just had to give it a go. Rather him than me.

IMG_8241

There are other spooky tales attributed to the site, and it’s clear from graffiti carved into the stone that many people have come across it over the years, but as I wandered about I felt nothing but peace.

IMG_8249
Remains of the bell tower.

Surrounded by lush new spring growth, and with the sounds of gentle bird song (and the odd jackdaw) I’d go as far to say I felt serene. I certainly wasn’t in any hurry to leave.

Top tip: We were parked almost next to it and, despite its size, still didn’t spot it. Rather helpfully, there is a sign at the end of the road pointing you in the right direction.

* I’ve added this post to the wonderful #MySundayPhoto linky. Please click on the camera below to find out what other people have captured this week.

Photalife

Things To Do In Norfolk: Strumpshaw Fen.

taragreaves
Safe to say I’m in my happy place here.

As a family, we quite often find ourselves rushing here, there and everywhere to try and fit everything in.

For the most part we have fun while we are doing it but sometimes we just need to ease up on the pace a little – and where better than the RSPB’s Strumpshaw Fen, where even this memorial bench had a lovely, gentle reminder, in Norfolk dialect, to slow down.

IMG_0917

I feel a bit cheated that we’ve only just discovered this wondrous place (even though it’s my own fault for not visiting sooner). We are making up for it by visiting two weekends in a row.

IMG_0043

The site is easily found by following the brown signs through the pretty village of Brundall into Strumpshaw and then turning down a thin country lane until you reach the car park.

To access the reserve you have to (very carefully) walk across a railway line, after that it feels like you’ve stepped into a completely different world with so many habitats, including reed beds, woodland and lush meadow, to enjoy.

IMG_7713

The second time we went, we hired an activity rucksack (£3) for Freya (they also do pond dipping kits).

She walked further than she ever has before while enjoying the contents of the bag, which included child-size binoculars, a magnifying glass, specimen jars and an assortment of handy guides. In fact we all had fun using the bits and bobs and loved it so much we made our own version when we got home to take to other places.

IMG_8023

As well as lizards basking in the sun, we spotted numerous butterflies (orange-tip, brimstone, peacock, green-veined white, small white and small tortoise-shell) and our first damselfly of the year. And that’s before you even get to the birds!

IMG_8099

IMG_7991

Strumpshaw Fen is home to barn owls, bitterns, cetti’s warbler, kingfishers and marsh harriers to name just a few.

IMG_7803

I haven’t really got a big enough lens to get the best photos of birds (that’s what I tell myself, anyway) but there was more than enough to keep me happily clicking away (especially on our last visit when the bluebells were out, which not only look amazing but smell divine).

IMG_7717

IMG_8008

IMG_8017
Two of my favourite things.

There are two circular walks (although we just did a relatively short walk to the fen hide the first time and then the longer woodland trail the next). A meadow trail also opens at certain times of the year.

While the paths can get muddy, we managed fine with our buggy (although hardly used it, as it turned out). There are also several benches dotted about if you need a rest or just want to enjoy the tranquility.


The highlights change depending on the time of year and I personally can’t wait to visit in the summer and hopefully get the chance to photograph a swallowtail butterfly.

The reserve is open from dawn until dusk every day except Christmas. Reception is open from 9.30am – 5pm April-September and from 10am – 4pm October-March. Events are also run throughout the year (we enjoyed the Easter Trail).

RSPB members, under fives and carers accompanying registered disabled visitors are free. Non-members: Adults £3.50, students: £2.50, children (5-17 years): £1.50. One child per family goes free.

There are no dogs allowed (other than registered assistance dogs).

For more information, please visit the website by clicking here.

My Sunday Photo – April 23, 2017.

IMG_7774 2

I’m going to admit this straight away, even though it’s a tad embarrassing; I had no idea we had lizards in this country.

When we spotted this beauty I thought it was a really big newt but, thanks to the friendly wildlife photographers at Strumpshaw Fen, I now know this is a common lizard – apparently the UK’s most widespread reptile.

This one was quite happy basking in the sunshine. What a beauty!

IMG_7777

IMG_7775

Please click on the camera below to see what other people have been snapping this week for My Sunday Photo.

Photalife