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.

Mother/Daughter Holiday: Dream V Reality.

FullSizeRender

“I don’t like the beach,” Freya said, as I pulled out of our road.

Driving us to the last minute holiday I had booked.

At the beach.

“Since when? You spent all last summer asking to go to the seaside. What don’t you like about it?”

“It’s booorring.”

Ah, her new favourite word.

When the email with the holiday deal popped into my inbox I was immediately tempted – the fact that neither Mark nor my parents could come probably should have been a deterrent.

It just seemed like such a good deal; three nights in a deck house at the Haven Holiday Park in Caister-on-Sea, a place we have been to and enjoyed on several occasions, for about half the normal price.

My imagination went into overdrive; after long, warm days spent playing in the sand Freya and I would walk, tired but happy, back to our house. Perhaps we would eat tea on the deck, smiling at each other across the table, with the distant sound of the waves gently lapping at the shore as the sun set. It would be a wonderful mother/daughter bonding experience. An adventure.

With the dream still spinning in my head, I booked it.

“First Norfolk, next Nepal,” was my exact thought – although, as I loaded up the car with enough stuff for 60 people, I decided I needed to get better at packing first.

We arrived just after 1pm with the sun shining brightly. The ground floor deck house was everything I had hoped for, lovely and clean, beautifully decorated, all the amenities and more.

FullSizeRender 4

“Yes!” I thought, relieved that I hadn’t wasted what was still a fair amount of my dwindling savings. “We are going to have a fab time.”

We went for a swim in the site pool. Freya loves the water and is so confident (although because she smiles the whole time she swallows loads of water so I have to keep telling her to close her mouth).

Singing a happy holiday song, we made our way back…and then things took a turn for the worse.

Now, we live in a flat so I’m more than used to noise and while I couldn’t hear the people who had moved into the deck house upstairs speaking, what I could hear was their thundering footsteps running up and down.

“It’s ok,” I told myself. “They’ll have to sleep at some point.”

And they did.

At 1am.

Up until then it sounded like there were a dozen people circuit training.

While they could have had a bit more respect for the people below them, I think the main problem was with the flooring. It seemed really bouncy, maybe because of the soundproofing (ironic)? I’m no expert, obviously, but I’m not exaggerating how loud it was.

I was almost in tears at one point because Freya gets up at 5am, no matter what time she goes to sleep (believe me when I say we have tried every combination). She’s also not the sort of child who will ever sit still so I really needed my rest – not just to try and keep up with her but I wanted to enjoy it too.

IMG_7251

On Saturday, despite feeling pretty tired, I was determined to make the most of it so we were on the beach just after sunrise (because I didn’t want other people to be woken up by a small child running about). 

I figured she would forget about her new dislike (hah!). We managed about 20 minutes, with the aid of The Lion Guard and the lure of making them a rock cave. After that she refused to step foot on the sand again and at one point wouldn’t even look at it, hiding her face in the side of her buggy. IMG_7210

Luckily there are lots of other things to do on site, which she did like, including more swimming, soft play, the nightly disco (turns out I’m raising a party animal) and playing with the many other children who swarmed over the play areas.

We hardly stopped all day and I was really ready for my bed but, of course, we had the same noise problem. Freya also developed a hacking cough so when one eventually stopped the other carried on.

On Sunday we were both tired and a bit grumpy but we got out early again and joined a bug hunt (while everyone else collected ladybirds and snails we found a slug). We definitely needed a nap, and afterwards I decided it was time to head home. It was a night early but I was worn out (not quite the happy tired of my dream) and couldn’t face the noise for another night.

IMG_7214

I thought about complaining then but what good would it have done? I wanted to be on the ground floor so Freya had easy access to the outside, which she doesn’t have at home, and unless they had a deck house with no one above (which from what I could see was unlikely) we’d have the same problem.

After lunch on Sunday we came home.

It’s not really a big deal and maybe the holiday wasn’t a complete disaster but I felt like I’d not only wasted money but also that I’d failed to give her the amazing mother/daughter bonding trip I had planned.

In reality I know she had fun, despite being a bit poorly, and she has no idea we left early. I also know I should be grateful that we were able to get away at all (and I am) but the reality was so far from the dream, I guess I’m just a bit sad.

I’ll definitely be leaving Nepal for a few more years (she’d probably announce mountains are boring at the moment).