Walks With Elinor – Hen Reedbeds


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Elinor and I took this walk nearly ten months ago, a week after the walk I featured in my last post.  I hadn’t been at all well after my second Covid vaccine which I had had a couple of days after the previous walk so my only stipulation for this walk was that it be short.

Hen Reedbeds

Hen Reedbeds was opened in 1999 and is looked after by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust in conjunction with the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) and Natural England. It shows what can be done with land affected by coastal erosion and rising sea level.  It has a mixture of freshwater wetland habitats – reedbeds, dykes, pools and fenland and is home to many wading birds and raptors.  It was developed specifically to encourage the breeding of Eurasian bitterns.  Unfortunately, Elinor and I didn’t see many birds at all on our short walk which was only part-way along the Eastern trail.

There is a car-park just off the road which bisects the reserve but it is easily missed.  Luckily we had no trouble finding it because, despite never having visited this reserve before, we drive along the road quite often and even drove past the entrance to the carpark on our way to Reydon Wood the previous week.  There is a short walk from the carpark through trees, scrub and then reedbed to the road which separates the east and west areas of the reserve.

Some rather sorry-looking fungus on a tree near the carpark

Common Storksbill (Erodium cicutarium) on the path

Taking our lives into our hands, we dashed across the road and entered the reserve.  The road does get quite busy at times as it is the main road into Southwold and Reydon from the A12.

When we first arrived there was a promise of better weather. The sky was definitely blue in the distance.

Unfortunately, the blue skies disappeared and we had quite a chilly walk.

Elinor strides off into the distance

The water to the left of the path is Wolsey Creek and the path is called Quay Lane.  In the past there was a fair amount of river traffic in this area but not any more.  The creek is fed by water from the River Wang.  Such an odd name, isn’t it?  I believe the word comes from the Old English for ‘open fields’.  Nearby is a village called Wangford  which obviously is situated at a crossing of the river.

Farmland beyond the reedbeds

We continued along the path until we reached a more open expanse of water.  This is part of the tidal estuary of the River Blyth into which the creek flows.

The water shone like pewter.

Blyth estuary

Blyth estuary

Observation hide.

Because of Covid, the hide was closed which was a great pity because we might have seen some of the wildlife that is supposed to inhabit this reserve.  The pathway and anyone on it can be seen for miles around and any self-respecting mammal or bird would be keeping their heads down all the time we were parading up and down.  We did see a couple of raptors in the distance.  I saw a Common Buzzard and Elinor was fortunate enough to see a Red Kite.

We turned to go back the way we had come. Elinor was getting very hungry and I was tired.

I looked towards the farm and noticed that they had brought a horse out.


Sea Purslane (Halimione portulacoides ) growing at the edge of the creek

This was an interesting place and now that spring is on it’s way and the hides will probably be open again I might consider a re-visit in the near future.

Walks With Elinor – Reydon Wood


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Let me take you back in time to the end of April of this year.  In preparing this post it has been strange looking through my early spring photographs while the leaves outside are falling from the trees and most of the flowers have gone.

Elinor and I had enjoyed our two previous walks in Halesworth and Beccles but this time we wanted to get away from people and buildings and into the woods.  One of our favourite places is Reydon Wood which is cared for by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust.  I have written posts about family walks in this wood a few times before but the last time we visited was about three years ago; how could we have left it that long?!

Reydon Wood

The weather was perfect, chilly but sunny and there hadn’t been any rain for quite a while so the paths were free of mud.  Spring was cold and late this year so the first leaves were only just beginning to show on the trees. The wood was full of birdsong and we soon found any number of spring flowers in bloom.  The light was strong and bright which was not conducive to good photography, for which I apologise.

The path through the woods

I love these perfectly pleated Hornbeam leaves (Carpinus betulus )

Common Dog Violets (Viola riviniana ) and a small white Wild Strawberry flower (Fragaria vesca) in the centre of the picture

Reydon Wood is quite small and would only take twenty minutes or so to walk round if one wasn’t interested in stopping and looking at anything.  We heard a couple of women approaching from behind us and stood to one side as they walked past talking non-stop.  We waited while the noise of their voices faded and birdsong re-established itself.

We saw Wood Anemones (Anemone nemorosa ) in the wood for the first time

Primroses ( Primula vulgaris) were in flower

There are plenty of coppice stools like this in the wood

Reydon Wood is coppiced each year.  Some of these trees are hundreds of years old and have been supplying wood for generations.  Here is a link which explains what coppicing is.  A copse is a wood which is or has been coppiced.

A clearing was carpeted with Primroses and Lesser Celandines (Ficaria verna )

Great Crested Newt ( Triturus cristatus)

In this clearing is a large pond which is home to all sorts of interesting creatures and plants.  The Great Crested Newt is Britain’s largest newt and has suffered in recent years due to habitat loss, especially by the infilling of ponds.

Water Violet (Hottonia palustris )

The Water Violet isn’t a violet at all, it is a member of the primrose family but the petals are a very pale lilac-colour which may be the reason for its common name.  It is usually found in sheltered ditches and ponds with shallow clear water which is rich in calcium.  Another name for it is Featherfoil because of its fine feathery leaves.

Tangled branches and shadows

The Bluebells were just beginning to flower (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Spring leaves

Woodland in the springtime

I always like to greet this giant Holly tree with its weeping branches (Ilex aquifolium)

A Hoverfly of some sort sunning itself on the path. With their large ‘fly’ eyes they always look like they are wearing large sun-glasses.

Goldilocks Buttercup (Ranunculus auricomus )

A spring-flowering buttercup.  The whole plant, including the stems and the leaves, dies back by mid-summer.  The flowers are usually deformed with petals missing and the upper leaves deeply cut.

Deeply rutted path

We were extremely fortunate to have had such dry weather during the week before our walk.  The paths had set like concrete and though they were uneven they were easier to walk on than if they had been wet!

With any luck I will be able to add to this short series of walks before Christmas!

Walks With Elinor – Beccles


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Elinor and I went to Beccles the week following our chilly walk in Halesworth.  You might think Beccles (rhymes with freckles) is a strange name for a town: according to my Dictionary of English Place-Names the name probably derives from the Old English for ‘pasture by a stream’.  Other derivations put forward are from the Brittonic for ‘small court’ or a contraction of ‘Beata Ecclesia’, the name of a Christian temple erected here c.960 AD.  Take your pick!

Elinor needed to buy her Grandmother a birthday card and gift and Beccles has a greater selection of shops than our more local towns.  We also wanted to have a walk by the river where I used to take Elinor when she was very small.  We used to go there as a place to rest and recuperate after visits to the dentist, which she found extremely stressful.

We were successful with our shopping and then, because Elinor was hungry we bought her a panini to eat in the car.  Unfortunately, it exploded and she and the seat belt were covered with runny cheese!  We often have these events which are sent to try us apparently, but they also make life that bit more interesting!  We then drove to the Boat Station car-park taking a couple of wrong turns on the way just to add to the excitement.

The weather was completely different from the week before.  It wasn’t warm but the sun was shining brightly and there was that something in the air that spoke of Spring and warmth to come.

Beccles Quay

Beccles is part of the Broads.  Not many people realize that the Broads stretch south into Suffolk, but they do.  A few people leave their boats at the Yacht Station at Beccles Quay over the winter.  There are WCs, shower and washing facilities (with points where one can empty chemical toilets), places to dispose of rubbish and a café, all provided for people travelling by boat wishing to stop here and enjoy visiting Beccles and its environs.  There were many people working on their boats when we visited or they were sitting on deck enjoying drinks, hot and cold.  There are boats and yachts for hire and we saw a few people out on the water.

Beccles Quay looking towards the town

Beccles Quay

Beccles Quay looking away from the town


Path by the River Waveney looking towards the road bridge

Footbridge over the river which gives access to the town

Beccles church tower seen from the green

Beccles Quay  The strange floating building is one of the glamping Pods for rental from the boatyard.

Elinor and I returned home much refreshed by our visit to the Quay and the river.

Walks With Elinor – Halesworth


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During the spring Elinor and I decided it would be good for us both if we could go out for walks together.  The restrictions had recently eased a little so that we felt it would be fine for us to drive somewhere different to walk instead of just walking the usual lanes near our house.  Elinor had been stuck at home for months and was becoming more fearful and anxious.  We though she should see that the world was still functioning albeit in a rather muted way.

Please click on this link to access a map of the town centre and more information about the town  https://www.halesworth.net/townmap/towncentremap.php

Our very first walk was on an extremely cold and gloomy day at the beginning of April.  We drove to Halesworth, one of our local towns and parked in the central town car-park.  It was so gloomy and cold that I took hardly any photos and most of those didn’t come out at all well.  We entered the Thoroughfare from the car-park and turned left towards the church and the Market Place.

Here is Halesworth Market Place a few years ago during the Day of Dance

We walked through the Market Place and down Chediston Street until we reached Rectory Lane which has a lovely crinkle-crankle wall down one side of it.

The Crinkle-crankle wall in Rectory Lane

Rectory Lane is also still known as Parson’s Lane as it cuts through the back of the town from the Old Rectory towards the Parish Church of St Mary. The Rector of Halesworth no longer lives in the enormous rectory which was sold to private buyers many years ago.  The lane meets the Town River a little further on and used to be a place where people went to sit and chat and share their sandwiches with the numerous ducks that lived on and near the river.  However, the town’s-people have been dissuaded from feeding the ducks because this apparently encouraged rats and bread wasn’t suitable food for ducks anyway and now the ducks have disappeared as well.

The Town River

It was all looking a little sad and run-down.  The water is clear enough but there are no reeds or rushes growing here and the retaining walls are crumbling.

There were a few plants growing and beginning to flower on our side of the river.

Green Alkanet (Pentaglottis sempervirens) with its blue forget-me-not flowers and Common Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subspecies argentatum)

This Archangel is a cultivated form of the wild flower and has sliver splashes on the leaves.  It usually flowers much earlier than the wild plant.

We turned right out of Rectory Lane into Rectory Street and then rejoined the Thoroughfare.  We turned left past the library and crossed the road at the roundabout next to the United Reformed church and entered Quay Street.  Just then it began to rain so we decided to cut short our walk and return to the car by way of the Town Park.  When I used to live in Halesworth many years ago there used to be a yard with a builder’s merchant’s a little way up Quay Street.  I used to walk through the yard to a path that led to the park.  The builder’s merchant’s was knocked down some time ago and in its place a large quantity of houses and apartments have been built.  We walked through this little estate and found that the path still led into the park.  The park is well laid out with plenty of grassy areas with spring bulbs and a few flower beds.  Lots of mature trees give shade and shelter and there is a play area with swings and slides and other equipment.  We crossed over the river by the bridge and continued through the park until we had regained the road by the carpark.

Though we had only been out for about half an hour we had enjoyed our walk and decided we would walk together again as soon as we could.


Flatford Mill


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My birthday falls at the beginning of September but last autumn, as we were very busy during that week we decided to put off any celebration or outing until later.  A whole month later we found we had the time, and the weather had improved enough for a trip to Flatford Mill in the Dedham Vale.

Flatford Mill is owned by the National Trust and looking at their website we saw that we need not book a slot to visit but, as parking space is limited we thought we would set off fairly early.  The weather forecast was for rain in the afternoon but the morning was glorious with plenty of sunshine.

We live in North Suffolk in the Waveney Valley and Flatford Mill is in the south of the county on the River Stour near the border with the county of Essex.   If you click on the link just below you will see a map of Suffolk.  Near the top of the map to the right of centre are the towns of Bungay, Halesworth and Harleston.  We live in-between and almost equi-distant from those three towns.  At the bottom of the map in the centre you will see the town of Sudbury and to the right of that is Dedham Vale.


Many of you will recognise the name of the place we visited for my birthday treat.  Some of you may have been there already.  Flatford Mill was owned by the painter John Constable’s father and John was born in East Bergholt, a village on the River Stour.  It is a short walk down a fairly steep winding, wooded lane from the village to the mill.

We wandered round the outside of the mill and over the bridge to the other side of the river.

The River Stour

Buildings near to the Mill, seen from the bridge. The building on the right of the photo with the flat roof is the café owned by the National Trust where we had a sandwich lunch.

Bridge Cottage

The attractive flowerbed next to the cottage

Bridge Cottage seen from the other side of the river

We found the lock which has recently been restored.

We also found the rear of the mill buildings and the mill pool.

The Stour is a lovely river.

We re-crossed the bridge and walked back down towards the mill, admiring the brick and timber buildings.

After our lunch we sat outside the mill in the sunshine.

This is the corner of the mill building, seen from our bench. I doubt whether the wall was there in John Constable’s time.

It was satisfying to sit looking at a view that Constable looked at every day when he lived in that building and had also included in many of his paintings such as The Mill                      Stream, The Hay Wain and The White Horse.

Beautiful effect of sunlight filtering through the trees.

Above are three slightly different views of Willy Lott’s House as seen from outside the mill.  We then walked down the lane towards the house to get a closer view.

Just look at these glorious roof tiles!

We then thought we would walk across the water meadows to Dedham which is just into Essex.  Dedham was also painted by Constable and we could see the church tower in the distance.  I have seen this same church tower every time I have travelled down the A12 on my way to London.

As you can see from the sky in these photos, it was looking more and more like rain so we reluctantly turned round and made our way back to Flatford.  The water meadows were more water than meadow, thanks to the very wet weather we had had during September and we would have had great difficulty getting to Dedham dryshod.  The last two photos above show Dedham church tower.

Jolly ducks on the water.

We had a last look at the Stour and then went home in the rain.

Have a Merry Covid Christmas!


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Elinor, our younger daughter is self-isolating until Christmas Eve after being contacted by ‘Test and Trace’.  We think she may have been near someone, who has since contracted Covid-19, while she was at the hairdresser’s in Norwich on Thursday 10th December.  She is physically well at the moment.  Richard and I have no need to self-isolate as yet, because Elinor has no symptoms, but are being very cautious and have limited our journeys to necessary shopping.  Elinor is so unfortunate!  She had not left our house and garden, except for one walk round the lanes when she didn’t see a soul, for five whole weeks and the one time she went further afield the result was self-isolation for ten days!  She suffers from chronic anxiety, so goodness knows whether she’ll have the courage to leave the house ever again!  She is very unhappy and depressed and desperately needs a hug which we can’t give her.  We completely understand that we must limit our contacts with other people until this pandemic is under control but the damage all this isolation and lock-down is doing to so many people, physically, mentally and financially is unimaginably great.  My elder daughter Alice, who has Bi-polar 2 disorder is also having a very hard time stuck in Sheffield, unable to see her friends or visit us.  Her husband is unwell at present and is needing a lot of care.

The only thing that has been keeping me going through this year is music.  I’ve not been able to concentrate for long enough to get much enjoyment from reading and I can’t seem to string more than a few words together, either speaking or writing.  My memory is dire and my arthritis is troubling me a lot.  Music has been a balm to my soul, though it often causes me to cry.

I have selected a few pieces of music to share with you that have made me laugh, made me smile and even caused a tear or two.

This first video was shown me by Elinor some time ago and many of you may have seen it already.  I hope you enjoy it.

I have always loved listening to music that tells a story or is so descriptive that if I close my eyes I can be transported away from the here-and-now to another world.  This next piece of music is best listened-to with your eyes shut so that you aren’t distracted by anything.

I have long been an admirer of Bill Bailey.  He is an accomplished actor, musician, comedian and extremely knowledgeable on many subjects.  He has also just won the latest Strictly Come Dancing Glitterball prize with his partner, Oti.  A very versatile man!

I think most of my British readers will recognise this next piece either from the original Dick Barton radio series or from the Mitchell and Webb ‘Sir Digby Chicken Caesar’ sketches.  It’s called ‘The Devil’s Gallop’.  It came on the radio the other week while I, along with a few other impatient drivers, was following a tractor and a couple of heavily-laden lorries on the A143 on the way to Diss.  It made me laugh.

Just before ‘The Devil’s Gallop’ was played on the radio I had been entertained with a similarly blistering, breakneck piece of music.  How many key-changes can you hear in this one?!

I have been listening to the St Martin’s-in-the-Field Thursday recordings of Great Sacred Music for some time now.  There are three or four pieces of music, usually including a hymn, and a narration in-between each piece by Rev. Dr Sam Wells.  I have found these performances so soothing and comforting!

I recently bought some new Christmas music recorded by the Choral Scholars of the University College Dublin.  The first track is a wonderful rendition of In Dulci Jubilo written by Matthew Culloton.  You may find that if you keep listening after this track all the others on the album will be played for you!

The whole collection of songs on ‘Be All Merry’ are fabulous but I thought this next recording of theirs spoke to me so clearly about how I am feeling this Christmastide.  I hope you agree with me.

I hope you have enjoyed my selection and that you also, can find some solace and happiness in listening to music.

I wish you all as Merry a Christmas as it is possible to have in this troubled world of ours and that we can all meet again in the New Year with hope in our hearts, God willing.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Turtle Dove


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The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land…

The Song of Solomon; Chapter 2, Verse 12

When I first moved to Suffolk in 1988 I thought I had moved to heaven on earth!  I had been living in a late-Victorian, terraced house in a south-east London suburb.  Not the worst location by any means; there was a park, an excellent library, friendly neighbours and shops just a few minutes walk away.  But…there weren’t many birds in my tiny garden, though I found that the flowers I planted with the help of my (then) mother-in-law attracted a few insects, especially butterflies and moths.  The only wild flowers I saw regularly were straggly dandelions.

My parents had re-located to Suffolk in 1987 and I had visited them two or three times as they settled into their 18th century cottage.  I decided that Suffolk was the place for me too, and the following year moved to Halesworth, a town about ten miles distant from them.  Admittedly, the bird-table in my garden attracted mainly seagulls (I lived fairly near the coast) but I still managed to see a good variety of smaller birds and every now and again I saw something really special.  The bird I remember being most excited about was a Black Redstart.

In the summer, I used to lie awake at night listening to Nightingales singing from the Folly, which is a patch of heathland on the edge of the town.  When I visited my parents I discovered their garden had Turtle Doves that purred from the trees all afternoon on warm days.

When Richard and I got married in 1994 we moved out of Halesworth to the village of Rumburgh where we lived until 2004.  I don’t remember hearing Turtle Doves in Rumburgh but there were plenty of other birds in the garden, notably Spotted Flycatchers which regularly nested in the Winter-flowering Jasmine against the wall next to the living-room casement-doors.  I also saw a female Cuckoo in a tree behind the house and heard its bubbling song.  The garden was an old established one (our cottage was two hundred years old) and was home to many different creatures, especially a large assortment of moths and butterflies.  We regularly saw toads in the back yard and lizards were everywhere.

In 2004 we moved to Bradford-on-Tone in Somerset because of Richard’s work but we didn’t stay there long, just eighteen months.  The birds we saw in our garden in the West Country were very different from the birds we were used to seeing in East Anglia.  Siskins and Bramblings visited in the winter and Ravens and Buzzards flew overhead all year round.  We had Serotine Bats roosting in the cavity wall of the modern extension to our home.

The year 2006 saw us move back to Suffolk to the house we live in still.  We are only a couple of miles from Rumburgh and when we returned to East Anglia we resumed the life we had led before.  Our present home is even more rural than our one in Rumburgh had been but the house itself is only thirty or so years old.  Before we left Rumburgh in 2004, the Spotted Flycatcher hadn’t nested in the garden for a couple of years, but I don’t remember us noticing any other changes in the wildlife population.  On our return to Suffolk we were amazed to see Yellow Wagtails in our new garden and we had Turtle Doves cooing in the trees round the pond.  This was the first and last time we saw the Yellow Wagtails and from then on the Turtle Doves only visited sporadically.

In the following few years we became aware of a great diminution in the amount of insects, especially moths and butterflies, in the area.  This led to fewer birds of all types, though I did my best by feeding them and trying to encourage insects into the garden.  I feel that, as well as climate change, changes in agricultural practices must have caused the losses in our local wildlife populations.

However, in recent years the Government have provided countryside stewardship grants and we are fortunate that many of our local farmers have been trying to change the way they farm to include wildlife havens.  As well as improving the quality of the many ponds and ditches, wide headlands have been left around the fields where grasses and flowers have been allowed to grow undisturbed.  We live in one of a very few areas in Britain where the Barn Owl is seen regularly.  These grassy headlands are ideal hunting grounds for the Barn Owl. In the past couple of years, farmers have been planting pollinator strips alongside their fields to encourage the insects to return to farmland.  Wild flowers and insects are returning slowly to this intensively-farmed area of Britain.  This year for the first time since we moved here, Turtle Doves have nested in the trees round the pond in our garden.

Turtle Dove on the right and Collared Dove on the left. Collared Doves frequently attack Turtle Doves.


I have added a recording of a Nightingale, just for Peter – with best wishes.

Castle Acre Priory


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It was Richard’s birthday in the middle of August and to celebrate, he decided he would like to visit Castle Acre Priory in Norfolk.  The Priory is a ruin which is cared for by English Heritage.

Because of Covid-19 restrictions we had to book a ‘slot’ and pre-pay for our visit.  We were so happy to have Alice staying with us for a week; she had arrived the day before and accompanied us on our trip.  We made a picnic lunch to take with us and set out at 11.00 am as our ‘slot’ was at 1.00 pm.  I drove us there and because the traffic was light we arrived in very good time.  We ate our picnic sitting in the car in the car-park;  it was a dull, cool day and the only benches and tables were beyond the reception building.  We had liked the look of Castle Acre village as we drove through it, (it also has a castle and an interesting-looking church) but it was very crowded with visitors wandering about the narrow lanes.  We will return in happier times, I think.

We donned our masks and presented ourselves at the reception desk where we were given a map of the priory and I bought a guide book.  Just outside the reception building was a charming herb garden.

Castle Acre Priory herb garden

There were a couple of stands of plants for sale. I resisted buying from them with difficulty!

This was our first view of the priory ruins on leaving the herb garden

Castle Acre was chosen by William de Warenne, a Norman knight who had fought at the Battle of Hastings, to be the headquarters of all his newly acquired Norfolk properties.  The castle, the priory and the massive 12th century town defences were all built by successive generations of the de Warenne family.  The building of the priory was begun in 1090 by de Warenne’s son.

The west front of the priory church

Just look at this exquisite blind arcading!

Have a closer look…

Carved archway in the west front

More intricate carving, with a couple of grotesques

We always seem to visit a place which is currently having work done to it!  Last year we visited Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire because I wished to see its stunning facade.  ‘Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall’.  When we got there (in the pouring rain, I might add) the whole of the front was covered in scaffolding because of on-going restoration work.

This time, a number of projects were being worked on at the priory which restricted where we were able to go.

The Prior’s chapel is to the left as you look at the photo and the Prior’s great chamber/study is on the right with its fabulous bay window, added in the early 16th century.  Further round the corner on the right side of the building you can see the side view of an early 16th century oriel window.

The Prior’s study with the oriel window is on the left and a late 15th century two-storey porch is on the right. The taller building behind the porch is the Prior’s lodging. You can also see the connecting passages and galleries of the west range joining the lodging to the Prior’s chapel behind the great chamber.  The Prior’s chapel was also connected to the Priory church so the Prior had no need to go outside at all, unless he wished to.

Another view of the Prior’s buildings

This is part of the decoration on the oriel window. It must be a portrait of someone, don’t you think? Such a wonderful face!  Apologies for the poor photo.

From left to right; entrance to the west range of the priory, then a kitchen and behind it the refectory and then the building on the far right is the reredorter or latrine block.

Restoration work is being done to the bridge (in the foreground) over the leat and also to the south boundary wall. The leat is a diversion of the River Nar; this leat was used by the monks to take the waste away from the reredorter. They dug the channel close to the priory and then built the latrine block over the top of it. The leat is dry at present.

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Castle Acre Priory was a Cluniac priory, a daughter-house of the great monastery at Cluny in Burgundy.  With the support of kings and nobility many Cluniac priories were created in England between 1076 and 1154.  During the wars with France the Cluniac priories had restrictions placed on them because they were ‘alien’ even though most of the monks were, in fact, English.  Gifts to the priory were reduced and the French monks were repatriated. Only after obtaining English or ‘denizen’ status did their situation improve again and their numbers increase.  Castle Acre was suppressed by Thomas Cromwell during the reign of Henry VIII and the deed of surrender was signed on 22 November 1537.  Thomas Howard, third Duke of Norfolk acquired the lease of the priory’s site, lands and rights.  By the following summer the priory buildings were being demolished, though the Prior’s lodging was retained as a house.

Richard and Alice at the Priory

My girls!

Elinor with the reredorter in the background. You can see clearly here how the building straddles the leat.

Richard, Alice and Elinor

It started to rain, and we decided it was time to go home.

Alice and Richard approaching the bay of the south aisle of the priory church under the south-west tower

The ceiling of the bay under the tower

Arched exit from the south-west tower

View from under the south-west tower looking towards the inside of the west door and onwards to what would have been the north-west tower

As usual, I also took photos of the plants living on and near the ruins.

A Willowherb. It could be Hoary Willowherb ( Epilobium parviflorum) because of its very hairy stem and leaves. Growing on a wall would account for its small size.  (There are other willowherbs which are hairy which accounts for my doubtful ID).

Many plants growing on one of the walls

White Stonecrop (Sedum album)  I find its red leaves most attractive

White Stonecrop

White Stonecrop

Horse Chestnut ( Aesculus hippocastanum) These leaves are badly affected by leaf blotch caused by a fungus.  Horse chestnut trees are also often badly attacked by Horse chestnut leaf-mining moth larvae

Wild Teasel ( Dipsacus fullonum)

Wild teasel

Maidenhair spleenwort ( Asplenium trichomanes) Recognizable by its black midrib

I think this might be Roseroot (Sedum rosea).  Not a plant one would expect to find in this part of the country

Harebells ( Campanula rotundifolia) and Black Medick ( Medicago lupulina)


Common liverwort/Umbrella liverwort (Marchantia polymorpha )  Common liverwort is a thallose liverwort; it has flattened leaf-like structures (thalli) with forked branches.  Common liverwort is also dioicous – it has separate male and female plants. This photo is of a female plant as it has star-like umbrella structures some of which are showing yellow mature sporangia or spores.  Common liverworts can also reproduce asexually by ‘gemmae’ produced in gammae cups which can be seen centre bottom of the photo on the thalli.  The gemmae are knocked out of the cups by splashes of water/raindrops.

Lady’s bedstraw (Galium verum )

Wallflower ( Erysimum cheiri)

I think this is Common calamint (Clinopodium ascendens )

Common calamint

We had a very enjoyable few hours at the priory and I hope to return to Castle Acre one day to look around the village and revisit the priory.

To end this post, I have added the following English Heritage guide to Medieval Monastic life….

and, here is the Salve Regina, a chant that would have been sung (probably not to this tune) when Castle Acre Priory was in its glory.


South Elmham Minster


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It was our 26th wedding anniversary the Thursday before last and we had intended to go out for a walk and take a picnic with us.  However, the morning was very wet and, even though the rain had stopped by midday we decided that walking through long grass and along overgrown paths and then trying to find somewhere to sit and eat our lunch without getting wet would be too difficult, so we put off the walk until the following day.  I did the ironing instead.

Friday was a much better day for a walk, with warmth, some sunshine and a fair amount of cloud.  There was a light shower of rain mid-morning and another just as we approached our picnic spot but not enough to dampen our spirits or make the going, or sitting, any trouble.

As usual, I took my pocket camera with me and looked out for things of interest.  You will have to excuse the quality of the photos; I have to take the pictures as quickly as possible so that I am not left behind.  Also my camera has decided it doesn’t like pink and has changed all the pink flowers to blue or purple.

The beautiful almond-scented Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) was already in bloom along the lane just a few metres from our house.  This is a native plant.

I quote here from my ID, ‘Harrap’s Wild Flowers’ by Simon Harrap ” The name (Meadowsweet) refers to its use in flavouring mead and other drinks, rather than a predilection for meadows, and also used as a strewing herb, scattered on the floor to freshen up the house.”

The Dogwoods (Cornus sanguinea) have been marvellous this year. Most were past their best already but I felt I just had to record this shrub’s swansong.

This is a plant I have known since I was a small girl. It used to grow prolifically in the places I played. Pineappleweed (Matricaria discoidea)

The plant gives off a very strong pineapple scent when it is crushed.  It is an introduced plant, coming originally from east Asia and was first recorded in the wild in this country in 1871.

Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris). This tiny little plant was right next to the Pineappleweed (which you can see bottom right of the photo). It gets its name from the shape of the seed pods.  You can see them surrounding the upper white flowerhead; they are grey-brown in colour and triangular.  Shepherd’s Purse is an ancient introduction to this country.

Hedgerow Cranesbill (Geranium pyrenaicum). This is one of the plants my camera decided should not be as pink as it is. It has rather lovely darker veins on its petals. This is yet another introduction, this time from southern Europe and was first recorded in the wild here in 1762.  I have added a link for you to see the usual colour of the flower.

Creeping Cinquefoil (Potentilla reptans). I love the zingy lemon-yellow of this flower! Next to a buttercup it looks too bright but on its own backed by its lovely soft green leaves it looks glorious.

Italian Alder (Alnus cordata). Halfway down our lane a row of Italian Alders were planted as a windbreak. What attractive trees they are! Here you can see the substantial heart-shaped glossy leaves, dark cones from last year and the new green cones. This tree has beautiful long catkins in the spring which flutter in the strong winds that blow here.

Pretty pink and white striped Field Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis ) along the edge of this crop of Field Beans.

As you can see from this photo, it was quite breezy during our walk; not the best conditions for getting good pictures in a hurry! In amongst the grass you can see the brown seedheads of Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata).

Common Knapweed (Centaurea nigra). The hard flowerheads of this plant have given it the name ‘Knap’ weed; ‘knap’ meaning knob.

In olden times, this flower could be used to tell a girl whether she would marry soon.  She had to pull all the expanded florets off the flowerhead and then put the rest of the flower inside her blouse, next to her heart.  After an hour she should take it out again and if the previously unexpanded florets had blossomed, that was a sure sign that the man she was going to marry was soon coming her way.

By this time we had left the lane and were walking along a footpath between fields.

Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare). Sitting on the flower on the right is a Thick-legged Flower Beetle (Oedemera nobilis).  Only the males of this harmless shiny green beetle have the distinctive swollen ‘thighs’.

Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum). This is the only photo I managed to get of this pretty plant and most of it is out of focus because of the wind blowing it about.

Harrap’s tells me it is ‘honey-scented when fresh but smells of new-mown hay when dry.  Formerly believed to discourage fleas and was incorporated into straw mattresses, especially for the beds of women about to give birth, hence its name.’

I cannot confirm the information about the scent because: 1. I would have found it very difficult getting down low enough to smell the plant and would then have struggled to get back up again, so I didn’t. 2. The wind was blowing too strongly for the delicate scent to be discernible and 3. I haven’t got a strong sense of smell, anyway.  We’ll just have to take Mr Harrap’s word for it.

Lesser Trefoil (Trifolium dubium). This plant with its three leaflets joined together is widely believed to be the true shamrock.  There are other plants which are also thought to be the shamrock; white clover, black medick, watercress and wood sorrel.

This plant is one of the hop trefoils; its seedheads look like tiny heads of hops.  Once the seeds begin to ripen the petals don’t fall off the plant but turn brown and the standard, the upper petal of the flower, folds down on either side of its centre line over the ripening pod like a ridged roof.  If you click on the photo above to enlarge it and look about a third of the way up from the bottom, you will find a seed head in the centre.  Does that make sense?

Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis).

Another not-as-pink, pink flower.  Here is a link to images of what a Pyramidal Orchid really looks like.

I believe this plant might be Oxford Ragwort (Senecio squalidus). The leaves look too evenly-branched to be the native Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) though the latter plant is what I would expect to find here. Oxford Ragwort is found mainly in urban settings. It escaped from Oxford Botanic Garden in 1794 and then spread rapidly via the railway network. It sounds like the main character in a John Buchan novel!

Ragwort is poisonous, its leaves containing an alkaloid poison that can remain in plants that have been dried with hay.  Animals are not aware they are eating it when it’s in hay (though they will avoid it when it is growing in the field) and the alkaloids will destroy their livers in just a few months. Understandably, farmers will try to get rid of all the ragwort they find.

Our aim was to picnic at South Elmham Minster and we discovered it surrounded by trees.  It is on private land but the owners allow walkers to visit it as long as they respect the place.

Here is Elinor discovering and photographing the entrance to the site.

Richard, Alice and I had been here before, when we walked to it from St James in April 1995, nearly two years before Elinor was born!  We hadn’t been back since, though it is only half an hour’s walk from our present home.

The entrance and path leading to the ruins of the ‘Minster’ were very overgrown which somehow added a frisson of mystery to the occasion.

To the Minster

There was a lot of Comfrey growing next to the path.

Common Comfrey (Symphytum officinale). These flowers were lavender-coloured.

And there it was!

South Elmham Minster

Instead of me writing screeds about this interesting ruin I will recommend this article for you to read, if you so wish.

Here is an information sign with the ubiquitous ‘artist’s impression’ of the Minster.

Here is a message we found. We have no idea when the damage was done or when this sign was put up. It looks fairly recent.

We wandered around for a short while and then sat on the bench provided under the trees and had our lunch.

Our picnic spot

Below are a few photos of the ruins themselves.

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An interesting tree-trunk.

Many of the trees surrounding the Minster were Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus).  Hornbeam trunks are said to be ‘fluted’ which might describe the tree above.

Hornbeam pleated leaves with bunches of fruits

The Hornbeam nut forms with a three-lobed bract attached that sometimes grows as long as 5cms.  This acts as ‘wings’ when the nut is released from the tree in the autumn.

I think the Hornbeams have been coppiced in the past though Hornbeams are usually pollarded.  Local children have been making dens under the trees.

Lesser Burdock ( Arctium minus)

Cleavers or Goosegrass (Galium aparine)

Above are two different plants with fruits covered in hooks.  The stems and leaves of Cleavers also have bristles that cause them to stick to anything that touches them.

An enormous Bramble patch! (Rubus fruticosus agg. )

A bird had made a nest in one of the hollows in the wall. It was empty.

Another enormous Lesser Burdock; it must have been almost 2 metres tall. By this time the sun had come out and the air was becoming warm.

There was another exit path from the Minster which crossed the wide surrounding ditch.  This ditch is fairly deep though my photographs do not show this at all clearly.

A Hoverfly, I’m not sure which one, on a large Buttercup flower; again I’m not sure which buttercup.

Hedge Woundwort (Stachys sylvatica). In reality this flower is a little pinker than this photo shows.

Woundworts have been used to stem bleeding and treat wounds since the time of the ancient Greeks.  Formally, the leaves were usually used as a poultice.  Ointments and infusions were also made with the leaves and the flowers made into conserves.  In fact, the volatile oil in Hedge Woundwort does have antiseptic qualities.

Dog’s Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)

The Dog’s Mercury was all in seed. This one appears to have lost a few of its upper seeds.  Dog’s Mercury is extremely poisonous to animals and humans alike.

We left the Minster and walked home in the sunshine.

Mayweed.  I wasn’t able to check to see if it was Scentless or Scented Mayweed.  The white outer ray florets were just emerging round the central disc-florets of these daisy-like flowerheads.

Lesser Stitchwort (Stellaria graminea).

Field Rose (Rosa arvensis).

Field entrance

I didn’t take many photos of our surroundings as we walked and most of those shots were not suitable.  I am glad this one came out as it shows the countryside through which we walked.  Old-fashioned small fields with high dense hedges.  Lots of birds were still singing and wherever we walked we heard numerous skylarks.

A drainage ditch

Richard pointed out the cracked clay sides of this ditch.  The water though not deep, was running quickly along and was particularly clear.  We saw small fish swimming in it.

Further along, the ditch was crossed by a small bridge with what I assume is a gate to prevent sheep from crossing from one field to the next.

A cart pond.  In former times, when carthorses needed to drink, the cart drivers could get into these ponds and out again easily without having to take the horses off the cart.

Pyramidal orchid

Field edge full of orchids…

…and yet more

A selection of different Vetches

Hedge Bedstraw ( Galium album)

Borage ( Borago officinalis)

Agrimony ( Agrimonia eupatoria)

A field full of wild flowers

Unfortunately I couldn’t get into the field because of a deep ditch around it.  I had to take my photos using the zoom on my camera.

Sainfoin ( Onobrychis viciifolia)

I think the pretty pink and white clover in the centre of the photo is Alsike Clover ( Trifolium hybridum)

I think the owner of this field has sown some wildflower seed mix here.  I have never seen so many different flowers all in one field before.  From what I hear from the stories of the elderly people I know at church, all the fields were covered in wild flowers like these when they were young.  Intensive agriculture was becoming the norm thirty or forty years ago: hedges were ripped out and everything was sprayed to kill off the wild flowers and most of the insects.  This was still being done when I moved to East Anglia in 1988 and the birds I heard regularly then and the quantities of moths, butterflies and other insects I used to see then are much reduced.  I especially noticed the difference when I returned to East Anglia in 2006 after our 18 months in Somerset.  Far fewer insects certainly.  However, we had got used to hearing and seeing Buzzards during that 18 months while in Somerset and I was greatly surprised and excited to see and hear a Buzzard in Suffolk for the first time in 2007.  They are well established here now.

Common Mallow ( Malva sylvestris)  The Common Mallow is an ancient introduction to this country.  It seems to line all the lanes at this time of year.

This is the rather handsome caterpillar of the Peacock butterfly . I found it crossing the lane as I was nearing home.

You will be glad to know we all got home safely having met no-one on our walk and only saw a lady driving her pony and trap and I think a couple of cars along the lane.You will be especially glad to know that this is the end of the post!

How I Spend My Days


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This post, again, won’t be a normal one for me; not that I have been posting very often over the past few years so ‘normal’ is probably not the correct word to use, but that’s by-the-by.

Just like many people, I haven’t been able to concentrate, especially when it comes to reading the books I would normally choose to read.  As well as anxiety about the virus I have had a bad flare-up of my osteo-arthritis in my hands and feet which has meant I haven’t been able to do much housework or gardening, any sewing or knitting, typing or writing for any length of time, or walk far without pain.  (Fortunately, after over a month, the discomfort is now ebbing away.)  However, I have been doing a lot of thinking.  I have also been sitting with Elinor while she works at her university projects.  She suffers from chronic anxiety and this virus has made her unhappy and she too, has found concentration very difficult.  If I sit with her at the kitchen table she is more likely to get on with work than if she stays in her room where there are distractions aplenty and opportunities to slide into despondency.  She is also aware before I am when I start to drift off to sleep and she gives me a helpful nudge.   She has introduced me to many things during our companionable vigils in the kitchen and not all of them are to do with graphic design and graphic illustration – her degree subject.  Her on-line ‘research’ has led us down many winding paths, admittedly some more interesting to me than others.  We have found many Covid-19 articles as you have too, no doubt.

First, this article from Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire.  Please watch the video in the article.


Norfolk takes things a little more seriously.


If that was too gloomy then there is always this from Wolverhampton…


If you think that too silly here is a ‘cute creature’ story.


We have also visited Horrible Histories many, many times.

My thinking has revolved around memories, as in my last post, and our strange predicament.  One poem has stuck in my mind.


I think all of us who are especially vulnerable will find our situation similar to that of the Lady of Shalott.

I have been listening to music.  I have been reading poetry and short stories, essays and children’s books.  Everything that doesn’t need me to concentrate for too long.  I was rather pleased with my choice of Lent reading this year.  The first book I read was ‘Simply Good News’ by Tom Wright.  I started it before the pandemic got going and even though my reading slowed down I was able to finish it and read my second book, ‘Luminaries: Twenty Lives That Illuminate the Christian Way’ by Rowan Williams, before Lent finished.  Tom Wright’s book explains why the Christian faith is ‘good news’ and shows that many Christians over the centuries have lost sight of this.  It is an exceptionally easy book to read and explains our faith, or what it ought to be, very clearly.  Rowan William’s book is an excellent read with twenty short essays on different people from St Paul to St Oscar Romero who are inspirational role-models.  I see that this book has been chosen by the Bishop of Ipswich and St Edmundsbury as recommended reading for this month.

I read and enjoyed Margery Allingham’s ‘Flowers for the Judge’.   Allingham’s plots are better in some of her books than in others.  However; I don’t read her novels for the plot but for the atmosphere she creates and her excellent descriptions of London in the 30’s and 40’s and 50’s, of her characters, their mannerisms and names, of the weather and how it affects towns, country and people, of the countryside, especially the East Anglican countryside.

I am currently reading ‘A Literary Pilgrim in England’ by Edward Thomas the war poet.  This is a book of essays by Thomas about many of England’s (and Scotland’s) most famous writers.  The book is over a century old and was published in 1917, the year of Thomas’ death; he was killed while fighting in the Battle of Arras.  He talks about the influence ‘place’ had on all these writers and divides the book into areas.  For example, ‘The West Country’ has pieces on Herrick, Coleridge and W H Hudson; ‘The East Coast and Midlands’ features Cowper, George Crabbe, John Clare, Fitzgerald, George Borrow, Tennyson and Swinburne.  I am enjoying it very much being a devotee of Edward Thomas’ writing.

Our rector, Leon has been working hard to keep us together and in touch as a community of worshippers who cannot worship together in the same place and whose churches are locked.  Apparently, worshipping together in church will be one of the last things we will be permitted to do once the lockdown eases.  Singing is the main problem as this forces globules supposedly full of virus out of our lungs just as much as coughing and sneezing does.  Even if we decide not to sing hymns there will be other considerations that would probably make going to church difficult.  Leon puts a short talk on YouTube each Sunday and has also begun midweek services from one of our churches.  For the past couple of weeks some of us have been having a Zoom chat for 45 minutes at the usual Sunday service time.

May you all keep safe and well.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Psalm 23