Another day researching birdspotting routes, this time on back lanes through woods filled with birdsong, and investigating two reserves noted for their birding possibilities: Pensthorpe and Sculthorpe, near Fakenham. (‘Do you like Fakenham?’ – ‘I don’t know, I’ve never faked one.’)
The first two hours was a thoroughly lovely trundle along those quiet roads, where Holt always seemed to be two miles away, as signed at the junctions I passed. Well, I say ‘quiet’; it was actually noisy, but all in a good way, thanks to the trillions of cheeping birds celebrating the warm sunny morning.
What could I hear? Likely a great tit, performing Stravinsky. The chiffchaff’s attempt at Haydn, or perhaps a wonky bacon slicer. A burbling chaffinch. The R2D2-imitating blackbird. Though it was hard to be sure in the orchestral melee.
Anyway, I couldn’t resist heading through Great Snoring, and was pleased to find it has a Great Snoring Social Club. (See also Idle Working Men’s Club, Ugley Women’s Institute, etc.)
Sculthorpe’s reserve includes several habitats and hides, including an area for birds of prey: the Hawk & Owl Trust is based here, though I didn’t see any raptors today. I did however enjoy the easy-peasy spotting-for-beginners opportunities offered by the bird feeders both here and at Pensthorpe, four miles east. All sorts of avians are there collecting takeaways, right in front of you and your camera.
Pensthorpe covers a big area with many different habitats too (and lots of leisure-park facilities for families etc). I was pleased to spot several colourful types of duck in the waterfowl area. Spotting is made easy for the naive and of short attention span, say children or cycling bloggers, thanks to clear info boards and all the birds there in front of you. (Tufted duck! Ferruginous duck! Gadwall! Shoveler! Wigeon! Pochard! etc)
It’s also involved in conservation work, including some secretive work introducing corncrakes to the Wensum valley – the exact locations are not revealed for reasons of bird privacy. I did hear a ratcheting noise on the way back to Holt, but I think that was my pedal crank.
I zoomed back to Holt with a big tailwind, and discovered that the town’s mascot is an owl. This is because of the Owl Legend of Holt, which goes like this: some locals caught an owl, but it escaped.
That’s all. No mysterious ghost owls from the underworld who could foretell the future, no magic superpower owls able to let the blind see or make geese lay golden eggs, no spirit owls who could shapeshift as wizards. Just an owl that flew away. It hasn’t stopped the town installing a 24-plaque Owl Trail round the Georgian centre.
No matter. I enjoyed a pint of local ale in the Kings Arms and headed back to my hosts to swop stories of our respective days’ travels over a convivial dinner. All very wise.
I think I like bird spotting, you know.