One of the most striking features of the East Anglian countryside is the large amount of windmills and windpumps that are scattered across the whole area, many of them in a good state of repair and some of them still functioning.
These mills played a big part in the history of the area, draining many parts of the fens and broads in order to make the area more habitable and workable.
One particularly attractive example can be found in the lovely village of Cley-next-the-sea, just along the road from Weybourne where I was staying.
Although this charming village has "next-the-sea" in it's name it has not actually been next to the sea since the 17th century, a land reclamation program has meant that the shore is now 3 kilometres away and some marsh land fills the space. The huge reed beds in this area make a perfect sanctuary for a number of bird species and a lovely area to walk through on some raised embankments.
The village itself is also interesting, there are a number of houses which are constructed from flint (a traditional material in Norfolk) and also many buildings which are influenced by the local wildlife in one way or another.
A 20 minute drive from Cley-next-the-sea takes you to Holkham Nature Reserve, a beautiful expanse of dunes and woodland stretching along the coast. I took a peaceful early morning walk along the Holkham beach to another "-next-the-sea".
The beach at Wells-next-the-sea (which is still actually next the sea) contains a huge row of over 200 beach houses all next to each other. The sunrise on this day was one of those "blue sky, no clouds and nothing happens" afairs, but it was anwyay a wonderful way to start the day. There is a special satisfaction to be gained from a few hours of activity before breakfast.
Many parts of the UK are littered with grand old houses in the middle of huge estates, a reminder that there have always been those that have and those that have not. In modern times a great number of those are opened to the public, often under the management of the National Trust. I made my way to Felbrigg Hall for a morning walk through the woods.
Encouraged by the Felbrigg experience I made my way to the Blickling Estate.
The National Trust does a great job of maintaining all of this cultural history and rural beauty for the public good, but all the good work comes at a cost. I have donated an inordinate amount of funds to the National Trust this year for parking and entry fees on my multiple UK trips, there is always a noticeable fee to park and an even more noticeable fee to enter at different destinations. All of these fees seem more-or-less reasonable in isolation but if you are taking in a number of venues in a day then it starts to be a burden.
Blickling is another enormous estate, covering 1861 hectares, and it is full of interest and beauty in it's buildings and gardens. At the time I visited there was very harsh daytime light so it was not optimal for photography... wrestling with the images I took on that afternoon took me to some strange places.
you are welcome / i am sorry (delete as appropriate)
Back in the real world my next destination was Thornham, another beautiful area with channels through the reeds, old abandoned boats and buildings, flanked by dunes covered in marram grass, leading out to a lovely beach.
East Anglia is generally very low lying, meaning that photographic interest needs to come from colours, patterns, shapes, textures and objects rather than rolling hills or strong elevation changes. This presents a different and interesting challenge.
The village of Blakeney is a perfect example of a Norfolk village, narrow roads lead past traditional flint cottages to a slipway full of boats and a marshy area reaching out to the sea. I spent my last North Norfolk evening watching the sun go down at Blakeney.
After taking the shot above I went walking through the marshes, looking for compositions, none of which made the final selection from this trip, before returning to almost exactly the same spot after dark (note the difference in the tide).
To conclude this blog episode (episode 65 in case anyone was wondering) I will return to where i started. My last North Norfolk sunrise was viewed across the reed beds at Cley-next-the-sea.
I walked through the village and back to the area near the mill. A bench was handily placed in a perfect spot for observing how the light developed as the day began.
Another North Norfolk day was under way.
Until next time,
Earlier this autumn I made my first visit to East Anglia, a fascinating area on the east coast of England. My first days were spent in North Norfolk where I had a very enjoyable time photographing the beautiful coastline and rural scenery.
My base for these first days was The Maltings Hotel in the village of Weybourne, a location which turned out to give me good access to many of the places I was interested in. When visiting a totally unfamiliar area the selection a perfect place to stay requires at least a small degree of luck.
I arrived in the late afternoon and decided to head down the coast to nearby Sheringham to watch the sun go down.
After a good night's sleep I headed towards the town of Cromer, hoping for some kind of sunrise. The weather however had different ideas. Overall on this trip I had much kinder treatment from the weather gods but this morning was quite dreary.
The impressive pier at Cromer is 140m long and was opened to the public perhaps in either 1901 or 1902 (depending on whether one of the conflicting references in wikipedia is correct). A pier is always a promising subject for a photograph, the long straight design of most piers provides strong leading lines if you wish to make sue of them. At Cromer there was too much clutter and too much construction ongoing, slightly detracting from the possibilities for a good shot.
Along the coast from Cromer you can find the small village of Overstrand where a steep paved path leads you down to the sea front and a series of erosion defences. I have spent quite a lot of time on the coast in my 2019 trips and I have started to get a better feeling for how I like to capture different scenes. The whole east coast of the UK is affected by strong tides and in many places coastal erosion is a concern. The daily comings and goings of the tide create an ever-changing landscape, sometimes peaceful, sometimes violent, almost always interesting in one way or another.
On this occasion, in beautiful soft evening light, I decided that a dreamy looking long exposure would be the best approach to the scene, complementing the soft colours of the scene. This 404 second exposure would be one favourite from the trip.
To the north of East Anglia, and to the south of Lincolnshire, you can find The Wash - a huge, shallow, square-ish estuary which covers an area of about 620 square kilometres. The four corners of the square are roughly defined by the towns of Hunstanton and Kings Lynn (on the south side in East Anglia), Boston and Skegness (on the north side in Lincolnshire.
On a blustery, bright (and slightly wild) day I headed for the nature reserve at Snettisham where I planned to see what kind of birds I might be able to find resting in the huge tidal expanse of The Wash. with some luck I was able to find three species that I had not previously seen, taking my total number of photographed species to 208.
The extent of the change from low tide to high tide in The Wash was remarkable. I could see (from the wet mud, jetties and boats resting on the ground) that I was next to the shore, but the shallow mud flats extended beyond the horizon. The water would return in a few hours, but for the moment it was completely out of sight. A number of Little Egrets patrolled the muddy expanse, searching for delicious(?) morsels.
Perhaps the biggest prize of the day was the chance to see some Eurasian Spoonbills flying overhead - huge and impressive with their unusually shaped bills. It would have been nice to have had a long telephoto lens with me to try and get a better picture of these amazing birds but I did the best I could with the 100-400mm zoom.
I walked a considerable distance on this day, in high winds, ending up with a feeling like I had been in a bit of a battle, somewhat tired but in a good way. One of the best things about landscape or nature photography is the excuse it gives to spend extended periods wondering around in the outdoors.
After my enjoyable day in Snettisham I made for the seaside town of Hunstanton where I hoped to find some good compositions for the sunset session. At the north of the town you can find Old Hunstanton beach, a more natural and wild area with beautiful dunes and geologically interesting cliffs. On this day the wind was being put to good use for leisure activities.
The tide was rising at this point and the water prevented access to the foot of the cliffs, so I headed instead for the sea front promenade in the town and looked for a way to photograph the sea defences as the sun started to set. Having got myself into position I had some time to kill before the best light so I bravely decided to take my 2019 selfie to pass the time (I really don't like to have people in my pictures, least of all myself).
The coastal defences along the sea-front have an interesting zig-zag configuration and I thought that this made for a compelling subject. I do not normally want to have the sun in the frame when making landscape photographs but once in a while i think it is healthy to consider doing something a little differently.
I stayed in position and watched as the light gradually changed, shooting a series of very long exposures (5-10 minutes). I like the calming effect that this produces in the resulting images and there is something satisfying about the picture being created over an extended period of time instead of being all done in a fraction of a second.
As the gloom descended I decided to make my way back to the Old Hunstanton cliffs and see if I could manage to navigate my way along the beach in the dark in order to get a shot of the cliffs.
In such situations I have found it better to allow my eyes to get used to the darkness (instead of using a torch) and due to my sensible (cowardly) nature I don't proceed if I feel that anything is risky.
On this occasion I was able to make my way along the beach easily enough and was confident that it would be safe to make my way back when it was even darker, the route was mostly sand or pebbles and the rocky areas were not slippery. Importantly the tide was on it's way out (and would not be back until morning) so there was no possibility of being surprised by an incoming tide.
The unusual red stripe on the cliffs is caused by iron deposits staining the limestone, this rock was formed in layers of sediment over a prolonged period, on top of a layer of Carrstone (sandstone bound together by iron oxide). The end result is quite striking.
My pictures and thoughts from East Anglia will continue next week. Thanks for reading!
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