Full of Culture – Chockers

Today was my last planed day of birding. I visited the RSPB Arne reserve and picked up two new species. That’s 86 for the trip and that’s most likely the lot. It is acceptable but 100 would have been nice.

But first, outside my window at Swanage.


My Swanage accommodation is very good, it’snot a hostel bu a fancy large hotel. There is also a pub down the road with vegetarian food. A nice way to end a trip.

Arne Reserve had a forest of Silverbirch, which were very neat but no new birds in there   😦


The photo above is a habitat classified as Heath and it generally doesn’t grow over 300 – 500 mm in height. My bag on the left demonstrates the height of the vegetation. I was lucky to see and identify Wood Lark here, which was good. It took a bit of research.
And now for the Culture.

Nearby Swanage are some castle ruins. I know when I return,  people are going to ask about churches and castles, so I figured I had better see at least one castle, or at least the ruins of a castle.


It’s called Corfe Castle and it’s more than 1,000 years old.  There’s not much left now but what is left is in a great location.  Top of a hill and a pretty little village nearby.

The two little Rectangle holes at the bottom of the wall is where the effluent leaves the castle. . .Yuck !

This is the nearby village where the people who serviced the castle lived. Some of the houses have thatched roofs.  There are very narrow streets and lots of tourists wandering around eating ice creams.

Last but not least, a tour group being led by a local. I hung about to pick up any hints on life back when the castle was a going concern but he, (the guide) wasn’t much good and the people were Americans. Need I say more.

But the sky was wonderful, the grass is bright green and ruins look inspiring.  Pity about the people.

That’s it for today and maybe the entire trip. For those reading, I hope you enjoyed my ramblings.

I return the car tomorrow, catch a train to London, spend a night there and fly out the next day.

It’s been a real adventure with great days, wet days, confusing roads, patient and hospital people, inspiring reserves and brand new species of birds.

Oh . . . and it was chockers with culture.

Thanks for your comments and  Hasta La Vista . . . babies.

Rain, Sand, Roads and Signs

There was no birding today so nothing new for the list.  But I did drive from Wales to Swanage in Dorset and went for a walk along the beach . . . as you do.

But before I go on about Swanage, there is Wales.

Unfortunately it rained for much of my time in Wales and the birding was not so great but Wales is a lovely place with lots of forests and little villages.

The hostel where I was staying was located in Llanddeusant, situated in the Brecon Beacons National Park.


This hostel was once a pub for shepherds. It provided a place to stop whilst moving flocks of sheep over the mountains. It was built in 1789 and inside the layout was not great, it was noisy but comfortable. My accommodation in Swanage is much better but first let’s look out the window at Llandeusant.

Despite the Welsh rain, I walked to a nearby Red Kite feeding venue. Apparently the Red Kite population was down to a hand full of individuals in Wales but a guy called Mr Powell started feeding the Kites daily and numbers have increased. Mr Powell has passed away so more recently a Taxi Driver took it upon himself to leave Manchester and became the feeder of  Red Kites.

A lucky shot with a Red Kite flying past whilst meat is being dispersed.

I did visit a RSPB reserve nearby, (Gwenffrwd-Dinas) and whilst it was lovely, it constantly rained and there were not many birds.


I must be getting close to driving 1,000 km in the U.K. and I have partially worked out my own road classification system.

Motorways of which I don’t have a picture, but they are wide with many lanes and are fast.

Then country roads which have a speed limit of 100 km per hour. They are not so wide and don’t bypass villages. This can make traveling time slower than in Australia.


That’s my rental car parked on a major road passing through a Welsh village

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And then there are the smaller local roads on which you cannot easily pass other cars and in summer and spring the vegetation is thick and lush. They are more like an Australian driveway than a road.
Now Swanage,

A coastal town which is a little more upmarket than Scarborough and today being Sunday, had lots of tourists.  Their sand is whiter than Scarborough but it is imported and is being protected with many groynes. Not they groins located between the legs of footballers but thick wooden fences to stop sand moving away from where it’s wanted.


Swanage is located in Dorset and there are chalk cliffs at the interface with the ocean.  I’m guessing these are the same kind of white cliffs associated with the White Cliffs of Dover but I’m no expert.

There are fossils of shells which can be easily found in the chalk boulders.

Before we leave Swanage, they have some interesting signs. Next time I travel I’m going to take more photos of signs.


This beach is not all that dangerous but I guess kids in the UK can’t swim that well.  Poor little blighters.

Below is a charming area to have a picnic and I was about to lay down the blanket, break out a bottle of wine, cheese and crusty bread.  I particularly like the spot between the weeds and the steel steps but alas I couldn’t.


Below is a sign I saw at Minsmere. I find the image of a dead person rather gruesome but I’m sure it’s effective.


Back to birding tomorrow at the RSPB Arne Reserve.

Rocks, Stones and More Rocks

Once again the lack of internet has been an issue but there is good news on the birding front. 

I have visited a great RSPB reserve called Leighton Moss in Lancashire and managed to lift my list to over 80 species of birds but before that I must update my window views.

After leaving Scarborough I drove across Yorkshire to the Lakes district. The Lakes district is beautiful and has stone walls everywhere. In fact there are stones and rocks everywhere. It’s an elevated area that has barren mountain tops with scree and rocks tumbling down to the floor of the valley. Sheep and tourism are the major money earners.

The photo above is the view from my room at Glenridding.

Whilst there were no bird watching reserves at Glenridding,  there were many walks. The following are shots from a three hour walk I took.

Moss and ferns growing on some of the older stone walls is very nice.


After leaving the rocky region of The Lakes District, I visited the RSPB Leighton Moss reserve. Having a coffee and watching a bird feeder through a window, I managed to get three new birds on my list ! 


The English love feeding birds and a feeder is a great place to see new species . The cage is to keep Squirrels away from the food.  The birds on the feeder are Bullfinch, (tick).

That’s a Grey Heron seen from a bird hide. The hides at the RSPB reserves are top quality, you could almost live in them. It’s easy to spend an hour watching all the wildlife come and go.

I didn’t stay at the hostel in the Lakes for the two nights planned, instead I stopping at the Welsh town of Ruabon located on the way to my next locationand. I slept in an oldish pub and above is the view from my window. 

I’ve spent a lot of time driving in the past couple of days and getting lost trying to find my hostel and reserves.  The Welsh roads are small and a bit all over the place, a bit like the tomb stones next to this church.  I wonder if the local church goers give a greeting to those who have passed away and lay along the path leading to the church. 

This church was still a going concern but there seems to be minimal maintenance to the graves.

Poole, situated in Dorset is where I rest my weary head after I leave Wales.

Five Fifty my Lovely 

So much has happened since my last post but I was unable to share it with you, the Scarborough YHA does not have WiFi.  Bloody Hippies must not like the internet. 

I love Scarborough. Apparently the “Browns” originally came from Yorkshire and I’m feeling a connection to the Yorkshire coast. It’s a bit like Coastal Victoria but much better. 


I’m compiling this post in the local Mall on the free WiFi, whilst having a coconut crush and scone. The girl who served me was 18 – 25 years old and finished the order with “that will be five fifty my lovely ” 
How can you not like the people of Yorkshire.  Especially when they call you my lovely.  It’s raining here but the people don’t care, they just tighten their raincoats and get on with life. 


The Scarborough Cricket Ground is tiny and is partly surrounded by old three story appartments. It must be a load of fun to play a game on this ground.  Residents in the nearby flats hang their washing out to dry, (an optimistic activity) in view of the players and spectators. 

You can hire deck chairs on the beach frontage but I can’t imagine why anyone would. Especially when there’s sand on the beach. 

Yes I said sand !!    I saw it, mind you it’s gray bordering on black and has a strange fragrance. 


That is a Herring Gull. It’s nesting on an old pipe on an older building. They are the Gulls you hear on the foreign movies. They nest on several old buildings in Scarborough and roost on roof tops along the main streets like the Australian Silver Gulls. 

But the reason for my visiting the Yorkshire coast was to see the Bempton Cliffs  (click on the blue link and hopefully you will see my poor, short video of The Cliffs), and to see one very special little bird species.


The two little black dots in the centre of the photo are Puffins, locally known as Poofens. I don’t have a big zoom lens on my camera but there were several more Poofens and you could see them flying to a spot under the viewing platform – but that spot was out of view. 

The Bempton Cliffs are amazing and to think locals used to collect the eggs from the nests and shoot the birds yearly is very sad.  Now the Cliffs are protected by a non government organisation, the RSPB.


There are also hundreds of Gannets and other sea going species.

Next to The Cliffs the RSPB leave the grasses and herbs to grow and flower. There are many other species of birds that utilise this habitat. 

Lastly a shot of the Scarborough harbour with some very smelly and old fishing boats. 

So far Scarborough is my favourite English location but that may change as I see more of England and Wales

The Lakes District awaits and it’s less than 300 km away.

See the forest for the trees 

From watching hours of television as a child, I had a vision of an English forest.  Today I saw one and liked it. Minsmere reserve has a small patch of forest with meandering trails. It also has a Canopy Hide, the first I have seen.

But first, the view from my window.


It’s not a great picture but it’s the best I could do considering the small window and nearby clutter.  Once again I was using my panoramic setting on my phone.

The Blaxhall YHA is very clean and organised. The managers have been here for several years and it all runs like clockwork. I will miss it.
Before my English forest experience, I visited Dunwich and the Dingle Marshes. Apparently Dunwich had quite a history and was a large port which was lost due to coastal erosion. I guess that’s climate change for you, although it was in the early 1200’s, (I’m expecting a comment Rob).

I managed to add Kestrel to my current list of fifty eight bird species at the Dingle Marshes.

Australia has lost a large amount of its forests when compared to what it had before European settlement but England has as well – only it would have been much earlier. I’m no expert but one could speculate that nearly all the English forests were exploited for building ships and housing at some stage and much of what is seen now are plantings or natural regrowth.


The forest at Minsmere is home to many birds but it does not have the same diversity as one would expect in an Australia forest. However the Canopy Hide is a great way to get up high in amongst the upper branches of the trees.

The structure itself is very solid and fits in relatively well.


Inside the hide one could sit for long periods. It’s rather quiet up there in the canopy and if you manage to be there alone, as I was . . . it’s wonderful.


Lastly I would like to quickly touch on the English country side and it villages.  Tomorrow I’m travelling from Blaxhall to Scarborough, which is around 420 km, (much to the horror of locals) but most of it will be on the A1.  Once you’re off the motorways the roads are very narrow, the villages small as are houses. 

I’ve taken some shots in this region and I expect to take more as I travel further.


The Blaxhall pub. I had a drink there today. Small, comfortable with a mixture of English accents.


Some of the local houses in Blaxhall early this morning. They are neat and maintained.


And a post office/general store on the way to Dunwich this morning.  I took this for Pam.

I haven’t seen many families with three or more kids in these little houses and I don’t expect to. Young couples or baby boomers buying a weekender is common. Blaxhall is in an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and has many planning regulations to protect its vibe. 

However, my trip is still young and there is much more to see.

Follow the Road for Five Miles

I’ve never had a car with an inbuilt SatNav but being in a foreign country, driving through dozens of roundabouts, narrow little roads and watching my speed for “miles per hour” instead of “kilometres per hour”, I’m falling in love with the woman on my SatNav. 

But first there is the London Underground and the English rail system.


The London Underground reminds me of a hand full of spaghetti thrown on a flat surface. Each line was a good idea at the time. Working out where to change for your destination is a bit like a puzzle designed to ward off dementia.  I’ve always had a secret fear of the London Underground but I think given a few weeks, it would become a talking point over a beer to find the best route to somewhere off the top of your head.


Above is my train to Ipswich. It doesn’t go anywhere near Cocksfoster, which is a shame because I’m dying to see Cocksfoster. However, I fear I may die ignorant of the story behind its name.

The train was quick, exceptionally comfortable and ran every thirty minutes. It even had WiFi and a plug to charge your iPad ! 

I arrived at Ipswich with Great Expectations but regretfully, what I saw was not inspiring and I feel my first few days in London was influenced by the geography of my accommodation. 


Enterprise indeed, this is where my brand new rental car was waiting for me. The shopfront may not seem to be all that flash but it is Ipswich and this is where my new true love is located. I just had to find the unmute button to unleash her dolcet tones. 

And then there’s Minsmere. 

For the uninitiated to birding. . . this is a hell of a spot to visit, if you like bird watching. For a newly arrived Australian, I could not ask for more. And to top it off, today the weather was fine, if not warm and birders were there in numbers. 

The man at the desk, also named Malcolm, asked for my RSPB membership card but that was something I failed to include in my extensive packing list. “That’s OK” he said. “I’ll find you on the database . . mmmmmmmmmm computer says no” . . so I had to pay nine pounds.

It was well worth it. 

There are more bird hides in Minsmere than birds. . . . I exaggerate but there are many and in every hide are some very helpful birders who are just waiting to assist a newly arrived person from the colonies completely ignorant of English birds.  One young man on a bus trip from outer London assured me he was a big fan of Steve Irwin. “So am I” I lied. 


My dear mother, who is not long for this world, always told when I was young and in her care . . . . “You’re not the only pebble on the beach.” Dear mum loves England and whilst at the time I didn’t understand the pebble beach analogy, I do now. 

But the clouds were wonderful and the volunteers at Minsmere, including my new friend Malcolm, were very helpful.

And as we strolled along the pebbly track to the next bird hide, I asked someone, “what is that thing in the distance?” “Oh” he said. “That’s a nuclear power plant” 

Instantly I thought of Monty Burns and a monorail . . . but just as quickly I was distracted by a new bird and a tick.  Anyway those things are safe, aren’t they ?

Following is a series of photos of just things that took my fancy.  

So far. . . England is everything I expected and more. 


The purple bag is wonderful, as were these ladies.


A bird hide overlooking some new birds for the elderly man from the colonies.


A fence post, (I have a fetish about fence posts but especially those with a nuclear power plant nearby).


A seat nestled in amongst the weeds . . .er . . . native vegetation. Each seat has a brass plate commemorating someone who was a regular visitor and supporter of the reserve but has passed away. 

If I lived in England, I would visit Minsmere again.  But there are more reserves to come. This is but the first.

Almost Typical Tourist

My sleeping cycle is still a bit off, so I was up early again today.  Having a room mate who sounded like a muffled chainsaw in the bunk under me doesn’t help. 

I have one more night of dorm sleeping and then the rest of the trip is a room for me only. 


My last two nights at London finds me on the third floor of the Earl’s Court YHA.  Above is the view from this morning around 6:00 am, panoramic using my iPhone, hence some of the buildings are on a slant.  I think that’s the reason.

I easily found an uber person after having a coffee from a nearby Starbucks.  The driver works full time as a bus driver but he’s young and wants to learn a trade. I really do like uber. It’s so easy to use.


The guy at the top of this monument should have learnt a trade as well. Then he may not have lost an arm fighting for God, King and Country. 

I love the lions at the Trafalgar Square monument, but in the photo below I kept the empty yogurt tub in shot. It is as it is.


It’s hard to believe I actually stood at Trafalgar Square and just quietly, I love the shot below. With Big Ben in the background I kicked a goal in the first quarter of the day.

Those of the hand full of readers to this blog would appreciate my love of politics. Seeing the English Parliament building was very cool but considering there is an election in a week, I’m surprised there is not more happening.

The taxi above is not moving and was carefully positioned for this shot. There were a number of photographers there but I managed to squeeze in and get mine.

I have no idea what it’s about.
The interesting thing about getting up early for a stint of “tourism” is seeing the locals working or commuting past the attraction. Below are some shots of people and surprisingly many cyclists travelling past monuments and significant structures without a second thought.



You may be able to see the number three on the traffic light  above the white van. This is to warn the pedestrians how much time they have remaining to cross. It’s a good idea and would work well in Melbourne.

For those of you who know central London, there is a church called Westminster Abbey nearby the Parliament. It’s very old and full of dead people. It’s a fascinating place with a log of religious fashions and take overs.  A chronical of middle aged white men wanting to maintain their authority.

It’s a bit sad for those who hold their religious ideals close as outside there is a carnival of tourists taking photos of each other or themselves nearby a place of worship. However, the people who manage the church are doing well. You can even by a coffee or souvenir in their specially designed shop. 

I’m far from religious but I’m very grateful I was told. . . nay, almost directed to see it and enter. 

A couple of more general photos within London just because.


I love the drab sandstone bricks against the bright red bus.

It’s nice of the English to recognise Mahatma Gandhi with a statue despite having ruled his country and people for so long. 

And finally. . . . a peaceful moment along a waterway, the river Thames.  Waterways are the same the world over. They flow down hill, usually into an ocean and they attract people to sit and contemplate. 

Tomorrow I catch a train to Ipswich and pick up my rental car.