• An old dwelling?

    I drive past the ghost of a garden every week day. To the left of the Buxton Road just before the bridge, an apple tree clings on to existence on an old hedge line. This is the only mark which remains of a dwelling or smallholding. Upon checking the old maps of the area, the site was clearly occupied as a smallholding when the tithe map of 1837 was produced. By 1885, when the surveyors of the Ordnance Survey were gathering their records, the smallholding seems to have had a dwelling added to it. The map shows a typical part cottage / part barn of the type that you can still detect in some of the older village houses.

    Buxton Road – land near the bridge: the old smallholding

    It was only marginally affected by the arrival of the railway line in the 1880’s, although the upheaval must have been enormous. Did the cottage become abandoned then or much later?

    By 1946 an aerial photo was taken covering the Parish and the enlarged image, although slightly blurred, appears to show the area being cultivated like an allotment. Perhaps by then the house had been abandoned but the separate smallholding continued.

    The Buxton Road: modern map showing the same area today







    Today the latest plans show the shape of the field boundary and only the apple tree remains to mark the spot. No doubt someone in the village knows the history. I would be pleased to know.

  • Roe into November

    As November commences the Roe Deer have regrouped. the Brampton group comprises of the young buck, now in his second year,  the doe and the twin fauns. The doe is the most confident and the least flighty, the buck and the fauns compete to be the first to run off if they feel that they are being threatened.

    Each individual’s pelage or coat has lost its rich red of the summer and has settled into the dark grey brown of the approaching winter. The buck retains his antlers now whitened and worn, for the time being at least, although it is likely that he will shed these later this month.

  • Autumn evening sky

    On Friday night the autumn sky was at it’s best in the early evening. Jupiter was rising over Oxnead.

    In the west a star flashed with so much red and green that at first we mistook it for an aircraft. It was eventually identified as Arcturus, one of the brightest stars in the night sky and part of the constellation Bootes. It was sobering to learn that the star light which we saw was leaving it’s source, over 200 trillion miles away, when Abba released the single ‘Waterloo’ – although this meant more to Helen than it did to me. To find this star we followed the direction tail of the plough in a gentle curve.
    After all this deep space thought it was a relief to call in at the village club for a beer and game of darts.

  • Autumn sets in on the Common

    This morning a walk along the Bure revealed how the damp autumnal season has settled in. A pair of Wigeon spring from the river at our approach. A duck more commonly seen on the large grazing marshes of the north Norfolk coast or the Yare valley, they had clearly found the Bure to be an attractive point to pause. Until we came along.

    On the Common the cattle continue to graze for the last few days before they come off for the winter. They will soon be heading for the warmth of their winter housing. In the mean time they are doing a fine job of tidying up the last of the seasons grass.

    Autumn on the Common

    The better the finish this season, the better the pasture will be in 2012. Along the margins there are numbers of Snipe – the small brown wader shoots off in a jinking flight with a rasping and repeating “scarp” call.

    Loose flocks of Redwings skip from one thicket of berry-bearing thorns to the next. Their weedy ‘tseep’ call giving away their presence.

  • October Dusk

    Last night the light levels were falling at seven o’clock, but not fast enough for our purposes. It was too light for the river bats. Howver we walked the river bank as the light levels fell. Silence descended as the evening shift took over.

    The light was sufficient in one way – as a pair of Mute Swans drifted upstream into the gathering dusk, we stopped at the stile and a movement caught our eye. The Otter dived and re-surfaced in a gentle arc before proceeding soundlessly downstream past us.  It’s movement was purposeful and showed no sign of nerves, although it hugged the opposite bank before gliding into the gloom.

    We walked back down the Street in the company of numerous Tawny Owls which broke the silence with loud calls aslively territorial exchanges. It was as if everything was active again after the unseasonable heat of the day.

  • Golden horde

    Sunset on Friday coincided with the evening arrival of a congregation of Golden Plover. A circling flock of forty or so birds whistled in their plaintive way. Every year they gather on the parish – I have always assumed that it is a traditional stopping place on their way south, but their stay is often a prolonged one. It is of course impossible to be certain whether we see the same flock for a number of weeks or whether we sit on a migration route and thus see many flocks passing through.

    The call is unmistakeable. They often fly by starlight and their contact calls drift down from unseen groups. Surprisingly they do not seem to favour low lying pasture land as a roosting site, instead they select higher (height being entirely relative) arable fields alongside the old roman road. I like to imagine that this location has been favoured for a
    long time, perhaps centuries, as it is a site offering good views and resultant protection from predators.

  • Autumn & the water bats

    Bat detecting is addictive. A warmish evening spent at Oxnead Bridge reveals the usual Pipistrelles but it is the river bat that we went to find. These bats, more properly known at the Daubenton’s Bat, hunt low over the surface of the river, sometimes seeming to touch the surface or scoop it’s prey. A whirring flight at a constant height low over the river surface is characteristic – this evening the run was between the Bridge and the next corner upstream. It was active just after dusk and the best view was from the base of the bridge on the Brampton side. We walked home in the gathering dark and reluctantly left the sounds (and the ravenous midges) behind us.

  • Sentinel

    At first it appeared to be an optical illusion; an overly large bird perched on a scrap of hedge near the Buxton cross roads. But at second glance it was clearly a Buzzard.

    The river valley and it’s immediate surroundings are the preferred habitat to a wide range of birds of prey. Barn Owls, Kestrels and Sparrowhawks have been around in numbers for some years now, the Hobby is locally present as I have mentioned before. Now the site Buzzard has become a regular occurrence – but their large size is always a surprise.

    Buzzards are seen in the wider vicinity and are known to breed in neighbouring parishes. They used to be unusual but are now commonly sighted – over the summer they soar as family groups over the road towards Aylsham. I regularly see them soaring above the Cromer Road as I head up to Roughton.

  • To roost

    In nearby woods, the winter roosts of Rook and Jackdaw have started to build up.  On
    Sunday we watched the aerial display of 500 or so of both species as they wheeled, called and wheeled again above wood. Their display is a mixture of indecision and bravado; you could even say there was just plain enjoyment in their formation flying.

    The Jackdaws are the most nimble – they are the sportiest fliers of the crow family (although the Chough, a cliff dwelling crow from the western cliffs runs them very close in this).  Without a discernible signal between them, they rise and fall as one calling onstantly as they go. After ten minutes or more of a roller-coastering flight, a roosting site is chosen and the flock pours like liquid into the wood. The Rooks are slower in flight, but till the collective display is practiced until the declining light forces them to land.

  • Roebuck wakes

    The Roebuck burst out of the Blackthorn hedge. It seemed that his nerve had failed him as we passed by – perhaps the whippet’s scent had been the trigger. He made his way with some speed towards the main road and then turned east and crossed the field, carefully negotiating the potato ridges until he reached the stubble. At this point he looked indignantly back at us before cantering slowly towards the eastern hedge. After waiting for
    a car or two to pass he pushed his way through a gap and disappeared from view into the beet field.

    A few evenings ago as we walked the dogs, two deer were to be seen silhouetted against the evening afterglow on the field behind the Rectory. I suppose that this buck was one of them. He had planned to pass the day secure in the wide hedge bottom, that is until we blundered along and spoilt his plan.

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