The joy of darkness.

One of my first ever (very short) posts. Enjoying the dark nights of Beetley, back in 2012.


It takes a while to get used to driving everywhere after dark with headlights on, and no street lighting. After a lifetime in London, lit everywhere inside the M25, you feel like the proverbial rabbit at first. But you learn to love the darkness. The night sky is little short of a miracle, a myriad of stars never seen in London, with all the light pollution. Sleep is a joy in total pitch black too. Turn off your lights World, and embrace the darkness!

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Dressing Appropriately

Remember when you were young, reasonably fashion conscious, and always tried to dress appropriately?

Me too.

Socks with open sandals should never be seen, right?

Sleeveless vests (singlets) do not flatter the older man with a large belly.
No debate about that.

Brown shoes with a blue or grey suit?
In my day that was unacceptable.

There was a time when I laughed at people who did those things.

Last week, during endless rain, and before it got that cold, I had to take Ollie out in a downpour.

I was wearing a red T-shirt, and put on a baggy zip-up black fleece top over that.

Next came knee-length cargo shorts in blue. Military style, and loose-fitting.

Because of the rain and mud, I wore navy blue wellington boots, with some black and yellow long socks just visible over the top of them.

Umbrella up, I set off.

Not long after, I encountered a local lady who I know well. She was walking her three small dogs, and stopped to make a fuss of Ollie.
She is forty-something, and usually smart and well turned out. As she walked off with her dogs, she turned and smiled as she called out to me.

“Love the look. What kind of outfit is that?”

As I struggled to come up with a reasonable reply, I watched her from behind, her shoulders rocking as she giggled uncontrollably.

Yes, she was laughing at me.

A Saturday Pandemic Report From Beetley

This is the first Saturday under the newly-relaxed rules. ‘Stay at home’ has been replaced by the confusing ‘Stay alert’.

We can now drive any distance for exercise.
Sit in a park, or on a beach, without moving.
Socialise with one person not from the same household.
Visit one family member we do not live with.
Go back to work if conditions are safe.
Golf clubs and tennis clubs are open again.
Some more shops, like garden centres, are open again.

This started in earnest last Tuesday, and I had already noticed a 100% increase in traffic from the previous week. It still wasn’t ‘normal’ traffic, but noticeably heavier. Yesterday, far more people were exercising on Hoe Rough, having driven there to do so. One person who stopped and spoke to me had driven four miles to get there, and had never been there previously. The regional news reported a huge number of people had driven to the beaches and beauty spots on the north Norfolk coast. By ‘huge number’, they meant a lot more than last week, but nowhere near a ‘normal’ amount of visitors.

Wales and Scotland have their own separate governments, and have been quick to disassociate themselves with the relaxed rules handed out by Boris Johnson. They don’t want anyone crossing borders for tourism, and intend to keep the previous lockdown rules in place for now. As both of those countries are a six-hour drive from Beetley, there was no danger of me flouting their regulations.

As I sit here, there is not much difference to notice. A few cars are driving past, probably off to the supermarkets. Otherwise, it is ‘Beetley-peaceful’, with not even a dog barking.

But the weather is warming up. By next week, we should be seeing summer-value temperatures.

I’m guessing that wil provoke more radical changes around here.

A walk with the camera

For the benefit of new followers since 2015, I am reblogging these early photos taken with the Fuji X 30 camera. They show more of the area close to my house.


As it is Sunday, I decided to take the longer walk with Ollie, from Beetley Meadows, to Gingerbread Corner. I have described this walk many times before, so this time, I thought I would take my camera along, and illustrate it with some photos instead. Leaving the house on a warm and sunny afternoon, my plans were soon confounded, by a change in the weather. A freshening wind arrived, blowing in some dark clouds, and ruining what had been excellent light. I decided to take the photos anyway.

We left by the shortcut, at the side of the Fakenham Road bridge. This iron and stone structure has seen better days, and I felt it suited a B+W photograph.


Crossing the road into Mill Lane, we headed up the path. It is always dark along there, whatever the weather, as it is heavily shaded by trees.


Ollie hasn’t got used to…

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Looking without seeing

As I spend so much time walking around with Ollie, it often occurs to me how much we look at things, without actually seeing anything. Since moving to Norfolk seven years ago, I have been able to slow down, and think about what I look at as I wander around every day.

Living a busy life in London, I used to walk around the centre of the city on a daily basis. One day I stopped to tie a shoelace, and noticed a brown plaque above a house. It told me that this had been the residence of the famous writer, Dr Samuel Johnson. I had walked trough that square many times, but I had just been looking, not seeing.

Once in Norfolk, I resolved to slow down, and start to actually see things.

Walking Ollie in much the same places every day, I am often asked if I find that too dull or boring. But familiarity with those areas has shown me that there is always something to see, if you stop and think. Sitting on a fallen tree, I heard a rustling under some leaves. As I looked in the direction of the noise, I was delighted to see some tiny baby frogs appear, heading for the nearby river. There were probably a dozen or more of the small amphibians, each not much larger than my thumbnail. Had I just glanced around, I would never have noticed them.

A flapping in some tree branches turned out to be a snow-white Egret, dropping from its perch into the river, to catch a small fish. Had I been walking past without thinking, that would just have been an unexplained sound. Ripples on the water attracted my attention, and I turned slowly to see a small water-vole, now an endangered species in Britain. It made its way across to some reeds, and ducked under them for safety.

Even the bark of a tree can reveal little wonders. Unknown insects scrabbling around on what to them is the known universe. Large parasitic fungi beginning to invade the hard wood, the start of something that will eventually kill the ancient host. Further up in the branches, bird’s nests of varying sizes tell me that the tree is also a home of multiple-occupancy for everything from long-tailed blue tits, to squawking crows. Sit still long enough, and all of nature will be revealed to you.

But you have to see it, not just look at it.

The neglected bench


This bench is at the far end of Hoe Common, so ideally suited for a rest, after walking that far. It has a view across to Beetley, but in some respects, the bench is more interesting than the view.
(The photos are both large files, and can be clicked on, to enlarge them.)

It has obviously been around a while. It has no dedication, and I have no idea who placed it there, or why. When you sit against the backrest, your feet can only just touch the ground. The area nearby is not maintained, and nettles and grasses flourish under and around it. It is the only bench in that place, and the only bench for a long way off. It is made of wood, and they didn’t bother to trim it neatly, or to polish and prepare it.

This is a natural bench, surrounded by nature. For that reason, I think it is far superior to many other benches in this area, which are made of resin, or resemble traditional park benches. It is by far my favourite bench, and has provided me with much-needed rest in the rare hot summers we have experienced, since moving here. I have never seen anyone else sitting on it, but I always make sure to take a seat there, at least for a while.

I like to think that the bench appreciates my dalliance, and sees some sense in its purpose.

Ollie stood by it today. He allowed me a rare photo opportunity. Perhaps he instinctively knows.


A sunny walk with the camera

Despite the cold, and recent snow, I awoke to a sunny day, that if anything, was too bright. I made up my mind to venture out with Ollie earlier than usual, to get the best of the day, before any cloud settled in during the late afternoon. This meant that his usual doggy pals would not be around, so I quickly headed over to Hoe Rough, to give him a bigger walk, with my camera taken along too. As usual, all the photos are large files. They can be clicked on, for full screen, and further enlarged for detail. The bright weather allowed for some good photos today, and the details are very well-rendered.

The constant rains have waterlogged the ground. This standing water was frozen on the surface.


A few paces further on, and the rest of that water was joining up, forming what looked like a small canal. It made the normally dry area look more like marshland, or a swamp.


I wandered across to this fallen tree. It has been down for some time now, and nature is beginning to reclaim both the crater left behind, and what is left of the root-ball.


Near the limit of the reserve is this small depression, which we know as ‘The Dell.’ This is where I usually ask Ollie to search for bears, and have a well-earned rest on one of the lower branches.


I tried to get Ollie in all the photos. He was drinking from the water in the first ones, but managed to avoid being photographed. Near the fallen tree he scampered off, and refused to return for any posing. Once at The Dell, he left as soon as the camera appeared. I suspect that he has employed a photographic agent, as he never willingly appears in shot!

It was a nice walk, and the sun felt hot, on my heavy coat. At least it wasn’t raining.

The shrinking countryside

When you drive around any country area in England, you could be forgiven for thinking that you are surrounded by delightful places to explore, to enjoy walks with your dog, or relax with a picnic. Sadly, you would be wrong, at least most of the time. Land is almost always owned by someone, with access limited, and boundaries fenced against intruders. Public footpaths are plentiful of course, especially across arable land, or through woodland. However, they are often poorly maintained, and in some cases, deliberately obscured.

Here in Beetley, we are lucky to enjoy a choice of nearby areas with public access. There may be restrictions concerning animals, rare plants or fauna, and by-laws forbidding removal of wood or plants. But these are all fairly applied, and generally make good sense. We can enjoy the nearby open spaces of Beetley Meadows and Hoe Rough, or walk a little further to Beetley Common, Hoe Common, or the Recreation Ground, in High House Road. The Wensum Way is also easily accessed, with the path running through farms in the direction of Dillington.

Stray from the designated paths though, and you will soon discover a farmer or gamekeeper has appeared, seemingly from out of nowhere. They will fiercely enforce their rights of way, private areas, and protection of crops or animals. Fair enough. They own the land, raise the crops and animals, generally work hard in unpleasant conditions, and just want to secure their investments. It’s not a big deal, as there are plenty of other places to walk, or to exercise your dog.

But things are changing.

Today, I set off with Ollie for the Recreation Ground, and the adjoining woodland. Ollie loves to chase the squirrels there, giving us two hours of harmless fun. We never venture into any private land or gardens, and make sure not to disturb anyone’s privacy in the nearby houses. As I arrived at one of the entrances to the woods today, I saw a large sign had been erected. It bore the words ‘KEEP OUT. PRIVATE PROPERTY.’ I presumed this applied to the house alongside the path, as it has a substantial workshop at the rear, and access to it is easy. I carried on into the woods, where I was surprised to see more of the same signs dotted at random, close to the obvious paths.

I began to wonder if the woods had been recently purchased by someone, as there had been no trace of these signs previously. There seemed to be no good reason why anyone would buy these woods. They cannot be built on, and are unsuitable for any agriculture, or animal husbandry. The trees are either subject to preservation orders, or they are flimsy affairs, without a great deal of substance; so forestry is hardly an option. I saw a sign further on, with different words. ‘IF THESE SIGNS KEEP BEING REMOVED WE WILL FENCE IN OUR BOUNDRYS.’ (sic) It seems that they are serious, even if they are unable to spell boundaries. Fencing this large area, even with posts and wire, would be a considerable expense. It hardly seems worth it, to keep out a few respectable dog-walkers, and their excited animals, as no harm is ever done there. Vandalism is unknown, though there have been some episodes of fly-tipping in the past. There is nothing other than wood to steal there, and anyone intent on either illegal tipping, or theft of wood, is unlikely to be put off by some wire fences.

I carried on with the walk, until I met a fellow dog-walker, with a friendly Spaniel. I asked her if she knew why the signs had gone up, and I was taken aback by her reply. It seems that a large section of the woodland is owned by a local farm, just across from the entrance. It is a well-known farm in the region, raising beef cattle of a high quality, and it once had a shop where you could buy the meat too. She informed me that the old farmer had died recently, and the farm and all the land owned by it has been handed down to the son of the family, who lives in a large house built next door. He wants to continue with the cattle, and has been looking into all the paperwork and deeds, that go back hundreds of years. He obviously wants to be fully aware of his responsibilities, and to get a good overview of just what he has taken on.

He has been advised that he will require Public Liability Insurance for the stretches of woodland where the public has previously been allowed access. Should someone have an accident; fall over, be hit by a falling tree, trip over a root, or otherwise come to grief, it will be his responsibility, in law. He could be sued, and end up having to pay out a great deal of money, just for letting someone walk their dog. The lady went on to tell me that the cost of this insurance would be prohibitive to the farmer, leaving him with just one option, to close off his portion of the woods to the public by erecting signs. At least this way, nobody would be able to claim, as they would have been knowingly walking on private land, and would have been told to ‘KEEP OUT,’ by the signs.

So it seems that litigation is now affecting access to the countryside too. Surely someone would not claim against a landowner for falling over, when walking their dog? But they might, they just might.

A walk with the camera

As it is Sunday, I decided to take the longer walk with Ollie, from Beetley Meadows, to Gingerbread Corner. I have described this walk many times before, so this time, I thought I would take my camera along, and illustrate it with some photos instead. Leaving the house on a warm and sunny afternoon, my plans were soon confounded, by a change in the weather. A freshening wind arrived, blowing in some dark clouds, and ruining what had been excellent light. I decided to take the photos anyway.

We left by the shortcut, at the side of the Fakenham Road bridge. This iron and stone structure has seen better days, and I felt it suited a B+W photograph.


Crossing the road into Mill Lane, we headed up the path. It is always dark along there, whatever the weather, as it is heavily shaded by trees.


Ollie hasn’t got used to the camera yet, and every time he sees me get ready to take a shot, he tends to stand very close. You can see how a recent moult has left him with a variety of colours on his fur. it will be a while before he returns to a uniform brown all over.


Where the path opens out, it goes through the large estate of Goregate Farm. This old farm machinery has been left to rust, presumably unwanted. It might be good for a B+W shot, but I wanted to show the nice rust colour. I sometimes sit on this on the return journey, but I had very light shorts on today.


The plum orchards seem to be neglected. The branches can be seen heavy with ripening fruit, but there has been no weeding between the rows, and some trees appear to be in need of pruning.


Arriving at the huge pig farm, there was little activity to be seen. Most of the occupants of the small huts seemed to be fast asleep, with just the odd pig’s head peeping out to watch us.


Further on, we could see a large combine harvester working in the field bordering Holt Road. You can see the dust created, billowing at the back of the machine. Just a few weeks ago, Ollie was chasing rabbits in the green shoots of these crops, and now they are on the way to market. It still feels strange to think that this is only a short distance from where we live. Makes me feel very ‘rural.’


Before arriving at Gingerbread Corner, we have to walk thorough another section of dark woodland. Ollie likes to look for squirrels here, and as I photographed my favourite tree stump, he was scanning the leaf litter for furry friends.


Arriving at end of the walk, I took this shot of Gingerbread Cottage, which gives the corner its name. We now had to turn around, and reverse our steps. Two hours and fifteen minutes out in the fresh air, and despite five insect bites, we both had a good time.


I have used smaller files, on advice from Jude. You are still be able to click to enlarge, and despite choosing a smaller size in the edit process, they are still quite big! But I am not so happy with them today, as I was struggling for good light the whole time. I hope that you enjoyed being able to put an image to what I have previously described in words.