A Crunchy Walk

Yesterday morning was icy, and still below freezing at midday. The cars were iced up, and the road was dangerously slippery.

I headed out with Ollie before 1pm, heavily wrapped-up against a bitingly cold North wind.

But the sun was shining brilliantly, and the sky deep blue. So despite the cold, the walk looked promising. And it was.

That hard frost had frozen the mud. And the leaves, and the grass. The result was a nice ‘crunchy’ walk underfoot, and no slipping and sliding in sticky mud.

As a bonus, the local Wildlife Trust workers have finally installed the bridge across to Hoe Rough. They also cleared a path on Monday and Tuesday, so we could walk to the bridge from just inside the woodland on Beetley Meadows.

Once across the bridge spanning the small River Whitewater, we discovered another bonus. They have installed a solid metal gate, to stop any grazing cows finding their way across to disturb the peace on The Meadows. Well done to them!

This means we no longer have to walk up to the main Fakenham Road to use the road bridge to get to Hoe Rough Nature Reserve.

Bridge photos to follow eventually.

The Nesting Tree

When I first started walking Ollie ten years ago, I spotted this tree across the river, on Hoe Rough. I could see many nests in the branches, of varying sizes.

(You can enlarge the photos on Flickr. Click on them to be taken there.)

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In all this time, I have never seen a bird on any of the nests, and despite some storms and gales, few if any have fallen off the tree.

**Update** Thanks to Henry, (see his comment below) I have discovered that these are not nests at all, but a fungal plant parasite that causes what is known as ‘Witches Broom’. I found a photo of this online.

Similar to my own close-up photo today.

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It felt suitably Spring-like today. Blossom was out.

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Daffodils standing proud on the riverbank.

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I may have to change my plans this week. The weather forcast for Wednesday has changed to the chance of heavy rain. So tomorrow afternoon might be the best day to go to the Bird Park and Nature Reserve at Pensthorpe.

A sunny walk with the camera

Reblogging this old photo post for the benefit of new followers since it was posted in February 2016. Almost six years ago, a few days after Ollie’s 4th birthday, and on a very cold day in Beetley.
The camera used was the Fuji X30, and the aperture settings were either f5.6 or f8. All the files are straight from the camera, with no post-processing.

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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.

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A few paces further on, and the rest of that water was joining up, forming what looked like a small canal. It…

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Ollie And The Feral Cat

Some years ago, a person here told me about some feral cats living in Beetley. I never encountered one, and thought he was probably teasing me, regarding me as a ‘City Boy’ who had moved to the countryside.

Yesterday was very humid, and after Ollie had taken two dips in the river to cool down, I headed over to Hoe Rough as usual, hoping to make a longer walk of it in dry weather. Ten minutes in, and along the narrow riverside path on the north side, I spotted a cat a couple of hundred yards ahead. It looked scruffy, had no collar, and seemed to be in need of a meal, it was so thin and ragged. It was also a strange colour, with black and tan markings resembling some kind of spotted fur, like a wildcat.

(We don’t have wildcats in England any longer)

When it saw me, it arched its back, like they do in cartoons. But then it noticed Ollie following, and it turned and ran off. Ollie saw the movement, and took off after it at lightning speed. Despite his age, my dog cleared the distance in a remarkably short time, and for a moment I thought he might catch the cat.

Luckily for the feline, there are plenty of trees around there, and it had scooted up one before Ollie was close enough to grab it.

Following at some distance, I could hear Ollie whooping and yelping, sounding like a real hunting dog. When I caught up, I found him at the base of the tree, and up in the top branches was the cat, staring down at us.

Reluctant to leave the tree and the cat seeking sanctuary in it, Ollie eventually followed me along the path. He got as far as the bend in the river before creeping under the wire of the fence and plunging in for a much-needed drink.

At least the cat had made him remember once again that he was one of nature’s hunting predators.

Ollie: An Eventful Walk

For the last few days, Ollie has not had much fun on his walks. Many of his regular doggy pals have been notable by their absence, and the few dogs he did encounter didn’t seem to like him that much, including one tiny terrier who attacked him on sight.

The day before yesterday we got a real soaking in unexpected rain, and yesterday we only saw one other dog, in more than two hours of walking around.

Today was sunny to start, with ‘showers’ supposed to arrive after 3 pm. So I set off a bit earlier, and it proved to be a good plan. Ollie soon met up with a couple of friendly Spaniels he knows, and the new arrival of a small white Staffordshire Bull Terrier proved to be a friendly encounter too.

Over on Hoe Rough, there seemed to be no dog-walkers today. But halfway round the right hand path, Ollie spotted a white-tailed deer crossing the path up ahead, and took off in hunting mode. No chance of catching it of course, but until it went to ground in a dense thicket of shrubs, he had a good chase.

Then he decided to track the animals route, nose to the ground, sniffing like a Bloodhound.

He was excited enough to need a long dip in the river before we started on the return journey to Beetley Meadows. Once back over the bridge, Ollie was delighted to see little Lola, the affectionate Shih Tzu. And she was in the company of Zen, the feisty miniature Chihuahua.

The three of them had a good meet, with strokes and cuddles all round, and lots of sniffing and running in small circles.

By the time we got home, Ollie was ready for his dinner, and he is now sleeping soundly next to me, after his eventful walk.

The Pondering Pheasant

(Not the actual pheasant)

Pheasants can fly. I know they can, as I have seen them flying. Granted they tend not to fly very high, or for a long time, but fly they can.

Approaching Hoe Rough on the busy Fakenham Road earlier, I saw a brightly-plumaged cock pheasant (Identical to the one above) on the other side of the road, at the junction with Mill Lane. It seemed to be considering going across to the small car park in front of the entrance to Hoe Rough. Then it casually stepped out into the road. After a few steps, it stopped, seeming to be pondering something.

If a bird can be said to look deep in thought, then this one certainly was.

Seconds later, a small Fiat car appeared from the direction of Dereham. Fortunately for the thoughtful bird, the lady driver slowed her car, and carefully steered around it. With the road momentarily clear, the pheasant seemed to snap out of its reverie, and began crossing the second half of the road. But rather than take the obvious route, it made a diagonal approach, leaving it in the path of a fast-moving delivery van heading east from Beetley.

I winced as the van drove straight over it without hesitation, expecting to see the remains of a badly-squashed bird in its wake. Luckily, the height of the comercial vehicle had meant the bird had been unscathed. It did not even appear to be that concerned by its close encounter with potential oblivion.

A few steps more took Mr Pheasant into the car park, and under the gate of the nature reserve. Ollie and I followed seconds later, watching the bird saunter off into some dense undergrowth ahead of us.

Not unlike the pheasant, I was left pondering.

Why didn’t it just fly across the road?

Hailstones And Brambles

There are some days when you wished you could have stayed at home, instead of having to walk your dog. Today was one of those days.

I left the house with Ollie in bright sunshine, but seeing some dark clouds in the distance, I took my umbrella. Despite the sun, the wind was still gusting, and very cold too. Fifteen minutes after arriving on Beetley Meadows, I saw a lightly-dressed dog-walker running for the exit. Opening my umbrella just in time, I was suddenly battered by pea-sized hailstones, as the temperature dropped dramatically.

Moments later, it was as dark as night, with the coulds I had spotted earlier appearing to be low enough to touch the treetops. As the hailstorm increased in intensity, I clung desperately to my umbrella to keep the worst of it from hitting my face. Then I headed for a woodland area, to try to reduce the impact of the wind-driven icy projectiles.

By the time I got into the trees for some relief, the patch pockets of my coat were full of hailstones, and I had to stand and scoop them out before they melted. By contrast, Ollie was casually walking around and sniffing, as if having his back covered in hundreds of icy white balls was completely normal.

Then it stopped, and the sun came out.

Waiting a while to make sure no more threatening clouds could be seen, I took Ollie over to Hoe Rough. Despite the thick mud over there, it became quite a pleasant walk in the sunshine, with the temperature warming up considerably from earlier.

We had been out for just about an hour when Ollie headed into a deep muddy pool. It looked to be about eight feet long by four feet wide, and had formed in a natural depression in the gound. Seeing it didn’t reach his underbelly, I followed him in, and carried on walking. But unbeknownst to me, the murky water concealed the thick tendrils of some nearby brambles. I was over two-thirds of the way through when both my heavy boots slid under the bramble creeper, stopping me in my tracks.

More than that, the sudden decelleration pitched me forward. Dropping my umbrella, I spread out both arms, in the hope of stopping myself falling face-first into the quagmire. My right hand found some firm support, in the form of a grassy hillock, but my left hand disappeared into a clump of brambles and assorted spiky plants, offering only sharp pains, and no support. As a result, I ended up kneeling in the slop, my thick dog-walking trousers saturated at the knees.

Ollie looked at me as if I was playing some kind of game that didn’t interest him, and trotted off to pee up a nearby fallen tree branch. Before I could try to stand, I had to get the thorns and spikes out of my left palm and fingers, as they were incredibly painful. I used my teeth, carefully extracting each one. I counted eleven, before I eventually stood up.

That was enough for me. Hailstones and brambles had ruined my walk, and soured my mood. I strode off in the direction of home, and when I put Ollie’s lead on, he gave me a ‘hard done by’ look that we were leaving after just over an hour.

But I didn’t care, as I had genuinely had enough.

Video: More Heavy Snow, and Hoe Rough

Overnight last night, we had another very heavy fall of snow. This despite the BBC weatherman saying that “The East has seen the last of the snow for now”. It was bad enough for us to cancel the dog groomer appointment and reschedule for next week. No point risking a five-mile drive involving untreated roads, just to get a dog shampooed.

The morning was very sunny and bright, so I took the phone on Ollie’s walk, and headed over to Hoe Rough. Unfortunately, it was still so bright at the start of the walk, that I couldn’t see a thing on the screen, other than my own face reflected in it. So the results are rather hit and miss, but I will post them all anyway.

Ollie in some quite deep snow. Not many people had been over there, and in parts it was as deep as my boots.

A shorter clip of Ollie. He had heard something, so stopped to listen carefully.

At the time, I couldn’t see what was in the frame here, but I managed to get Ollie’s head in at the end. 🙂

Ollie ‘marking’ some snow. The pool of water is left over from the recent floods, and I walked in to show how deep it is.

Where Hoe Rough opens out, you can see the extent of the virgin snow to the south.
At this point the sun went in, and didn’t appear again.

The river bend from the Hoe side, looking across to Beetley Meadows.
Walking there was heavy going, as nobody had been down there before us, and the path was covered over.

Next to the gate of the path that leads up to Holt Road. I am calling Ollie a ‘good boy’ to make him wag his tail for you. 🙂
The pools of water you can see are left over from the recent flooding.

This is ‘The Dell’, where I like to sit and rest on very hot days.
What looks like a pond is in fact a deep pool of rainwater that has been there for months.

Looking north from the southern end of Hoe Rough.
Behind the wire fence is a large private woodland, part of the huge garden of a relatively small house in Hoe.

I hope you have all enjoyed my two days of snow videos. Hopefully, that will be the last of the snow this year!

A Semi-Aquatic Dog Walk

I waited until the rain I wrote about yesterday had finally stopped, then set out with Ollie in bright sunshine. I was aiming for Beetley Meadows as usual, but soon discovered that around 40% of our usual walking area was under water.

This is definitely the worst I have seen it since moving here, a legacy of the rain that almost drove me insane over the previous 28 hours.

The seats of the picnic benches were submerged, and the water had not just burst the banks, the river was actually flowing at some speed in areas where we walk every single day. In the livestock field beyond, it was spreading almost as far as the busy Holt Road in the distance. Fortunately, there were no grazing animals there.

Ollie splashed happily through the freezing muddy water, but as I followed him I realised that it might well come over the top of my boots, and I was forced to retrace my steps. I decided to head across to Hoe Rough, which is slightly higher ground. Our arrival there coincided with a sudden hailstorm, which turned Ollie’s back white in seconds, and was hammering against the canopy of my umbrella.

It turned out that not only was Hoe Rough just as badly off for flooding on the north side next to the river, but some of the larger ‘puddles’ along the main path were also too deep for my knee-length boots. Some old trees had fallen too, the roots washed away by the flood waters. I may have to invest in some fisherman’s waders!

The second hailstorm that arrived was more than I could take, so we headed home. I had to take Ollie along the path beside Fakenham Road to avoid more standing water.

And even after using all four of his special dog-towels to dry him off, he is still damp to the touch.

We have an Atlantic storm arriving on the 26th. They say we will have ‘heavy downpours’ along with winds up to 80 mph.

At least tomorrow is forecast to be dry.

Ollie And The Cows

For a while now, we have been unable to venture onto Hoe Rough, as the Wildlife Trust wardens are allowing a small herd of cattle to graze there.

One of them in particular doesn’t seem to like dogs, and gave us the ‘evil eye’ when I fist noticed the cows there.

It was a lot like this one.

Now Ollie pays no attention to cows, but they certainly pay attention to him. That means I have to walk extra circuits of Beetley Meadows instead of going to Hoe Rough. Ollie doesn’t mind that at all, even though I find it boring.

But the cows are still watching…

Earlier today, i spotted the big black and white one staring at us from across the river. It carried on looking at us until we rounded a bend and were out of sight.

I will be pleased when they are back on the farm.