Month: December 2016

A Frosty Trip to Langdon Nature Reserve

The ground was thick with frost this morning, but with the brilliant sunshine beaming down and chasing away the cold it was a lovely time to take a walk. We decided to visit Langdon Nature Reserve as we have driven past it a few times but have never stopped to take a proper look, plus it is only a short 15 minute drive from our house which makes it ideal.

The Essex Wildlife Trust reserve is set on 461 acres of woodland, meadows and former plot land gardens and at the very heart sits a huge, glassy lake, filled with ducks and water fowl.

A shop and cafe are nestled in the parking lot. We did not stop to eat here but we did take a quick peek and it looked very cosy, serving cakes, sandwiches and crisps as well as the all essential garden bird feeders and fat balls.

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Next to the cafe/shop was a small manicured garden with benches and lots of bird feeders. We spotted plenty of plump, well fed robins as well as blue tits, great tits, sparrows and dunnocks. Areas with bird feeders are always my favourite so we spent a lot of time here, lurking around and listening to the birds.

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Walking through the reserve we spotted lots of different species of birds – some we couldn’t identify, as well as a little mouse/water vole (I couldn’t get close enough to check!) The area was abundant with wildlife with the lake being a real hub for water fowl. The lake had actually frozen over from the cold and the ducks looked quite happy to skid and flap across the ice.

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The park also has a wonderful Peter Rabbit trail to keep younger minds occupied and happy. As someone who read and adored Peter Rabbit and friends as a child, I myself really enjoyed wandering around and spotting the beautiful wooden sculptures. Mrs Tiggy Winkle was always my favourite so I was delighted to find her!

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All in all we spent an hour at Langdon Nature Reserve and really enjoyed it. The mix of open fields / woodlands and water worked really well making it a good all round country park to walk in with something interesting to spot around every corner. In the summer time there is fruit picking in the orchard with apples, pears, cherries and more – so I will definitely be heading back then to pick some fruit!

Christmas in Nuremberg

We landed in Germany early on a Thursday morning. The first thing that we noticed was that Nuremberg was bitterly cold. The kind of cold that freezes the tip of your nose, bites at your fingers and creates a thick puff of cloud with every breath you take. Even bundled up against it in thick wooden hats, scarves and mittens it seeped through and chilled our bones. At the hotel we added extra layers before setting off for the markets.

As we entered Hauptmarkt the smell of candied nuts, cinnamon and mulled wine hung thick on the air, punctuated occasionally by the waft of smokey grilled sausages. Twinkling fairy lights and wreaths adorned every stall and light glittered off the hanging glass baubles. An assault on the senses, stepping in to Nuremberg Christmas markets was like stepping in to a Winter Wonderland; somewhere between old fairytales and dreams.

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Shoppers bustled around, clutching ceramic mugs filled with Gluhwein, trails of steam curling up through the cold air and leaving behind a tantalising scent. Hungry from our journey we ordered two mugs of Gluhwein with an extra shot of Amaretto for warmth and followed those with Bratwursts in brioche buns. When you order Gluhwein there is a deposit system which means you can wander around the stalls with your own mug before returning it. We warmed our fingers on the mugs as we shopped. The stalls were varied and displayed a vast array of festive goodies. There were stalls laden with cookies, cakes and sweet treats, others with carefully crafted glass ornaments and trinkets, stuffed teddy bears and old fashioned metal toys. And of course, the traditional prune men- there truly was something to please and delight everyone.

My favourite little purchase was a funny little pickle ornament with a tag that read: The Christmas Pickle. This original custom brings alive the spirit of gift giving. The lucky person is the first one to find the glass pickle hidden in the branches of the Christmas tree. Whoever finds the pickle is rewarded with an additional gift.

I bought two of these pickles. One for our tree and one for my parents. I think it is a lovely and unusual tradition.

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We came back to the market when the sun had gone down and it was dark outside. If you had told me the market could become even more magical I wouldn’t have believed it – but at night Hauptmarkt is particularly special. The locals came out to stand on the cobbled streets and chat over steaming drinks, a brass band played music on a stage outside the church and every inch of the market was illuminated with pretty lights. We shopped and wandered around once more, taking in everything we had seen earlier from a new perspective.

Later we ate in an Italian restaurant, having stuffed our faces with all kinds of German cakes, chocolates and sausages earlier on in the day. Located near the Hauptbahnhof, Osteria Del Centro was a little restaurant with dim lights, scrubbed wooden tables and a real pizza oven. We ate a full three courses there (something I almost never do) including bruschetta, delicious pasta for me, pizza for Gareth and profiteroles to finish- all washed down with cold Keller beer.

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Bamberg

The next morning we took the train from Nuremburg to Bamberg. The 40 odd minute journey seemed to go by in a flash as we whizzed through the German countryside.

The market in Bamberg was much smaller than the Hauptmarkt but it was filled with fun gifts and yet more delicious food. I purchased a beautiful knitted scarf in shades of orange that reminded me of spaghetti hoops and a small clockwork chicken. I spent quite some time lusting over the beautiful clockwork toys, my attention piqued by a lovely little snail. We ate more bratwursts in buns and these hot potato shavings that were just like crisps and then set off to look at the towns architecture.

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Certainly Bamberg is a very picturesque town. The buildings are mostly original, and we had fun pointing out the intricate structures to each other. We meandered through the narrow cobbled streets, gazing in awe at everything around us, tall pastel coloured buildings standing out against the grey sky. Each shop was beautifully decorated with wreaths, baubles and pinecones and seemed to be in competition with the last. Gareth even managed to find a record shop down one of the side streets and we spent awhile in there rifling through dusty vinyls.

If you’re visiting Nuremberg, I can’t recommend a trip to Bamberg enough as it is a very beautiful place.

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Finally

On our last day in Germany it began to snow. Tiny glittering specks falling down from the sky and leaving the thinnest coat of ice on the ground. It was colder than the previous days but, full of plans for the day and in awe of how beautiful it looked we barely noticed the chill. We visited the Nuremburg castle and took in the views of the town from the top of the tower. Afterwards we paid a visit to Albrecht Durers house. It was interesting to learn about the famous German painter and to wander from room to room in his house taking in the views and catching a glimpse of what life was like in Germany during the high renaissance. However I did find myself wishing they had more of his original paintings (his self portrait resides in Munich.)

Our last stop of our last day was the market- there we made our final purchases said our goodbyes to the beautiful Hauptmarkt.

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Some of our haul. Note the little pickle!