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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last weekend we made our second visit to Bird World. We had throughly enjoyed it last year so decided another trip was in order.
Bird World is set on 26 acres of land in Farnham, Surrey. Large, well-built aviaries nestle among tall trees and landscaped gardens making the place idyllic even in the colder months. During the Autumn and Winter seasons opening hours are limited and certain areas of the park are closed so it’s worth checking the website before making the trip. The website can be found here.
On the Sunday we visited -my 27th birthday- it had been raining all morning and it was positively cold and drab. This meant the park was very empty – perfect for us as it enabled us to take our time looking at the birds, wandering around and we didn’t have to contend with screaming children.
It took us around three and a half hours to get around and explore everything. The park is well laid out and easy to navigate, with clear sections for different types of birds. Owls and raptors in a series of large aviaries, an outback walk through aviary with Australian birds such as budgies, zebra finches and doves that fly above your head and nestle in branches, colourful and exotic birds from around the world and vibrant macaws in a towering structure at the very heart of the park. There’s also a penguin bay and a flamingo cove to walk through as well as a little Jenny Wren farm with friendly chickens and a peacock meandering around.
We purchased some mealworms and bag of cracked corn/seed at the reception to feed the birds with and I recommend doing this as it’s a fun way to get a little closer to the birds, some of which are surprisingly friendly. And if you’re lucky you’ll catch the flashes of gold, orange and red of the beautiful pheasants hiding among the foliage of the pheasant woodland walk – although these shy birds definitely won’t be tempted out with the promise of food!
Asides from the wide variety of birds you will find at Bird World, the best thing about the park is the large and natural enclosures/aviaries in which they live. If you’re undecided about paying the place a visit, I definitely recommend you check out the photos below!
Just a quick disclaimer: the following photos are not perfect. It’s pretty hard to take clear photos of birds through bars so some are quite fuzzy. I hope this does not detract from the overall post and will give you some idea of how great Bird World is.
Saturday is usually the day that Gareth and I try to have a day out and do something a bit different. This weekend he decided we would go to Woburn safari park. I had heard a lot of good things about it so was pretty excited. It’s safe to say I wasn’t disappointed – and the day was full of unexpected discoveries!
When you drive through to the park you are greeted by wandering deer and goat. You can either walk through or drive through. We decided to drive through first and then do the walking bit so we could go at a more leisurely pace and see everything.
As we drove through the park we came across a wide range of fascinating animals. A lot of my photos were taken through the car window so are not perfect and I didn’t manage to snap everything we saw. To give you an idea of what kind of animals reside in this area, we saw bears, tigers, lions, monkeys, giraffes, elephants etc all divided up in to different sections. This was super fun but watch out for hoggers- people who stay in the same spot watching the animals for too long and blocking the road!
My personal favourite was the lion enclosure. Such beautiful animals. The lions seemed to be everyones favourite so there was a bit of queuing – it was worth it though.
We also enjoyed driving through the monkey enclosure and spotting the tiny babies- one even sat on our car bonnet which was a pretty fun experience!
In the monkey enclosure I spotted a black squirrel. I have never seen one of these before and I didn’t even know they existed – my first surprise of the day!
It probably took us about 40 minutes to drive around and see the animals. It could easily take you less or longer depending on the kind of people that turn up on the day!
Once we felt satisfied we’d seen everything we decided to walk around. Upon entering we were greeted by a lake with swan boats.
And we discovered some fairy mushrooms! I think these are Fly Algaric but I could be wrong. Either way I was really, really excited to see these as I have never seen them in real life before.
The area for walking around at Woburn isn’t that large so you probably won’t need a map to get around it all. It is divided up in to different sections though so if there’s something you especially want to see it could be helpful to get one.
The first area we came across was Desert Springs. This was a series of wooden walkways through meercats (a crowd pleaser) mongoose (my personal favourite) and porcupines.
From there we walked to the Lorikeet walk through. This was an enclosed area with a small pool, bridge, bird feeders and, you guessed it, a lot of lorikeets. You can buy nectar to feed the birds. This costs 70p and is a 70p well spent as it’s so very fun to have them land on you! One landed on my shoulder and proceeded to screech in my ear, evidently not interested in the nectar at all! As Gareth and I are bird people, we really enjoyed this one.
After this we stopped for lunch in the main canteen area. I wasn’t expecting much to be honest, not after the poor fare we found at London Zoo! However we were both pleasantly surprised at what was on offer and how nice it was! Whilst there wasn’t much in the way of cold food (just a few sandwiches and packets of crisps) the hot food counter had a lot of delicious options on offer. Gareth got a steak and ale pie, chips and gravy whilst I got Cumberland sausage swirls, chips and mushy peas – everything tasted amazing! Although it wasn’t cheap. If you’re bringing a family and don’t want to overspend it might be best to pack something yourself.
After lunch we stopped by the elephant meadow. There is a gallery of seats on which you can sit and just watch the elephants do their thing
After that we visited an Australian walkthrough with lots of wallabies and rheas. This was quite a wooded area and it was fun to walk through and get just that little bit closer to the animals.
Next to this walk through was another filled with tall trees and tiny squirrel monkeys. These were so adorable! We caught them at feeding time when there was much frenzy on the ground and the keeper gave a little talk about them. I loved the little babies clinging to mums back – how cute!
From here we visited the family of otters. I just love their little faces and cheeky manners. These were also being fed so we were able to get a good view of them.
There are quite a few walk-through experiences and chances to get close to the animals in Woburn safari. I think this is one aspect I enjoyed most and found quite different from other zoos I have visited. Towards the end of our day we walked through another monkey enclosure across wooden pathways- this one with various types of lemur. And lastly a meadow filled with chickens and goats who you could stroke if you chose to (we did!)
All in all we spent about four or five hours at Woburn – this is a lot longer than we usually spend at zoos or attractions. There was a lot to see although it wasn’t spread out over a leg-achingly long distance- it was all quite together and easily manageable to get through.
My favourite part of the day was seeing the Lorikeets and feeding them nectar. Gareth’s was seeing the lions. There is something for everyone here I think so I would definitely recommend it!
Last but not least, I’ll be making some changes to my blog shortly – so please look out for those!
Ever since we spotted the sign at the side of a dirty road some weeks ago and discovered pumpkin patches exist in Essex, we were determined to go.
For some reason fate intervened week after week and for one reason or another, to my extreme dismay, we were unable to make the short trip. However, the sun shone this morning and nothing was stopping us so we finally drove down to Foxes Farm Produce, Basildon and the wonderfully exciting Pumpkin Patch.
We arrived at around 11 o’clock and the carpark was already full with families heaving giant pumpkins in to boots of cars and excited children clad in wellies. Shrieks of laughter hung on the air as families raced ahead with wheelbarrows to find the best pumpkins.
Entry to Foxes Farm Pumpkin Patch is free – you just pay for the pumpkins you take home- and you can take as many as your arms will allow.
Upon entering the Pumpkin Patch we were greeted with stacked hay bales – which the children clumsily clambered on, and wooden containers holding hundreds of pumpkins in all shapes, sizes and shades. There was also a stall set up serving hot food and drinks. We gave this a miss as we’d already eaten.
Further on was a sprawling field absolutely heaving with pumpkins. These had all been pre-picked for ease of collection (and health and safety) and some sat precariously in huge piles. I was surprised to find white pumpkins (or corpse pumpkins as I called them) as I hadn’t seen these before and didn’t know pumpkins came in different colours! That seems funny to think of now but at the time I hadn’t considered the possibility.
There was also a field with corn in although we didn’t really explore this- we were much too excited racing around the field, finding the best pumpkins (the best pumpkin has a nice twisty stalk) and getting caught up in the excitement around us.
The atmosphere was fantastic. Lots of families, children and couples having fun selecting pumpkins and laughing with delight. If you have children, the Pumpkin Patch is an absolute must. We easily spent around an hour there just looking around. We wanted to get one of everything we could find so in the end selected a munchkin pumpkin, a regular pumpkin, a corpse pumpkin, a small white pumpkin that looked like a garlic bulb, and a rounded red one that looks just like a giant onion! We also picked up a pumpkin for Gareth’s nephew and a tiny one for his baby niece! In total we spent £14 pound which was a complete bargain for the whole experience.
You may have read my Autumn bucket list a couple of posts back. If so you’ll know that one of my entries was to take plenty of walks in the countryside, collect conkers and soak up the lovely atmosphere.
On this particular walk I collected up plenty of shiny conkers and met some beautiful deer. I hope you enjoy the photos and they get you in that Autumn mood!
A few weekends ago we decided to make the 50 minute drive to RHS Garden Wisley. You may have read about our trip to RHS Hyde Hall recently (if not you can read about it here!) We were so impressed and had such a nice time that we thought we’d visit some more of the RHS gardens.
Entry to RHS Garden Wisley costs £11.70 per adult IF you buy in advance online. (We didn’t do this but I recommend it.)
Upon entering the gardens I was immediately very impressed with them. There’s some beautiful landscaping and the gardens are larger than those at Hyde Hall with separate areas for different shrubs/heather etc.
My favourite part of the gardens were at the start. The gardens rise up in tiers with concrete steps leading up a hill to further levels and rock gardens. Amongst the rock gardens are some very pretty streams/ponds and waterfalls. At the top you get a magnificent view of the whole park including the greenhouse.
One thing we really liked about the gardens were the variety of plants including all the pretty wildflowers which added splashes of colour to every walkway and path.
RHS Wisley has a greenhouse (which I can liken to that of Kew Gardens.) Inside is an assortment of trees, ferns, cacti and succulents and a big waterfall at the heart. This area is set out very well enabling you to get around efficiently and see everything you’d want to.
There are several lakes and ponds winding through Wisley and the added water features provide plenty of space for ducks and various water fowl.
One area we found ourselves particularly attracted to was the heather garden which had a beautiful aroma and plenty of colour. At the end of these gardens is a wonderful bird lookout from which we spotted goldfinch. We didn’t get much time to spend in the hide so I’d like to go back again with my camera and see what I can snap!
Both of us absolutely loved RHS Wisley and can’t recommend it enough. It’s a large garden but two hours should be sufficient enough to see the majority of it making it a great day out for families with younger children. It’s particularly interesting to those with a passion for ornithology or those who enjoy getting back to nature and spending time somewhere particularly beautiful.
I’ve been having a rough time of it lately and I’m pretty scared about the week ahead. With all this noise going on in my head I thought it would be nice to go for a long walk and get back to nature. We decided to try a new to us country park and picked Bedfords Park which is a 15 minute car ride away in Havering. I was not disappointed. The park was abundant with wildlife with captive red deer, lots of birds, bees, butterflies and wildflower meadows. If you find yourself with some free time and the need to walk like I did, I can’t recommend it enough. I managed to snap a few photographs of my favourite wildlife moments – I hope you enjoy.
Where’s your favourite spot to walk when you need to think? Let me know in the comments below.
Today we woke up and decided upon adventure. Our last few weekends have been lovely but incredibly lazy and we thought it time we got out exploring again. Luckily for me the weather was somewhat overcast (perfect for healing tattooed arms) yet warm with a cool breeze. After some researching we settled on RHS Garden Hyde Hall because it’s a 20 minute drive from us, a relatively cheap day out and because we’d almost visited before – before turning away at the last moment.
I have to say, I may have just found my new favourite place in Essex! I am so glad we paid a visit.
Upon arrival the staff were very helpful, explaining to us where everything was and highlights of the park. We were handed a map and headed off in search of flowers! The garden itself is not huge although it is a good size with plenty to see and explore. If you’re going to pay a visit an ideal amount of time to allocate to your trip would be about 3-4 hours. You can easily explore the gardens in around 2 hours but if you want to take your time (and lots of photos) it’s best to allow for a little more than that.
The gardens are divided up in to sections, with a large pond and converted barn at the very heart. The converted barn cafe is a gorgeous building strung with fairy lights and serving fresh handmade cakes, sandwiches, soups and more. I tried the Victoria sponge with a cup of tea whilst Gareth went for chocolate – we were both surprised and delighted with our choices – if you’re paying a visit to RHS gardens I can’t recommend the cake enough!
The gardens are full to the brim with beautiful flowers, sprawling herbaceous borders, shrubs and fragrant pines. Alongside all this natural beauty you will find a plethora of birds including goldfinches, blue tits, great tits, sparrows, pigeons, song thrushes and many many more. I happily snapped away at as many birds as I could – feeling particularly excited at spotting some goldfinches.
We spent a good few hours in the gardens just marvelling at how beautiful everything was. Both myself and my lovely boyfriend were very impressed and will be visiting again. I took far too many photos to edit, but here’s a snapshot of our day.
In March my feet started to itch and I decided I wanted to visit Paris. I had been only the year previous in February but it’s such a lovely city that I wanted to visit again and this time, with my lovely boyfriend in tow. So I booked us an impromptu and very last minute trip and off we went! For three nights and four days we spent our time wandering around the beautiful city and soaking up the familiar yet exhilarating sights. I toiled with the idea of blogging about our adventures for some time yet life got in the way and two months rolled around without me doing a single thing with the amazing photos I took. So here it is now – a little late. Just some unedited photos of our trip and some brief descriptions of famous landmarks!
The Catacombs of Paris
Picture the scene; it’s dark, the air is thick with the smell of damp and the cold stone floors are slick with water that drips methodically from the jagged rock ceiling. You’re in a dark, twisting tunnel with loose, gritty floor. You find yourself there after descending an impossibly curved staircase that seems to spiral down in to the very centre of the earth. You know that at any corner you could be faced with the grostequely fascinating – hundreds of skulls and ribcages and thighbones – arranged intricately to form columns and designs. Sounds like a scene straight from an Indiana Jones movie doesn’t it? And that’s because visiting the catacombs of Paris is the closest you’ll get to feeling like you’ve stepped straight in to a lost world. I have visited the catacombs before and I will visit again. It is unlike anything else you will experience. Whilst I don’t know the exact history of these winding caves I can tell you it is beyond fascinating. The tunnels wind on for what feels like a lifetime – all the while as you ramble through them you have that prickle of dread and anticipation – because seeing human skulls laid out like they are is a really crazy experience that will stay with you. I found myself thinking about who the remains belonged to, what they would have looked like, how they got there etc. This is definitely one for the adventure seekers at heart.
Notre Dame is impossibly beautiful. It rises up magnificently to the sky and, it stands alone which seems to make it all the more impressive. Architecturally it is stunning – with carved columns and huge stained glass windows. I feel like I throw the word ‘beautiful’ around a lot when I’m describing the sites in Paris but this is just…wow. Breathtaking. Again, I have visited Notre Dame before and I will again. It is without any doubt my favourite thing in the entire city topping even the Catacombs. The ceilings rise up and away and even though Notre Dame is permanently crammed full of tourists it feels very spacious. The stained glass windows are a real treat for the eyes – with the sun filtering through beautiful shades of gold, red and blues they look like jewels. I don’t have the words to do this place justice so you’ll have to go by the unedited photos and take a look for yourself.
On Sunday we were blessed with lovely sunny weather so we decided to make the most of our RSPB memberships and head over to Rainham Marshes reserve. The marshes were absolutely fantastic and whilst I didn’t get the shots I wanted, I did get to see a lot of wildlife and my most favourite- goldfinches! For anyone wanting to visit Rainham Marshes for the purpose of bird-watching I cannot recommend it enough. It is a lovely area also so if you’re not interested in the birds you’d still get a lot of enjoyment out of the walk. When I return I will make sure to take photos of everything and review it properly but for now here are some quick shots of the kind of wildlife you can expect to find there!
I have wanted to visit Kew Gardens for a good few years now but have always put it off for some reason or the other. However, my current job permits me free entry and the weekend before last (with the sunny weather) was the perfect opportunity to finally make that trip. It’s taken me a little while to get around to blogging about it, mostly because of how many pictures I took (and therefore had to edit- lazy, sorry!)
We drove down to Kew Gardens in the car – there isn’t really a specific car park or parking – you can park along outside the walls of the garden. Not ideal and we have read this gets busy very quickly. Luckily we arrived early, around ten and we managed to park okay- so if you’re planning on driving to Kew Gardens I’d recommend getting there nice and early!
When we arrived it was lovely and sunny and the air was unexpectedly warm for late March. Both my partner and I were able to enter for free which was a lovely perk. Upon entering these vast gardens we were met with an appealing sight for the eyes, a beautiful lake and carefully arranged beds of flowers.
By the lake there was a big glass structure- a tropical house filled with exotic palms and greenery. Inside was really hot and steamy, with water dripping from plant tendrils and thick air fogging up my camera lens. Because of this all of my pictures are a little foggy! I think it illustrates perfectly what it was like to be inside though.
Rambling through the greenhouse it felt like we were exploring some exotic forest. Among all the lush green foliage was an array of unusual plants and seed pods which were all very interesting to observe.
From here we walked past the lake and through to another large glass building – the structure much like a greenhouse. This was divided up in to sections, such as ‘desert’. We wandered through cacti patches (my favourites) and beautiful lush ferns. At the centre of the greenhouse was a large pond filled with darting fish and lillie pads.
After our stroll through the green house we were decidedly hungry and set out in search of a cafe. Walking through Kew Gardens you get to see some really beautiful scenery – tall trees and carpets of flowers.
At the cafe (which I believe is reasonably priced) we stopped for lunch. This was a fantastic cafe with a great selection of hot food as well as freshly prepared cakes, packed lunches and more. Gareth had sausage and chips whilst I had the child’s packed lunch! Don’t be fooled though, the packed lunch was filled with delicious goodies and I was quite full after eating it!
After lunch we strolled through the gardens with no real plan set in mind – just soaking up the sunshine and our beautiful surroundings. We were fortunate enough to spot a beautiful woodpecker.
Eventually we came to a bamboo garden. This, as you can imagine – was filled with bamboo – The Minka House – which is a traditional Japanese farmhouse – also stands here.
From here we crossed the river. Looking at our map we decided to head towards the treetop walk where we would get a lovely view of the entire gardens.
As you can see, the tree top walk (pictured above) is pretty high up. Once at the top I was a lot less interested in the view than I had anticipated and concerned myself more with keeping my balance! I never really thought I had a problem with heights, but the metal flooring is pretty rickety (albeit very safe and secure I’m sure) I wussed out! And whilst I did make it the whole way round I certainly wasn’t snapping any pictures OR letting go of the railing!
Back on solid ground we rested a little before heading to yet another green house. There are many of these dotted about, but the largest one of all was closed during our visit. The main attraction of this green house was the big pond in the centre, and the lillie pads and flowers that grew there.
Back outside again I snapped every flower I could possibly find as we walked. There were a great many trees laden with blossom which was beautiful to see swaying in the breeze. Flower beds were all neatly manicured and the colours were very pretty and spring appropriate.
The last port of call for us was the rock garden. Upon entering this part of Kew Gardens we were greeted by a brilliant blue peacock sunning itself on a rock! Being a bird person, this was particularly exciting for me to see.
The rock garden was filled with lovely plants, flowers and shrubs as well as tumbling water features. Towards the end of the garden a small green house sits. Inside are beautiful plants – some potted, some growing in the earth.
After this we decided to call it a day as we were both really tired from all the walking we had done! I had a wonderful time at Kew Gardens and can’t recommend it enough. We didn’t even get around half of the gardens so we’ll definitely be back to see the rest of it when the weather is warmer and the flowers are fully in bloom. Spring at Kew is beautiful however so I definitely think it’s worth a visit this time of year. If you’re planning a visit make sure you set aside a whole day to explore – the Gardens are really large and there’s a lot to see!
It’s been awhile since we’ve had a proper day out. When we were living in London we spent almost every weekend ferrying ourselves in to Essex and beyond for big adventures but since moving to Brentwood we have been enjoying a slower pace of life and the ample countryside around us. Yesterday however we had the itch to explore and because I have wanted to visit Tropical Wings for awhile we decided it would be a good destination.
Tropical Wings is a small zoo with a family focus and it is located in South Woodham Ferrers. It’s very reasonably priced costing £10.95 per adult and £8.95 for kids. Of course, we unlike most at the zoo, did not (and do not) have kids…but I just really like wildlife and getting the opportunity to use my camera! So don’t be put off of going if you don’t have children.
The zoo itself is quite small but it’s a good size. You can get around all of it (at a moderate pace) in around an hour to two hours (we were there for the latter) and there’s a lot of really interesting animals there. If you want to see the bigger animals such as lions, zebra and hippos this probably is not the zoo for you. However it did have a plethora of interesting creatures including wallabies, Capybara, birds of prey, otters etc as well as farmyard animals and the more traditional ‘pet’ animals such as rabbits, guineapigs and chickens. The animals are really well kept too with ‘natural’ enclosures and plenty of space which was nice to see. The grounds are well maintained, everything is clean and it’s a really great place to visit. With some of the smaller zoos the upkeep isn’t always great, but Tropical Wings was really nice.
We started out in the butterfly house. In there it was very warm and there were hundreds of gorgeous butterflies floating around and landing on unsuspecting visitors! This was a highlight of Tropical Wings for me. We even spotted some quail (and as you may know, I love quail!) and some exotic birds which I couldn’t identify. I love having the aspect of walking around with animals and insects flying about doing their thing. Although some of the parents in there were rude and it made me cringe when one man in particular pushed a buggy out through the doors releasing at least two beautiful blue butterflies in to the cold. I hope those were put back in – and I’m sure they were, it just annoyed me a little to see someone be so inconsiderate!
From here we moved on to the birds of the world section. Naturally this was always going to be my favourite, but when I saw there were zebra finches I was even more excited! I know what you’re thinking. I have a whole charm of the creatures myself at home/why would I pay to see them. And yes, that’s true but zebra finches are amazing little creatures and it’s really interesting to see a big aviary of them together. There were a lot of chestnut flanked zebs in there too. I could easily have taken a pocketful of them home. I didn’t though!
Whilst wandering around we came across a great many unusual creatures, some of which I (sadly) couldn’t identify. Luckily for us the animal enclosures were all accompanied by signs that identified the animals and highlighted some interesting facts. I really should have jotted these down for the more unusual creatures however being the organised person I am, I didn’t!
As we walked around we came across a North American Turkey that was really friendly. He came right up to us and seemed very interested in my camera! If you visit the zoo make sure to say hi to him. Turkeys aren’t necessarily the most beautiful or exotic of animals, but this little guy had a big personality and it really shined through.
The zoo also has a wallaby/Mara walk-through. This was particularly fun and it was lovely to see a wallaby with a little baby stuffed in her pouch!
Finally we ended up in what I’d call the pets/farmyard corner. As I mentioned earlier, there are lots of chickens, goats, rabbits, guineapigs etc. I believe that they have a corner where you can experience the animals and hold them (don’t quote me on this!) But that wasn’t an option when we were there. If it was I would have definitely snuggled the bunnies!
All in all we both had a great time at the zoo and I couldn’t recommend it enough. If you’re thinking of taking a visit, you can find the website here
This last picture is not from inside the zoo, but just outside. I absolutely love sparrows and there was a great many of them flying about and making nests. The whole site feels very natural and that’s just one of the reasons it’s so lovely.
I find that as I get older, I am more open about my mental illness. It’s not something I generally tell people when I first meet them, or bring up in discussion but it’s not something I go to great lengths to hide anymore. This past week I have been feeling particularly down. I’m unwell at the moment so I think that has had its’ part to play, but generally the mood has not been good and I have found myself feeling really upset.
One thing I find that helps to lift my mood is walking. I know they say exercise releases endorphins (and I’m sure it does) but I don’t particularly subscribe to intense cardio sessions when I feel miserable. What is more manageable however, is a nice walk.
Since moving back to Essex I have been tremendously lucky in what I have around me. There are beautiful thick woodlands and country parks that sprawl across acres. I have explored many rambling paths and stood at the edges of many glittering lakes. I have fed deer, ducks and watched colourful birds. I know I’m lucky to live so nearby to so many wonderful places, so I try to take advantage of that as much as possible. Most weekends I am outdoors.
The other day was not a good day for me. I was feeling particularly unwell and down in the dumps after finishing my day of working from home. However, the sun had made a rare appearance which did seem to brighten things a little. Gareth and I decided to drive down to Chalkwell to take a walk by the sea. My aunt had mentioned it in conversation at the weekend, and I had fond memories of lurking about in the beachy mud over there when I was a child. We got in the car and made the 40 minute trip down.
When we got there the tide was out, but the sun shone brilliantly and I could feel myself relaxing and starting to feel happier. We took a long walk on the empty beach, searching for sea glass and revelling in the quietness. Although it was not warm, I felt fine in a jumper and jacket and I very much enjoyed feeling the sun on the back of my head. I find that the nicer the scenery the more I start to relax. The longer I walk the more my problems seem to melt away also, almost as if I’m leaving them behind me. I have always liked the seaside, and although it may sound strange, to me it is more enjoyable during the colder months when it is empty yet beautiful. When other people can’t interfere with my experience.
We walked for a long time, taking photographs and enjoying the beautiful views. We walked all the way up to Southend where we stopped for a cold beer. By the time we reached Southend the sun had set, and it was dark and much colder. The walk back to the car was chilly to say the least, but as my legs began to silently burn, I felt a lot more positive in my mind.
Sometimes I think when you’re feeling rotten, the best thing to do is to do something else. To remove yourself from a situation or a place, and to take yourself outside where it’s easier to breathe and you can think more clearly and freely. Empty or quiet spaces are really what I’d recommend for people feeling stressed and frustrated. The woods can be really good for this. I find that a lot of people are dissuaded from walking around the winter months because of the cold, but I think it’s the perfect time to get out there. I really enjoyed my walk by the sea, and think that I will go again before it becomes too busy to be a relaxing experience.
On our last day in Rome we woke at six but snoozed until eight. Almost overcome with exhaustion yet not wanting to waste time this felt like a good compromise. My legs had seized up and were sore but today we had planned to see the forum and walk up Palatine hill.
Ideally it’s best to visit the Colosseum and forum together because they are in such close proximity. We would have done this ourselves but, not wanting to miss the Capuchin Crypts (and not being able to find out if they’d be open on a Sunday) we chose to break our time up and leave the forum to last. Besides, this way we had more time to give to our surroundings.
We stopped first for breakfast. Our last day in Rome required a breakfast befitting of such an occasion. I had a beautiful custard pastry and milky coffee whilst Gareth had a pain au chocolat and freshly squeezed orange juice – this was vastly nicer than the offerings of the hotel and left me feeling ready to take on the day.
We took the Metro to the Colosseum.
When we arrived at our destination, we wandered around for a while stupidly unable to find the correct entrance.
Inside the forum were beautiful and intriguing ruins and as we rambled further among them I felt as if I were in a story book or film set. Some of the charm was lost to the pain I felt in my legs as I struggled on. Often I had to take a seat on a bench. Sometimes this was pleasant, especially when I could hear the melodious sounds of a violin waft on the breeze (it felt like a private concert.) Other times it was frustrating as I willed my poor legs to work so I could explore this exciting place. Although there are plaques up to briefly describe what everything is, not much information is given. For those who want to learn the history I’d recommend a tour. Personally I just enjoyed soaking up the surroundings and feeling as if I’d stepped in to a text book.
We eventually found ourselves traversing up Palatine hill and taking in the views of the forum below us which were stunning. At the top we came across orange trees, fountains and exotic green parrots feasting on seeds and berries. I was truly surprised to see parrots as I hadn’t expected them at all. I also caught site of two chaffinches which made me happy.
And that was it. Our trip to Rome was over and it was time to catch the plane back to rainy England.
I had a wonderful time in Rome and saw some beautiful and extraordinarily interesting things. It’s more than possible to see a lot in a short space of time but if you’re thinking of visiting Rome as a weekend break I’d recommend sticking to the main attractions – they are more than worth it!