Working from home, self-isolation and endless cancelled plans; Spring 2020 hasn’t been as beautiful as I had hoped it would be. That said, one small benefit of being holed up indoors and away from the office is that I’ve been able to visit the Marshes with my camera in tow. A short two minute drive from me, the Marshes is (currently) the ideal option for those of us who are choosing to social-distance. A large, outdoor space that is relatively quiet during the weekday, it’s a great place to fill your lungs with fresh air and get close to nature without the worry of making others ill.
Today I thought I’d share some Spring photos from the Marshes.
Whenever life feels a little too heavy I take a walk. It has always been the way. Getting outside, breathing lungfuls of fresh air and stretching my legs reminds me that I’m alive. And sometimes, that’s just enough.
Without realising it, I think I had become a bit disheartened with it all, as is not too uncommon a feeling for me. My lack of motivation combined with my low mood led to my writing and photography hiatus – it wasn’t intentional, but I can’t say I actively fought with the apathy. If you’re a creative in any sense of the word, you’ll be familiar with the feeling i’m describing.
As the leaves slowly begin to turn and fall, the trees become laden with heavy conkers and the nights draw in darker and colder, I couldn’t help but find myself excitedly reflecting on my favourite season. Autumn is upon us. Okay, so it’s not official until the 22nd of September, but we’re practically there and I intend to enjoy every minute of it.
Today is a special day over here at Pretty Little Finch. If you hadn’t already guessed by the title, this post is the 100th to be published up on the blog!
It’s been a bit of a whirlwind two years really. When I first started Pretty Little Finch it was a journal of sorts. Something to help me remember the good times when I wasn’t feeling so great, and an outlet for me to share all the thoughts swirling around up inside my brain. But as time has passed it has developed and grown. Looking back at some of my earlier posts I find there’s so much I want to rewrite!
I just want to preface this post with an explanation; I will not be including the name of this organisation/company because although the experience wasn’t wholly negative it also wasn’t the best ever either. And I really don’t want to spread any bad vibes or tread on anyones feet – this is just my personal experience.
Anyway we booked in for this particular Birds of Prey Experience Day when we saw it advertised on Groupon at just £15 per person. Most Birds of Prey handling days are over double that in price so it seemed like a really great deal – especially for a whole two hours.
Now, myself and my partner have been to many aviaries, bird centres and bird experience days so we did hold a certain level of expectation. We have both held and flown different types of owl and hawk and have always enjoyed the experience so we were really looking forward to this one.
When we arrived we were instantly disappointed to find that there was over 30 people in our group. That’s about 20 too many if you’re wondering. We knew from the offset that with so many participants we would not be doing a whole lot of flying/handling of the birds. Another thing to note was that there was just one person on hand to show us the birds.
After a 40 minute introductory talk we were finally allowed to handle our first bird which was a brown chested barn owl. Barn owls are lovely creatures so I was quite happy to hold one again. We had to line up and take it in turns to have the bird fly to us (just once.) Unfortunately this process took a matter of minutes to experience personally and then another 30 odd as we stood waiting for everyone else to have a go.
Nevertheless the barn owl was a pleasure to hold and to fly.
After flying the barn owl we flew and held a Harris Hawk. I have handled these before on a couple of occasions so again, this was nothing new to me but Harris Hawks are very lively birds and I enjoyed holding this one. Actually, as the hawk was much perkier this process took much less time than the previous and we probably each held the hawk for mere seconds before it was taken from us and instructed to fly to the next person.
And in terms of flying/handling the birds that was it. I’m not going to lie; I was very surprised and quite disappointed that in two hours we were only able to hold two birds – eek! But as I mentioned earlier, the problem was that the event was oversold and there really was just too many people!
Next we were treated to some talks on different birds and shown a very beautiful Goshawk and Crowned Eagle. The remainder of the time was spent showing us these birds and educating us on how they are reared/handled and their numbers in the wild.
The talks were very in-depth and informative and it was nice to see these wonderful birds up close. If I have one criticism though it’s that there was more talking involved than actual experience.
All in all we had an enjoyable time holding, flying and getting up close and personal with the birds. However, I really don’t think I’d do this particular experience again as there are so many others out there that are much more hands on and personal. If you’re thinking of going on one of these experience days I recommend doing thorough research before booking anything!
Sunlight filters through lush green leaves and the sky is a brilliant blue, dappled with soft, lazy clouds. The scent of lavender hangs on the crisp air and birds can be heard singing and chirping from high above. Everywhere you look there is life and colour; Spring heralds a new season and new beginnings.
There’s something about the seasons Autumn and Spring that speaks deeply to my soul. One brings death, the other brings birth; both bring a spectacular change in the flora and fauna around us. Both dazzle me with their beauty.
And there’s something about Spring that always makes me feel like I have a fresh start. A fresh chance to take adventures, appreciate natural beauty and find inner peace. March through to July are happy, calm months for me. I enjoy sitting outside in the comfortable climate and soaking up my surroundings. Walks in the countryside are particularly pleasing; I still feel a thrill every time I see a white cotton tail darting out of sight or spot some delicate crocuses pushing through the soil to soak up the sun.
The moment I spot daffodils I feel that Spring is on its way in. The buttery yellow flowers are symbolic of the changing of seasons to me, and I love how cheerful and bright they make everything seem. I love the flowers that begin to bloom as it gets warmer, and the heavily scented blossoms that hang from the trees. I love to watch the butterflies finally emerge with their powdery wings, and the bees buzzing between the flower beds and borders of a beautifully manicured garden. Most of all I love to watch the birds collect twigs and straw to make their nests, raise their young and start to fill the mornings with their beautiful song.
Spring feels like a gasp of fresh air after the dark nights, stark trees and bitter chill of Winter. It is a beautiful season and it is almost upon us. Can we all just take a moment to appreciate how wonderful that is?
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!
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.