In early July the Rev’d Jane Durell visited Mannington Hall’s boardwalk and bird hide.
We arrived as the light was beginning to fail. Coming from noisy Norwich, the great stillness impressed me – just the whisper of the wind in the mature willows surrounding the wet meadow. All the colours were muted and harmonious, almost as if a mist was beginning to rise. We were privileged to see a Barn Owl slowly and silently beating it’s way back into the trees. My friend said it was carrying something – I wondered if it was taking supper home to a hungry nest full?
We had passed the sign announcing parking for “the less able”, and ventured down a narrow, grassy and overhung path to find a neat parking place cut in the undergrowth conveniently close to the board walk. From there it was an easy push to get among the marsh flowers and grasses. Hundreds and hundreds of them in all directions – beautiful! Some I knew – others I did not! Red Campion; and shyly peeping out, Ragged Robin; Orchids, some singly, others in groups, and one hanging out into the board walk all ready for close inspection – a Spotted Orchid, I was informed; and there were lots of what as a child I knew as Eggs and Bacon (Bird’s-foot-trefoil), or rather it’s larger cousin, which favours boggy ground.
At the end of the boardwalk we found the hide over looking a pond – empty and welcoming I did not need to transfer to a bench as the viewing slit was at a good level for wheel chair use. We watched a Grey Heron catching frogs. Some were swallowed easily, others appeared to take some arranging before they went down in a great gulp. I was fascinated to watch how the heron’s neck shorten and almost disappear as it prepared to pounce on another frog. At one point a mallard joined the heron. He was totally ignored! They did look an incongruous pair standing side by side on the small artificial island. The Water Lilies must look lovely when they open in full sun – pink or yellow I wonder – but for atmosphere and the birds a summer’s evening is best.
Mannington is signposted near Saxthorpe by the B1149 Norwich – Holt road. Turn left (towards Holt) at the roundabout and soon after turn right towards Matlask. The Car Park and Walks are open every day from 9 a.m. until dusk. Parking costs £2.00. There is a wheelchair accessible lavatory.
© 2006 Richard Woodham