old lorries steam power traditions

Our Norfolk Holiday – The Railway Station at Holt

This post takes us back to 2017 and shares part of a holiday week. As we are being effected by the coronavirus problems I thought this post would give a little cheer.

While holidaying in Norfolk with daughter Jo and son-in-law Rob in the summer of 2017 we were so pleased to find a steam railway line close to where we were staying. We alighted at Holt Station where it has its name written in cut box.

The railway itself is known as the North Norfolk Railway, with a friendly nickname of the Poppy Line. The station at Holt is run by a group of volunteers, the Friends of Holt Station and there is an obvious sense of pride in everything they do. Thus everything is clean, tidy and beautifully maintained. We decided to ride the train to the end of the line, not far away in Sheringham.


The detailing is full of character and beautifully restored and maintained. Each feature brought back memories of childhood for Jude and I but a secondhand nostalgia for Jo and Rob.


In the yard beyond the station buildings we discovered some old freight trucks and an old brown lorry, again beautifully restored.

While waiting for our train to arrive were disappointed that the first engine we spotted was a diesel. Luckily ours followed not long after, a shining green steam engine.


After a most enjoyable journey with sights, sounds and smells from times past we arrived at the seaside town of Sherringham where we spent the day. In our childhood travelling by steam train was a normal way of getting around so days like this bring back fond memories.

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Houghton Hall Part 2 – The Gardens

So here we are with the second part of this visit to Houghton Hall in Norfolk, a post refound!

Although our main reason for visiting the gardens at Houghton Hall was to explore the land art created by Richard Long within its grounds and house, we also planned to enjoy the gardens in their own right.


The gardens featured huge expanses of sweeping lawns broken up by pleached hedges and topiary. As we approached the house we were surprised to see a circle of stumps arranged on the grassed area, like a stump henge. Each individual root stump was beautiful in its own right but the circular arrangement added another dimension, the dimension of mystery.


The pleached lime hedges presented a strong structural element to the lawned areas. The strong sunlight on the day gave patterns of light and shade, cool and warm. Some of the raised hedges were tall enough for us to easily walk beneath them to experience these contrasts, which was most welcome on such a warm day. Looking out from beneath the pleached blocks of lime gave us framed views of the expanse of the gardens. Further surprises appeared periodically mostly in classical style, stone columns and seats and occasional modern pieces.


In complete contrast to the formality of the parkland areas discussed above, roses featured in softer more romantic borders. This planting felt very soft, restful and gentle.


The parkland was separated from the farmland surrounding it by a “ha ha”, the cleverest way to keep livestock out of formal gardens.


We enjoyed a diversion off one of the main paths while searching for more Richard Long installations, and the narrow path was edged with beautifully cloud-pruned box hedging. The pathway led us to a “Skyspace” by James Turrell. We love his work so spent time sitting inside watching the moving weather. So peaceful!

In complete contrast to the open parkland and grassed areas with architectural planting features, we found another area of the garden at Houghton, the Walled Garden such a contrast. This part of the garden will be the subject of the third post concerning Houghton Hall.

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Houghton Hall Part 1 – Richard Long at Houghton

This post, one of two about Houghton Hall in Norfolk wasn’t published at the time so here it is now, found again and ready to be sent out albeit rather late!

Richard Long is one of our favourite land artists and until this year we had only seen a few isolated examples of his work. While travelling towards our holiday venue in Norfolk we noticed, as we drove along, large signs advertising an exhibition of his work at Houghton Hall. We could not believe our luck! We soon set aside a day to visit the garden and exhibition.

The exhibition was called Earth Sky and we had seen a few of the pieces there in the past and thought it a great location for his work.

There were a couple of pieces we particularly wished to study, “A Line in Norfolk” and “North South East West”. We have already seen a similar piece to “A Line in Norfolk” at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park a few times over the last few years. There, the line of sandstone ran like a perfectly straight path into a lake. It looked amazing and magical. The other piece we wished to see had been featured in a magazine article and simply looked so perfect and satisfying sitting dead centre in a room in the house itself.

“A Line in Norfolk”


“North South East West”


As well as the pieces exhibited within the grounds a selection of much smaller pieces were on display along a corridor within the hall itself, delicate prints on driftwood and recycled pieces of wood.


Long experimented with splashes of white paint carefully and very deliberately thrown nto wall recesses previously painted black in readiness. The effects were fascinating and got the creative thinking going in overdrive. We saw simple but beautiful patterns, water falls, landscapes and much more within the lively white paint marks.

“White Water Falls”

I shall put more “White Water Falls” pics in the following gallery along with more photos of Richard Long pieces from his exhibition at Houghton Hall. Enjoy!



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Painting in a Meadow in Norfolk

Sometimes when you choose a holiday location and select accommodation you hit the right spot. When we spent a week in Norfolk in 2017 we did just this. We booked a barn conversion with its own little nature reserve in the middle of open farmland miles from any village or town.

Each morning as we got up we started the day by wandering around the meadow with a coffee mug in hand and camera over the shoulder. Each evening we repeated the exercise after our evening meal. Pure luxury! It brought back so many childhood memories for me.

The highlight was probably its wildflower meadow sat within the grounds. The meadow was full of such a wide variety of flowering plants and grasses, and hence full of wildlife, birds, bees, beetles, hoverflies, butterflies and moths. At night the birds were replaced by bats who hawked the surface of the meadow feeding on moths and night flying insects.

The meadow was a place of natural sights, sounds, movement and scent.

We ate outside as often as possible on a terrace overlooking a small lake surrounded by mature, native trees, Alder, Ash and Oak. These trees were favourite haunts of owls who entertained us with their calls as light faded each evening. We brought the sweetpeas back from Houghton Hall, where they grow in the walled garden and visitor are invited to use the scissors and string provided to pick and tie a bunch. The Lavender, a Dutch Lavender, in the pot we had bought from another garden we visited. It is now planted at home.


I decided it would be a challenge to paint the flowering meadow sat in the picnic bench in the very centre. So I set up my gear and had a go.


A beautiful calming time! The sounds of nature as a background makes painting so much easier, more flowing.


Here are my finished pieces.

And here it is framed and on daughter and son-in-law, Jo and Rob’s wall. The left hand pic shows it alongside my brother, Derrick’s pastel drawing of a magnolia.



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Bressingham Gardens – 1 – Colour Combinations and Conifers

Jude and I have a book in which we write and keep our bucket list, or really bucket lists. We keep lists of places to visit, gardens to visit and activities to try out. We add to them throughout each year and revamp and edit them at the beginning of each new year.

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Our gardens to visit list has contained one particular garden we wished to visit for 3 or 4 years and it was in the summer of 2016 that we finally successfully got there, The Bressingham Gardens. We looked forward to seeing how they used grasses throughout the gardens and to experiencing enjoying so many beautiful herbaceous perennials. We also hoped that the on-site nursery would give us access to some unusual perennials bred at Bressingham and difficult to get elsewhere, and we particularly hoped to buy some Sea Hollies. Blooms are particularly well-known for their Achillea, Crocosmia and Kniphofia developments, such as C. Lucifer and K. Toffee Nose.

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These expansive gardens are like a calm green sea of short cut grass broken up by island beds exploding with colourful mixed plantings.

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Areas of shade are essential in any open aspect garden, and here small deciduous trees are used throughout to add small patches of shade along pathways, and most of these trees have interesting coloured foliage to add another layer of interest.

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We enjoyed the richness of warm colours working together beautifully when caught by the sunshine, and contrasting colours shining out in the borders.

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Coniferous evergreens are a special feature of the gardens as they are a particular love of Adrian Bloom one of the family who designed, maintain and own the gardens at Bressingham. Here they appear in every shade of yellow, green and blue with shapes of all sorts some extreme shape, from narrow, upright sentinels to drooping waterfalls. They also feature within the tall windbreaks planted all around the site to protect the wide ranging plantings within the gardens.

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In my next blog we will return to the gardens at Bressingham and take a look at how grasses are used to good effects. A big disappointmetn at Bressingham is that the nursery there has been sold to a massive national chain of garden centres, so the plants were the same old same old! So sad!


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A Wader Spectacular

This was a special day. A spectacular day full of waders, which could only be billed as “A Wader Spectacular”. The action takes place at the RSPB reserve, Snettisham in Norfolk. The RSPB keep members informed of when the spectacular is at its best so we knew we could expect something special.

We made an early start as the success of our day was reliant on firstly the tides and secondly the weather. Tide tables told us we had the day right where the behaviour of the sea was concerned and as the darkness of night gave way to day we realised we were going to be in luck with the weather. But we were well prepared with flasks of hot coffee, for the coast of north Norfolk is always a cold place.

We walked along the shoreline past this old landing stage and found a comfortable place to settle down to wait with fold away chairs and flasks of warm coffee. As we waited for the tide to start to come in and the sandbanks to become engulfed in salty water we readied our binoculars and fixed the telescopes on their tripods. We didn’t have long to wait before the first flocks of waders surged over our heads making for the lagoons behind the sand dunes.

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The vast flocks mostly continued to feed greedily on the bugs and invertebrates hiding in the sand. Every second counts when your feeding is controlled by the turning of the tides. The waders were mainly Knots and Oyster Catchers but surprises appeared amongst them such as small groups of Avocet and the lone flock of just half a dozen Common Scoter which passed low over our heads like black overweight ducks.

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As each minute ticked away, the flocks fleeing the tides flew more frequently over our heads and each flock appeared to be larger than the last. We could feel and hear the air moving above us, stirred by the combined power of thousands of beating wings.

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As the flocks flew behind us they settled quickly into the reeds surrounding the lagoons, dropping from the sky as one. As the tide sped in covering their feeding grounds the sand banks at sea become emptied as the lagoons filled up.

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Enjoy the spectacle by following the photos in the gallery and watch the drama unfold.

When the flocks had moved from sea to lagoon, everything felt and sounded calm around us and we were engulfed by a strangely hollow feeling. We had been surrounded by hundreds of thousands of waders in flight and then suddenly it stopped as the last stragglers made their move.

We then found time to appreciate the beauty of nature on the beach. When finding our spot to watch the wader show the light was still too poor to see what was at our feet. Wild flowers, butterflies, moths and small birds were all there for us to enjoy.

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After enjoying the life of the shoreline we returned to the car via a hide that overlooked one end of one of the lagoons to see if we could spot any of the birds who had entertained us with their spectacular fly past. As you can see from the two photos they were pretty well hidden. I suppose once away from the safety of the sand banks and the surrounding sea they are more vulnerable to predator attack.

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As we left the hide my camera was attracted to this old landing stage once again.

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If you ever get a chance to experience a wader spectacular take it – it is an amazing natural phenomenon. To see more of my wader spectacular photos just click on the first photo and then follow the arrows.