by Nigel - Sunday 8th November 2009
After a morning working in the vegetable garden and Sara cooking her first roast since Christmas last, we decide to take the dogs for a walk, it being such a super autumn afternoon. We park my Morris at Somerton staithe around 3pm and follow the path skirting around Thain’s farm and alongside the canal straight dungeon river, toward but on the opposite side to Somerton drainage mill, from far off a cow lows repeatedly across the marshes. This is Wentworth Day country, the prolific author on the countryside, wildfowl and his especial delight, punt gunning. He held the tenancy for the whole area, reaching across the golden flat reed beds toward the distant Horsey Mill and beyond the Holmes to the sand dunes at Winterton and then across arable fields up Blood Hill to Martham church.
At the little boathouse the narrow path cuts away toward Martham Broad past the dissected, managed, reed beds and as we near open water we hear the honking grey lags idly drifting in quite a raft, seeing them close up, unbothered even when Tillie splashes around on a sandy beach.
To our left though on a flat recently ploughed sugar beet field we hear more geese, but kind of yappier and see glimpses of them through the trees as they drop down to feed, and through a gap in the hedge see surprisingly thousands, possibly even three thousand, standing shoulder to shoulder, yapping, feeding, slowly moving in one direction feeding and overall a loud humming.
Out of the large sky, skein upon large skein appear at great height and each time the greys on Martham Broad get excited and honk even louder though it is impossible for them to see the newcomers set their paddles and glide downward, one or two even tumble and amidst all this tremendous clamour they land and begin to feed. From the odd grey standing amongst them we can see that these geese are smaller, with stumpy beaks and dark heads and slender necks, their shoulders are blue grey, I think that they are Pink Footed Geese.
Honking loudly, the greys begin to lift off from the Broad, cross the path and also drop onto the crowded field. After some time we move on through a scrubby little wood and out onto the marshes, in a small meadow two barn owls quarter the lush grass and a herd of sheep graze contentedly until a 4 x 4 parks at the gate and two sheep dogs scamper around and amazingly up flies a peculiar small heron like bird, but smaller, with no neck, one leg is tucked up behind and one long leg trails down, it is a ‘Bottle Bump’ or Bittern, he crosses the path and on into the reed beds, a view of a lifetime.
Our dogs are alert, out of a small grassy depression, a deer emerges, but after he takes a look at us and the sheep dogs, it slowly slinks back into cover and they don’t even know its there.
Dusk begins to fall, odd skeins of geese cross the sky above Holmes drainage mill and suddenly in a crescendo of noise the whole of the Pinks emerge above the trees and swirl away, filling the whole sky towards Hickling. We walk back, the sugar beet field is strangely empty and quiet though the greys have returned to bob about on Martham Broad. Up at the Dungeon river we look back at the sun setting behind Holme Mill, two Marsh harriers glide on the evening air with a couple of business like cormorants crossing a flock of Lapwings fluttering and flickering over Horsey.