While the flat lands East Anglia may lack scenic drama the big skies that arch overhead are often awesome. As we drove up to Norfolk at the end of July the silvery tones of a dappled mackerel sky begged to be photographed. But we had a party to go to and no time to stop.
The following day, disappointingly, the sky was a uniform grey and a little drizzly after overnight rain. We’ve had such a hot dry summer in southern England that it felt a little odd to be dodging the showers! And although I know we need rain, this wasn’t enough to be useful. It was merely enough to turn those lovely skies a single shade of leaden grey. Today’s photography was clearly going to be all about details and subjects to be found at ground level!
Welney Wetland Centre
Welney Wetland Centre is one of a number of such places around the country, run by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. This was established by Sir Peter Scott, son of the Antarctic explorer Captain Scott. In 1946 he established the trust, based then at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire, as a centre for science and conservation. And unusually for those days, he opened it to the public so that anyone could enjoy getting close to nature.
Today there are ten such centres around the country, devoted to the protection of wetlands and the wildlife that relies on them. In the past we have visited Washington in north east England and the London centre not very far from our home. Today it was time to check out a third.
Welney lies in a typical Fenland landscape, a naturally marshy region that was mainly drained centuries ago to create arable land. My friends’ house, which we had visited for the party the previous day, is in a converted pump house once used to help with this drainage. It sits above one of the main channels that criss-cross this landscape and the view from their deck is lovely.
I was hoping for similar views at Welney. However I think for those it would be better to visit in winter, when the grasses and rushes wouldn’t be so tall they obscure many views to the water channels that distinguish this landscape. But those same channels ensured that while much of southern England is parched this summer, here the grass was still growing green and long.
Not being bird experts we didn’t spend much time in the hides. Instead we enjoyed walking some of the paths and looking for details to photograph. There were plenty of flowers to attract the bees, butterflies and other insects.
Please click on any of the photos below if you’d like to view them in a slideshow.
In one of the hides we found swallows’ nests, with babies to be fed.
And from the visitor centre there were great views over Lady Fen and beyond, to the arable land the drainage helps to sustain.
As we ate our lunch there we had fun watching the sparrows and other birds that came to the feeders just outside our window. One parent was taking good care to feed her offspring too.
Kingfishers Bridge Nature Reserve
After lunch we started to drive towards home in London. But there was time to stop off at another reserve, this one in Cambridgeshire. Unlike Welney, Kingfishers Bridge is small scale and privately owned. It is committed to restoring lost fenland habitats for wildlife, transforming farmland into a variety of wetland and meadow habitats. They have recreated a reed bed which is grazed by water buffalo – an unusual sight in rural England!
While there are hides for wildlife viewing we were mainly here to break the journey, stretch our legs and of course take photos. It proved a great spot for all three activities!
And of course there were still bees to be found, and what could be more typical of an English summer than that? So I’m sharing these images, and our fenland explorations, with Terri for her Sunday Stills Summertime theme this week.
I visit this area regularly; these photos were all taken in August 2022