Whatever you celebrate, however you celebrate it, or if you perhaps choose not to celebrate at all...
Friday, 24 December 2021
Tuesday, 21 December 2021
Sunday, 19 December 2021
The tiny settlement of Horsey stands just outside the Norfolk Broads national park and feels quite different from that nearby watery world. The strong, low-angled sun and the tree-shadows made photographing the building very tricky, but I thought you'd like to see it anyway. It's a very traditional Norfolk church with its round tower and thatched roof and seems to date from around the eleventh or twelfth centuries.
Everything is as old-fashioned and rustic as one would hope, almost as if it has grown up from the rich Norfolk soil; a refuge from the modern world.
Sometimes old churches like this feel damp and gloomy, but with the bright sun coming in through the many clear-glass windows the interior had a warm and welcoming glow.
There are just a few stained glass windows which were added during the Victorian era, including this charming memorial to Catherine Ursula Rising, a local artist, pictured at her easel.
The whole of the Norfolk Broads is studded with what appear to be windmills of varying ages and states of preservation: except that they are not mills at all but wind-driven pumps concerned with the drainage of this difficult land.
In less contagious times you can climb up to the top to enjoy the view and there's also a small café alongside for visitors.
Just two or three miles down the road from Horsey, hidden away among trees, is the magnificent romantic ruin of St Mary's church.
It must once have been a very large church but has been ruinous since the seventeenth century, by which time the parish had been subsumed into the larger parish of Winterton. This huge building then became a private chapel to the inhabitants of nearby Burnley Hall, who presumably could not afford the upkeep of such an enormous building.
Having feasted our eyes on the ivy-clad ruin we climbed into my brother's car to travel the ninety miles or so back home.
Thursday, 16 December 2021
The North Sea coast in mid-winter can be a brutal place. Winds whip down from the Baltic, waves crash onto the beaches and there's no cover whatever from the elements. Not the sort of place, nor the time of year, to give birth and care for the little ones. Or so you might think.
They come ashore along this stretch of coast and start giving birth in November, though some will not be born until January.
They only suckle the pups for around three weeks, though the milk is so rich that in that time they more than triple their weight. They don't stay cute and fluffy like that for long either, they soon moult all that cotton wool and grow a waterproof, sea-going coat like their parents.
Should you visit Horsey you'll be greeted by members of the Friends of Horsey Seals (FoHS) who oversee the welfare of both seals and visitors.
This gorgeous creature, for example, had managed to get up close to the path through the dunes and was being supervised by one of the volunteer wardens so that we didn't approach too closely, thereby avoiding scaring the pup or any human visitors getting bitten. This photo was taken with a long lens from an appropriate distance.
The beach itself is roped off during the breeding season to prevent disturbance to the seals. In fact part of the dune path was closed too as a particularly cranky bull had decided to take up residence in the dunes. It didn't matter too much as there was plenty to see in the other direction, where there were less people.
When this colony first began, at the beginning of this century, there were just a few seals here, but it seems there are more each year. So just how many seals give birth along this stretch of coast?
Those of you from the UK may remember that we had some strong winds and storms at the beginning of December. This played havoc with the seals and many of them sought refuge among the dunes making it too dangerous for those trying to count them. Seals can be aggressive and surprisingly mobile if you get between them and the sea, as they feel threatened when their escape route is blocked.
However I can give you the total from last winter when 2,500 pups were born along this stretch of coast between Horsey and Winterton. In all about 40% of the world's population of Grey Seals are born around the British coast.
This little one, who must be very recently born, had found a tennis ball washed up by the tide and was practising some football skills. They are naturally very inquisitive and tend to play with everything they find, some of which are much more harmful. Every year the team here rescue young pups who get tangled up in plastic and fishing nets.
The gestation period for seals is eleven months, which means that, as soon as the pups are weaned at three weeks, breeding starts again.
Bulls like the one above can live for about 25 years and weigh in at around 350 Kg (772 lbs) - that's around a third of a ton. Cows are not so big but can live about ten years longer.
Sunday, 12 December 2021
It's become something of an annual habit of mine to trawl back through my photos at this time of year and make an imaginary calendar from the shots I deem most suitable. Apart from December's picture, all of them were taken during the last year.