Saturday 18 November 2023

A Lynford Scrapbook

It should be easy enough: go out on a sunny day to Lynford Arboretum in Norfolk and photograph the autumn colours.

But, while glancing through some of the many books and websites that inform this blog, I noticed that the church in the scarcely discernible village of Cranwich looked interesting. We could pop in there on the way.

And what a gem it is. A Saxon church with a round tower and a thatched roof set back off the road in an oasis of greenery. It's a church that could easily have fallen into disuse; its small and aging congregation could never have been expected to keep it in good repair. However a grant from the charity English Heritage sparked renewed interest in the building.

Everything I read online said it was open every day, but when we got to the porch we found the door firmly locked. Perhaps the keyholder was lingering over their bacon and eggs this morning....oh well, off to the arboretum.

Sun was streaming through to illuminate the maple leaves, though photographing the wider scene proved unusually tricky.

Someone was cutting the grass, making quite a mess and plenty of noise. We sought out the tranquility of the woodland.

The low winter sunshine was raking through the trees and lighting up the bracken which is just beginning to turn golden.

The gnarled oak trees were also backlit by the November sun. We made our way to the old bridge where we met a birdwatcher who told us there was a flock of Crossbills** feeding in the trees at the back of Lynford Hall. We steered our footsteps in that direction but had no luck locating these handsome birds. Our helpful friend must have told everyone he met about the flock, but no one we met had managed to see them.

** the links take you to the RSPB's new improved website that now includes outstanding photographs

Even if the handsome red birds had flown elsewhere, at least this handsome red tree had the decency to stay put and be photographed!

The local Mallards were swimming on a shimmering mirror of gold. Another friendly birdwatcher said he'd seen a Kingfisher and a Grey Wagtail up at the weir, so we dawdled on in that general direction. It was unlikely that the Kingfisher would hang around but Grey Wagtails often linger. 

What does it matter if you fail to spot the birds (or take your intended photographs) when autumn is putting on such a splendid show anyway? Some of the trees here are species planted in the grand days of the Hall, when its grounds spread far and wide.

The same tree hanging upside-down in the waters of the lake - an ornament for the ornamental lake. Of course, the Kingfisher and Wagtail had moved on! Those of you who remember my excursions here in earlier years may recall that this is the place where the Hawfinches are and we made our way around to the meadow where they are most often seen. Thanks to some help from more birdwatchers we struck lucky and a pair of Hawfinches sat posing for us for several minutes. Too far away for photos, but near enough to see them clearly through the 'scope.

It would be good to say that I searched out this perfect trio of Shaggy Inkcaps deep in the woods, but they were actually growing right beside the car park as we made our way back to have our sandwiches!

In the afternoon the skies clouded over and caused a soft, diffused light to fall over the scene. The colours of the birches in particular sang out beneath the grey skies. The walk here, alongside the flooded sand and gravel pits gets a lot less visitors than the paths near the arboretum, but it is not without its charms.

Silver Birches were among the first trees to colonise the land once the quarrying ceased, though the Forestry Commission are also very active here, as they are in much of the wider area.

The sandy soils are not much use for agriculture, though free-range pigs do well nearby; the fast-draining sands mean that even pigs can't make it too muddy. The Forestry Commission has its largest lowland forest here and, though it was once uncompromisingly planted with endless conifers, it now contains areas for wildlife and recreation.

I don't know how much is forestry and how much is nature here, but it's certainly pretty!

I couldn't resist an impressionistic take on the gentle autumn shades beneath the overcast sky.

And here's a pretty pastoral scene - but it's actually part of "Stanta" or the Stanford Military Training Area, 30,000 acres (12,140 hectares) that the army took over in 1942. The populations of six villages were evacuated and told they would be able to return after the war, however the army has always found some reason why they needed to hang on to the land. 

I think I nearly always photograph this isolated house when I pass - there can't be many dwellings with such ornate windows. This was, of course, supposed to have been a simple post about the colours in the arboretum, but we seem to have digressed somewhat!

It was still mid-afternoon, but we were already losing the light. Time to pack up and travel homeward. As often happens I didn't quite get the shots I was hoping for but we still had a randomly varied day.

Perversely, once we were on our way home, the sun managed to find a gap in the clouds, just above the horizon, and line itself up with unerring precision to shine straight into our eyes.

Take care.


  1. Beautiful photos as always. Sorry you missed the kingfisher

  2. Thank you. Muchly.
    I can see where the cross bills get their name from (which isn't always evident) and am sorry you missed them. You had plenty of other eye candy to share with us though.

  3. Stunning as usual - that delightful little church - exquisite Autumnal shots. Typical of Nature to site those shaggy inkcaps by the car park. Sorry you missed the crossbills - I have never seen one. I used to have a stuffed hawfinch that somebody gave me (pretty weird present I'm sure you will agree) but it got so tattered I finally buried it in the garden - couldn't bring myself to put it in the dustbin I have never seen a live one and your sighting was too far away to give me the pleasure of seeing one second hand. But - sorry to keep saying it John - worthy of a chapter in your book I regret you don't seem to be about to publish..

  4. Beautiful capture of Autumn. So 'Stanta' was like Salisbury Plain, taken over by the army and the villagers never allowed to return.

  5. My favorite shot is the one with the mallards. Such lovely colors! It is good you have captured the lovely colors as they will soon be gone with winter rushing towards us.

  6. Your autumn colors outdid ours for sure. I hope you get back to that church one day so you can show us the inside. Thank you for letting us tag along!

  7. Gah, that low winter sun is terrible for driving! This looks a lovely area, and your photos, as always, gorgeous. Now the autumn colour has got going, it seems quite rich in some areas.

  8. A beautiful autumn stroll. Love the reflections and the mallard floating by.

  9. A hike filled with beauty indeed. It is too bad that the church was locked, John.

  10. Beautiful photos of the arboretum - the colours are stunning :) Such a shame the church was locked - it looks wonderful and I hope you can get in on another occasion. I've never seen a Crossbill - one of my "bogey" birds but I have seen a Hawfinch after years of searching for them!

  11. The day may not have paned out as you had planned, but as reader, I have found it a mighty fine day. So many wonderful autumn images, particularly the reflection, the impressionist take, and your final image.

  12. The inkcaps look so fantastic!

  13. Thank you John. I really enjoyed your autumn colour.

  14. Ditto as said by others, church should promise another trip sometime, loved your happenstance of autumn colors!

  15. The photos are wonderful, John. You captured that late autumn light so beautifully.

  16. Your photos are wonderful especially the one with the relfection of the autumnal tree in the lake. The little church looks interesting. Oh, that winter sun, we always seem to catch it on journeys, lovely to see but hard on the eyes:)

  17. We often here of Autumn colours in New England but you have shown that we have our fair share here as well.

  18. It almost seems as if you have a far greater range of muted colors than we get here. Wonderful. That house set me off dreaming right away. What a wonderful place to live.

  19. Just lovely. Looked a lot like the creek we canoe.

  20. Beautiful! Our trees have already lost their leaves, so I truly enjoyed seeing all the lovely colors your trees still have. I really loved that photo of the reflection of the tree in the water--so peaceful! Thank you again for sharing your walk with us.


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