St Benet’s Abbey and windmill – a photographic blog
Winter sunsets at and around the atmospheric and historic St Benet’s Abbey and mill ruins on the banks of the River Bure in Norfolk.
This is such a special place in Norfolk with legends of ghostly monks, once inhabitants of a remote medieval monastery.
The wooden cross with the word ‘peace’ with geese flying past.
On a winter’s afternoon, aside from stunning medieval ruins, there is much wildlife to enjoy too. We saw geese, barn owls, swans and birds of prey in a very short time.
I got as close as I could to this beautiful young barn owl. The pastel pink of the lowering sun providing a pretty frame around him/her.
My main preoccupation was the stunning sunset on this visit. It was truly spectacular.
The colours changed at every moment. The sky turning from deep blue to pastel shades of pink and lilac, then to golden. My tip is to stay for the duration of any sunset as you will see the most incredible light display evolve. Never think its over until that fire ball finally slips below the horizon, and darkness finally drops like a blanket over your head.
The best times to visit to see wildlife is early morning or late afternoon. That’s when you will see the owls hunting and they come quite close. Be prepared to brush shoulders with other photographers! It’s always good to ask where they have seen the wildlife. People who love nature are happy to share their experiences.
This is a beautiful place, go and enjoy it in peace.
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This is my week in photos. It has been an interesting week wildlife wise, spotting Kingfishers along the River Wensum, and deer startled by gunshots from a nearby pheasant shoot.
The Kingfisher’s were in low light (a cloudy day) and I used my small compact Canon which has an amazing zoom but doesn’t always get the sharpest shots as quite honestly, it’s a light camera and if there is nowhere to rest it on, I struggle to keep it 100% still. Nevertheless, it was good to get a couple of nice images. I don’t purport to be a wildlife photographer, I just photograph what I see at the time.
We first spotted the Kingfisher just past Carrow road bridge, sitting on one of the wooden marker posts. He flew off before I could snap him there, but further down the river we could hear high-pitched chirps. We stopped awhile and spotted two together sitting on branches just above the water.
Kingfishers are a magical sight, their colouring is spectacular. They flit about quickly so you have to be sharp with your reactions.
On Saturday, we were driving out to Barton Turf and spotted a herd of deer in the middle of a field. We wondered what they were doing there, but with the sound of gunshot from the next field, it was obvious they were keeping together for protection.
A trip to Raveningham Hall gardens to see snowdrops and aconites, was another highlight of this week. After our Walsingham trip a couple of weeks ago, I was keen to see more snowdrop displays. This also meant a reunion with my pal Norfolk landscape photographer Stephen Mole – check out his work, he’s brilliant!
The best trips are always the spontaneous ones. To wake up in the morning without a plan, then make a spur of the moment decision, always gives me a buzz.
Such was the case on Saturday. I love Great Yarmouth in winter best, so it wasn’t a difficult decision on a bright sky day to head that way. After an hour so enjoying the amazing Tide and Time Museum, absorbing nautical stories and sniffing the herrings, we headed over to the beach.
If you know Great Yarmouth, you’ll know what a fabulous golden sandy beach it has. In winter there are few folk around other than dog walkers and the occasional sea fisherman. One of which we passed time with, discussing his catches. He reminded us to look out for the dreaded Weaver fish if we were ever to chance our arm at casting a line.
He showed us pictures of sea bass, cod and a larger shark-like fish. Further down the beach another fisherman told us we’d never catch cod there. Who to believe… the first I think, judging by his evidence.
While we chatted, I stared out at the storm clouds rolling in above the bright whiteness of the windfarm turnbines, reveling in the drama of the scenery with my photographer’s eye.
I broke off from the conversation to take my pictures, knowing there was a good chance we might soon get wet. The only things that did get wet were my boots. I have a habit of standing too close to the incoming tide while shooting away, absorbed in what I am doing.
As we walked along the beach, spotting vessels heading to the port, a wide rainbow formed. I waited for one of the ships to enter the rainbow, and then pressed the shutter. As I clicked, I wondered if the crew knew they were in the center of such magic, and if it might give them special powers…
Further along the beach, my attention turned inland to the Britannia monument for Lord Horatio Nelson. This a monument I often gaze at when I visit Great Yarmouth. It is magnificent. Sadly it is situated on the outer edge of the town, incongruously in the middle of an industrial estate.
Carrow Bridge is a lifting bridge. Unfortunately, I have never been lucky enough to see it lift up. I like to peer into the little control hut and imagine it in operation. Despite my best attempts to find a video of it opening, so far, I haven’t been successful. All I can find is a video of the test opening in 2018 to allow TS Lord Nelson aka HMS Vale pass through, which isn’t particularly interesting!
The current Carrow Bridge was constructed in 1923 to replace the old bridge to the South. More recently, there have been plans by the council to weld the bridge shut. Read a press release from the Norwich Society about this here.
Reginald Dann, lived in Carrow Bridge House (the former bridge master’s house) for more than 50 years until it was sold at auction. Thankfully, a plan by the county council to demolish it was defeated by the city council.
You can see images of the bridge open here in an EDP article, when the TS Lord Nelson passed through in 2004. There is also a nice image in the article of the The ship “Paullgate” of Hull carrying cargo under Carrow bridge at the port of Norwich. Dated 20 May 1966. The TS Lord Nelson was eventually decommissioned and now rests in Bristol.
I walk across the bridge at least once every day, and I also cross it every night. I enjoy looking out over both sides of Carrow bridge, but my favourite view is looking back up the river past the Devil’s Tower towards old Paper Mill Yard.
You can read more about the history of the Devil’s Tower here – it is a virtually unique structure in England, built in the early 14th century. Directly opposite is the Windlass Tower.
I will write more about the Wensum Boom Towers in future posts.
A view further up from Carrow Bridge.
Carrow Bridge by night.
I frequently pass under the bridge, on the way into the city. It is a favourite spot for pigeons to court in the spring. There is also the occasional dove.
Sometimes swans sit in the wooden under-structure compartments as if they were stables. I am sure there is a technical name for the structure, but I have no idea what it is.
Eric and Erica, the Egyptian geese, like to perch on the wooden sidings that are there to guide boats through, but usually they are keeping guard on the river bank. Occasionally, a heron perches near the bridge too.
On summer nights, if you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of bats performing aerobatics around the bridge.
Street Art under Carrow Bridge
Every now and then, new street art appears under the bridge. These images have disappeared now, which is a shame because I really liked them. They are preferable to the meaningless tagging that crops up everywhere (not meaningless to gangs, I guess, but still an eyesore).
Spring is at last beginning to spring into life after what has seemed a very long winter to me.
As a photographer, I love all seasons but I have to say, the long gloomy days this winter just haven’t been as inspiring for me. Although I did carry on shooting (it’s impossible for me to stop), my mojo did wane somewhat.
Every season brings something worth seeing, if it isn’t obvious, you have to go look for it. I live by the river which makes things easier. There are always the swans, geese, cormorants, and pigeons to spot. Never have I been more thankful to see the blossom again, and the wild flowers beginning to burst into life.
I guess the state of the world has to have a bearing on the mood this winter. First came the pandemic and now of course war. Even though we are far removed from the wars in other parts of the world. The thought of others suffering wherever they are, takes a toll on the psyche.
So I am going to cease moaning about what a long difficult winter it was and start to celebrate spring. We are lucky to be here and especially lucky to be living in Norfolk.
This weekend there will be blue sky and the daffodils are blooming all around the city. Yesterday we took a walk along the River Wensum, down past Cow Tower which is one of my favourite spots to see them.
Only a few days earlier, we were lucky enough to spot a Kingfisher along the banks of the Wensum. I spent the whole of 2021 looking out for Kingfishers only to see a few from a very long distance away. This time, I had my baby Canon ready to shoot. I am not really a wildlife photographer, as in, it is not a speciality of mine, so I was mighty chuffed to capture a Kingfisher as they are rare to see and even more difficult to photograph.
I am going to endeavour to keep a photo diary of sorts to blog each week so if you would like to be updated, please hit the subscribe button below. By subscribing you will be in with a chance of winning one of my notebooks. I create a monthly draw and all subscriber emails go into it (not just the new ones).