A crocus in the dunes

Brenda writes: “And we’re off! Even though it was very chilly, this was a sunny day in which I saw four new species of flower, one of which I have never seen before (more of that later). The first was what I tend to call white comfrey (to distinguish it from common comfrey which is a deep lilac/purple) because I can never remember its name. Why I can’t remember it is called ‘soft comfrey’ I have no idea! The book says it’s a garden escape originally from SW Asia.

soft comfrey

Then one that everyone knows, forget-me-not, growing in Wells churchyard. I never tire of it.


The third was on the green opposite our house, a significant part of which is managed as a wild flower meadow. Every spring we have a spectacular show of cowslips and I saw my first cluster today.


Mid-afternoon Steve and I decided to have a walk along a section of the coast path and so we parked one car at Lady Anne’s Drive and took the other to Burnham Overy Staithe with the intention of walking back. It is the most wonderful habitat. On your left there is the creek, virtually empty today because the tide was out, but full of birds; redshanks, avocets, grey plovers – with their back beady eyes – and further out a pair of red-breasted mergansers. I also saw my first great crested grebe of the year. On the right is a fresh-water channel and flood meadows with all sorts of stuff in it accompanied by loud outbursts from hidden Cetti’s warblers. The greatest excitement was seeing three great egrets flying over and going down into the reeds. Then I noticed that one of them flew in with a stick. We then watched it make several journeys to the edge of a nearby pool, select a stick and return to the reeds. Obviously nest-building, one stick at a time. It’s going to take a while!

A nest-building great egret

Heading back, I was facing into the setting sun. I really love doing a walk in both directions because you see the landscape from a different angle. Then you see something you didn’t notice on the way out. In this case it was a flower on the bank that looked like a small crocus. Out came the field guide and I looked up crocus. There was only one thing it could be, sand crocus. The book says, ‘Leaves threadlike curly, all from the roots. Flowers pale purple, greenish outside … April, sandy grassland, dunes.’ It does occur in Britain but is rare. I’m very pleased with that!”

sand crocus

It was good to have a walk together, but there was a problem: We both forgot to look at the closing time for the parking at Lady Anne’s Drive, and it was only when part way through our walk from Burnham Overy Staithe that I remembered that it had been closing about 6pm – and we were not going to get back there by that time! However the clocks had just changed, so maybe it would stay open until 7pm or 7.30pm…..? I got an answering machine at the Holkham Estate office, and the website had “6am – 6pm” on it, so no help there! So we decided to both walk as far as where the dunes give way to the pine trees, and then Brenda – as she mentions above – would head back and I would head on. If the car was locked in we could collect it the next morning and meanwhile Brenda could pick me up.

A rather smart meadow pipit at Burnham Overy dunes

This particular walk is always good for birds as there are so many habitats – mudflats, tidal pools, fresh water marsh, dunes and mixed woodland. Today I ended up with a bird list of 57 species: Nothing new for the year, but some good views of a wide variety of birds, plus roe and muntjac deer, and manic March hares! And the evening chorus was lovely in the pine trees – this blackbird was singing away, ignoring me completely.

I got back to Lady Anne’s Drive at about 7.15pm and the gate was still open. So I went to the noticeboard and this was what I saw:

Note to self – “must read car park signs properly”!

Oh well! I stayed for a bit longer, enjoying the sunset and then trying to see what planets I could identify in tonight’s planetary alignment – I managed Mars, Venus and Uranus (plus the moon of course!).

Another lovely Holkham sunset

New species for March 27th:
Flowers: soft comfrey, forget-me-not, cowslip, sand crocus