Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Feb 17th Norwich

Today is too nice to stay indoors, so I went for a walk along part of the River Wensum as it flows into the city of Norwich. Of course, wildlife will be the main focus, but I thought it would be great to give you, the viewer, a sightseeing guide of some of the historic landmarks along the way.

Egyptian Goose
I begin my walk where the river has two bridges for St Crispins Road. A path follows alongside the river and houses. Dispite the noise of the traffic, wildlife carried on their daily lives on this section of the Wensum. A pair of Egyptian geese graze on the grassy bank on the opposite side to me. This is an introduced species from Africa. At first, they were found only in East Anglia but have now spread to other parts of England. I know a few people who find them ugly or noisy, but I actually like them. They are a bit of a character as a species and just you wait until their young hatch. They are adorable!

Moss with stalks
Mosses and lichen cover the walls and concrete path like a miniature rock garden. Some of the mosses had stalks with, what I assume are pollen or spore capsules which are blown away by the wind. I don't know that much about mosses or which of the 700 British species I am looking at. All I can say is that they look alien when you take a closer look at them, and I mean really close. Lichen are also strange. I do happen to know that there are three catagories of lichen; foliose (leaf-like ones), crustose (crusty ones) and fruiticose (tufty ones). The ones I can see seem to fit the crustose catagory. They are pretty much yellow splodges of fungi and algae that are encrusted on the walls and pavement, but can survive extreme temperatures, as the wall can get either much colder or hotter than the surrounding air around it. Sounds incredible doesn't it?

Before the river can enter the city centre, it has to first flow through a sluice gate. It is the closest we get to a water rapid around these parts. After that, we walk past the first of the many historic bridges.

The River's Sluice Gates


The scenery becomes less green and open and has now started to feel enclosed within many city buildings covered in graffiti and vegetation between each bridge. I do however, find a splash of colour in a tiny plot of a garden. Crocuses have emerged! They vary in colour from yellow to purple and many others in between. The river itself at this point appears to be lifeless without a single duck on it. Only black-headed gulls seem to be floating on the river.

Three bridges along since our first and we're on Fye Bridge on Magdalen Street. This is probably the oldest part of Norwich with many churches, pubs and historic streets nearby (including Elm Hill, a beautiful cobbled lane with Tudor-style buildings). For me, this bridge is a good spot to see fish and grey wagtails. Unfortunately, I couldn't see or find any today, but I did see a fisherman catch a roach nearby. Our next bridge along is Whitefriars Bridge. Behind that is St James' Mill, a former printworks site for Jarrold's where 'Black Beauty' was first published.
Whitefriars Bridge and St James' Mill

We follow a meander that curves past a new bridge before we get to the next landmark. Along the way, we pass a sluice gate to the last swan pit in England. Swans were herded up to a pit at the Great Hospital nearby and was fattened up for the table for the rich. This one was used up until World War Two. It is a very unusual part of Norwich's history. Next up is Cow Tower, a defence tower built in 1399. Today, it is a home for feral pigeons. And adjacent to the tower, is a pond with a few mallard on it (finally seen some today at last).

The Swan Pit Sluice
Cow Tower
Feral Pigeons at Cow Tower
I cross Bishops Bridge to have a look at one of Norwich's most picturesque buildings, Pull's Ferry. A ferry system used to run here up until 1946, but before that, it was an entrance to a canal which brought the building materials to build the Cathedral with.

Pull's Ferry
View from Foundry Bridge
I loop round Foundry Bridge and made my way to Norwich Cathedral (passing Pull's Ferry on the way). Looking up it's iconic spire, I spot one of the peregrines sitting on one of the many 13th century man-made perches. It won't be long now until they begin to nest up in the (modern) man-made nestbox for this years brood. Fingers crossed that we have another good year.

Norwich Cathedral

Winter Aconites
Finally, as I made my way back home, I saw this brilliant display of winter aconites by one of the many churches in Norwich. I also had another look for those grey wagtails, but no sign.

Winter Aconites
Ladybird on a moss covered wall


  1. Lovely pictures Sean - doesn't a bit of sunshine make all the difference! I love the 2 pigeons peeping out of the tower and the aconites in the churchyard are beautiful. I would say the moss is Capillary Thread-moss (but I'm definitely not an expert!)

  2. Love this post Sean, loads of fantastic information about our lovely city. I think it's easy for us all to forget about the wildlife flora and forna we can find in the city if we just open our eyes!