Swans at Dawn – Sea at Sunset

Swans at Dawn – Sea at Sunset

So I booked another experience. I rock! This one was call Swans Awake at Welney Wetlands and it would start at 6.30 AM! That would mean I had to get up at 4am, this is not one of my strong points, getting up early, but I made the effort, all the while hoping it was worth it, after all, some of the best days start really early.

I knew it was as soon as I went out the front door. It was bitterly cold and frosty, I was immediately glad I had put two thermal vests, thermal leggings, jeans, jumper and coat on – I hate being cold. The sky was a real treat – jet black with stars shining so bright and a moon that although was almost last quarter was shining its heart out.

The 50 minute drive was uneventful and I arrived in good time along with everyone else. The Wetland Centre itself is very modern and nicely done. There were about 20 of us – most of them real Twitchers, not like me, “ooo look, a duck!” (I do know some) with their binoculars (I’m going to invest in some) and their scopes (one lens, normally on a tripod).

I really had no clue what to expect (I’m beginning to really like that about my life) we walked through the centre, up some stairs and out of a door and over a fantastic bridge that spanned the road and river and took us to the other side where the main hide was. Now this is no ordinary hide, this one had automatic doors, windows that didn’t prop open and heaters under the shelving unit that went from one end to the other and chairs all along too, comfy chairs – it was the M&S of hides! Previous ones I’d been in were sheds with wooden benches and drafty windows , real birdwatching I guess. But Welney is trying to attract people to bird watching and conservation, something that is of paramount importance to our future, so the investment that has been made will hopefully help the wildlife reap the benefits.

When we settled down it was still dark, there was just a small hint of dawn but it was behind us. The hide was high, they had a light shining on the little island in front which had Mute and Whooper swans, including cygnets, all huddled up, heads tucked under their wings. The water surrounding the island was frozen, poor ducks and swans, but it was a little funny watching them landing, or trying to! 

To begin with there didn’t appear to be many there but as the sun continued to rise you could see more of them. More Mallards continued arriving and ‘landing’ on the ice and after a while some of our group went to have a look from another hide further down. I stayed where I was, it was 2 degrees outside and there was heating where I was!

The more the sun rose the more you realised how large the area of wetland was and how many birds there actually were, it was quite incredible.

It was amusing to watch their shenanigans and family squabbles. The swans broke the ice and the ducks followed in their wake, literally in a line. They gradually edged nearer to the hide as the water thawed and the reason why became apparent when we were told they were going to be fed.

The man was outside with his wheelbarrow of seed for them, throwing scoopfuls onto the ice and waters edge. The Mute swans were first in line followed by the now rather large contingent of Mallards, with an odd Pochard thrown in, the Whooper swans seemed to take a backseat in the frenzy. The man walked along the edge throwing the seed and they eventually broke through all the ice and devoured all the seed.

Once everyone had had their fill it was announced that breakfast was ready and waiting back on the other side of the bridge. Music to my ears, I was starving and it was very welcome and tasty.

I said goodbye to the rangers who had been there and a thank you, it really was something to experience.

My next destination today was to be Great Yarmouth, but not before I spent a couple of hours with my mum and cheered her up, making her laugh was my mission and I achieved it.

Leaving my mum I set out for Yarmouth. It wasn’t a bad journey and I went straight to the hotel I had booked on the sea front. It was very welcoming but I got the inevitable “ is it just yourself?” I wonder if men get asked the same question? It actually didn’t bother me like it had in the beginning, I’m quite liking it just being myself. I said that it was to which she replied “”ooo you’ve got a rather large bed all to yourself, you’re going to get lost in it!”

After dropping my bag and getting a demonstration on how the front door key worked I wrapped up and headed over the road to the beach. As I walked over the dunes and saw the sea I got emotional, I really needed to be there. It was seriously what I needed.

It was beautiful. I just stood and took it all in and listened to the waves. I walked for quite a way, dodging the waves and squealing when they almost got me. As I was looking out to sea I saw what I at first thought was a dog swimming but it was actually a seal! He’d come quite close into shore and had popped up to say hello to me, it was very special and me being me I said hello and had a little conversation with him – one sided of course! He continued along and kept surfacing every now and then and eventually disappeared.

The sun was going down, the sky was beautiful and I took some photos. I take way too many photos but I always look back at them, I’m a great believer in documenting what you see, it’s a moment in time you never get back but a great reminder.

I eventually dragged myself away and believe me, I had to really drag myself away. Being by any body of water is a great recharger but the sea is just that bit more special, the waves, the noise, the smell, everything. It just makes everything right. It certainly helped me.

I went back to the hotel and had fish and chips in the bar and then took myself off up to my ‘very huge bed all to myself’ and watched a film – of My choice and eventually drifted off to sleep.

It was a cold night though, temperatures had dropped and the forecast wasn’t good the next day. I had hoped to go along the coast to RSPB Minsmere, somewhere I’ve wanted to go for a while, but after seeing photos on Facebook of all the snow falling back at home I decided the wise thing to do was to make my way home.

My journey home was uneventful, the roads I used weren’t too bad. I stopped in a lay-by near Thetford forest because it was just so pretty and took a couple of photos, I even stood there, face up, mouth open and caught some snowflakes. Someone drove past and bipped their horn – can’t think why!! Everyone should stop rushing around and take it all in once in a while, otherwise what’s the point of it all.

I have come home a different person from this trip. It’s not necessarily this trip that has made the ultimate difference, it’s a culmination of all of them, starting with the best and most meaningful, Tintagel.

I have never been more Me than I am now for many, many years. Decisions I am making may only be small ones but I know that each one is giving me that bit more strength and confidence  to make the big ones that I know will challenge me.

I am very happy right now. I’ve got an amazing Christmas planned and the New Year is promising to be a year filled with adventure and exciting times – as Me or We – who knows.

I’ll leave that to fate.

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