Best Bird Watching in England

By Sian Williams

If lockdown has made you more appreciative of the birds in your neighbourhood, why not further your interest with a visit to a bird reserve during your staycation?

Birdwatching doesn’t need to be an expensive hobby – you don’t need to buy a huge telescope like you see some twitchers carrying, just as you don’t need to sit for hours munching on sandwiches, praying for that one elusive bird to show up!

If lockdown has made you more appreciative of the birds in your neighbourhood, why not further your interest with a visit to a bird reserve during your staycation?

Birdwatching doesn’t need to be an expensive hobby – you don’t need to buy a huge telescope like you see some twitchers carrying, just as you don’t need to sit for hours munching on sandwiches, praying for that one elusive bird to show up!

A good pair of binoculars (many reserves offer them for sale, or check out second-hand pairs on sites such as eBay), a bird book or app so you can identify what’s in front of you, and a little bit of patience will reward you with an absorbing day out.

Although spring and summer are great for spotting birds during the breeding season, autumn and winter also offer a great deal of variety as many species prepare to migrate.

Bird-watching is truly a year-round activity the whole family can enjoy.

Here are our top nine bird-watching sites in England.

Farne Islands

Farne Islands
Farne Islands. Credit: DomWPhoto

A 20-minute boat trip will take you to the dramatic Farne Islands off the Northumberland coast.

Once home to saints and monks, today the tiny archipelago supports breeding colonies of several species of seabird. At the height of the season (May to June), you could see around 70,000 Puffins!

The islands are also a haven for Eider Ducks, Razorbills, Little Terns, Arctic Terns, and Sandwich Terns. Look out for seals basking on the rocks or swimming, too.

Find it: Boat trips to the Farne islands run from Seahouses. Check out SerenityBilly Shiel’s or Golden Gate. The National Trust cares for the islands; non-members must pay a landing fee in addition to the cost of the boat trip.

Find out more here.

Bempton Cliffs

Known locally as Seabird City, the towering white cliffs at Bempton, near Bridlington, in East Yorkshire, attract up to half a million seabirds every year.

Between March and October, they come to nest and raise their young, making this place a must-see for any bird-watcher.

The cries (and smells!) are unforgettable as thousands of birds swoop around you.

Look out for the Gannets with their startling blue eyes and large grey bills. True romantics, Gannets mate for life – and often the male will offer the female little gifts of flowers.

Bempton is the only mainland seabird colony in England, so you’re guaranteed to see ‘the big eight’ of species that visit our shores: Gannet, Guillemot, Puffin, Razorbill, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Shag and Herring Gull.

Find it: RSPB Bempton Cliffs, Cliff Lane, Bridlington, YO15 1JF

Find out more here.

Coombes Valley

A Redstart
A Redstart. Credit: SussexBirder

A lovely oak woodland in a steep-sided valley, this Staffordshire spot provides an ideal habitat for migratory birds such as the Pied Flycatcher, Redstart and Wood Warbler to nest.

A trail leads you around the site – look out for Dippers and Willow Tits in summer, and in winter, hundreds of Redwings and Fieldfare descend to feed on the berries.

A steep climb will take you to open moorland and pasture, where you may see Woodcock and Sparrowhawks.

Find it: RSPB Coombes & Churnet Valley Nature Reserve, Bradnop, Leek, ST13 7EU

Find out more here.

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St. George’s Day in the United Kingdom

St George’s Day in England remembers St George, England’s patron saint. The anniversary of his death, which is on April 23, is seen as England’s national day. According to legend, he was a soldier in the Roman army who killed a dragon and saved a princess.

Celebrate St George’s Day

St George’s Day used to be a national holiday in England. It is now an observance that is celebrated with parades, dancing and other activities. Flags with the image of St George’s cross are flown on some buildings, especially pubs, and a few people wear a red rose on their lapel. Church services on the Sunday closest to April 23 often include the hymn ‘Jerusalem’, written by the poet William Blake. The words describe a supposed visit to Glastonbury, England, by Jesus Christ during his youth.

Public Life

April 23 is not a public holiday. Schools, stores, post offices, businesses and other organizations are open as usual. Public transport services run to their usual timetables.

About St George’s Day

St George was born sometime around the year 280 in what is now Turkey. He was a soldier and rose up through the ranks of the Roman army, eventually becoming a personal guard to the Emperor Diocletian. He was executed for being a Christian on April 23, 303, and is buried in the town of Lod in Israel.

St George is most widely known for slaying a dragon. According to legend, the only well in the town of Silene was guarded by a dragon. In order to get water, the inhabitants of the town had to offer a human sacrifice every day to the dragon. The person to be sacrificed was chosen by lots. On the day that St George was visiting, a princess had been selected to be sacrificed. However, he killed the dragon, saved the princess and gave the people of Silene access to water. In gratitude, they converted to Christianity. It is thought that the dragon represents a certain type of pagan belief that included the sacrifice of human beings.

St George’s Day was once celebrated as widely as Christmas. But the celebrations waned by the end of the 18th century after England had united with Scotland on May 1, 1707. In recent times, there has been a push, involving campaigns and petitions, to make the day a public holiday in England.

St George is the patron saint of a number of other places, such as Bulgaria, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Portugal and Russia. He is also remembered in some regional holidays, such as in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada and among the Gorani people who live in a mountainous area in the Balkans and were converted to Islam many centuries ago, but still observe St George’s Day. Around the world, a number of days are devoted to St George, including April 23 and dates in November and December of the Gregorian calendar.

Symbols

The most widely recognized symbol of St George’s Day is St George’s cross. This is a red cross on a white background, which is often displayed as a flag. It is used as England’s national flag, forming part of the Union Flag, the national flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Saint George’s cross was originally the flag of the maritime Republic of Genoa. Around 1190, the King of England started paying the Doge of Genoa to protect ships originally from the city of London and the rest of England that sailed in the Mediterranean.

During the crusades in the 1100s and 1200s, English knights used St George’s cross as part of their uniform. It has been the official flag of England for centuries, but the Union Flag, a combination of St George’s cross, St Andrew’s cross and St Patrick’s cross, is the national flag of the United Kingdom. Now Saint George’s cross is used as a national symbol by fans of the English national football, rugby and cricket teams. At international matches, flags and scarves bearing this cross are worn and people paint it on their faces. It is also has a prominent place on the arms of the City of London and the flags of the city of Barcelona, Spain, and the country of Georgia.

Source: Time And Date

30 UK campsites to book now for summer 2021

We’ve rounded up the best camping and glamping getaways … assuming the Great British Summer gets the green light, that is

Before you book, check individual campsite Covid refund and rescheduling policies

WALES

Three Cliffs Bay, Penmaen, Gower

The dramatic clifftop location is a huge selling point for this family-run campsite on the south side of the Gower peninsula. It is right on the Wales Coast Path, and a short stroll from the spectacular Three Cliffs Bay. Guests can choose between sea-view or (cheaper) countryside-view pitches, for tents, caravans or campervans. There are also sea-view bell tents and inland yurts (both sleeping five). The shower block is particularly impressive, with power showers, LED lighting and underfloor heating … Even the dog-washing points have warm water. The shop is also well stocked, with local bread, meat, beer and wine; and guests can order hampers, and rent picnic tables and firepits. The campsite was started in 1948 on North Hill Farm, which dates back five generations, and is still run by the Beynon family.
• Camping £29.50 a night for a family of up to 5, glamping £454 for three nights, threecliffsbay.com

Top of the Woods, Pembrokeshire

Friendly pigs at Top of the Woods Eco Camping & Glamping Pembrokeshire

“Eco luxury” is the vibe at this site on a 27-acre farm. Campers can pitch their tents in the four-acre wildflower meadow, while glampers can choose from safari lodges, nature domes or pioneer camps; there is also one pitch for a campervan. The farm courtyard is the social hub, with a huge Dutch barn, campfire and wet-room showers. Breakfast is served in the barn at weekends, as is a stew supper on Fridays and barbecues on Saturdays. There are pop-up food stalls during the summer holidays and a fishmonger comes every Wednesday. Campers can help feed the site’s three kunekune pigs, walk to the secret waterfall in the woods for a swim, and take yoga classes in the barn. The owners also run glamping activity weekend breaks several times a year, from “wild gin” foraging to canoe treks and paddleboarding safaris.
• Camping £16/£8 a night adult/child, campervans £20/10, dogs free, five-metre bell tents for hire at £30 a night, glamping from £100 a night for 4, topofthewoods.co.uk

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