Flight of fancy
PUBLISHED: 11:27 22 December 2015 | UPDATED: 11:27 22 December 2015
Lindsay Want has her beady eye on some chirpy little Suffolk gems to explore, as friends flock by and family return home to roost this Christmas
So it’s turkey and tinsel time again, eh? You’re flying about, wading through all the preparations. Maybe bracing yourself for a festive bird or two with all the trimmings, or concerned about cooking your own goose.
But there’s no need to get stuck for things to do with your brood when they wing their way back to the nest this Christmas. Suffolk is full of charming little tweets and spotting them is a fun way to get out and about.
Follow the flight paths
Spread your wings with a peaceful walk by the River Dove around Eye, or up along the Lark Valley Path as it heads out from Bury St Edmunds towards Lackford Lakes and the Fens. There’s the Linnet to look out for around Horringer and a trace of the tiny River Wren by Easton Broad near Covehithe. Lowestoft’s Sparrows Nest is always a family favourite with brilliant bird’s eye views.
The Sandlings Way swoops through coastal forests and heathlands and has to be the place for a nightjar – unless you prefer a jar or two of a different kind of course and stroll off to the creature comforts of the local Swan, Falcon, Eagle or Dove.
Suffolk’s brimful of tales of birds in high places. A jackdaw made time stand still in Hadleigh by nesting between the church’s clock face and exterior bell. Not far from Jackdaws Ford in Chelsworth, the church once had robins rearing young in the lectern.
At Holy Trinity Blythburgh, the red breasted little fellows were so regularly in church that they were honoured in the embroidery of the high altar cloth. Right across Suffolk you’ll find Rookery Farms and Dove Cottages, Ravens’ Halls and Magpie Pightles, and even with or without looking at the village signs, Cockfield, Ousden and Crowfield speak for themselves.
If you could murder a good walk, head out from Debenham past Crows Hall Cottages, moated Crows Hall and Crowborough Farm, returning via Waddlegoose Lane, or set out for a gander from Crowfield’s Goslings Farm to the tiny half-timbered church, where the weather vane is sure to make you crow with delight. And just for a hoot, Stonham Aspal’s Suffolk Owl Sanctuary is close by.
Let us prey
The golden eagle lectern in Clare church doubles as a daring collection box. St Mary’s Cavendish has a long-eared owl looking up from a ledger stone, and Wortham boasts a short-eared owl perched on a pew-end.
Santon Downham’s St Francis window paints a colourful picture of Brecklands birdlife. There are a dozen species to identify here including the magnificent golden pheasant. You’ll find a pair of fine partridges in the east window of Boxted church, plus blackbirds, magpies and a robin at Wortham, a curlew touching the River Alde in the gorgeously green Britten window in Aldeburgh, and doves in Henry Holiday’s beautiful Pre-Raphaelite window at Shimpling.
A bird in the hand . . .
You can get up close and personal with lovebirds, zebra finches and diamond doves at Bury’s delightful Abbey Garden aviaries. A winter’s wander along lakeside public footpaths from nearby Livermere towards Ampton offers more than a handful of gulls, Greylag geese and Gadwalls, but be sure to pop and pay your respects to Suffolk’s most prestigious bird-handler, William Sakings, Royal Falconer to three Stuart Kings. His gravestone in Great Livermere churchyard clearly lists the monarchs he served and inside St Peters hangs his fine portrait on the old village sign.
. . . and just one in the bush
Fancy trying to glimpse the rarest of Suffolk birds? Then make for Middleton early on Boxing Day evening to witness the weirdest post-Christmas tweet imaginable – the unique tradition of parading the Cutty Wren, reintroduced to the village by the Old Glory Molly Dancers in 1994. Blackened, dour faces and flaming torches mean it’s rather a macabre affair, but it celebrates the cutty (tiny) wren as the King of Birds. It’s considered good luck to spot the little bird’s effigy amidst the greenery of the garland during the serious procession from the village hall to the pub.