Friday, 8 June 2012

New kids on the block

Just a stone’s throw from the attractive main entrance of Norwich railway station - the northern terminus of the Great Eastern Mainline from London Liverpool Street - flows the River Wensom, a chalk-fed Norfolk river and a tributary of the River Yare that bends serenely through Norfolk’s county town.

A good choice after alighting at the station, opened in 1884 and now the only remaining of three railway stations in Norwich, is to head across the road bridge and then turn alongside the water for a pleasant riverside walk down towards the Cathedral.

The gentle stroll on a sunny spring afternoon soon brings you to the tree-lined edge of playing fields at a point called Pull’s Ferry.

Here you can continue the riverside saunter around the outskirts of the city or turn to wander down the timeless and immaculately maintained Ferry Lane - itself a former canal - towards Norwich Cathedral Close.

The close is one of the largest in England, extending over 44 acres and containing a mixture of delightful residential and commercial properties.

Pull’s Ferry, the former ‘water gate’ to the close, and the Ferry Lane canal were originally used as the final leg of transportation for the distinctive Caen stone from which most of the cathedral was constructed.

The nearby properties range from stately eighteenth and nineteenth century terraces to homes and buildings with more distinctive Dutch gables.

Just along the way, the close houses the entrance to the cathedral herb garden - splendidly attractive and fragrant, particularly in the summer but worth a visit at any time of the year.

From this part of the close the cathedral spire is impressive, dominating the view and forever drawing the eye to gaze upon its structure.

On this day we were fortunate enough to arrive at the edge of the green and stumble upon a small tent-like structure along with an array of spotting scopes all trained on the cathedral spire.

High above us, the Hawk and Owl Trust had created a nesting platform, strapped to the side of the spire and now adopted as a perfect site from which to raise a young family by a pair of Peregrine falcons.

At the time there were four eggs on the stony bedding being incubated by a patient and expectant mum and dad. It was a treat to be there just as mother, after a four hour stint on the nest, decided to stretch her wings and take flight to survey the scene 240 feet below.

The first peregrine egg hatched in the early hours on 2 May, the second egg hatched towards the end of the day and the third hatched two days later.

The peregrine chicks continue to do well and their progress can be followed live online via a webcam set up to overlook the nesting platform - Norwich peregrines.

Peregrine falcons were once endangered in the UK but thanks to conservation efforts like this one their numbers have recovered in recent years.

The peregrine’s powerful body, short tail and pointed wings give it a distinctive appearance. This is the fastest falcon in flight, capable of reaching more than 120 mph when swooping on its pray.