You will find out about all the exciting stuff going on with the RSPB in the east of the UK. We cover our sites in the following counties: Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, and some of our great Lincolnshire ones. So if you are if you have never heard of the Strumpshaws and Snettishams or Stour Estuary or Sutton Fens here is you chance.
Blogger: Gena Correale-Wardle, Community Fundraising
William Farrugia is one of nature’s heroes. Not only is he a fundraiser and advocate for the RSPB, standing up and speaking in front of dozens of his peers, but he’s also only 9 years old!
A few weeks ago on his walk to school he saw a dead blackbird in the road. Being William’s favourite bird, it made him very sad and spurred him into action to help the RSPB along with his classmates at Great Easton Primary School.
William obtained the kind permission of head teacher Miss Jackman to do a collection and assembly at his school. He made a collection box covered in pictures of some of our most endangered birds then told all his fellow pupils about his collection and asked them to bring in money for the RSPB. After a week of pocket money pennies being dropped into the box, he had collected £8.20 which he sent directly to the RSPB.
William wrote that he hoped the money will help the RSPB to find out why we do not have as many birds in our gardens as we used to. With a young head on old shoulders, it is great to see that William is a conservation advocate at such a young age and is already doing what he can to make sure we reverse the scary decline in some of our most loved garden bird species.
Whilst William’s dead blackbird sighting saddened him, it’s not all bad for blackbirds as they were revealed last week to be the most common playground visitor for the sixth year in a row in the RSPB’s Big Schools Birdwatch. The results of Big Garden Birdwatch showed a different picture with blackbirds down to number 4 in the rankings. This is thought to be a result of the mild winter, so blackbirds are likely to still be finding food in the fields across the countryside, and therefore were not visiting our gardens so much.
A big thank you from the RSPB for William’s fantastic fundraising for the RSPB and for being a hero for nature – keep up the good work!
Today, we are so proud to have welcomed Mandy Foyster back from her incredible adventure, dedicated to raising funds for the RSPB and Norfolk Wildlife Trust in memory of her mother in law, Doreen. As well as daily updates on BBC Radio Norfolk, she shared her experiences along her travels with us over email. Over the next few days we’ll be posting excerpts from her 12 day trip!
Mandy sets sail
This Saturday I will set sail from Horstead Mill on my 75 mile 'Inflatable Tour of Norfolk' to raise funds for the RSPB & the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.
I've prepared as much as I can & despite waking up to a half deflated boat yesterday (due to a leaky valve which I've now replaced) I think I'm ready to go. I have named my boat 'HMS Loopy' ~ I am nervous but also excited & really looking forward to seeing all the wildlife. I am sure I will have fun & adventures but I'm also expecting it to be my most difficult challenge to date.
Day 1 - Saturday
I've had a good first day in my little boat. I left Horstead Mill at 11am & I paddled up past the Rising Sun where I spotted my school friends having a little tipple. Then it was on through swan & heron country towards Wroxham. The swans are so friendly & were swimming all round my boat & peeping in ~ looking for food I think. I saw a heron & lots of funny water birds which had tufty hats on their heads & kept diving down & surfacing somewhere else.
Rowing through Wroxham was exciting ~ my first big Port! A gentleman waved & told me to keep rowing and smiling, he informed me I only had another 70 miles to go ~ he must have heard me on the radio. Lots more people kept waving & asking if I was the crazy lady who was rowing round Norfolk? At Wroxham Broad I stopped for a picnic in the company of geese ~ some of whome were nesting. Some lovely youngsters in passing boat offered me a drink (hic) or a tow ~ I politely declined both offers. I reached Salhouse Broad at 5pm, earlier than I had expected & decided to carry on rowing. I saw little deer next to the river peeping at me out of the woods & then at Horning I passed the 'Southern Comfort' boat on it's way out for a party on the river. The big & faster boats made a big wash which was very exciting to row through ~ just like being on one of the water rides at Alton Towers ~ what fun! I moored up at Woodbastwick for the night & as I write this I have visitors ~ two geese have come to see if I have any leftovers from my tea & they are making hissy noises outside my boat. Night night from Mandy in her bivi bag floating on the river. Xxx
Day 2 - Sunday
Day 2 has been interesting & challenging. After sleeping lightly through a rainy Saturday night surrounded by two beautiful otters having a very loud squabble in the river ~ I awoke to a dry but overcast morning.
I packed away my sleeping bags & scrubbed the decks before pulling anchor & casting off for St Benet's Abbey. My arms were tired but I soon got into the rhythm of rowing & happily hailed 'Good Morning me Hearties' to all my fellow shipmates aboard their boats. They all like my ship's name 'HMS LOOPY' ~ They think it is very apt!
I stopped at St Benet's Abbey for a little walk on dry land & a picnic. I also pumped my boat up a bit more as it was leaking air again through the old patch. There was a sailing race taking place on the Bure between St Benet's & Thurne ~ it was exciting to watch. I rowed past a dredger which was like an enormous crane at the side of the river & then at Thurne I turned left, setting course for Acle and found myself rowing against the incoming tide and a blustery head wind.
Oh what a battle I had to reach Acle, at times the wind blew so strongly I was going backwards rather than forwards. Several passing boats slowed down & asked me if I needed help which was most kind of them but I was determined to battle on. Eventually after lots of rows forwards & some rows backwards I zig-zagged & crawled my way up to the Acle Bridge where I am now moored up for the night. It is VERY windy and I hope the little cover over me & my boat doesn't blow away in the night! My lovely husband Steve has kindly given me the shipping forecast for the next few days and I plan to be up early in the morning to sail with the outgoing tide.
That's all for now ~ night night from HMS LOOPY in Acle.
Day 5 - Wednesday
Loopy rowed across Breydon, whoohoo ~ we did it! Today after meeting a very friendly seagull & saying farewell to the kind gentlemen at Gt Yarmouth Yacht Station, I set sail on the turn of the tide to begin my Breydon Water attempt. Ralph Graham from the RSPB turned up to escort me across & the Spirit of Breydon patrol boat piloted by John & Jon was also waiting in the harbour for me. I had not expected their help, but I was so grateful, as was my husband Steve who also came along to support me.
I was nervous and excited as I set off rowing, after passing under the two bridges I was out in the big river turning right & aiming for Breydon Bridge. It looked so big and I felt very small in my little inflatable. As I rowed under the bridge the force of the wind suddenly hit me and I had a real battle to get out onto Breydon Water. Thankfully the wind, although quite strong, was coming in gusts and I was gradually able to make some headway on my voyage. I had to row very hard & concentrate in order to control the HMS Loopy and for a while I did wonder if I was getting anywhere at all. Gradually though, Gt Yarmouth became smaller & further away and I was bowled over by the experience & the view from the middle.
The chaps in the RSPB boat helped me to stay on course by shouting directions across to me and advising when I was drifting too far. The Spirit of Breydon announced on their loud hailer to other boats to "please pass the charity rowing boat slowly". My lovely husband Steve cycled along the footpath on the shore, encouraging me from a distance. My arms gradually became more and more tired but there was no giving up and nowhere to stop for a rest ~ I just kept on going. At last after nearly 4 hours of non stop heavy rowing I turned into the river Waveney and moored up at a Marina (arranged for me by the chaps on the Spirit of Breydon). After a big hug with my husband, a lovely cup of tea, a photo shoot and a surprise visit from two other friends I settled down for the evening. I am soooo tired but very grateful & happy that I was able to do it. I have promoted myself to Captain of the HMS Loopy with hat to match! We did it ~ a middle aged lady rowed across Breydon Water in an inflatable toy boat ~ what happy Loopy fun! Tomorrow we travel south down the Waveney in search of new adventures. Captain of the HMS Loopy ~ signing off now ~ Goodnight x
To make a donation in recognition of Mandy's incredible endeavours, visit http://www.justgiving.com/Mandy-Foyster.
Over the next few days we are sharing Mandy Foyster’s incredible adventure, paddling 75 miles of Norfolk’s rivers in a toy boat over 12 days, all in aid of the RSPB and Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Here’s the next instalment of her amazing feat:
I awoke on Thursday tired but looking forward to a slightly easier day. However a familiar hissing noise from my boat soon made me realise that today was going to pose it's own challenges. On inspection I discovered a new puncture right on the edge of a seal. I tried to mend it using my own patches & sealant but due to the awkward position of the hole the repair would not hold. Thankfully I was moored in a boatyard marina and one of boat builders kindly helped and stuck a heavy duty patch on for me. It was tricky and although much improved, I was still losing air ever so slowly as I rowed off towards St Olaves. It was a pretty journey past the marshes & reedbeds. I saw marsh harriers soaring above the reeds and an unusual big brown patterned duck with 7 beautiful ducklings ~ I was in wildlife heaven. How my dear Mother in Law Doreen would have appreciated all of this and I thought of her as I paddled my way steadily up the river.
I reached St Olaves later than planned & was delighted to be greeted by Dave the chef from the Norfolk Mead hotel and his two little girls. He kindly bought me a cup of tea before I rowed off again in search of a place to stop for the night. I moored up at Herringfleet but worried about the way the HMS Loopy was slowly leaking air I have decided to sleep in my bivi bag on the riverbank tonight. It is magical sitting here writing this email sitting up in my bags in the open air with a headlamp on. I can hear a strange sound which I am wondering could it be a Bittern booming? Earlier I saw two little dear bounding through the reeds and now I can hear an owl & all sorts of animal noises.
The riverbank is not quite as comfortable as my dear boat 'Loopy' but at least I can sleep soundly without fear of sinking! From me & all the amazing wildlife ~ Goodnight. Xxx
I awoke on the riverbank refreshed after 6 hours sleep to a beautiful morning & the bird sounds from the marshes. The HMS Loopy seemed refreshed too & we were both soon on our way again. The river was very close to the railway line for a while and I passed under the railway bridge at Somerleyton. On a few occasions this morning the 'Inflatable Tour of Norfolk' briefly crossed into Suffolk ~ just like when the Tour de France does a stage in another country ~ ho ho. Dave Abbot from the Gt Yarmouth Yacht Station accompanied me for some of the way in his little motorised boat ~ it was lovely to have his company. I excitedly told him about the noise I had heard the previous evening when I had wondered if it had been a bittern booming. Dave informed me that the sound had probably been the fog horn sounding at Gt Yarmouth ~ how I laughed at my silly mistake. We spotted bright yellow marsh marigolds growing on the riverbanks and also the sign to Oulton Broad just before arriving at the Waveney River Centre.
Kind James, who owns the river centre, had offered me a free mooring and use of the facilities so I was able to wash all of my clothes and get clean again. In the afternoon the EDP photographer came to take some pictures of me rowing on the river.
I purchased some more food and a little fishing net as I am curious to find out what is in the river. Other than that I'm spending the evening tidying my ship & studying the tide table ready for tomorrow. I am beginning to feel very tired now and my arms ache all the time but thankfully my good ship 'Loopy' is still afloat and I will be sleeping in him again tonight. Tomorrow (Saturday) I will voyage back to St Olaves and, if I can catch the tides correctly, up the 'Cut' to Reedham. Love from Mandy x
I had a good nights sleep aboard the HMS Loopy and set off to retrace my oar steps to St Olaves. It was a difficult voyage back up the Waveney due to a gusty headwind and I struggled to make progress. At one point the wind was so strong I began to go backwards despite rowing my gloves off ~ so to speak. I managed to grab hold of the reeds so that I could at least stay stationary until the gusts died down. This did give me a lovely opportunity to photograph the beautiful marsh marigolds. In Somerleyton my kind friends Nancy & Tim met me with a flask of tea and some bananas. I then headed for the 'Cut' where I was greeted by Wally Mason the reedcutter and a photographer. To my surprise and delight Wally presented me with a card, flowers, chocolates and a bundle of real reeds from the marshes. He said in his strong Norfolk accent "you've bin seein all those reeds as yer row past, well here's some fer you to keep ~ they'll last yer 70 years". I was really touched by his kindness and utterly delighted with my reeds ~ what a lovely souvenir.
I battled my way up the 'Cut' which is completely straight until I reached Reedham. There I was greeted by another kind friend, Sue, who had brought me more tea in a little flask ~ heaven. I then, with my aching arms, prepared my bed & cover over my boat ready for another night on the river. Whilst munching my bread & bananas lying in the HMS Loopy I was thrilled to have a swan join me for tea. He was so beautiful and allowed me to hand feed him through my boat tent window ~ magic.
Goodnight from Swan Lake xxx
To donate in recognition of Mandy's incredible efforts, visit http://www.justgiving.com/Mandy-Foyster.