New Beginnings: A Look Back At 2015, Part 1

Looking back, 2015 was probably my most enjoyed year for a long time: a year of learning; of new opportunities and experiences; a year of new adventures. So I’m kicking off 2016 and a new website with a look back at everything that happened last year.

In 2014 I had decided I needed to refocus my life – I seemed to be spending almost all my time either working or training on things to progress my career, occasionally finding the time to do some gardening or housework. This was no good.

I had made a start on this, getting out to a couple of local Wildlife Trust nature reserves, but 2015 was the year I intended to really do something about it.

So, here is the story of that year. Well, the first part of the story anyway.

This is quite long, but there are a LOT of photos (and a video). Links to the complete Flickr albums for each event or place can be found at the end.


2015 kicked off with the #MyWinter social media campaign from BBC Winterwatch. This had started in December but the season had been decidedly un-wintery so I hadn’t really taken any photos. However in January a drop in temperatures and some “encouragement” on Twitter got me out and about with the camera.

Solar Eclipse

March brought with it a solar eclipse (the second one I’ve seen), not total in the UK but enough to leave only a thin crescent of the sun visible. The day had started off with quite thick cloud cover so I wasn’t expecting to be able to see it, but the cloud thinned out just in time!

A word of warning: DO NOT look at the sun through an optical view finder on a camera as you could damage your eyes, even during an eclipse. I took all my photos in live view using a high f-stop and the camera’s screen to frame up.


March also came with new social media campaign called #SignsOfSpring, in the build up to BBC Springwatch, a simple task to photograph and send in photos of anything that signals the approach of Spring. This got me out with the camera again, in the garden and also back to Summer Leys LNR.

30 Days Wild

As BBC Springwatch aired at the end of May, #SignsOfSpring came to an end. However the show introduced 30 Days Wild from the Wildlife Trusts: a challenge to do something with nature every day of June. I decided to do 30 days of minibeasts, a different one every day, which proved to be harder than expected.

Much to the bemusement of my colleagues I spent weekday lunch times hunting around Broughton Brook (a park near our offices in Milton Keynes) for minibeasts, armed with camera and macro lens. Weekends I scoured garden or local nature reserves.

In the end I managed it and saw some fantastic creatures in the process.


During the first half of 2015 my parents had mentioned they were going on holiday to Norfolk in July, and that the place they were staying had space for me at no extra cost.

The last time I’d been on holiday was a family trip to Cornwall in 1996. Obviously I’d been away since then: weekends with friends, trips for work, training courses, etc. But most of my time off work had been spent visiting local places or doing gardening or DIY, nothing that you could really call a holiday.

So in the first week of July I was off to Norfolk for my first holiday in 19 years.

Norfolk isn’t all that far from where I live, basically the other side of the fens, so I drove out on the Friday night. This meant I was there for 7 days rather than the normal 6 for a week holiday.

Day 1 kicked off with a visit to Weybourne Beach to see nesting sand martins. I’ve seen sand martins before at Summer Leys, but it was great to see them in their more natural habitat: the adults spiraling into the air over the cliffs, bringing food in for the close-to-fledging youngsters in their nests.

The rest of the day was spent at RSPB Titchwell Marsh, a large coastal reserve of marsh land (as the name suggests) stretching down to an equally large sandy beach where there are the petrified remains of an old forest. A great day out and I saw marsh harriers for the first time!

Day 2 started off a bit grey but undaunted we headed off to Sculthorpe Moor. It remained grey and then started raining around lunchtime, however despite that I saw my first kingfisher!

Later in the afternoon the weather cleared up, so we went for a wander round Foxley Wood where I spotted a hare.

On day 3 the weather was nice again so we headed off to How Hill nature reserve. On the way there we stopped at Ludham Bridge and got an unexpected flypast from some swans.

We went to How Hill looking for swallow tail butterflies, but we only saw one and it was too far away to get a decent photos. There was plenty else to see there though.

We also had a wander round How Hill Secret Garden.

Then in the afternoon we headed off to RSPB Strumpshaw Fen where I got my first photos of marsh harriers (at Titchwell Marsh they had been too far away).

Day 4 was a wet day so we went to Sheringham and visited the Mo, Fishermen’s Heritage Museum and had a walk along the seafront.

On day 5 we went to Pretty Corner Wood, which has a trail of different wooden carvings around it. I won’t put them all here!

In the afternoon we went to Natural Surroundings Wildflower Centre, which is one of the places working on conservation of harvest mice and red squirrels.

On day 6, the penultimate day of the holiday, we went to Pensthorpe Natural Park, a former home of BBC Springwatch. This place is huge so we spent the whole day there. There’s loads to see!

For day 7, the final day of the holiday, we went for a walk round National Trust Sheringham Park. We did the complete walk, all the way down to the coast taking a slight detour to Weybourne Station to see the steam trains running on the North Norfolk Railway.

Let’s take a breather!

In the interest of maintaining everyone’s sanity (and because this is taking me ages to write!) I’m doing this story in 2 parts, and this seems like a good point for a break. I’ll pick up the rest of the year in part 2 in a few days time, there’s LOTS more to come!

Links to stuff mentioned here:

BBC Springwatch/Autumnwatch/Winterwatch on Twitter

Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs and Northants (Wildlife BCN)

Flickr albums:

Flickr albums for nature reserves visited:

Norfolk Flickr Albums:

Local places visited:

Norfolk Places Visited:

3 Comments Add yours

  1. louise says:

    I enjoyed reading this post very much – a great blog! What a great year full of nature too. I got the same weather for the solar eclipse with the cloud thinning enough just at the right time! Where did you see the other one – 1999 in the south?! I saw that one on holiday with my family (my dad travels around for astronomical events!). I’ve never been to Norfolk but Pensthorpe has been on ‘the list’ for some time and I would love to see a marsh harrier. If (I should really say when!) I go to Norfolk I will just use this blog post as a travel guide 😉

    I will look forward to part two.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! The other eclipse was indeed the 1999 one. Back then I lived in Hampshire and worked down on the coast so we all stood in the carpark and watched it. We were even provided with the special glasses by our employer! 😀


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