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Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Stinkhorn and snakes

Pete, Nicola, Lola, 9, and Nell, 6, spent three happy months during the summer of 2007 traveling around Britain. Now we’re home but the travel bug is still there. Join us for occasional sightseeing plus tips on how to shrink your carbon footprint… This post is from Nicola (pic is of Nell with a puffball found earlier in the year during a Yorkshire walk)

We are staying near Roydon Common (NNR), a mix of heathland and boggy areas fringed by oak and silver birch, which the Norfolk Wildlife Trust calls “one of the most important wildlife sites in the country.” For anyone not used to Norfolk it takes a while to see this wildlife. The birdlife requires early starts and dusk patrols; the knowledge that there are adders is scary enough to keep you on the track (even though snakes are not really around at this time of the year) and the heath itself is patrolled by Exmoor ponies who are expected to keep the grass short and keep the bilberry bushes low. The ponies would have to be very greedy to manage this in such a big area, and as a result the golden autumn colours of the longer patches of grassland transform this heath into lion country. I’ve never seen anything like this in Britain but it isn’t dissimilar to the baked grassy area below the Ngong Hills in Kenya (famous for Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Isak Dinesen in the film Out of Africa).

Along the footpaths mushrooms are springing up. My in-laws were farmers of the old school so didn’t seem to rate any of the country’s natural gifts (blackberries, damsons, nettles, elderberries etc). As a result I had to buy a new fungi book in order to identify what we’re seeing on our walks. Most exciting spot so far is the spectacularly rude looking Stinkhorn (the best known member, arf arf, of the Phallaceae family) with its crumply, wet look black thimble-shaped head and a longish (15cm) cylindrical stem. It smelt horrible, but is not old enough yet to stink out a big area around it. We’re now hoping to find an unhatched Stinkhorn egg to try and hatch out on damp tissue under a jam jar.

Norfolk is very low lying and much of it is reclaimed land. Even in the garden this is obvious – especially if you are used to the heavy clay soils of Essex/Herts/London – as in Norfolk the soil is loamy enough to run through hands like sand. Sometimes I even find shells, but I think they’ve probably been put in the borders by Lola and Nell after day trips to the sea. Given that climate change will see the sea levels rising it’ll be interesting – horrifying? – to find out what panic plan this county has for dealing with flooding. My next task is to log on to the council’s website and have a look…

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