One Red Stable

One cold, cold morning when I was a student in Norwich, I grabbed a dog and a camera and went for a stroll. I didn’t know that I was about to experience one of my most bizarre wildlife sightings – a perfect performance of the comic-drama that is magpie vs fox. Actually, magpies: nine of them. And one very puzzled little fox who hid in a stable.

Fox and magpies7 111016

Before, well, being cornered.

Fox and magpies6 111016

On Saturday, I walked that path again as summer rain and warmth battled without clear victor. No fox this weekend, but the stable is still there, albeit repainted.

Stable Norwich 27 Jun 20

And the Yare is still running, or slowly shuffling, whatever Norfolk rivers do.

Yare1 Norwich 27 Jun 20

Its personality is worlds apart from the frothy energy of a Yorkshire stream, or the seasonal extremes in North Downs winterbournes. For its size, Britain is the most geologically diverse place in the world, which feeds through into astonishingly varied landscapes. Maybe that was in the mind of the sculpture as he created the Man of Stones who stands guard by the river.

Man of Stones

The northern half of the East Anglian peninsula is like nowhere else in England – a vast, open landscape of arable farms, marshland and reeds, turning into crumbling cliffs or very wild saltmarshes on the coast. Not surprisingly, it supports some of our rarest wildlife. And none is more iconic than the mighty marsh harrier.

p26 marsh harrier

Occasionally, they are joined by white-tailed eagles flying across from the continent. I saw neither this weekend, but the boardwalk where I’ve watched so many songbirds over the years was briefly shadowed by a reed bunting.


And field edges were brightened with poppies.

Poppy 27 Jun 20

And then the rain returned, reminding all that although Norfolk might be land, it is really all about sky and water.

Broad Norwich 27 Jun 20

15 thoughts on “One Red Stable

  1. What a lovely post Adele, and it conveys much about the landscape and creatures where you live. I recall seeing similarly slowly shuffling rivers in parts of England – redolent of how I imagine the river in Wind in the WIllows, which I read as a child.
    That fox looks so perplexed surrounded by the magpies while pretending to gaze into the middle distance – no wonder s/he ended up hiding in the stables.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wind in the Willows is very appropriate! I saw a riverside burrow which looked like the home of Ratty, better known these days as a water vole. Not a common species now, but Norfolk’s watery landscape offers perfect habitat.

      Poor little fox. I was watching him for an hour or so, he looked utterly baffled by his feathered fan club.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Adele – I have just looked up the water vole and was sorry to read about the tremendous decline in populations and the threats they face. Hopefully some regions are able to protect the waterways better and the associated wildlife.
        Amazing that the birds stayed with the little fox for such a long time. Do you think they were monitoring him rather than harassing him, or were they simply intrigued for some reason?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, their numbers have been hit hard by non-native mink and overgrazing of riparian habitats. Norfolk is very important for their survival now.

        Magpies have a strange relationship with foxes. They will hop after them at any opportunity, sometimes hassling, sometimes looking for food to steal, and sometimes – well, I described them as a slightly droll nuisance in my book. It seems almost whimsical. Wolves are famous for being followed by ravens, so I suppose it isn’t surprising that their small cousin is followed by magpies.


    1. It is very special – the atmosphere is just, well, Norfolk-ish. The labyrinth of rivers, lakes and farmland canals between Norwich and the east coast has similar legal status to a national park. I used to cross it by train quite regularly and saw lots of wildlife even while doing that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice to hear about your adventures in Norwich area. Where were the boardwalks Adele? What a dear little fox just looking around at all those magpies, thinking, hello hello hello, what have we got here?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This fox looked quite young, and perhaps hadn’t learned the magpie rhyme yet! They aren’t usually aggressive towards foxes but they need no second invitation to watch or hassle them.

      Norwich is a very pleasant area for walking 🙂 I’ve seen otters from that boardwalk in the past.


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