Climbing the Walls

If you travel south on the A140 from the North Norfolk Coast towards Norwich you will pass Stratton Strawless. A small village, some would say insignificant small village, that flashes by in less than a minute but to anyone that has any interest in Natural History Stratton Strawless is a special place.

Robert Marsham lived here during the 1700’s. Robert Marsham is the father of Phenology, the study of the seasons on plants, trees, birds and other wildlife. He was as famous then as perhaps David Attenborough is now. His work on trees was the foundation for much research in years that followed. A cedar tree – The Great Cedar – he planted on his 40th birthday still stands in the park and is thought to be the oldest in Europe.

On the bottom shelf of my bookcase are the volumes of Stevenson’s Birds of Norfolk printed in 1890. On the page headed ‘Wallcreeper’ there are notes of letters exchanged between Gilbert White an eminent ornithologist of the day and Robert Marsham in 1792.

Marsham found a bird flying around the outbuildings close to his house and as was the way in those times … shot it. He employed a young lady to paint a couple of primary feathers of the bird and sent them to White. It was concluded they belonged to a female or fist winter male Wallcreeper. The bird entered the records of the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalist Trust as the first for Norfolk as well as the first for Britain … oh for another!

The number of times I have scanned the cliffs at Trimingham in hope or walked past Cromer Church with my head in the air I can’t tell you. Two hundred and twenty two years is long enough to wait isn’t it?

Maybe one day.

Wallcreeper Primaries


2 Responses to “Climbing the Walls”

  1. 1 Malcolm
    Jan 8, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    What an interesting post! By coincidence, I’ve just finished re-reading A Natural History of Selborne. I was struck again by the elegance of White’s writing, his amazing skill as a field naturalist and the matter-of-fact way in which he refers to shooting specimens or having one “procured” for him. As you say, that was the way it was in those times.


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Jan 2015


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