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Saturday, 17 May 2014


N O R F O L K   B I R D  F A I R

Saturday 17th May – 9am-5pm
Mannington Hall, Norfolk NR11 7BB

I arrived fashionably late, well more than fashionably late to be honest – it was after midday! It was a scorcher of a day and I wore sandals for the first time this year. As I cruised into one of the field carparks, hot on my tail was Mr Furse! John joined me to walk around the fair. I had never been to Mannington Hall and my first thoughts were, what a stunning location, throw in a Bird Fair aswell – well, what more can you ask for! It's only a short walk to the actual fair from the carpark.

Moments after going through the entrance marquee, I was harrassed for autographs (oh to be famous!!!!) Only joking! I was very flattered that author Keith Dye asked me to sign his book, next to the paragraph that described father's and my account of the Thrush Nightingale at Holme Bird Observatory in 1977. No one has ever asked me to sign something (apart from cheques!), made me smile and was a good start to the day! Maybe I should write a book? Also met several lovely blog readers today, nice to meet you all.

In summary, the first Norfolk Bird Fair staged at Mannington Hall today was fabulous. Rob and Jill Wilson have achieved a very grand job indeed. It was a much bigger event than I thought it would be, with lots to see and do. Stunning location and in my opinion, much nicer than Rutland Water. The hall is surrounded by a moat with lily pads, scenic walks, sensory gardens with water feature, temple, nature garden, nature trail and kingfisher hide! Lots of beautiful mature trees and landscaped gardens. There is also a willow tunnel and playground for children. It would be worth paying the entrance fee just to see all of this, never mind the Bird Fair!
Greedy Goose Cafe.

Bar and Food Marquee at the end of the day.

A big marquee hosted the bar: 'Wolf Brewery' – tables and chairs under cover (not that there was a hint of rain today) and surrounding this, different food vendors: 'Vettes Veggie Van' where I had a scrumptious vege wrap with a warm chocolate brownie to follow and a cup of tea. Other vendors included 'Crepe Crusaders' selling sweet and savoury wraps, 'Spitfire Hogroasts', 'Norfolk Farm House Ice-cream' (£2.00 for a scrumptious banana and baileys ice-cream!), 'Hushwing Cafe', 'The Greedy Goose Cafe' – this is approx 50 yards away from the main catering area in part of the hall buildings and has seats inside and out and sells scrumptious cakes in a very pretty raised patio setting. 'The Cheese & Pie Man' (who sells their pies to Harrods and Fortnum & Masons) and the list goes on.....! The catering certainly covers all tastes and desires! There is something for everyone at very reasonable prices.

There was a fabulous local food marquee selling specialist foods (see above), including wines, fudge, cheeses, pies, strawberries, asparagus, popcorn, marmelades and preserves etc. I love asparagus, must get some of that tomorrow before the end of the show.
Jill & Rob Wilson – Bird Fair Organisers.

ACS – The 'boss' cleaning my binoculars for me.

Charlie Moores at Wildlife Travel.

Artist John Hurst.

Carl Chapman at Wildlife Tours & Education.

Hazel Millington, Glass Artist from Cley.

Bryan Bland with Duncan and Peter at the WildSounds Stand.

Exhibitors in the Main Marquee

The main marquee was huge and more spacious between the exhibitor stands than at Rutland. Lots of familiar faces here at both exhibitors stands and visitors. It was very refreshing and exciting to see lots of new exhibitors that are not at Rutland, including 'Hazel Millington's' stunning jewellery which I was extremely tempted by and won the prettiest stand in the show in my opinion – closely followed by 'Women for Conservation's' jewellery stand (normally at Rutland)! Other new exhibitors included: Wex Photographic from Norwich (where I bought all my camera gear) who were doing a competition to win a pair of Swarovski binoculars (I entered of course)!!! Also 'Advanced Camera Services' (ACS) who are based in Watton (where I get my camera gear serviced etc) were cleaning optics free of charge – my bins are now sparkling! 'Just Ltd' were doing a camera sensor clean for a reduced price for the show (see my previous post). Other new exhibitors: 'Martin Wase Photography' (stunning work and drew me in visually, as soon as I walked into the marquee), 'Rohan' clothing company, Dean Eades, Carl Chapman, the new wildlife magazine launched: 'Wildlife East Anglia' which having a quick flick through, looks like a quality, bumper packed magazine on very nice quality paper – also several local artists, local shops etc etc. See pictures. 75+ Exhibitors in all!!!

THE OPTICS MARQUEES included 'Swarosvski', 'One Stop Nature', 'Vortex', 'Vanguard', 'Kowa', 'Opticron', 'Canon', 'Wex' and 'Kenro' with telescopes set up overlooking the stunning lake. It was here that I watched my first Spotted Flycatcher of the spring with John, high up in the tree! Also, moments after that we saw a Noctule Bat flying round the moated hall! It was so beautiful here. Several garden seats to sit on in the pretty gardens, all very idyllic indeed.

There are plants to buy, including specialist local roses and also a camping field!. Activities include pond dipping, wildlife walks, photography for under 16's, Phonescoping workshops, digiscoping, art workshops, bee trail, tracking, BTO bird ringing station, natural history touch table and plant potting.

Several Lectures to go to, which are set in a wonderfully cool building, unlike the stifling marquees at Rutland! I went to John Hague's Phonescoping workshop, which was very interesting and also chatted with Paul Hackett about cameras and Apps – he recommended the 'Kowa TeleCamera' App. Lectures kick off tomorrow with 'Facebook Nature, My generation and other animals' at 10am by the lovely Lucy McRobert. Lectures for the rest of the day are listed on the website here.

There is an auction which has some fabulous things in – see here.There are some bargains to be had on Sunday, as I don't think many bids have gone in! To bid for an item, you need to go to the Information tent which is in the centre of the grounds.

After the Bird Fair had ended I walked along the nature trail to the hide, where the sun was completely against me for photography, but the pond look fantastic – lots of frogs mating and calling.
View from the hide which is a good spot for Kingfishers.

Please support this tomorrow – we need this next year. It would be a terrible shame if this didn't go ahead again. I enjoyed it so much I'm going again tomorrow, so hope to see you there. I really hope local birders and others support this important first Bird Fair on Sunday.
•  If any of you who were thinking about going, then go.
•  Any of you who were not going, well you should be!!!
•  The Bird Fair needs YOU, the exhibitors need YOU, the birds need YOU.
•  United together, one place, one day to celebrate our fabulous birding county.
•  You have nothing to lose and at least you will see a Spotted Flycatcher!
•  You'll still be close to the coast if a mega turns up!
•  It would great to see 'carparks full at bird fair' on the RBA pager tomorrow!


  1. Great post Penny and a staggering effort to get it online so quickly! Good to see you and like you I hope the event goes ahead again. Cheers and all the best. Charlie

  2. Thanks Charlie! Good to see you too!

  3. Awesome report on what looks like an amazing event.

  4. Just seen the posters for the event this May, this report is just what I was looking for as the actual www.norfolkbirdfair site keeps warning me not to visit it ! Many thanks for all the info and pictures, we don't live too far away and will definitely be going in May ...maybe even on both days !

  5. Excellent Anne! Hope you enjoy it.