Plantation Garden article


Dawn Chorus, 9th May 2010 at the Plantation Garden
A review by Karen Tucker


What kind of idiot gets up at 3.15am on a soggy Sunday morning to go and listen to birdsong?  Well, me for one!  I suppose it could have been worse – it could have been a wet Sunday in the height of summer, and an even earlier start.  It could have been pouring hard.  It wasn’t.  But it didn’t stop raining all the time we were out.

The strange thing is, I wasn’t the only idiot up early that morning.  There must have been at least 20 of us who congregated under the dripping trees in the entrance of the Plantation Garden at 4am, as the sky was just beginning to grow light.

Oh, and the birds were there, of course!  On our walk to the garden, we were serenaded by the liquid trill of blackbirds and the piercing song of a wren.  Strangely, although the blackbirds accompanied us all the way to the venue, we didn’t hear another wren for almost an hour.

Blackbirds are always up with the lark, as it were (pun intended!), but the rest of the bird world was a little reluctant to get going on such a damp day.  A goldcrest sounded, then went back to sleep; wood pigeons sounded drowsily and reluctantly; and with a sigh and a song, others took up the challenge of serenading the rather dreary dawn.  Song thrushes began to call from a number of quarters; a crow and a magpie woke up grumpily; a robin began its merry tune.  The garden slowly emerged from the shadows; white flowers showed first, then the bluebells and tulips, and the stone walls joined the elaborate fountain in peeping out from the gloom.

A fox crept out from the shelter of the trees at the far end of the garden, tip-toed through the wet grass and disappeared into the shrubbery on the other side; a few minutes later, she emerged again, looked up the lawn briefly, and turned her back on us to make her way up to the top of the garden.

We hung around a little longer, watching the pigeons launching out into the rain.  The goldcrests and wrens, after their earlier false starts, finally achieved full voice.

Finally, the air was alive with the sound of our feathered friends singing their hearts out at the start of another new day.  The smell of frying bacon drifted on the breeze, and the thoughts of the listeners turned to breakfast.  In ones and twos, we made our way to the feeding station for bacon butties (or jam rolls for the veggies among us), and a welcome cuppa of choice.

I had never visited the garden before, being a non-native of Norwich, so my sister and I were shown around by our host, stopping to take numerous photographs, most of which came out badly due to the shortage of light.  I managed to snap a couple of stunning shots of tulips and bluebells covered in raindrops, but as for the landscape – well, it was a wash-out.  I guess I’ll just have to come back in the sunlight for a decent shot of the garden.

Thanks to Denise for putting on a great show – it would be churlish to hold the weather against her! – and to Chris for coming along to identify the birdsongs for us.  A good time was had by all the hardy folk who sallied forth in spite of the steady downpour, and the catering hit the right spot; thanks are also due to the anonymous chef for his sterling efforts.  If you get the chance to attend a repeat performance, I’d recommend the experience to anyone with the willpower to turf themselves out of bed at such an early hour on a Sunday morning.  It is certainly worth the effort!