• Ian Cognito

Through the Window - November 2021

One of the delights of walking around the village, and driving around the area, is to see the glorious colours of autumn leaves. Driving along the Swaffham to Mundford road has been an amazing show of colour.


low autumn light shining through leaves of tree
The golden colours of Autumn

I’d assumed the leaves changed colour as the temperature dropped but in fact it’s the gradual decrease in daylight that causes changes in the cells of the tree leaves. Trees use photosynthesis to generate energy by using sunlight to convert carbon dioxide in the air into sugars. As the amount of sunlight decreases in autumn, this photosynthesis begins to fade, like the leaves. The leaves don’t actually change colour. Instead the sunlight reliant green colour fades to reveal a deciduous tree’s natural colour. The reds, orange and yellow colours were always there, the more powerful green just overshadow them in the spring and summer when there is more sunlight.

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While walking around the village I heard a strange noise up in the sky. It was the largest V-formation of geese I’ve ever seen. They were flying over Necton in a roughly North-East direction. As is the way of these things, there was always one bird alone in the lead. When it changed direction the whole flock would follow. But for some reason the birds would change position within the flock and another would take the lead. It was interesting to see that after a short while the lead bird and the couple on either side of it fell back in the formation and were replaced by another four in the lead. Perhaps this is because the lead bird is more vulnerable to attack by a predator?


Still on the subject of birds, we heard a Tawny Owl over the Marl Pit. It called ‘Too-wit’. There was no response so it was alone. If another Tawny Owl had been there, or nearby, its response would have been, ‘Too-woo’. I had always thought that the classic Too-wit Too-woo was one bird, but apparently that is not the case. November is the time of year when tawny owls are particularly vocal when they are either holding a territory, or when a young owl is trying to establish one. This leads to plenty of disputes. Male owls hoot from trees or off a roof. If one hoots it can set off echoing calls from nearby woodlands. The classic ‘too-wit, too-woo’ is not made by a single bird but is a duet of calls from male and female owls. The female makes the first note – more of a ‘keewick’ sound than ‘too-wit’ – and the male answers with a long, drawn-out and tremulous hoot. Tawny owls can often be heard in urban areas where there are large trees, such as parks and cemeteries.


I’ve seen the first of the winter thrushes. A fieldfare feasting on red hawthorn berries is one of those seasonal sights that brings a rhythm to the year. They will stay until they have stripped the trees of their berries and then move on somewhere else. Along with redwings, fieldfares are winter migrants that breed in Scandinavia and Europe during the summer and they feed on hedgerow fruits and worms. Fieldfares are the size of a mistle thrush, redwings are a bit daintier, with a rusty colour under their wings that gives them their name.

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A couple of weeks back my wife and I decided to take a walk along the Pingo Trail at Watton. The word ‘pingo’ was new to me when I moved into the area. So, what is a ‘pingo’? Again, that font of all knowledge, Wiki, gave the answer. Apparently a pingo is a rare type of pond and the largest density of them in the UK is here in the Brecks area of Norfolk. There are dozens of them. They were created at the end of the last ice age and have almost untouched since then. As the glaciers retreated they left large lumps of ice pressed into the ground, with soil over the top of them. As the environment warmed up the lumps of ice melted, forming a depression filled with water (a pingo pond). These pingo ponds are a peculiarity of the Brecks landscape. Even stranger in my mind is that Pingo is the Eskimo word for hill.

Aside from that, the walk is a pleasant, flat, trek along the bed of an old railway track. I guess the line ran from Watton to Thetford.

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I was browsing on google looking for information on the history of Necton. I was interested to know if Mathew Hopkins (The Witchfinder General) had been active in or around Necton. I did not find anything relating to that possibility, but I came across a book published in 1883 about Bradenham and including Necton. It has a detailed genealogical history plus some archaeology and such like. What interested me concerned properties and how they were described as being alongside ‘such and such’ field or even a building. I’m not sure whether the Tithe Maps and Apportionments of the 1870’s would show these field names. One item did catch my eye and that was the name of a property called Chauntry. We have roads in Necton with ‘Chantry’ in the name. I’d assumed the Chantry part came from a religious establishment, but maybe it didn’t. Is it possible that the spelling Chantry is a modernised version of the original Chauntry?

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As we head into Winter, I'm going to pull the curtains across the window for a couple of months. We're now in the low part of the year with short days and long nights. There's not a lot going on. Maybe next Spring, I'll resume my musings as days lengthen and new growth appears.


As usual, all thoughts, statements and mistakes are all my own. Unless I’ve quoted someone else. In which case they can take the blame.


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