Friday, 30 December 2011

Return Of The Manipulator

Beach huts photographed in mid-winter and tinkered with on a long evening, glass of wine by my side and jazz playing in the background.


Take care and a Happy New Year.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Wimpole Ruins

On the hill behind Wimpole Hall stand the imposing remains of a castle. At least, that's what you're supposed to think. It was very much to romantic taste to have a ruined castle overlooking ones estate and if there wasn't a convenient ruin then you had one built. If you wanted a true top-notch ruin then you commissioned Sanderson Miller, the best architect of romantic ruins to design it. And that is exactly what the 1st Earl of Hardwicke did in 1759. It was built in 1770 when Capability Brown, the greatest landscape gardener of the time, landscaped the park.


I began my walk at the Hall itself in blustery, drizzly weather, crossing the wide pastures and descending to the lake.


Every garden had to have a lake too and, you've guessed it, there wasn't one handy so the Earl had one made by having a small stream dammed. In fact they dammed it twice to create two lakes; they didn't do things by halves. Mandarin Ducks appear on the lake from time to time but today there were only Moorhens, Canada Geese, Tufted Ducks. a single Pochard and a couple of young Swans.



The wind began to break up the cloud layer as I neared the ruin, or more correctly, the folly since that's the correct name for such artificial structures.


The National Trust, who own the estate, won't let you get too near to the folly as it is in real danger of becoming a proper ruin and falling down on unsuspecting visitors.


The observant will realise that you were never intended to get close; for, although the front of the building is of fine stone, its backside is shamefully made from cheap bricks!



I continued on my way in the rain for the clouds had now rolled in again and reached an area of woodland known as The Belts. Woodland was another important element in the ideal Picturesque Landscape. Do I need to tell you that the wood was created to complete the illusion?


Flocks of small birds made their way through the trees and a Buzzard cried overhead. But when not gazing upwards through the binoculars I was kneeling in the damp leaves photographing little details like these fungi which resembled butterflies perching on the rotting wood...


...beautiful colours...




 ...or else examining the grasses and fallen trees at the edge of the wood.



Then I was out in the open country again watching flocks of Fieldfares. A Sparrowhawk hunted along the hedge and hares bounded away across the fields. Short-Eared Owls have been seen around here recently but not today.


Eventually I descended to Cobb's Wood Farm where my progress was observed by an inquisitive equine. A little further along I came upon a rapidly decaying house and outbuildings. There always seems to be some kind of renovation going on here but unless they hurry up they could well be defeated by the natural deterioration caused by time.


And from there it was but a short stroll back the Wimpole Hall where my faithful bicycle awaited me.

Take care.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Oldest Church In Cambridge

It wasn't really fair of me to say that The Round Church was the second oldest church in the city without telling you about the oldest one. So lets put that to rights.


St Bene't's (not a typing error but a contraction of St Benedict's) stands in Bene't Street and in spite of its great age and central position is largely ignored by visitors to the city. One glance at the tower will tell you that this is an unusual structure and that it must be old; it doesn't really look like any other church towers. The detail is quite crude and the stonework on the corners is unusual. According to the experts it shows that the builders knew the kind of work which was done on the continent but that knowledge was rather superficial. And how long ago was it built? Well, King Canute was on the throne, the Normans were still in Normandy, so probably about 1020 AD. Which means that in eight years time.....



Just inside the gate is this old pump which used to supply drinking water to the parishioners before Cambridge had a water company.



The door swings open on these mighty hinges - you can't buy those in the local DIY store.




Inside there are more Saxon survivals, chiefly this magnificent arch which again shows the "long-and-short" stonework which we saw on the corners of the tower. The arch itself doesn't really match the columns which support it, again evidence of the lack of experience of the builders. Still, it's stood for nearly a thousand years!



The main body of the church has been rebuilt but even so the arcading dates back to the 13th century. The outer walls of the church date from a Victorian enlargement.



The stained glass, which is also 19th century, looks wonderful with the late afternoon sun streaming through.



There's a fine chest dating from the Medieval period..... 



....and a modern sculpture, quite small but very powerful, by Enzo Plazzotta. But lets go outside and have another look at the Saxon tower.


Those small round holes are thought to be to encourage owls to nest, and presumably to control the mice in the area.

Take care.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Answers To The Quiz And Some Action!

 Answers to the Christmas quiz:

Mr and Mrs Bickering and their children were out for a walk in the
country. Roger had stolen Cleo's bronze bracelet and had torn the badge..
..right off her cape. "I've broken the clip on your badge," he laughed,
"and you've got enormous ears!" "Do I always have to tell you of f, Rog er,"
said Dad, " that's the sixth or seventh time today".
"Just keep ignoring him," said Mum shrewdly, "he only misbehaves..
..to attract attention."
"It's such a drab bit of countryside," Roger complained, "and we must be..
..a ver y long way from home."
"We might be a really long way from home if the car won't start. I hate
to admit it but the car I bought in Rotherham's terrible," said Dad,
"I wish I'd bought a new T oyota. They've got terrific acceleration,
they really do go like a bullet."
They came, later that day, to a steep and attractive valley. "I'd
pre fer returning that way." said Cleo. "Pardon me," said Roger, "but
I want to go a totally different route back."
"It's no use always arguing," said Dad, "You both are wrong;
there's a sign up there which implies we go this way."
"Well, I only wanted to see some animals," said Cleo,
"we never see any on our walks!"

Well, how did you get on? "Ant" and "tit" weren't supposed to be there but clever children kept finding them!

You may like to see action shots of the Grantchester Barrel Race. This video was shot by my brother:


Take care.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Grantchester Barrel Race

Today saw the super-athletes of Grantchester and the surrounding villages line up for the annual Boxing Day barrel race.


The event started way back in the ancient days of the last century, its exact origins lost in the mists of time; but at sometime someone-and-his-mates challenged someone-else-and-their-mates to a race, rolling beer barrels through the streets of the village. This soon became a race involving teams from the four pubs.


The victorious team today was from the smallest pub in the village, The Blue Ball.


In the spirit of the times a women's race was added.


Each race is a back-and-forth relay so there is plenty of scope for collisions.

There are now several team races and "international" competition in the form of teams from the neighbouring villages. So here are some more photos....







....with the team from Impington dressed as Imps, of course.....


Well, that's the end of racing for another year!


Take care.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Beachcombings

To leave it all behind. To go to an empty space. Where the wind blows and the sand drifts and the sea surges and roars in the distance. The call of the wide open skies.











Wandering the North Norfolk coastline.

Take care.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Hidden Creatures

A long time ago, in what seems now a different lifetime , I used to lead walking holidays in the more mountainous parts of these islands. In the evenings we did our best to keep people entertained with games, dancing, quizzes and talks. As there were all kinds of people on these holidays it was difficult to find things that suited everyone. But this little quiz which I devised does the job. Children and adults can compete on equal terms.

There's no prize for this, just a feeling of general smugness if you spot them all. You can cut and paste this, print it out and try it out on kids young and old this Christmas. I'll get around to giving you the answers one day!

Hidden Creatures

Animals, birds, insects and fish can hide in all sorts of
unexpected places. This sentence is hiding one!
Can you see the dingo in
".........is hiDING One"?

See how many creatures you can find in this story.

Mr and Mrs Bickering and their children were out for a walk in the
country. Roger had stolen Cleo's bronze bracelet and had torn the badge
right off her cape. "I've broken the clip on your badge," he laughed,
"and you've got enormous ears!" "Do I always have to tell you off, Roger,"
said Dad, " that's the sixth or seventh time today".
"Just keep ignoring him," said Mum shrewdly, "he only misbehaves
to attract attention."
"It's such a drab bit of countryside," Roger complained, "and we must be
a very long way from home."
"We might be a really long way from home if the car won't start. I hate
to admit it but the car I bought in Rotherham's terrible," said Dad,
"I wish I'd bought a new Toyota. They've got terrific acceleration,
they really do go like a bullet."
They came, later that day, to a steep and attractive valley. "I'd
prefer returning that way." said Cleo. "Pardon me," said Roger, "but
I want to go a totally different route back."
"It's no use always arguing," said Dad, "You both are wrong;
there's a sign up there which implies we go this way."
"Well, I only wanted to see some animals," said Cleo,
"we never see any on our walks!"



Take care.

Holkham National Nature Reserve

Having strolled around King's Lynn for an hour I caught the Coasthopper bus to Holkham NNR.


The Wild Geese of Winter


A cold wind whipped across the grazing marsh. A familiar honking sound was carried on the breeze. Small dark flecks appeared over the tree tops and gradually assumed a recognisable shape. Dozens of wild geese approached and whiffled down onto the grasslands.


Around 70,000 Pink-Footed Geese visit North Norfolk every winter (that's around a quarter of the world population). In the evening long skeins of geese stretch across the winter skies as the birds go to roost.


If you want to sort them out from other geese then it's not usually very practical to look for the pink feet; chocolate-headed geese would be a more helpful description. The other geese to be seen at Holkham were White-Fronted Geese, Brent Geese, Egyptian Geese and Greylags.



Down Along The Shore


An Oystercatcher strutted along in search of a meal.


Right by the sea I encountered a flock of my favourite little waders - Sanderlings. Not for them the hours of standing on one leg with head tucked under the wing like so many other waders. Sanderlings are tiny energetic clockwork toys, scurrying up and down the beach with the incoming waves. Sometimes, like today, they seem almost oblivious to people strolling along the strand.


An Earnest Intervention


"Did you see a bird of prey fly over just now? Could have been a Rough-Legged Buzzard. One been seen here recently. Been reported on BirdGuides. There's Firecrests too. Check the flocks of Tits. Any Snow Buntings on the saltmarsh? "
How could I tell him I'd spent the last fifteen minutes photographing some dead bracken?


View From The Jordan Hide


Also known as the Tower Hide, it gives splendid views across the grassland and pools. Marsh Harriers quartered the area. Lots of Wigeon too.



Salt's Hole


I've always loved this spot and now there's an information board telling me that this small pond was once the mouth of an estuary until it was cut off from the sea by the shifting dune system. It keeps its level by sea water seeping through the sand. The water is salty and it still supports several marine species.



Take care.