Wednesday 30 April 2014

The Great British Sculpture Show 2014

Until 30th September Hatfield House hosts The Great British Sculpture Show 2014. The statues are scattered around the gardens of the great house. You can be sure I'll be showing you the House and its magnificent grounds in subsequent posts but these sculptures are such good fun that I can't resist showing you them first.

Sculpture? Fun? Just wait and see....

Peregrine Falcon
by Geoffrey Dashwood

Seedpod Fountain
by David Goode

Femme Assise
by Paul Day

Roe Buck
by Hamish Mackie

Giant Tarantula
by Eddie Powell & Wilfred Pritchard
(mild steel)

by Annika Hellgren

by Andrew Sinclair

You Win...I Give Up
by Rudy Weller

Durer's Rhinocerous
by Andrew Sinclair
(bronze resin)

by Etienne Millner

Hard Labour
by Eddie Powell & Wilfred Pritchard
(bronze and cast iron)

In response to some early comments and questions:
The show was put together by Diane Coates and Andrew Sinclair, two fine sculptors in their own right, and set out to "(rebuild)... appreciation and respect for the talent and skill involved in the creation of figurative and realistic art and sculpture - and also to show that art can be humorous and fun". There are 82 works on show by 24 different artists so what you see here is only a small selection. 

The exhibits vary in scale - you can walk underneath the Giant Tarantula for example. All the works are for sale, though the Peregrine Falcon, another huge piece, would set you back a cool £250,000!

Take care.

Saturday 26 April 2014

Foxley Wood

I was hoping to get to Foxley Wood in Norfolk for the wonderful show of bluebells. However Spring has come early this year and I fear they may be past their best by the time I make it there. Never mind I was there what I thought was a couple of years ago, but which I now realise was five years ago. How do I know? Because I wrote up my visit very fully at the time. So here notes and photos from that visit.

Foxley Wood does get a chapter in Neil Glenn's book "Best Birdwatching Sites In Norfolk" though apart from a very slim chance of seeing a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker it hardly appears to be worthy of inclusion on birding grounds alone. It is however one of the largest natural oakwoods in Norfolk and also home of one of the most spectacular shows of Bluebells in the country.

"one of the most spectacular shows of bluebells in the country."
My initial impression was that this wasn't much of a wood: the track went through a large area of scrub, young trees struggling to get above their neighbours. A few spindly trees grew above them and there were one or two conifers mixed in. A sign explained that during the 1960's the area was cleared of its natural woodland and conifers were planted for pit props. The market collapsed and the wood was bought by the Norfolk Naturalists Trust who felled the conifers to allow the native trees to re-establish the wood. The trees have proved very resilient and no trees have actually been planted; all these trees have regrown naturally. At least two Willow Warblers were singing from the dense cover.

"more mature woodland"

"a large plot of coppiced trees"

Around the next corner I came to more mature woodland and a large plot of coppiced trees. Coppicing is the process where trees are cut back almost to the ground. The tree stumps send up several slender poles which when they've grown sufficiently, a few years later, are harvested again. A few mature trees are usually left among the coppiced stumps. When the coppice wood is cut it lets in the light allowing wild flowers to grow and alongside the track I found a clump of Early Purple Orchids. Chiffchaffs sang from the branches overhanging the path.

"a clump of early purple orchids"

Now, where are these Bluebells? A narrow path led off towards a bank rich with bluebells but a look at the map confirmed that a more extensive patch of flowers lay along the more distinct track leading to the right. After just a few steps I could see a suggestion of blue through the undergrowth, then a patch of flowers right beside the path. A little further and I was gazing at a carpet of Bluebells stretching from my feet, between the bushes and in among the distant trees. The camera soon came out, but finding the right viewpoint was far from easy, particularly as I didn't want to stray off the path and trample any blooms.

"a carpet of bluebells"

The Bluebells stretched along both sides of the track for several hundred yards and I made slow progress with camera constantly at the ready. A few other people were also enjoying the show, but not as many as I would expect at the weekend. A man approached me and asked if I might be a botanist as he had seen me looking closely at the flowers. I told him I wasn't. "Ah, neither am I, I fear. In fact as I get older I realise the great depths of my ignorance." And with that he strode off, whistling merrily. I turned his odd words over in my mind. Turned them completely upside down in fact. Isn't realising your own ignorance much the same as being aware of the greater mystery?

"looking closely at the flowers"

Eventually the Bluebells petered out but they were replaced by small clumps of other flowers scattered along the grassy verges of the track. The white stars of Wood Anemones studded the shady places. A few bright yellow flowers of Celandine still remained. Primroses formed little bouquets in among the greenery and there were also contributions from Violets, Wood Sorrel, Meadow Sweet and Wood Avens.

"primroses formed little bouquets"

Chiffchaffs sang their monotonous song as I sat on a bench soaking up the spring sunshine. I realised that there was a track forming a short-cut back to the Bluebell wood. I followed the path, more to explore it than because I wanted to cut short the experience. It led me to a small gate with a sign which, apart from telling me to enjoy my walk, also promised the spectacle of "flying sheep". It went on to explain that the Norfolk Wildlife Trust has a flock which it moves around its many sites in order to control the spread of scrub by grazing. Not as exciting as flying sheep but more useful.

 "a short-cut back to the bluebell wood"

Take care.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

A Mingled Measure By The Mel

Time for a wander along our little river, the River Mel, this afternoon. Gardens come right down to the river on one bank and on the other is a footpath, a small wood with clearings which is a village nature reserve and a patchwork of other land uses. All in all it's a pleasantly varied little place as I hope you will see. 

Take care.

Sunday 20 April 2014

A Number Of Unrelated Items

Life Cycle

If you take the cycle path from Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge out towards Great Shelford you find yourself following this odd multi-coloured path. The colours seem to be randomly distributed and the whole thing goes on for quite a distance.

The Sustrans website explains:
This section of the National Cycle Network .... marks the 10,000th mile of the National Cycle Network, opened in September 2005 by Sir John Sulston. The work on this route celebrates the role of the nearby Sanger Institute in decoding the vital human gene BRCA2.
BRCA2 is just one of the 30,000 genes in the human genome and, plays an important role in our bodies; producing a protein that helps to repair human DNA. 
A series of stripes in four colours representing the 10,257 genetic letters, or bases, of the gene BRCA2 have been laid on the path using thermoplastic strips heat welded onto the tarmac. It is the sequence of the four bases colour coded - adenine (A) in green, cytosine (C) in blue, guanine (G) in yellow and thymine (T) in red - that contains the code for life. As visitors cycle or walk over these stripes they will be traversing a portion of their own genome.

And there's a sculpture at the end which represents the double helix.

Royal And Ancient ?

On Royston golf course there are many mounds and hollows to be negotiated. Most of the mounds are raised tees or greens but nearby is this mound (as well as several other similar ones) which is of an altogether more ancient origin. For it is a Bronze Age burial mound constructed for a tribal leader and situated on the skyline and commanding huge views over the flatlands of Cambridgeshire.

Colour In Church

In Bassingbourn church are these welcome splashes of colour - quilted banners hanging from the stone columns or, in the case of the larger one, decorating the pulpit.

Community Chest 

Tucked away in the corner of Abington Piggots church is this rather battered chest. All parishes used to have one to store important records. Generally there were several locks and all the keyholders would have to be present in order for documents to be deposited or taken out. Even so records in many parishes  are incomplete.


When I was young I remember being very taken with the word 'obelisk'. It was only ever used, as far as I could tell, to describe Cleopatra's Needle, the Egyptian obelisk on the banks of the Thames. It seemed a waste of such an excellent word! Little did I know that we had one in Cambridgeshire.

It is a memorial to Gregory Wale who departed this life in 1739. What heroic deeds did he accomplish to deserve such a monument? Well, apart from a leading role in local government, nothing very remarkable. And that's what I like about it. It was erected by a friend to mark the fact that Mr Wale was "a good subject, an agreeable companion, a faithful friend, an hospitable neighbour and in all parts of life a useful member of society": things which can not always be said of those who have achieved more fame.

Everything Under The Sun

A house displays a Fire Insurance plaque as householders would have had to do in the early days of insurance. If you didn't keep up to date with your payments they wouldn't put out the fire! 
I'm not sure if this is an original plaque or not - it's certainly been put up quite recently as can be seen from the modern screw-heads!

Take care.

Friday 18 April 2014


Sometimes I'm engaged in taking one kind of photo when KERPOW! I'm ambushed by something quite different. Most recently I was taking photos of flowers in Christ's College gardens when I came upon a certain statue, then later I found a bas relief plaque. Here they are:

The one on the right is the image we normally have of Charles Darwin, familiar to British people at least as the man on the £10 note. But on the left is Darwin as a young man at Christ's College in 1831 when he was 22 and planning a field trip to Tenerife. He never made that journey as he had the opportunity to accompany Capt FitzRoy aboard The Beagle


On another occasion I was wandering along by the River Cam photographing the University rowing races when it suddenly became darker as rain clouds rolled in, followed by the inevitable downpour. I walked briskly towards the railway bridge which was the only cover from the elements when I noticed....

....I just love the stoicism with which horses face (or more often turn their backs on) inclement weather.


I thought I'd finished with photography for the afternoon and was thinking about doing my shopping when I saw...

... the look of determination on this woman as she swings her basket. I get the feeling that the market trader might have a hard time if the prices or quality aren't to her liking.


Making my way to the E-luminate light show I put my lens up against a shop window. 

It's known as "The Haunted Bookshop" and though I can't detect a ghostly presence it does look as though it might have been hit by a particularly untidy poltergeist!


Not the kind of image I was expecting when I ventured into a parish church but I rather like it:

....shadows as the sun strikes through the church window.


Sometimes I just get the feeling that somebody's watching me...

Take care.
And watch out for ambushes.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

In Christ's Garden

....the garden and courtyards of Christ's College in Cambridge that is.

Despite being more centrally placed in Cambridge than any other college Christ's is something of a secret, seldom overrun with tourists and hardly known to most residents of the city. 

Some of the buildings are old, dating back to the founding of the college, originally called God's House, in the fifteenth century. Others are more recent having been added as the college expanded but all seem to be "off the radar" to the guidebooks.

But it's the flowers which took my eye on this glorious spring afternoon.

And you can wander through at your leisure. Everything seems to be open to visitors including the Master's Garden which is very unusual for the Cambridge colleges.

The light was very bright and clear which made some photos difficult but allowed other opportunities which, I hope, I was able to utilise to good effect.

But there are flowers in the courts too

Just when you think you've got the measure of the place - pleasant, well-proportioned courtyards with fine floral displays - you round a corner to be confronted by....

Sir Denys Lansdun's controversial, concrete construction - New Court, otherwise known as "The Typewriter". Love it or hate it, but I think I may not round that particular corner next time I go for a wander in the gardens of Christ's College.

Take care.