Wednesday 29 May 2019

Walking Slow To Knocking Hoe

I've been to Knocking Hoe Nature Reserve before but, like all reserves, good timing is vital if you want to see everything at its best. Exactly what I was looking for will become clear in a future post. 

To get there, if like me you rely on public transport, involves a ten mile round walk and the weather forecast looked less than promising. But I've got a waterproof coat, I've got good boots, I've got my map and I've got all day to do it. So here are some photos that I took along the way...…

Knocking Hoe - our eventual destination.

Through the beech woods on the Icknield Way path.

View from the Pegsdon Hills.

The weather was, shall we say, changeable!

Showers over Deacon Hill

Now the ewes have been shorn they look no bigger than 
their rapidly growing lambs.

Trees and cloud shadows.

Bright field.

Large cloud over the Neolithic burial mound known as Knocking Knoll.

Old post.

Path at Knocking Hoe.

And that's where we'll leave it for now.

Take care.

Saturday 25 May 2019

Lovin' Vane

Another collection of the wonderfully varied weather-vanes on display in the villages and towns around my home. A lot of them are on agricultural themes which probably just reflects the kind of places I've been walking lately.

The last row is all about cricket: the final one showing Old Father Time removing the bails is a copy of the famous one at Lord's Cricket Ground in London, though this one is on the little pavilion at Whittlesford; the middle one shows the famous batsman, Sir Jack Hobbs, and is on Hobbs' Pavilion on Cambridge's Parker's Piece (he was born in Cambridge); the other cricketer is on top of a garage at a home in my village. The other one which may need a little explanation is on the right in the row above the cricketers: it shows a malt shovel and is on the roof of the Old Maltings in Ely, now used as a wedding venue, cinema, theatre and conference centre.

Take care.

Thursday 23 May 2019

May Flower, May Tree

This is the flower and the tree that grabbed my attention on my monthly trip to the Botanic Garden in Cambridge. As it happens the flower is of rather imposing stature, while the tree is of quite modest proportions.

Yucca-Leaved Beschorneria - Beschorneria yuccoides

This bizarre Trifid of a plant resides In the Systematic Beds with its 1½ metre long, blood-red flower-spikes waving threateningly against the blue sky!

In fact it's a much more peaceful plant than it looks and unlike most spikey-looking specimens it doesn't stab you at all. It's actually a member of the Asparagus family and comes from high in the mountains of Mexico. but seems equally at home here on a grassy lawn in Cambridge.

Equally oddly although it sends up such a large, brightly-hued stalk the flowers which it bears are quite small, unimpressive and green.

As the red starts to fade it produces some very appealing shades that I can't resist photographing. As well as the one in the Systematic beds there's another (which I take to be the same species) growing over by the Glasshouse Range where it looks over the shoulder of visitors who sit to consult their map.

And so from the strange and exotic to something a little more familiar....


The Laburnum tree is seen in many gardens, both large and small, throughout these islands and is probably more easily recognised (at least when it's flowering) than many indigenous trees.

The Laburnum came originally from SE Europe and Asia Minor but does just fine in the British climate and has been grown here for centuries. The long, dangling bright-yellow flowers (racemes we're supposed to call them) give the tree its poetic name "The Golden Chain Tree".

The heartwood of the tree is a dark chocolatey brown while the sapwood is a creamy colour and it was traditionally used as an inlay on expensive furniture. Musical instruments could also be made from it and it used to be a favourite material for making the chanter and drones of the Highland bagpipes, though tropical hardwoods such as African blackwood later became popular. Nowadays a lot of bagpipes use Polypenco, a type of high-grade plastic, in their manufacture.

There's no record of bagpipers or bagpipe-makers suffering any ill-effects from the wood, though all parts of the tree are said to be poisonous. There was a big scare about this in the 1970s and Laburnum trees were cut down to avoid the perceived danger to children. However there are no recorded deaths from Laburnum poisoning and it seems that the threat was much exaggerated - household cleaning fluids and cosmetics containing far more toxic substances.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have an important engagement with a lonely, attractively-sited bench...…

Take care.

Monday 20 May 2019

A Misty Moisty Morning

You had to be up and about early to see 'em, but we've had a few foggy mornings lately. So here are some photos of one of the less appreciated beauties of the Spring and early Summer.

This post should have a soundtrack.....think of the soft, sleepy cooing of Wood Pigeons...

….the steady drip of dew from the overhanging branches.....

….and the rustling waters of the little stream....

….the piercing call of a Woodpecker as it flies away....

….the swish of the calves' feet as they saunter through the long wet grass.....

It's so calm and quiet this morning that I could even hear the whisper of the Heron's wing as it lifted overhead.....

The dew made the spiders' webs visible on the meadow grass....

…..somewhere a Blackbird is melodiously singing....

…..the old horse lifts its head from grazing as distant church bells begin to chime....

I put my camera into its bag and with squelchy wet feet I head for home.

Take care.

Sunday 19 May 2019

The Fair's In Town!

The little town of Baldock has been organising fairs in its main street for over 800 years, so they know how to do it properly. Of course things change a bit over the years, though some of the people there would not have looked out of place several centuries ago.

The members of Medieval Combat Society were crashing into each other with reckless intensity. Others were of a more peaceable disposition....

There were many stalls representing community groups or selling local produce. The stall selling bread looked really tempting....

….and some jam to go with it perhaps....

Or maybe you'd prefer to catch a duck (?)….

The medieval knights were not the only ones involved in violent confrontation.....

Yes, Mr Punch is still bashing all-comers about the head with little regard for political correctness.

Running alongside the Historic Street Fair and bringing a lot of colour to the scene was a Day of Dance, organised by Baldock Midnight Morris Dancers.

The Midnight Morris was originally formed to dance at events in Baldock when the organisers had been unable to book a side from elsewhere. Now many local dancers come to dance in Baldock at this event.

Above are "Riseley Roughshod" from Bedfordshire who dance in the northern clog morris tradition. They step to the rhythm of the tunes using special "clogs" decorated with bells.

The strange people dressed in green and purple are Wicket Brood Border Morris. I'd often wondered about the significance of the name Wicket Brood, but the explanation is simple - they come from the village of Brickett Wood, nothing like a good Spoonerism!

There were rapper sword dancers doing their complicated routine too.....

….and even Appalachian dancers appropriately called "Tappalachian", also from the local area. Who knew that the Appalachians stretched as far as Hertfordshire?

But perhaps the most colourful and exotic of all the dancers present were the Morena Dance Company who performed their dances from Slovakia. According to their website they are officially called Folklórny súbor Morena Londýn.

Two of their number also played and sang a song. Of course I couldn't understand a word of it but they gave such an expressive performance that I was rivetted throughout.

And they danced wonderfully!

Take care.