Wednesday 28 June 2023

Blooms' Blooms

Bressingham Gardens has featured in these pages before, but it's always worth another visit. It's the creation of the aptly named Bloom family and consists of two large gardens, The Dell Garden and Foggy Bottom Garden. Here's some of what I saw.....

There may well be another selection of photos from Bressingham once I get them sorted out. Until then....

Take care.

Monday 26 June 2023

Flying Visit

 A short post to show you two "flying" things that made an impression during the last few days:

Scarlet Tiger Moth

As I was about to pull up the kitchen blind the other morning I noticed the shape of a large moth silhouetted by the sun. I gave the blind a gentle tap so that it didn't get rolled up inside as I pulled on the cord. And there it was, in all its glory, the outrageous harlequin-patterned Scarlet Tiger Moth. Mostly it keeps the bright red hindwing hidden, but if a predator comes near it gives a sudden flash of fire which is enough to scare off most wary creatures. But not the determined focus of my macro lens.

It seemed very drowsy and unwilling to fly, but half an hour later it had departed through the open window and was happily feeding on the nectar from my potted plants.

The Flying Scotsman

Our second "flying" friend was the "Flying Scotsman" locomotive. Les came over the other morning with the news that he'd seen someone at Shepreth level-crossing who was waiting to photograph the historic steam train as it made its way from King's Cross to Great Yarmouth. We hurried down to the local station and, after a minor delay, the great train puffed into view.

According to Wikipedia, "LNER Class A3 4472 Flying Scotsman is a 4-6-2 "Pacific" steam locomotive built in 1923 for the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) at Doncaster Works to a design of Nigel Gresley". So that means that it's celebrating its centenary this year. It was also the first steam train to top 100 mph. 

And now I must fly!

Take care.

Saturday 24 June 2023

Sandcastles For Seniors

Children go to the seaside to build sandcastles, paddle in the sea and eat candy floss. Older folks just like to look at stuff; sit in a deckchair and watch the waves coming in, stroll along the prom, walk out on the pier. And you're allowed to be a little bit childish too.

My brother and I went to Cromer in north Norfolk last week. Wandering about, looking at stuff and taking some photographs. 

The British seaside pier used to feature in almost every resort, though many have now fallen into disrepair or disappeared completely. Cromer's pier is kept alive for both frivolous and very serious reasons - the buildings at the end of the pier are a variety theatre and a lifeboat station.

Here's the entrance, lets have a wander.

It's a great place to photograph the gulls who regularly cruise over in case anyone's dropped a chip.

Or you can look out along the coast and see the town perched on the low cliffs.

The gulls seem to have claimed this breakwater as a pier of their very own!

Cromer is the favourite seaside place for many; it has a little bit of everything.

Minimalist photography. Not something that usually interests me, but there were strange distortions going on as I peered through this old lamp.

More to my taste was this dilapidated old fa├žade looking out to sea. But I wanted to play where there was even more rust and ruin. And just along the coast.....

These magnificently rusty old workhorses pull the fishing boats up the beach. The constant exposure to saltwater soon destroys the paintwork.

Gorgeous colour and texture.

More colour from all the fishing equipment left lying around.

Some quirky fisherman has patched up the side-window of the cab with one of those boards where you poke your head through the hole to be photographed as Batman or Robin. The handy openings give the driver some visibility out to the side - and he can be a superhero!

Beach huts. Most of them locked up safely at this time of year. Have you ever wondered what's inside?

So now you know!

"Stern Reality" 2023

If you're wondering why I've given the above photo a title, it's because it reminds me, in a whimsical way, of a famous historic photograph....

"Stern Reality" 1892
by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe
The Whitby Photographer

While I'm in this childish mood, how could I resist the "slow pedestrians"? In fact I think I've become one.

Back at the pier there's an immature gull posing for a picture.

Cromer's huge church appears unexpectedly at the end of many narrow streets. We did pop inside but I'm not going to feature it on By Stargoose And Hanglands.

At the end of other streets: the North Sea. Les, as usual when visiting the coast, wanted a crab. And Cromer is famous for its crabs. 

I'd wanted to include the crab in the photo, but I didn't predict that Les would put his hands in the perfect position. Snap!

Take care.

Monday 19 June 2023

Hills And Holes

Funny title for a blogpost; funny name for a nature reserve. But here we are at Barnack Hills And Holes National Nature Reserve, in the very north-west corner of Cambridgeshire.

This was actually our main reason for visiting the Barnack area and we spent the morning wandering through this strange landscape, before we looked at the village and church.

I had a mental list of what I hoped to see - it didn't work out like that, of course, some things I found, some things I missed out on and, most interestingly, some photos of quite everyday things, like these Dog Roses, reminded me of just how wonderful they were.

If you hadn't already guessed, the hills and holes are what were left behind after the Barnack Rag building stone had been removed. The choppy undulations were too bumpy to plough and, with heaps of quarrying waste spread around, not very fertile. You might graze a few sheep, I suppose. Leave it alone for a few centuries and it's the perfect place for wild flowers.

Some birds like it too, like this dapper male Yellowhammer. When I worked on the farm, in the 60s and 70s, there were flocks of them hanging around our grain silos, though even then there were fewer of them each year.

Bird's Foot Trefoil is a common enough plant. It has some interesting names; "eggs and bacon" from its yellow flowers and red-brown buds, or, less appetisingly, "Granny's toenails" from the shape of the seed pods.

There are some attractive birch trees scattered around. Quarrying was being carried out here at least from Roman times, maybe earlier.

Lots of butterflies were promised but all we could find were a couple of very skittish blues, the odd Meadow Brown and many Small Heath butterflies, like the one above. They belong to that annoying bunch who always settle with wings closed, hiding the more colourful orange top surface.

We found several of these strange plants. Broomrapes have no chlorophyll of their own and parasitise the roots of other plants for their nourishment.

The most beauteous, and numerous, of the orchids were the Chalk Fragrant Orchids, which not only look pretty but give off a pleasant scent.

Although the stone was used for local houses, barns and walls, the main customers for the best building stone were the great medieval abbeys of the area. Barnack is only a short distance from the rivers Nene and Welland and from there the stone could be transported via the Fenland waterways.

Above is the tallest Man Orchid I've ever seen. Its rarity makes up for its lack of spectacular colour.

If you get down and look closely there is a little bit of colour and you can imagine that each individual flower looks like a tiny figure with a big head and puny arms and legs. 

The pale lemon flowers of Mouse-Eared Hawkweed growing amongst the Bird's Foot Trefoil.

A Common Blue Damselfly added a spark of electric blue to the greenery.

And the Dog Roses looked even more stunning when lit from behind.

Most of the best building stone was extracted by the late fifteenth century, though it's been recycled since as buildings have been demolished, and inferior stuff has been quarried for roadstone. Perhaps we'd better finish off with one of my old photos to remind us of the magnificent buildings that came about as a result of all this digging and delving. Here's the soaring form of Ely Cathedral, built almost entirely of Barnack stone....

Take care.