Archive for October, 2013

Probably the most fascinating thing about the Villa is the finding of a cult room in a cellar. The original pagan shrine appears to have been dedicated to a water deity, perhaps not surprising given that the river Darent flows through the grounds of the villa.

Well like structure in Cult room

Well like structure in Cult room

Niche in Cult room for statue or idol

Niche in Cult room for statue or idol

it appears that sometime in the third century, the nature of the worship in this room changed and two male busts were found here. It has been suggested that this constituted a change to a form of ancestor worship or of a household deity.

In the fourth century the room above the cult room was converted into a Christian chapel as indicated by the paintings of Christian worshippers and the presence of the Chi-rho symbol. This Christian house church is a unique discovery in Roman Britain.

Picture of Chi-rho symbol from wall paintings

Picture of Chi-rho symbol from wall paintings

Picture of christian worshipers from wall painting

Picture of christian worshipers from wall painting


The original wall paintings are in the British Museum

One further intriguing suggestion is that both rooms may have been in operation at the same time. Was this a family hedging its bets or one refusing to go completely with the new religion of the Empire?

One of the most interesting features of this villa is the central dining room and its mosaics. These date from the mid 4th century and evidence suggests that this impressive dining room which is situated in the centre of the main building was probably added around this time. There are two mosaics one depicting the abduction of Princess Europa by the god Jupiter, disguised as a ball, and the second, which depicts Bellerophon slaying the Chimera.

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This room must’ve been the showpiece of the villa and it is easy to imagine its residents as they declined in their dining room looking out over the valley below.

The Rape of Europa Mosaic, Lullingstone Roman Villa
Photo by Loz Pocock (http://www.flickr.com/photos/blahflowers/)

Bellerephon Killing the Chimera Mosaic, Lullingstone Roman Villa
Photo by Loz Pocock (http://www.flickr.com/photos/blahflowers/)

Unfortunately, this is the only in situ mosaic in the Villa and so it is difficult to estimate whether all the other rooms were decorated in such an opulent style or whether it was only confined to this the most public of rooms,

Went out this morning to do the monthly BTO Winter Thrush survey for the patch and the surrounding area. Was also interested to see quite how much damage had been done by Sunday night’s storm (The most severe in this part of the country since 1987). There was lots of small branches down around the Tarn and two large trees have come down into the water. Interestingly other areas seem to have fared better with almost no visible damage at Fairy Hill or at King John’s walk. It would seem we had been very lucky.

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Bird-wise the Tarn was relatively quiet. A group of starlings flew over whilst I was at Fairy Hill and there were scattering is of Common Blackbirds all the way around the circuit – certainly more than there were last month. However, probably the most pleasing sightings were on King John’s walk where I found 2 Pied Wagtails and 3 House Sparrows. This latter is a species which has become increasingly rare in our area and in recent years I have known only two places locally where there was the possibility of seeing them. One of these places was in the same area where I saw them today, although I had not recorded any here for a couple of years. So it was great to see them back.

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
Eurasian Jay [sp] (Garrulus glandarius)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii)

Cookham

Posted: October 28, 2013 in Berkshire, History, UK
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Cookham is a village in Berkshire not far from the town of Marlow.This is an attractive village which in a survey in 20A11 was named as Britain’s second richest village.

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The first recorded inhabitants here were the occupants of an Anglo-Saxon abbey and it is recorded in 997 that there was a royal palace in Cookham where the Witan (Council of Nobles) met. Cookham (Cocheham) was recorded in the Domesday book. There is some discussion over the meaning of the name. Some sources suggest that it is ‘the village noted for its cooks’, but another variant could be ‘the village of the hill’. The earliest building in the village surviving are parts of the parish church, which date from the 12th century.

Cookham #17
Photo by Fenris Oswin (http://www.flickr.com/photos/fenoswin/)

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The most famous resident of the village was probably Stanley Spencer, the artist and there is a Stanley Spencer Gallery in the village today (Unfortunately closed when we visited). Spencer was born in the village and spent much of his life here at the house can be seen, not far from the village centre.

Birthplace and home of Stanley Spencer

Birthplace and home of Stanley Spencer

Many of his paintings depict villages and village life and even his religious paintings often used Cookham as a background. He is buried in the churchyard of the parish church.

Spencer: Swan Upping at Cookham
Swan-upping at Cookham by Stanley Spencer
Photo by Jim Forest (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimforest/)

Kenneth Grahame, Author of ‘Wind in the Willows’ lived locally as a child and returned to the village to write the book. It is easy to imagine how many of the locations within the book could be based on places around Cookham.

Other more recent residents have included Gerald Ratner, owner of the high Street jewellery chain, comedian Tim Brooke-Taylor, John Deacon from the pop group Queen and Sir Clive Woodward,coach of the 2003 England World Cup winning rugby side to name but a few.

Visited Lullingstone Roman villa which is situated in Eynsford in Kent.

Eynsford and Darent Valley - Lullingstone Roman Villa
photo by Scott (http://www.flickr.com/photos/protactinium/)

One of the unique features of this villa is that it appears to span the entire time period of the Roman occupation. The first structure was estimated to have been built around 82 CE and was expanded on at least three occasions up until the fifth century when it seems as though a fire damaged the Villa and it was finally abandoned.

There has been some suggestion that this villa may have served as a country residence for the governor of the province of Britannia. This idea is based upon the finding of a bust identified as Pertinax, Governor of Britain in 185 to 186 CE (and later Emperor for approximately 3 months in 192 to 193 CE, following the assassination of The Emperor Commodus). In addition to this a personal seal of the British governor has also been found on the site.

Copy of bust found at Lullingstone suggested to be of Pertinax

Copy of bust found at Lullingstone suggested to be of Pertinax

Personally, I confess I’m a little doubtful about this association as I would imagine that the governor of a major Roman province would have a much larger house and it would be much more elaborately decorated.

The villa was rediscovered in 1750 when the fence around Lullingtone Deerpark was being renewed, when a post hole broke through a Roman mosaic. These finds were duly noted and more evidence of a Roman villa was noted when tesserae were found in 1939 after a tree had been blown over in a gale disturbing the ground which had been planted. A proper excavation was conducted between 1949 and 1961 which exposed the Remains of the Villa as it is seen today.

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Lullingstone Roman Villa
phot by Ian May (http://www.flickr.com/photos/eyebee/)

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Moon

Posted: October 25, 2013 in Astronomy
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I find that photographing the moon is something that I come back to time and time again. Perhaps it’s because you can see so much detail of an alien world. These are some photos I took a couple of nights ago using the Bradford robotic telescope.

Moon 3

Moon 2a

Moon 3a

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After a morning appointment, I took the opportunity to complete this months BTO winter thrush survey visit to Sutcliffe Park Nature reserve and the surrounding area. The recent rains has led to a lot of flooding and so had to keep to the high ground above the river level.

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The mixture of rain showers and strong wind kept the number of birds observed low and the only survey birds recorded were a single starling in Sutcliffe Park and 2 parties of 14 and 6 starlings in the Westhorne Avenue area. I’m not terribly surprised at these results as although there have been some reasonable records of passage of winter thrushes from the London area this month, it is usually well into November or December, before I start seeing them ‘resident’ on my local patch. Some years, we even have to wait for the snows (most usually January time) until they turn up. One sign the winter is coming on was a flock of tits in the Westhorne Avenue area which consisted of around a dozen Long-tailed Tits and a smaller number of Blue Tits flitting from tree to tree along the roadside.

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Another pleasing observation, showing that summer was still trying to hang on, was a male and female Common Darter dragonflies egg laying in the main lake, no doubt taking advantage of the break in the wet weather which we have had for the last week or so.

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Back at home, had up to 6 Western Jackdaws in the garden – another sign that we are moving from summer towards winter.

Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
Eurasian Jay [sp] (Garrulus glandarius)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)

Albert Dock

Albert Dock

Albert dock

Albert dock

Albert Dock

Albert Dock

Merseyside Maritime Museum

Merseyside Maritime Museum

The Old Customs House soon to be the extension of the International Slavery Museum

The Old Customs House soon to be the extension of the International Slavery Museum