Archive for March, 2015

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With sometime to kill in Birmingham on Saturday before my train left for London, I went to the new Library of Birmingham building to see an exhibition called ‘Stones and Bones’ about the geology of the West Midlands.

Library of Birmingham
Library of Birmingham
Photo by Peter Broster (https://www.flickr.com/photos/remedy451/)

Many shelves
Photo by Ben (https://www.flickr.com/photos/benelwell/)

The most stunning thing in the exhibition was the collection of fossils, one of the best I think I have ever seen.

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Close up of folded gold cross
Folded golden Cross
Photo from Portable Antiquities scheme (https://www.flickr.com/photos/finds/)

A long lunch break during a meeting in Birmingham last Saturday enabled me to visit the new gallery at the Birmingham Museum dedicated to the Staffordshire Hoard.

Part of the hoard in situ
Part of the hoard insitu
Photo from Portable Antiquities scheme (https://www.flickr.com/photos/finds/)

Staffs cross
Photo by Gordon Tour (https://www.flickr.com/photos/gordontour/)

This is the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon Gold and silver metalwork ever discovered. It was found in a field near Lichfield in 2009 and consists of over 3,500 items, 5kg of Gold, 1.5 Kg of Silver and 3,500 garnets. All of the items are male decoration and many are of a military use including pommel caps and hilt plates.

Sword pommel
Sword Pommell
Photo from Portable Antiquities scheme (https://www.flickr.com/photos/finds/)

Assemblage of sword fittings
Sword Fittings
Photo from Portable Antiquities scheme (https://www.flickr.com/photos/finds/)

Sword pommel
Decorated Sword Fitting
Photo from Portable Antiquities scheme (https://www.flickr.com/photos/finds/)

It dates from 7th or 8th century Mercia, the kingdom which occupied much of Central England and which was at the peak of its power at that time. It seems unlikely to be loot due to the nature of the items and the high quality of workmanship throughout all the items. It could be a collection of trophies although some have suggested it could be a ransom hoard.

Millefiori stud
A stud
Photo from Portable Antiquities scheme (https://www.flickr.com/photos/finds/)

Gold zoomorphic plate
Gold plate
Photo from Portable Antiquities scheme (https://www.flickr.com/photos/finds/)

Gold ring
Gold ring
Photo from Portable Antiquities scheme (https://www.flickr.com/photos/finds/)

Why it was buried is also a mystery. It was probably hidden for safe-keeping but the depositor then failed to come back to reclaim it.

A magnificent collection

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Alien by the British artist David Breuer-Weil is a 25 ft tall Bronze cast to be found in Grosvenor Gardens near Victoria. It is of an Alien landing head first in the middle of London.

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It was inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, an Austrian, who having escaped from Central Europe in 1938 arrived in London and was labelled by the government as an ‘enemy alien’.

It was installed in 2013 and will remain in place until April of 2015.

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A couple of hours between meetings in Central London gave me time for a visit to Regents Park to see if I could catch up with any of the spring migrants that have just began arriving in the UK.

As I entered the park I was greeted by 3 Grey Herons standing guard near the path.

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The nearest of these was only a foot or so from the path and watched unmoving as the world went past. Some people decided to engage him in a eye-ball to eye-ball staring match which given the beak on these birds I considered very brave. For information the heron won every time.

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There was much evidence of the oncoming spring with much fighting and quarrelling between pairs and nest-building.The herons are already well on in their breeding as witnessed by 4 young birds on 2 nests in the heronry.

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Pairs of Coot where busy building nests in various places around the lake.#

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I was surprised by 2 Barnacle Geese near the bandstand with the Canada and Greylag Geese. It is unlikely that these are wild-birds as is the case with the male Ruddy Duck seen on the lake. They probably originated from a bird collection somewhere.There were 2 last winter with the Greylags at Hyde Park and these may be the same birds.

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In the enclosure at the head of the lake I located a male Blackcap (1st for the year) and a Chiffchaff, probably both migrants. It is difficult to be sure these days since with the warmer winters many members of these two species are now spending the winter in the UK instead of migrating south in the autumn.

Blackcap
Blackcap
Photo by Sergey Yeliseev (https://www.flickr.com/photos/yeliseev/)

Mosquiter íberic - Mosquitero ibérico - Chifchaff - Phylloscopus ibericus
Chifchaff
Photo by Ferran Pestana (https://www.flickr.com/photos/ferranp/)

A very pleasant couple of hours

Great Crested Grebe

Great Crested Grebe

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
*Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
*Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
*Ruddy Duck [sp] (Oxyura jamaicensis)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Common Gull (Larus canus canus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)

*unknown origin

Leiston Abbey in the 14th and 15th centuries would have been only one of many similar monastic houses which frequented the country-side of England. What is probably most remarkable about this site is the remains which depict how the Abbey was used after the suppresion of the Monasteries.

In 1530 the Abbot and the monks at Leiston were evicted from the Abbey and the property was given to the Duke of Suffolk who turned it into a Farm. He used some of the original walls to build a farmhouse and converted the Abbey Church into a barn.

Farmhouse incorporating walls from Abbey buildings

Farmhouse incorporating walls from Abbey buildings

farmhouse built into Abbey remains

farmhouse built into Abbey remains

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In the 16th century a new gatehouse was added.

Remains of 16th century Gatehouse

Remains of 16th century Gatehouse

Artist's impression of buildings during the 16th century

Artist’s impression of buildings during the 16th century

Further changes were made during the Georgian period, although generally the remains of the Abbey and its church were not maintained.

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In 1918 the site was bought by Ellen Wrightson, who restored the Lady Chapel as a place of prayer, and between the wars retreats were conducted there. On her death in 1946 the property passed to the Diocese of St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich. The Ministry of Public Building and Works assumed custody of the ruins in 1964 (now managed by English Heritage). The retreat house was purchased by the Pro Corda Trust in 1977. Pro Corda is a UK youth music organisation providing a continuous and progressive programme of education through the medium of chamber music and ensemble training to young people aged 5 to 24. The site is also now managed as a Wedding and events venue.

Cheltenham

Posted: March 25, 2015 in Trains, Transport, UK
Tags: ,

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925 Cheltenham was one of 40 ‘Schools Class’ locomotives built for the Southern Region and which were the most powerful locomotives in Britain at their time of operation. They were named after public schools within the Southern area.

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Cheltenham was built at Eastleigh works in 1934 and performed both passenger and freight duties on the Southern region. It was withdrawn from Service in 1962.


Lord Nelson and Cheltenham dual hauling a train northbound on the Mid-Hants Railway

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Following its withdrawal it was taken to Eastleigh for a light overhaul and then was on display at the national railway Museum at York until the decision was taken in 2010 to return it to working order. It was restored at Eastleigh and Ropley and entered into service in 2012 on the Mid-Hants Railway.

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2 other examples of schools class locomotives are preserved, one, working, on the North York Moors railway and one, on static display, at the Bluebell Railway

Leiston Abbey (1)

Posted: March 24, 2015 in History, Medieval History
Tags:
West end of Abbey Church

West end of Abbey Church

The history of Leiston Abbey dates back to the 14th century when it was first built and occupied by a group of Augustinian Canons, who saught to live away from the main-stream of medieval life. Their first Abbey had been built at nearby Minsmere in the 12th century. However this site was prone to frequent flooding and in 1360 they moved down the coast to Leiston. They took much of the building materials from the original site for re-use but a small fragment of the original Abbey buildings can still be seen in what is now the RSPB nature reserve at Minsmere.

The West end of the Abbey buildings

The West end of the Abbey buildings

Abbey Church

Abbey Church

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Artists impression of Abbey Church in 14th century

Artists impression of Abbey Church in 14th century

It seems they lived an unremarkable life here as there is little mention of the Abbey until the suppresion of the monasteries in 1530.

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John Hanning Speke was an army officer who in December 1856 joined the expedition led by Richard Burton to find the source of the Nile. 19 months later he set out on his own expedition and discovered Lake Victoria, which he believed, correctly, to be the source of the Nile. However Burton rejected his discovery and so he set out on another expedition to prove his theory. On his return to Britain his conclusions were disputed by a number of leading figures including Burton. In 1864 a meeting was set up at which each side could put forward its arguments, but on the day before Speke was killed by his own gun whilst shooting. Some claim it was an accident, others that he committed suicide.

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Subsequent expeditions proved that Speke had been correct. In 1866 a memorial was commissioned by the Royal Geographic society, which had financed his expeditions. It is simple in nature and is by the sculptor Phillip Hardwick. It stands at the northern end of Kensington Gardens

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Now How do I eat this?

Posted: March 22, 2015 in Birds, Natural History
Tags:

A sequence of pictures shot of a young Grey Heron eating a frog.

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Going

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Going

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Gone

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Shot at Regents Park London 19/3/15

After Keith and I have finished the tour at Lord’s we walk the short distance to Regents Park.

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In the enclosure we see a Male Scaup which seems intent on following a male Smew wherever it goes. This is most strange behavior and I have certainly never seen anything like it before.

Smew and Scaup

Scaup and Smew

We stop to see a young Grey Heron trying to eat a frog it has found in the water margins. Eventually it figures out how to swallow it.

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

On the Lake there is a large raft of Coot.

Coot

Coot

There are plenty of Canada, Greylag and Egyptian Geese either on the lake or grazing on the lawns.

Egyptian Goose

Egyptian Goose

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Just before we leave the park we pass the Heronry and can see that a few pairs of Grey Herons are already occupying nests

Heronry

Heronry

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Common Gull (Larus canus canus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)