Archive for October, 2016

A fantastic Steam Gala!

Posted: October 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

Didn’t manage to get to this one, but it sounds a fantastic day.

Loco Yard

22-10-2016-watercress-line-autumn-steam-gala-2016-1-ex-lms-46100-royal-scot-at-ropleyThe Watercress Line’s Autumn Steam Gala 2016 was an excellent three days for those who love to see a lot of steam engines in action.  There were three visitors to the railway, with the headliner being 46100 Royal Scot on its first visit to the line.  It was joined by the only surviving Ivatt 4MT, no. 43106 from the Severn Valley Railway and ex-S&DJR 7F 53809.  Unfortunately the latter failed and was unable to perform, but sat in the yard in Ropley where visitors could get up close and even explore the cab.

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Grey Heron

Posted: October 28, 2016 in Birds, Natural History
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The largest and commonest of our breeding Herons in the UK, the Grey Heron is a common sight in most wetland habitats.

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Most recent figures suggest that there are around 13000 breeding pairs in the UK. Herons nest in tree-top colonies (heronries) where they may be found alongside their smaller relative, Little Egret.

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

The estimated wintering population in the UK is 63000 birds

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

 

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Walter Beasant was born in Portsmouth in August 1836. He was educated at a number of different schools around the UK including Kings College London and Christs College Cambridge. He then travelled to Mauritius where he was appointed Mathematical Master at the Royal College.

In 1867 he returned to England due to ill-health and was appointed Secretary of the Palestine Exploration Fund. In the same year he published his first book – on French poetry. In 1871 he was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn, one of the legal centres in London.

He published approx 50 books during his lifetime – on literature (eg French poetry and French humorists), world history (eg History of Jerusalem) and London and its history (eg Early London: prehistoric, Roman, Saxon, and Norman and London in the Time of the Tudors). He also wrote novels including Children of Gibeon and All sorts and conditions of men, which sought to arouse the public conscience to the hardships suffered by the poor of the day. As a result the People’s Palace in the East end of London was built.

He was knighted in 1895 and died in London in 1901.

Butterfly #44

Posted: October 26, 2016 in Uncategorized

AS it begins to get colder and winter draws in this great photo is a reminder of Summer

talainsphotographyblog

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A Pearly Crescentspot Butterfly that was at the farm.

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Tilbury Docks

Tilbury Docks

Leaving Gravesend the PS Waverley makes it’s way up river towards London. The first place we pass is Tilbury Docks, on the north bank, now the principal port for London. It was opened in 1886 when there was a need for a deep-water access port nearer to the river mouth than the existing docks in East and South London. During the 20th century it continued to expand. In 1967 a container port was added and in 1978 a new deep-water berth was added. It now covers 850 acres and is an import station for paper and wood, grain, construction and building materials. It addition to standard docking and containers, it also has a facility for handling roll-on, roll-off cargoes for onward shipment by road.

Tilbury Docks

Tilbury Docks

Tilbury also operated as London’s passenger shipping terminal until the 1960s. For many people Tilbury was their point of emigration to Australia under an assisted passage scheme established and operated by the Australian Government. I remember when I was a young boy travelling down to Tilbury to see two of my Aunts and Uncles and their families leaving for Australia. Tilbury was also a port of entry for many immigrants to the UK. The passenger landing stage was reopened as the London Cruise Terminal in 1995.

Tilbury Docks

Tilbury Docks

On the southern bank we pass Swanscombe Marshes, an area now threatened by commercial development which will destroy another stretch of this already fast vanishing natural habitat, as it has in so many places along the estuary.

Swanscombe Marsh

Swanscombe Marsh

As we look up river we can see in the distance the Dartford Bridge which carries part of the London Orbital motorway

Dartford Bridge

Dartford Bridge

On the south bank we pass Greenhithe. Once the site of the Nautical Officer Training College, it is probably best known today as the location of Bluewater, one of the Uk’s largest out of town shopping malls, which has been built within a disused quarry.

Greenhithe

Greenhithe

Passing on we arrive at the Dartford Bridge. The London orbital motorway is used by some organisations as an easily recognised boundary for London, even though some of the Land within it falls outside of the control of the London authorities.

Dartford Bridge

Dartford Bridge

 

Keith and I off to Cliffe, an RSPB reserve in the north Kent Marshes, hoping to catch some autumn migration. We begin, as always, at Tabitha’s snack wagon at West Court Farm for our morning refreshments and a chance to look over the fields for any birds migrant or resident that might be feeding there. A Rook is a good sighting but there seems to be very little else.

West Court Farm

West Court Farm

Moving onto the RSPB reserve, we notice how quite it seems to be. There is very little evidence of small bird activity, perhaps a result of the breeze that is blowing. As the day wears on the rising tide on the adjacent River Thames starts to move the wading birds off the tidal mudflats and onto the marshes.

River Thames at Cliffe

River Thames at Cliffe

 

We were delighted to find a Common Kestrel perched on the Sea Wall. As we approached it took off and proceeded to hunt over the marshes

Common Kestrel

Common Kestrel

 

Common Kestrel

Common Kestrel

By the time we are heading back from the riverside there are good numbers of Golden Plover, Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwits arriving to feed on the marshes.

 

Waders gathering on marsh pools

Waders gathering on marsh pools

In amongst them are smaller numbers of Red Knot, Grey Plover, Eurasian Curlew, Redshank and Ringed Plover. Unfortunately apart from these common species there were no rarer migrants with them.

Grey Plover

Grey Plover

One sighting which we had not seen on previous visits was a very large roost of Great Black-backed Gulls, possibly over 200 in total.

Great Black-backed Gulls at roost

Great Black-backed Gulls at roost

All in all, although we totalled over 50 species, a quiet day for this reserve, but that’s the beauty of birdwatching – you never now what you might find.

 

Little Egret

Little Egret

 

Old Man’s Beard – Clematis vitalba was much in evidence around the reserve

Old Man’s Beard – Clematis vitalba was much in evidence around the reserve

Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
European Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria)
Grey Plover [sp] (Pluvialis squatarola)
Common Ringed Plover [sp] (Charadrius hiaticula)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Eurasian Curlew [sp] (Numenius arquata)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Red Knot [sp] (Calidris canutus)
Dunlin [sp] (Calidris alpina)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Rook [sp] (Corvus frugilegus)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Eurasian Skylark [sp] (Alauda arvensis)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Meadow Pipit [sp] (Anthus pratensis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Linnet [sp] (Carduelis cannabina)

The Aberfan Disaster Remembered 50 Years On

Posted: October 22, 2016 in History, UK
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I was 8 when this occurred and I still remember watching the pictures on TV with horror

Stephen Liddell

Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of one of the worst post-war disasters in Britain when on an ordinary October day, a quiet village in South Wales literally had the world fall in on them.

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The village of Aberfan sat beneath the spoil tips of the Merthyr Vale Colliery.   Throughout the 20th century coal had been dumped on the hillsides above the village.  The locals had long protested that they were unsafe but their concerns had been ignored.  What had also been ignored was that the spoil heaps were much taller than the National Coal Boards own safety recommendations.   The facts that the spoil was splace on such a steep slope and blocked natural springs meant that they were fundamentally unstable and sooner or later disaster was bound to strike.

Early on the morning of Friday, 21 October 1966, after several days of heavy rain, a subsidence of approximately 10–20 feet…

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The Great Spotted Woodpecker is a bird of broad-leaved woodland, parks and gardens. It is found across the UK except for the north of Scotland.

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It feeds on insects, seeds and nuts using its specially adapted bill.

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It is estimated that there are about 140,000 breeding pairs in the UK.

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Bazalgette was born in London in March 1819, the son of a Royal Navy captain. After school, he did not follow his father but instead became an engineer on the Railway and soon became an expert in land drainage and reclamation.

In 1856 he was appointed Chief Engineer of the London Metropolitan Board of Works, set up to oversee large public building programmes. The first task was the building of a new sewer network for the city as in the period 1853-4 10000 Londoners had died as a result of Cholera infection. Bazalgette set about this project and by 1866 most of London had been connected to a new sewer network which controlled the outflow of waste.

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He was also the engineer responsible for the Victoria and Albert Embankments (opened 1870) and the Chelsea Embankment (opened 1874). This monument can be found on the Victoria Embankment opposite Embankment Tube station.

Bazelgette died in March 1891

PS Waverley alongside at Gravesend

PS Waverley alongside at Gravesend

Our trip on the PS Waverley starts at Gravesend, which is a town with a long and interesting history.

Royal Terrace Pier

Royal Terrace Pier

Royal Terrace Pier was built in 1842 to accomodate day trippers from London who arrived by steamer. One notable visitor in 1863 was Princess Alexandria of Denmark on her way to marry the then Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, son of Queen Victoria.

 

St Andrews Chapel and Royal Clarendon Hotel

St Andrews Chapel and Royal Clarendon Hotel

St Andrews Chapel was built in 1871 as a mission church to the waterfornt community. It is now an arts centre. The area around the chapel was known as Bawley Bay and was a wharf for shrimp boats in the 19th century. It was also a departure point for families emigrating to Australia and New Zealand. In the gardens of the Royal Clarendon hotel is the remains of the Gravesend Artillery Blockhouse, which dates from the reign of Henry VIII. It was one of 5 built in the area to protect the river access and docks. The hotel was originally built as a house for James, Duke of York, later James II. It became quarters for the ordinance depot keepers and subsequently a hotel.

Town Pier

Town Pier

Town Pier was built in 1834 and restored in 2000. At the town end is the ‘Three Daws’ which claims to be the oldest Public House in Kent.

Mute Swans at Gravesend waterfront

Mute Swans at Gravesend waterfront

 

Princess Pocahontas, a river cruiser with St Georges church in the background

Princess Pocahontas, a river cruiser, with St Georges church in the background

The cruiser is named after the Indian princess Pocahontas who had married tobacco planter John Rolfe in Virginia in 1614. In 1616 the Rolfe’s decided to return to England and Pocahontas became something of a celebrity even attending a ball at Whitehall Palace, the prinicipal royal residence at that time. In 1617, the Rolfe’s made ready to return to Virginia, but Pocahontas had to be taken from the ship at Gravesend due to illnes. She did not recover and died. She was buried in the churchyard of St George’s church in Gravesend. Unfortunately that church was destroyed by fire about 100 years later and no record survives of the location of the grave.

 

Industrial Thames on the outskirts of Gravesend

Industrial Thames on the outskirts of Gravesend

As we leave Gravesend to make our way upstream the scenery changes and the industrial side of the river becomes evident.