Tuesday, 31 March 2009
Walking through the woodland surrounding Shipley Hill there were many clumps of a small, yellow plants which many would overlook or dismiss as Dandelions. Take a closer look however and you can see that these particular plants are quite different to that, more familiar 'weed'. These are called Colt's-foot Tussilago farfara.
Firstly, the flowers of this particular plant appear long before the leaves. Like most other members of the Aster family, or Asteraceae they consist of a central disc of actual flowers surrounded by rays of petal-like structures or 'ray florets'. It has been used medicinally as a cough suppressant. The name "tussilago" itself means "cough suppressant." The plant has been used since at least historical times to treat lung ailments such as asthma as well as various coughs by way of smoking. Crushed flowers supposedly cured skin conditions, and the plant has been consumed as a food item.
Monday, 30 March 2009
The Mute Swan Cygnus olor, is one of the world's heaviest flying birds. Male birds (known as cobs), average about 27lbs in weight but a particularly large one from Poland weighed nearly 50lbs!
Surprisingly, Mute Swans are more closely related to the Black Swan of Australia and the Black-Necked Swan of South America than the white swans found in the northern hemisphere.
Britain has about 22,000 individual swans including around 5,300 breeding pairs. Today, the British Monarch retains the right to ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water, but the Queen only exercises her ownership on certain stretches of the Thames and its surrounding tributaries. This ownership is shared with the Vintners' and Dyers' Companies, who were granted rights of ownership by the Crown in the fifteenth century. The Mute Swans in the moat at the Bishops Palace at Wells Cathedral in Wells, England have for centuries been trained to ring bells via strings attached to them to beg for food. Two swans are still able to ring for lunch!
Friday, 27 March 2009
Malcolm and I had an interesting walk this morning along the Nutbrook Trail and were greeted by the sight of more and more spring flowers. Daffodils of several sizes and colours were in abundance, but a little further along, we came across several patches of wild violets, in this case Hairy Violets Viola hirta.
Close up these beautiful little flowers are indeed very blue.
But, continuing along the trail, we soon came across a patch of flowers which poured doubt upon the well-known rhyme.
These little flowers are still violets, but in this case Sweet Violets Viola odorata. Sweet violets are Britain's only fragrant violets - not that I was about to get on my hands and knees to confirm that!
Turning homeward and dodging the light hail showers which had begun, we found another denizen of springtime, the Lesser Celandine Ranunculus ficaria.
Lesser Celandine used to be known as 'Pilewort' and, as the name suggests, they were used to treat haemorrhoids. It was thought that their knobbly tuberous root system resembled 'piles' and therefore could cure them! The Germans had a much more scientific approach and found that the young leaves were high in vitamin C. Because of this, they found it helped to cure scurvy - leading to another old name for the plant, Scurvywort.
Thursday, 26 March 2009
Even on a stormy day when he and Piglet visit Owl and Owl's tree-house blows down,Pooh's first thought as he pulls pieces of himself back together again, is "...we were just going to have tea and we hadn't had it".
Pooh's love of poetry never fails him and even in the depths of a gale-induced calamity, he manages this little gem...
I lay on my chest
and I thought it best
to pretend I was having an evening rest.
I lay on my tum
and tried to hum
but nothing particular seemed to come.
My face was flat
On the floor, and that
is all very well for an acrobat;
But it doesn't seem fair
to a friendly bear
to stiffen him out with a basket-chair.
And a sort of sqoze
which grows and grows
is not too nice for his poor old nose,
and a sort of squch
is much too much
for his neck and his mouth and his ears and such.
Forget Shakespeare, lets have Winnie the Pooh on the school national curriculum!
Tuesday, 24 March 2009
A closer look reveals the flowers in all their glory. Looking like small brushes they are yet another indication of spring.
Willows such as these contain, within their bark, the chemical Salicin which has an anti-inflammatory action and is synthesised to make aspirin.
Monday, 23 March 2009
I was wondering about the origins of Mother's Day and it appears to have several different starting points. It comes from a mixture of mother worship in ancient Greece, the ancient Roman holiday, Matronalia, which was dedicated to Juno and a number of other factors. Mother's Day is celebrated on different days depending on where you live. In Britain it is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent, a day shared only with Ireland and, believe it or not, Nigeria!
Whatever the origins, it's not a bad idea is it?
|From Stephen's Views|
Friday, 20 March 2009
Where, just a few days ago, a carpet of snowdrops greeted the eye, now it is the turn of the daffodils.
The sun was glinting off the wonderful yellow of the daffodil petals which almost glowed in the dappled shade of the woodland. It put me in mind of a poem from that most erudite word-smith, Winnie-the-Pooh!
Noise, By Pooh.
Oh, the butterflies are flying,
now the winter days are dying
and the primroses are trying
to be seen.
And the turtle doves are cooing,
and the woods are up and doing,
for the violets are blue-ing
in the green.
Oh, the honey-bees are gumming
on their little wings and humming,
that the summer which is coming
will be fun.
And the cows are almost cooing, and the turtle doves are mooing,
which is why a Pooh is Poohing
in the sun.
For the spring is really springing;
you can see a skylark singing
and the bluebells, which are ringing,
can be heard.
And the cuckoo isn't cooing, but he's cucking and he's ooing.
And a Pooh is simply Poohing
like a bird.
Thursday, 19 March 2009
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
Monday, 16 March 2009
The uppermost flowers of the spike in this species are, in fact sterile and restricted to a few small violet-blue 'blobs' and appear to be unopened flowers. The true flowers are the dark blue ones at the bottom of the spike with a ring of white teeth around them. Among the common summer bedding plants to be found in British gardens, one can often find Snapdragons - every child's favourites - Antirrhinum majus. These too could be found all around the countryside of the Costa Brava.
Next time you tuck in to your dinner and struggle to keep your peas on your fork, imagine, if you will, that these small, sweet vegetables are derived from the Wild Pea Pisum sativum. These too can be found growing wild in the area.Perhaps it should also be remembered that there is evidence from China and India that oil from the seeds of these wild plants have a contraceptive effect in both men and women!
Stately and architectural in nature the last flower for now has to be the Verbascum - Verbascum Sinuatum. Standing up to 5ft high and with brilliantly yellow flowers clinging to the upright stems covered in greyish woolly hairs, they almost glow in the sunshine.
Sunday, 15 March 2009
The railways arrived in Calella in 1861 and this aided the town's commercial side. There are still some fantastic old properties along the railway line which separates the town from the seafront and the beautiful promenades. Historical notes taken from HERE.
Saturday, 14 March 2009
The wars were fought between supporters of Isabell ll and her uncle Charles V of the Bourbon Dynasty. During this time, the Catalans rose up against the moderate forces, the Isabelinas, in the second Carlist war (1846 - 1849), known as the war of the Matiners (early risers).
The system of signalling towers was built in order to improve communications between the moderate military leaders.'Les Torretes', set on the hill 118m high, were part of the communications network on the Madrid - Valencia - Barcelona - Gerona - La Jonquera signalling line. These particular towers communicated directly with others in the towns of Caldes d’Estrac to the south and Blanes to the north.
The lower of the two towers, built with more loopholes or vertical openings in the walls and sited closer to the sea was used for military communications and was guarded by a garrison of 15 men. The other tower, with two floors and fewer defences, was used for civil communications.
The view to the north and towards Blanes is still impressive.
Friday, 13 March 2009
Thursday, 12 March 2009
In parts it is a building site with cranes towering above the massive edifice. Construction started in 1882, the vision of artist and architect Antoni Gaudi. It is anticipated that it will be finished in 2026 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death. This is thought by many to be wildly optimistic and some expect construction to continue for many years yet. The main entrance is dominated by a cubist, modernist depiction of the Passion of Christ.