Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Sa Morisca

Close to the resort of Santa Ponsa, there is an area of woodland surrounding and covering a central, rocky peak known as Puig de sa Morisca or the Moorish Peak.
The area also contains an archaeological site of great importance with more than fifteen separate sites of particular interest around the hill.  This was the site of settlements which were in use between 850 BC and 1229 when King James 1st invaded the island.  Dotted around, are the excavated remains of several houses, towers and industrial buildings.  Right on the top, at an elevation of around 390 ft above sea level, what is now known as Tower III, affords some wonderful views of the surrounding countryside.
The tower itself dates from the Talayotic Period between 850 - 650 BC.  the walls were about 6 feet thick and was used as a defencive tower looking out over the whole area as well as the natural port below.
Built around the outside of this tower, are several later buildings with many architectural details still visible, including the large central stone to support the roof.
Among the other buildings which dot the hillside, many were used for light industry, including charcoal burning and farming.  Among these, some living accommodation is still to be seen, rebuilt to provide the visitor with a better idea of how things looked.  Inside one of these, a very suspicious-looking Iron-age individual was still to be found, rather unconvincingly preparing afternoon tea...!  Good grief, it's Malcolm!
More history tomorrow perhaps...

Monday, 29 April 2013


Around the countryside which surrounds Santa Ponsa, there were plenty of opportunities to discover some of the flora of the area.  Many of these were new 'ticks' for me and my life list has increased somewhat because of it.  The first picture today is of a flower which I had ticked off before, but one which deserves a mention because of it's bright colour.  The Astericus maritimus.  Very common around the Med', this is a delightful little flower and forms large mats of bright yellow daisy-like flowers.
Moving on from a familiar plant, to one which was new to me.  Sometimes called Mediterranean Lineseed, the Bellardia (Bellardia trixago) is a member of the Broomrape family and native to the whole Mediterranean area.  with finely toothed leaves and an inflorescence consisting of pale, pink-and-white flowers held in a conical spike.  Like other Broomrapes, this plant is parasitic and takes some of it's nutrients from surrounding plants.
From the Bellardia, we moved on to a lower growing plant and another new one for me.  This one was small, mat-forming and covered with bright purple flowers.  Coris (Coris monspeliensis) is a member of the Primula family and another native of Spain, although this one is spreading around the Med' too.
The next new plant to me was a member of the Citrus family - although you would never know it just to look at it.  Small, yellow and rather ragged-looking flowers topped this grey-leaved plant and it goes by the name of Fringed Rue (Ruta chalepensis).  Used as a remedy for a number of inflammatory diseases, it contains a substance which can cause blistering of the skin in bright sunlight.
Yet another new 'tick' for my list was an attractive, lily-like flower with white petals and a distinctive black ovary in the centre.  It is commonly known as Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum arabicum) and these beautiful little flowers stood about a foot tall with the cupped flowers opening up to the sky.  It is actually a member of the asparagus family, but again, you would never know it.
Lastly for today another familiar plant to me as we have seen it growing around the Med' many times.  The Common Asphodel (Asphodelus aestivus) is an attractive flower with a reddish-brown stripe running the length of each of it's petals.
All for today, more to follow...!

Saturday, 27 April 2013


Built in 1929, there is a rather impressive monument in Santa Ponsa dedicated to the conquest of the island in 1229 by King Jaime 1st of Spain.
The King landed here with an army of some 20,000 men on 10th September 1229 and immediately went into battle with the occupying Moors.  Following the conquest of Mallorca, King Jaime went on to reclaim Menorca and Ibiza over the next six years.  The monument is decorated with carved scenes representative of the conquest around it's base.
From the vantage point of the monument, you get some fine views across the bay towards the town and down into the harbour, filled with boats belonging to the rich and famous - or at least those who would like to be rich rich and famous!  One rather good-looking yacht was moored outside the harbour and looked particularly 'artistic' and picturesque reflected in the mill-pond-like waters of the bay.
The small beach was, as usual, dotted with the usual gulls to be found in the Mediterranean.  These were mostly Yellow-legged gulls, but among them was one which looked a little different.  It turned out to be an Audouin's Gull (Larus audouinii).  In the 1960's, this was the world's rarest gull with a population of around 1000 pairs.
Still rather scarce these days, these attractive gulls are becoming more numerous as they change their eating habits.  Formerly, Audouin's Gulls fed almost exclusively by deftly snatching fish from the surface of the sea and, despite wasteful fishermen dumping large quantities of unwanted fish overboard - a habit which has benefited these gulls - their numbers fell dramatically.  Predation by foxes, dogs and cats have caused their own problems, but tourist development along the coasts has been the greatest threat.  Over recent years however, they have diversified their eating habits and special measures to protect their breeding sites from further development have allowed numbers to increase around twenty-fold.  Still on the 'Red List' of threatened species, they are thankfully in a better situation these days.  Good news for such a beautiful bird.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Home Again

Malcom and I returned home last night - after a two hour delay to our flight - from a few days away in Santa Ponsa, Mallorca.  We were very fortunate with the weather and had almost wall-to-wall sunshine, with just a few clouds, except for yesterday when the wind blew and the rain fell.  It's always a good time to get bad weather, when you are on the way home anyway!
Santa Ponsa, despite being the typical Mediterranean resort, had some beautiful countryside surrounding it and we spent a lot of our time walking the surrounding hills and admiring the views across the bay.
The waters of Santa Ponsa Bay, were clear and blue and surrounded in large part by Pine-clad slopes providing shade in the sunniest parts of the day.
From the other side of the bay, the built-up resort provided the archetypal backdrop to the bay with the foot hills of the Serra de Tramuntana, the mountain range which forms the North-Western side of the island.
You can bet there will be plenty more photos from our trip over the next few days, with many new  wild flower species noted, I have been rather busy 'ticking them off'.  So, stay tuned....!

Friday, 19 April 2013


This morning, we took ourselves off for a longer walk to Mapperley Village, reservoir and to have a look at 'Bluebell Wood' on the way back.  I was just saying to Malcolm that we hadn't yet seen any Wood Anemones in bloom this year, when we passed the D. W. T. viewing point and were delighted to see a large patch of these wonderful little white flowers.
By his time, the sun had all but gone and a few spots of rain had begun to fall, but the Anemones still looked gorgeous.
Looking around the area we spotted several patches of them.
Just one more picture before we returned home for coffee.  With the lateness of this Spring, it's so nice to see some colour on the woodland floor and a few more signs of better things to come.

Thursday, 18 April 2013


Despite the very strong winds this morning, we set out for a sunny walk along the old railway lines to Head House Farm, returning along the Nutbrook Trail.  As I have mentioned several times lately, the path-sides are liberally sprinkled with the bright, yellow Coltsfoot flowers (Tussilago farfara).  Looking rather more closely than normal, reveals them to be more than just individual flowers.
What appear to be the petals, are in fact ray florets surrounding a disc of smaller, flowers in the middle.  Common to all the other members of the family Asteraceae (the daisy family), each composite 'flower' consists of many real flowers each a miniature beauty.  The plant goes by many common names including Coughwort, Bull's foot, Foal's Foot and is used in the manufacture of Coltsfoot Rock, an old sweet remedy for coughs and sore throats, made by Stockley's Sweets of Lancashire.  See HERE.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Wind in the Willows

Yesterday's walk, took us round the lakes of straw's Bridge again to take in the water fowl and the few Spring flowers which are starting to open.  Among these and about a month behind times, the Cowslips were starting to push through the grass and one or two have even started to open a flower or two.
So called because they were once thought to spring up where cows had once dropped a 'pat', these harbingers of Spring are a joy, particularly when we've been waiting for so long.
Being close to the ground, the Cowslips were tricky to photograph and took a great deal of squirming around to get down to their level - perhaps I'm getting too old for this lark!  Rather more easy to photograph were the Willow flowers.  Fluffy and yellow, these 'powder-puffs' of flower were at a height more accessible, but the breeze was still causing a bit of trouble.
Despite the 'wind in the willows' they make a lovely show, particularly as they appear before the leaves open and obscure them.  More to come we hope.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013


At last, following weeks waiting for Spring to spring, it appears to have suddenly exploded upon us.  As such, the Mute Swans are very busy building nests and laying eggs in them.  We passed a very busy pair of 'Mutes' this morning, on one of the quieter ponds of Straw's Bridge.  It was very peaceful there.  Pity the same couldn't be said about the main lake.  Here, the Mutes were posturing, sizing each other up and generally being rather belligerent about things.
In all, sixteen Mutes were vying for position on the lake, some doing rather better than others.  One particular, juvenile swan was seeming to have a pretty rough time of it by attracting the ire of most of the others, but I guess he'll 'find his feet' soon and establish himself in the hierarchy.  This magnificent specimen was among the 'top-brass' and he knew it too!
They are wonderful birds and always demand respect from the other birds on the lake - as well as those of us who like to stand and watch them.

Sunday, 14 April 2013


Yesterday, I mentioned the wonderful blue water of Osborne's Pond.  The skies too were brilliant blue and made a very welcome change after the weeks of dull, grey, cold and distinctly un-springlike weather.
It's always a treat to stand at the dam end of the reservoir and look at the ducks, geese, swans, grebes, etc.  Especially when the water is like a mill-pond, the skies are blue and the reflections are so good.
A glorious morning.  Now, back home via Shipley Hill....

Saturday, 13 April 2013


Our walk yesterday and this morning's ramble to Osborne's Pond, both provided the beautiful sight of Greylag Geese (Anser anser).  The scientific name suggests that this goose (Anser) is the 'goosiest' goose of all, hence 'Anser anser.  The Greylags on the pond at Straw's Bridge yesterday, were looking gorgeous against the grey water, while keeping out of the way of the posturing Mute Swans which seemed to be holding the balance of power.
This morning, the sun was shining on Osborne's Pond and as such, the water was a deep blue, which showed off the Greylags marvellously.
There are many more 'feral' or partially wild Greylags in Britain, than there are truly wild birds.  About 31,000 feral birds breed here, but only about 3,200 wild pairs breed.  Over-wintering birds boost numbers to over 200,000 individuals, many coming from Iceland.  Wherever these geese came from and whether they were feral (as I suspect) or truly wild, makes no difference.  They were still a wonderful sight.

Friday, 12 April 2013

New Path

Malcolm and I discovered a 'new path' this morning.  I say 'discovered', but we have known about the path for some time, but this morning was the first time we walked along it.  The path runs on an elevated section of old railway line (as so many paths around these parts do) and took us along the bank which separates the lakes of Straw's Bridge.  A narrow path, it turned out to be quite a revelation.  In times gone by, the path held the lines of the Stanton and Shipley Railway Co.  And much of the line is still there.
A little further along and the line crosses the path of another old set of lines which were once the  Derbyshire and Staffordshire line of the L.N.E.R.  Here, the Points are still visible among the saplings moss and brambles.
The landscape around here seems to be filled with the dead and decaying remnants of our industrial and steam-powered past.  This morning's short - and rather dull - walk was definitely proof of that statement.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Old Things

A couple of what can be described as 'Old Things' have caught my eye lately while strolling round Shipley Park.
Firstly, the Folly on the top of Shipley Hill built of a brick inner wall, surrounded by a cinder outer skin.  It is said that this folly was built so that that Edward, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward Vll) had somewhere for his secret assignations when visiting the Hall.   The folly is rather tumble-down now but still standing amid the trees - which is more than can be said for the Hall itself.
Part of the industrial heritage of the area, the old Nutbrook Canal is also a little neglected in parts these days.  During our walk this morning, we strolled along a part of it where large sections of stone wall  which once formed a lock gate are still to be seen.  Further along, the canal has reverted more to a small stream once more and any vestiges of canal have been lost forever.  But it still looks good amid the trees.
Deviating from the man-made, we also saw lots of a particular plant which was (and still is) used in old remedies for coughs and other chest conditions.  Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) has been mentioned on this blog several times, but the emergence of these bright yellow flowers is most welcome having had to wait so long this year and now they have at last started to show their true colours, surely Spring is on its way..!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013


With a distinct lack of flowers still, there is one species which is adding a bit of well-needed colour to the countryside.  I refer to the wonderful, yellow lichens which adorn the tree trunks and branches.
This one is - I think - Xanthoria parietina, one of the 'leafy' lichens. Like many other Lichens, they are a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and a green algae which grow together and appear to be one organism.
The yellow colour comes from a pigment in the outer cortex called Parietin. A watery extract from this Lichen has been proven to have antiviral qualities and has been used in laboratory studies, to treat human influenza viruses. It also makes a lovely addition to the otherwise bare branches of the countryside.

Sunday, 7 April 2013


At last, a slight taste of Spring this morning.  So with the sun shining on us, we set off along the old West Hallam Colliery railway towards Mapperley Village, returning along Slack Lane.  As we were approaching home, I noticed the sun had an almost complete halo around it.
Produced by the sunlight passing through ice crystals high in the troposphere between 3 and 6 miles up.  Sometimes also seen around the moon, the refracted light forms a ring 22° around the source.
As we made our way onto the old railway lines, we passed over the Nutbrook Canal, still looking rather wintry and overgrown with bare branched trees - as well as the pipeline crossing it at this point.  What exactly does this pipe carry?  And to where?
Reaching the village of Mapperley, we passed through the farmyard where we have previously been delighted by two donkeys who like their noses tickled.  We were glad to see they were still there and still wanting some fuss.

Friday, 5 April 2013


The bells of today's title, refer to those small, white flowers hanging from the branches of the Pieris shrubs on Shipley Hill this morning.  Yet another freezing day and a strong wind blowing once more, but the views from the hill made up for it.
The shape of these numerous flowers points to their close relationship with Heathers and as they are native to far-eastern mountain forests, they must surely be used to the conditions atop Shipley Hill.
Looking closer, they reveal the most wonderful little bells.  A wonderful little glimpse of Spring in the otherwise very late season this year.  Lets hope they indicate better things to come.