Friday, 29 August 2014


This morning, with grey clouds scudding across the sky and the threat of rain hanging over us, we set out around the lakes of Straw's Bridge. At 'Swan Lake', we found something else grey - a Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea).
Unusually for a Heron, this particular bird was more intent on searching for fish than worrying about us walking past. As a result, on any bright day, a few good shots would have been possible, but as the weather was as grey as the heron itself, photos were a little tricky.
If you are wondering about the title of this post, the word 'Harnser' is the name given to herons in my native Norfolk. The derivation of the word is not clear, but it may stem from 'Harnser' being used also as a name for a Goose, the Latin for which is Anser.  Wherever the word comes from, "here's an ol' harnser."
Sadly, fishermen were once responsible for the near demise of this spectacular bird. It was noted that Herons had great success while fishing in the shallows and, not having much going on between the ears, fishermen decided it was because the fish were somehow attracted to the herons' legs. The result of this misconception was that herons were caught and killed whereupon their legs would be cut of and chopped into small pieces for use as ground-bait to attract more fish.  Thankfully, most (sadly not all) fishermen are somewhat better educated these days and heron numbers have recovered.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014


This morning's walk had to be somewhat truncated as Malcolm had an appointment at the asthma clinic. But, on returning home, I was pottering in the garden, when a small insect caught my eye as it scrambled among the leaves of a chili pepper plant.
It turns out to be a Common Green Shieldbug (Palomena prasina).  Shieldbugs have a rather interesting life story, starting as all insects do, as an egg and hatching into a larval form.  It is after this larval form when things get more tricky as the insect moults as it grows and passes through four nymphal stages - often referred to as instars.
This little chap appears to be in the fourth and final instar before moulting one last time into the full adult form. It is in this adult form that the creature will overwinter in a state of hibernation, emerging in Spring next year to breed and start the whole cycle off again. A charming little creature - time to return it to the chili plant.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Devil's Nettle

This morning's walk was dominated by the sight of an unusual plant.  Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a common enough plant and is frequently seen, growing along the footpaths and scrubby areas.  The plant usually has inflorescences of white flowers on a plant covered with feathery leaves but a couple of them this morning didn't have the normal, white flowers, but deep pink.
Yarrow has many common names.  In various places they are known as Nose-bleed plants, Old Man's Pepper, Soldier's Woundwort and of course, Devil's Nettle.
Most of these common names are derived from the plant having been use in times gone by, as a method of staunching the flow of blood and helping with the healing of wounds.
As the plant also contains Salicylic acid (a constituent of aspirin), it may also have proven useful in reducing pain from the wound. Very useful!

Saturday, 23 August 2014


With the weather at the moment being unseasonably cool, we set out this morning with fleeces zipped to the chin for a walk to Osborne's Pond.
Along the water's edge, the Common Reeds (Phragmites australis) are busy producing the feathery flower heads which are so characteristic of British Reed beds.  No doubt the thicket of reeds will be providing shelter for numerous birds and insects too.
Getting home and looking about the garden, I noticed our Cyclamen are flowering now too.  Previously, these delightful little flowers went by the binomial name of Cyclamen neapolitanum, in reference to them being a common sight in the countryside of that part of Italy. They have since been renamed hederafolium to reflect their Ivy (Hedera) shaped leaves, which appear after the flowers. Whatever you want to call them, they make a lovely show - even if they do denote the end of summer and the start of autumn.

Friday, 22 August 2014


How on earth did THAT happen?  Last time I looked, I was celebrating my 21st birthday, but this morning, I woke to find it was my 47th..!  It's certainly a long time since this photo was taken of me, at school, marking the register...
...But, having checked, it would appear that I am still 'all present and correct'.

Monday, 18 August 2014


Just a quickie this morning as there isn't much to say at this time of year, which hasn't already been said.  So, despite the autumnal weather and a cooling wind cutting across Shipley Park, we set out for a walk around Mapperley Reservoir, via Slack Lane and finishing by crossing Shipley Hill.  We sat for a while at the picnic site by the reservoir for a flask of coffee, taking in the view.
The surrounding trees were doing a good job at keeping the wind off us.
The only problem was all the Birch seeds blowing about and landing in the coffee!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Rags to Riches

On Thursday, while taking about the Common Ragwort, I mentioned the Weeds Act of 1959. Well, it was on this very day in 1959 that my mother was busy celebrating her 21st Birthday. Today marks her 76th, so "Happy Birthday Mum."
Staying with the theme of Ragwort this morning, we took our walk 'off piste' as much as possible, to avoid the weekend cyclists.  Our route took us around the lakes of Straw's Bridge before crossing the open grasslands which surround the Manor Floods.  It was here that the eye was caught by a vast expanse of Ragwort, mimicking the fields of Oilseed Rape which dominate the countryside earlier in the year.
Even with the clouds blocking out the sunshine, still the vibrant yellow of the Ragwort was feast for the eye.
A little earlier, around 'Swan Lake', it looked as if we might not manage to stay dry for the whole of our walk.
The sun did manage to peep through the clouds however and gave us a enough time to gather a few more Blackberries on the way home.

Thursday, 14 August 2014


Heading out and about across Shipley Park this morning, we were struck by the large quantity of Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) flowers which are adorning the countryside.
These attractive, yellow-flowered plants are extremely common throughout the UK, but they are often seen as a problem weed, particularly where there are grazing animals, as they are poisonous.  The 'Weeds Act' of 1959, lists the Common Ragwort among the five most injurious weeds in Britain along with Curled and Broad-leaved Docks as well as Creeping and Spear Thistles.  Despite being 'public enemy number one', they remain one of our more common weeds and look like they're here to stay.  And when they look as good as this, why not?
The Ragwort growing around Shipley Lake, are interspersed with Great Willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum) and the yellow of the Ragwort goes rather well with the pink of the Willowherb.
From the top of the bank, one can normally see half a dozen Highland Cattle in the field, but the cattle seem to have gone this morning, leaving the field empty - but a pretty good view all the same.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014


It's Blackberry time again.  Malcolm and I have already been out and about on several occasions, stripping the hedgerows hereabouts of their seasonal bounty.
Our freezer is beginning to groan under the weight of these little, black, fruity beauties and it would appear that we are not the only ones who enjoy them.  This video was shared on Vimeo a couple of days ago...

Click the play button and enjoy the cuteness!

Thursday, 7 August 2014


To any birdwatchers, the title of today's post will bring to mind, an attractive, red-legged wading bird.  But the Redshank I refer to today is not of the avian type, but a plant found growing along the old West Hallam Railway lines this morning.  Sometimes called Redleg, the Redshank (Persicaria maculosa) is a common member of the Knotweed family.
Medicinally, the Redshank has been used as a remedy for diarrhoea and as a treatment for infections.  The young leaves and shoots can also be eaten as a leaf vegetable.
The other flower to catch our attention today, was the Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris).
Sometimes called Butter and Eggs because of the colour of the flowers, the individual blooms look like small Snapdragon flowers, indeed Snapdragons were once listed as members of the same family (the scrophulariaceae), but they have recently been placed into the Plantain family.  Back to the Toadflax and these delightful yellow-flowered plants have been used as a diuretic and laxative as well as a remedy for Dropsy, Jaundice and Enteritis.  Very useful!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Odds and Ends

Just a few 'odds and ends' of photos from our recent walks today, starting with a view over the trees from the newly erected viewing platform in Shipley Park.
From this platform, you get a lovely view across the parkland out towards the town in one direction and even further views towards East Midlands Airport and the power station at Ratcliffe on Soar.  But, looking the other way, back along the walkway and steps which bring you up to the platform, one sees the wooded area with its bird and bat boxes and mixture of broad-leaved trees.
In the other direction, the walk to the lakes of Straw's Bridge, takes you through another former industrial landscape where once dozens of train tracks carried passengers to and from Ilkeston as well as tons of coal and ore of various kinds.  Today - thankfully - those trains have all gone and the bank which once carried the track from Derby to Ilkeston is now covered with wild flowers - and Malcolm!
Nearby, the wet land of Pewit Carr is equally attractive and at this time of year, the wild flower meadows have been mowed and you get access to the waterside in some places, where it was a little tricky just a few days ago.  Thousands of insects make a home in this area and tiny fish fry swim in the shallows.  Goodness knows what might lurk in the muddy depths!
Closer to home you see the settling pools where water, pumped up from the old mine workings around Shipley Woodside, is allowed to flow from one pool to another, gradually settling out any pollutants, before the water is returned to the Nutbrook.  These six large pools , despite their rather unattractive function, nevertheless provide a fantastic habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, helped by the fact that the whole area is fenced off from the public.  And it looks good too!

Monday, 4 August 2014


Another new 'tick' this morning as we walked around the lakes of Straw's Bridge. Gloriously sunny once more, though a little cooler than of late, we met this little creature on the flower heads of Angelica (Angelica sylvestris).
These rather lovely plants - members of the carrot family - were buzzing with flies of all sorts, but a few particularly colourful ones caught my eye.
Closer inspection and a brief search of the Internet revealed them to be Large Rose Sawflies (Arge pagana).
Common and widespread throughout Britain, their larvae feed on wild and cultivated roses.  The same larvae are also commonly parasitised by parasitic wasps and eaten by other creatures.
This new tick, brings my invertebrates life list to 226, so still a long way to go!

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Tall Story

Around Shipley Park and the Woodside LNR at the moment, you will find hundreds of Teasel Plants (Dipsacus fullonum) growing tall and stately among the grassy path sides.
The flower heads sit atop the stems, spiky and covered with individual flowers which are attracting bees like you wouldn't believe.
The scientific name 'fullonum' comes from the days when the dried flower heads were used in the cloth making industry, buy 'Fullers' who would comb the cloth with them to raise the nap of the cloth.  Teasels were replaced in the 20th Century by metal carders, which did the job, but seem to lose some of the romanticism.