Thursday, 28 July 2016

Heanor Memorial Park

A couple of days ago, Malcolm and I took a fairly long walk to Heanor. We had it in mind to have a look at the Memorial Park, which we have passed on many occasions, but never actually visited.
The idea of the park was put forward at the end of the Second World War and it finally opened in 1951. The main gates were taken from the Derby Lodge entrance to Shipley Hall, donated by the Shipley Colliery company which owned the hall at the time.
A second set of entrance gates also came from the grounds of Shipley Hall and there is a centrepiece, traditional War Memorial. The memorial was added to following the Falklands War of 1982.
Now in the care of Amber Valley Council, there is a band stand and wildlife pond (sadly a little smelly and un-cared for.)
The park is planted with trees, shrubs and summer bedding and provides several bench seats for the weary walker to sit and break out the flask of coffee. So we did!
It was a good walk and well worth the effort of getting there.

Monday, 25 July 2016

High Summer

A few clouds helped to keep the temperature down a little this morning but the heat of the last week has brought many plants into flower. Our walk through Pewit Carr and around the Manor Floods this morning, was filled with the sights and scents of these high summer flowers. Among the best for fragrance were the Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria).
Used for centuries to flavour wines and beers and as a strewing herb, these frothy, creamy flowers are a sure sign that summer is in full swing.
Along the paths maintained by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, thousands of flowers were in bloom including vast numbers of Perforate st. John's-wort (Hypericum perforatum).
Spear Thistles (Cirsium vulgare) are always popular with bees and butterflies...
And the Teasels (Dipsacus fullonum) are beginning to flower too.
Despite looking superficially like thistles, these tall and stately plants are actually members of the Honeysuckle family. They are also very important for all sorts of wildlife including bees, butterflies and hoverflies while in flower and later, when the flowers have gone, birds feast on the seeds, particularly Goldfinches.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Crawling Things

It's that time of year when the garden seems to be filling with creepy-crawlies. Among the more common and certainly the most numerous of these has to be the Black or Common Garden Ant (Lasius niger.) These little insects are a mixed blessing for the gardener. They help by eating many other insects which are not so favourable, but they also 'farm' aphids for their honeydew and no-one likes an aphid! In our garden at the moment, a nest of Black Ants has been formed in our compost bin and in the warm weather, many winged individuals are beginning to appear.
These winged ants are all males, produced by the Queen when it's time for nuptial flights to occur. They will take to the air to mate with less common, winged females, the immature Queens.
Their scuttling movements are tricky to photograph in the dim light of the compost bin but as such, this movement has come out well in the photo.
Another 'crawling thing' crossed our path a few days ago as we went out for our walk. A Devil's Coach-horse Beetle (Ocypus olens.)
One of Britain's largest beetles, the Devil's Coach-horse is a fearsome predator of small invertebrates including earthworms, many times larger than themselves and even Woodlice which are well armoured. But the mandibles of the Devils' Coach-horse are well up the task. It even has the temerity to threaten much larger animals like me as I pointed my camera at it.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Going Home

After the horrendous journey to Portsmouth, we decided not to travel back home the same way, opting instead to take the more scenic route through the Cotswolds. As most people do, we stopped off at Bourton-on-the-Water.
There had been a few heavy showers on our way, but we were lucky enough to avoid them for the duration of our visit. Walking along the river Windrush, was lovely as always, if a little too busy for our liking. Some of the old houses were decked out with summer flowers - and tourists! (A little digital manipulation was needed to erase most of the people from this picture.)
We stopped for coffee at a riverside cafe...
Then headed along more of the river...
It was nice to stretch our legs mid-way through the long journey home and Bourton is certainly the place to do it.
All too soon, it was time to return to the car and head off again on our way home only to find ourselves caught up in traffic once more. Roadworks around Coventry and then nose-to-tail traffic on the M1 were frustrating, but thankfully, nowhere near as bad as Sunday's debacle.

Monday, 18 July 2016


There were many highlights to our brief visit to Portsmouth but the most literal highlight had to be the views from the Spinnaker Tower. In this direction, we were looking down on the Vulcan Building and Grand Storehouse mentioned on Saturday.In the distance, The Anglican Cathedral and beyond that, the funfair at Southsea.
Moving across, we see Haslar Marina on the other side of the channel from Portsmouth and the Fort Blockhouse which once protected the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour. A Wightlink ferry steams by on its way to the Isle of Wight.
Zooming in on Haslar Marina, we could see the looming presence of HMS Alliance, a decommissioned submarine now acting as a museum ship at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum at Gosport. Commissioned in 1947, it left service in 1973 becoming a training vessel until 1979.
Back down to earth and on the waterfront near the tower a figurehead from HMS Marlborough which was launched in 1855 and sank in 1928.
More tomorrow, from our journey home...

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Old Portsmouth

Leaving behind the spectacular views from the Spinnaker Tower, we headed for Old Portsmouth passing first the Vulcan Building and the central section of the Grand Storehouse.
Close by, we passed a house which will be well known to Mary and Brian. Coopers Cottage was their home for many years before they moved to Hilsea. Still painted a pale mint-green, it stands on St. Thomas' Street, near to the Anglican Cathedral.
Then on to the said cathedral. Sometimes called the Cathedral of the Sea, there has been a church on this site since 1180. The central tower was designed as a lookout post and lighthouse.
Having eaten our lunch on the Saluting Platform, close to the Square Tower - a 15th century fortification, we overlooked another church. This one is the old Royal Garrison Church, a 800 year old Hospital, medieval ammunition store and church, it was fire-bombed in World War 2 leaving the shell we see today.
Onward again, we passed the fun-fair and Hover-port of Southsea and along Clarence Esplanade to the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.
The memorial commemorates around 10,000 sailors of the First World War...
And around 15,000 from the Second World War. Their names guarded by some impressive, if a little nonchalant stone lions.
Eventually, we reached Southsea Castle. Built in 1544 by Henry VIII as part of his fortification of the English coastline. The lighthouse was added in the 1820's.
By now, our feet were beginning to ache, so we headed back through the city, to where we had left the car. It had been a good day!

Friday, 15 July 2016

High Up

After our visit to Bosham, we headed to Portsmouth, parked up and went to explore. We soon found ourselves at the Gunwharf Quays area, looking up at the Spinnaker Tower.
The tower was originally a Millennium Commission project, approved in 1995 but because of political, financial and construction delays, it wasn't until November 2001 that construction began. It eventually opened in 2005.
We joined the more than 2,500,000 visitors who have been up the tower, paid our entrance fee and took the lift up to the first observation deck, looking out at the view from 100 metres up.
From here, we got to see the 40-gun, steam-powered HMS Warrior, Britain's first Iron Hulled warship.
A little further over, Nelson's flagship HMS Victory was visible peeping over the rooftops of the Historic Dockyard. The big, black building next to the Victory is the new Mary Rose Museum building.
There were also a few modern-day equivalents to these warships, moored at the dockside. The ship in the foreground, numbered D35 is HMS Dragon, a type 45 air-defence destroyer, commissioned in 2012. The other, marked D37 is HMS Duncan, another type 45, commissioned a year later.
Changing views for a moment, the observation deck is equipped with a glass floor and for those with nerve enough to stand on it, looking straight down, past your feet at the ground over 300ft below, is quite an experience.
From these dizzying heights, that's enough for today I think!

Thursday, 14 July 2016


Sitting on Chichester Harbour, the little village of Bosham was unknown to us before my cousin Simon recommended a visit. There has been a settlement here since Roman times and it was the Romans who built the Mill Stream which runs through the village.
The Romans knew this area as Magnus Portus along with several other ports on Britain's coast. It is said that King Cnut chose Bosham as the site from where he commanded the sea to 'go back'. Given the nature of the low-lying mud-flats, it might have been a pretty neat trick to see your King seemingly in control of the outgoing tide.
The village church was built on the site of a much older Roman basilica and legend has it that Cnute's daughter was buried here after drowning in a nearby brook.
Inside the church, a plaque on the wall shows how Bosham is mentioned on the Bayeux Tapestry with the words "Ubi Harold Dux Anglorum et sui milites equitant ad Bosham ecclesia" (Where Harold, Earl of the English, and his army ride to Bosham church.)
The tower is the oldest part of the church starting at the bottom three stages of building with the Saxons and finishing at the top with a fourth stage built by the Normans. The spire is 15th century.
There is a 14th century crypt and a 12th century font and a chancel of both Saxon and Norman architecture, with a 13th century, five-light lancet window.
Something else caught our eye as we walked around the grounds of the church however. Walking across the path was a female Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus.) Sadly now endangered in the UK this was a rare sight and a first for me. So, that's another 'tick' for the list!
Much more tomorrow...!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Home Again

Malcolm and I returned home yesterday after a couple of days visiting the South of England. We had a nightmare journey on Sunday with road closures, diversions and an over-turned lorry causing more road closures, meaning that we were stuck in the car for the best part of eight hours. So our plans for the afternoon were abandoned. In the end, we went straight to the Travelodge to shower and change before heading off to have dinner with my cousin (once removed) Brian, Mary and their son (my second cousin) Simon, who I hadn't seen for about twenty years.
Mary cooked a delicious meal for us all and it was good to relax for the evening and catch up with Simon. A good time was had by all.
On Monday, we headed for the historic coastal village of Bosham on a recommendation from Simon and we were very glad we did.
Then it was on to spend the day in Portsmouth...
We did the 'touristy' thing...
And had a great day - even the weather was kind to us..
Many more pictures to come over the next few days as I get them sorted out.

Friday, 8 July 2016


The weather remains blustery, cool and rather damp. Just when you think the ground is beginning to dry out a little, more rain falls and gives it a good soaking once again. So, we had a shorter walk this morning, expecting - and getting - a few spots of rain on the way. Notwithstanding, I still have a few pictures to share from recent, drier walks.
Firstly, some very low-growing little plants which are flowering bravely on the old, unused gravel car parks of Shipley Park. These are patriotically known as English Stonecrops (Sedum anglicum).
Preferring dry, stony growing conditions, these succulent plants belong to a family which will be familiar to anyone with a rockery in their garden. Their thick, fleshy leaves alternate along the stems and turn from grey-green to become more reddish as the season progresses.
They are much happiest growing in coastal shingles, quarries and can be found sprouting from dry stone walls. Wherever they are found, they like a sunny position and on the day I took these pictures, that's exactly what they had.
Also enjoying a rare spell of sunny weather a few days ago, a small, metallic-green beetle caught my eye. It seemed familiar but I couldn't immediately put a name to it.
It turned out to be a Swollen-thighed Beetle (Oedemera nobilis), a thing which I have seen before, but this is a female and confusingly, does not have the 'swollen thighs' of the male and from which it gets it's name.