WEEKEND IN WALES

Here is the account of our adventures in Wales this weekend.

As you know last Sunday was Mothering Sunday. This is made a big event in the UK. Every year my boys don’t phone me or send a card and every year I end up crying and feeling very sorry for myself. So this year I decided to short circuit the whole process.

Accordingly, I booked a bed and breakfast stay in Anglesey for Saturday night and in the lovely spring sunshine, we drove down to North wales Saturday morning. Our aim was to head to South Stacks and try to find Chough as they are so local it was either Wales or Cornwall and Wales is closer.

 

Sharing a car with a birdwatcher can be a hazardous Occupation. Every so often the car swerves slightly as another bird is spotted. A form of Tourette’s accompanies these manoeuvres as my companion shouts out random bird names such as Buzzard or Kestrel.

If desperate even common names, such as Magpie or Crow, are shouted. This reminds us that it is an English custom to always greet the first Magpie of the day with the phrase;

Good Morning Mr Magpie

As a child, we never considered this and would have thought it highly silly. However, we had a very good friend Tim Beynon who was a great naturalist and raconteur. He always greeted the first magpie of the day. Now we do it and every time we remember him and all that he taught us and shared with us.

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We found ravens wheeling in the sky over North Wales and arrived at South Stacks about 11 am just in time for a tea break. Another family tradition is that all outings must be accompanied by tea breaks. Ideally, these breaks should be taken in tea shops, cafes or garden centres where tea is served in a teapot with a cup and saucer and a jug of milk but this time our individual flasks had to make do. We found a pair of Chough who kept flying back to the same cleft in the rocks so we assumed that they were nesting there.

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On the sea by the lighthouse were razorbills and guillemots. Herring gulls were lurking looking for any opportunity to steal some easy food. Kittiwakes were also bouncing about on the waves as the sun glinted off the sea.

The sea was a beautiful deep blue colour but where the cliffs were submerged the colour changed to a deep green. It was so clear that even from the top of the cliffs you could see through the water. Butterflies were out and we saw small tortoiseshell, peacock and Red admirals as we sat in the sunshine.

We heard that puffins had been seen and full of enthusiasm we climbed down the hundreds of steps leading to the lighthouse. Despite being completely exhausted we didn’t see a single puffin. We treated ourselves to a light lunch at the café and headed out to an RSPB reserve nearby called The Range. There had been rumours of a hooded crow but we didn’t see it. Skylarks were everywhere as were meadow pipits and we did see a pair of stonechats perched above the heather. As we approached the cliff edge two choughs came over the cliff and flew just above our heads which were amazing. We could appreciate the bright red of their bills and legs.

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A pair of swallows flew in off the sea. Now as the proverb says one swallow does not make a summer but it doesn’t mention the critical number of swallows needed to initiate summer. However, I think that two are not necessarily sufficient to guarantee good weather. I suppose it is even more naive to associate summer and good weather in this climate.

As early evening approached we drove to Holyhead fish quay where we found two black guillemots and strangely a great crested grebe.

black guillemot

Across the harbour curlews, redshanks and oystercatchers were turning over the seaweed searching for food.

We arrived at the bed and breakfast as the sun set and after a cup of tea, we meandered to the local pub, accompanied by the song thrush in the field. At the pub, we had a lovely home cooked meal. Walking back in the dark we realised how much light pollution there is in the city as the sky was full of stars and despite the fall in temperature we spent a while finding familiar constellations.

 

 

As we prepared for bed we were visited by a tabby cat who took up residence outside our room. If anything could have made the day more perfect it would have been a cat.

Norfolk in February

Having both had the food poisoning a week ago, it took us all week to recover. However, I had booked a weekend in North Norfolk staying in Hunstanton. Again we didn’t set off until after half past seven. We miss you nagging us to get up early and get going.  We had an excellent drive to Norfolk and found ourselves at Titchwell RSPB just after 10 am.

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We had a wonderful walk down to the beach picking up waders right and left.

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Marsh harriers were new to us and most of the common waders. On the sea, we found great northern diver, red-breasted mergansers and both velvet and common scoters. There were hundreds of common scoter and about 70 velvet scoters.

 

Sanderlings, oystercatchers, curlews, and bar-tailed tailed godwits patrolled the edge of the beach. Linnets and other mixed finches flew about the salt marsh. It was a cold day with a stiff breeze but we were well wrapped up and in high spirits. We went to Choseley barns to look for yellowhammers and corn buntings. We found both grey and red-legged partridge and loads of hares dashing around the fields.

We headed to the digs had an early night and woke up refreshed. We had to wait until after 9am for breakfast so we were late to set off.

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We went to Holkham where we found spoonbills, over 200 white-fronted geese, Brent geese and Egyptian geese, great white egret. We found over 20 shore larks on the beach.

 

 

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We walked back to the car with five minutes to spare on the parking and drove to the watch point at the end of Holkham pines where we found a huge flock of pink-footed geese so having seen all the common geese, we headed back to Choseley barns. We were rewarded with a view of a male yellowhammer. So we had a lovely weekend with over 30 new species for the year, some lovely walks and good food and a lovely place to stay. We have found that these short breaks are as good as a small holiday.

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At Titchwell we found some snowdrops and two different species of fungi candle snuff and orange peel fungus.

A Wintry walk on the wild side

Dear Sons,

As this week was half term we decided to travel North to Durham last weekend. As we are lazy it was after 7 o clock in the morning when we set off and arrived at Skinninggrove beach just South of Redcar, where an Eastern Black Redstart had been sighted.

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As we got out of the car the strength of the wind nearly blew us across the car park. The rain was so hard it stung our faces. We had wrapped up so well we resembled a Michelin man and could barely move our limbs. We slowly wobbled our way to the beach. Everywhere there were pied wagtails and numerous Rock pipits. Several small birds kept popping out from behind the rocks and after concentrating on finding one that stayed still long enough we found a male Stonechat. A really handsome bird, once we had seen one stonechat we kept seeing more of them.

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At the side of the beach, a number of small birds fluttered among the rocks. Some kind person had put down bird seed and it was not many minutes before the black redstart took advantage and perched up.

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Dunnocks, robins and pied wagtails competed with the black redstart and yet more stonechats. Here is the big model of a boat.

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In one corner there was a long concrete plinth with this picture on it I thought it was quite amusing. Especially considering one did not even have to breathe in the air merely opening the mouth was sufficient to obtain a lung full.

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Shivering we returned to the car and continued on to the beach at Redcar, where we hoped to find snow buntings. The beach was deserted this could have been due to the cold wind. Visibility was obscured due to the tears springing spontaneously from our eyes.

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Nevertheless, we are tough, so we struggled along the concrete path fighting the wind until we found several snow buntings crouching amongst the pebbles on the beach along with a few turnstones.

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Having been blown back towards the car we found a small cafe and stopped for lunch at Northern prices so very reasonable. We took the decision to see if we could get red and black grouse. After all on a day full of driving rain and fierce winds, where would one chose to be but on the Durham moors? We drove for about an hour and finally started to climb up the steep road towards the moors.  As the road grew steeper the rain turned to sleet and then to snow although it was not so heavy.

 

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We drove along the road at a magnificent 20 miles and hour. We passed only two other vehicles daft enough to be out in that weather. As we drove along we found lots of red grouse among the roadside. We saw a couple of female black grouse. The snow grew heavier and the visibility was decreasing and with the road becoming treacherous we decided to head back off the moor. As we were coming off the moor we were treated to the sight of a male black grouse standing framed on a farm gate. We stopped to see if there were any dippers but they had all gone elsewhere and I for one do not blame them.

Saturday evening I was very ill with food poisoning I think so Sunday we got up slowly and Drove to Hartlepool Headland. I pottered along the front. The wind had increased overnight. Again tears sprang to my eyes. The wind had whipped the sea into lots of foam and this blew over the sea walls coating everything with foam so that the edge of the water appeared as if it had been coated with fairy liquid.

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We found some eider on the sea and a shag flew past. Finally, we found some purple sandpipers cowering amongst the seaweed and rock pipits hid in the rocks. We found a curlew or two and some redshanks and yet more turnstones.

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In the fish quay, red-breasted mergansers swam about and a red-throated diver fished.

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We saw at least two seals who come up to take a look at us. I couldn’t stop shivering so we cut the time short and went to Saltholme RSPB. I was too ill to walk around the reserve but we did see some lovely wigeon, teal and shoveler from the main hide. They have a huge population of tree sparrows and numbers of goldfinches and greenfinches. As we drove away we found a large flock of Barnacle geese grazing in a field and a massive flock of golden plovers on the marsh.

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I am sure there were more species that we missed but I was just too ill to enjoy it so we came home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sea ducks in the centre of the country

Sunday Morning dawned clear and cold with a surprisingly light breeze. We drove up to Stoke Bardolph in the bright winter sunshine. Turning beside the sewage works we drove towards the village and finally found ourselves beside the river. In the bright light, everything appeared more vivid than usual and the whole scene had the air of a dream or a story with the slow winding river, the fringes of trees and the fields on either side. Among these trees were nearly a hundred fieldfares and redwings feeding on the fields.

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On the left-hand side of the river, a wind turbine was visible high above the hedges and fields.

I have always found these beautiful, especially when compared to electricity pylons and this one was turning steadily. The power lines hummed and crackled as we walked beneath them. On the river, to our right-hand side, a flotilla of tufted ducks drifted in the current. It took only a moment before we picked out the female scaup with the huge white blaze above the bill the lack of the crest and the greater size.

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A photographer attempting to get a closer shot drove the flock across the river but they gradually returned. In the meantime, a flash of yellow flew across the path and I cursed having missed a possible gray wagtail. A few minutes later the gray wagtail appeared beside the outflow balancing on a railing and showing itself to great advantage.

Image is courtesy of the wildlife trusts many thanks

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I obtained excellent views and was looking forward to investigation the swans I could see further down the river, but as we stood there the mist came down and the whole scene was engulfed, the view obliterated and even the turbine was obscured. What could we do but drive home? We found a whole flock of geese further along the road and stopped to photograph them and search for any rarer species. On the way home, we decided to call at Long Eaton Meadows to look for this common scoter reputed to be present on the gravel pits. It was damp and dull by the time we arrived and parked on a sodden and muddy lane. We both searched for a few minutes over a cold lake, with a piercing wind blowing directly at us before we found the common scoter. Image is courtesy of Nottinghamshire Birdwatchers Many thanks

Image is courtesy of Nottinghamshire Birdwatchers Many thanks

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Again we had an excellent view as it dived and swam about. Usually, these ducks are obscured by the waves and breakers, but on a flat gravel pit it presented an excellent view and we were able to fully appreciate the plumage for possibly the first time. We watched the bird for some twenty minutes until the rain commenced in earnest and sleet particles began to trickle down our necks. Still, three new species were seen and excellent views of all three obtained.

Once again hope you enjoyed hearing about our adventures. Kind regards Mum

A Foretaste of Spring

This morning we made a supreme effort and managed to drag our weary bodies out of bed early. After a brief breakfast, we headed off to Rufford Abbey and country park.

 

All week there have been up to ten hawfinches in the trees surrounding the car park and we wanted to see these birds. We crossed the city in record time and found ourselves getting out of the car less than 45 minutes after we had set out. Following the know of birdwatchers in the car park gave us directions to nine hawfinches obligingly perched high in a tree.

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They remained in full view for approximately 15 minutes. It was the best view of hawfinches I have ever had. Around us, blue tits great tits nuthatches and chaffinches all sang at the top of their voices. We had limited time due to an appointment at 11am so we headed for the lake. 

Although the weather was cold four degrees it was bright and sunny and we found our first snowdrops in flower. You may not be able to feel spring is around the corner. You may not be able to see it but these small signs are the foretastes and promises of the spring and they always make me happy.

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Hazel trees were full of catkins and we saw wild arum just poking above the soil. Great tits, robins, and blackbirds have been shouting all week about how sexy they are and proclaiming territory. Indeed earlier this week a blackbird was still singing well after dark just near the library

Our diligence was rewarded with four goosanders two males and two females on the lake. Some species of birds were obviously accustomed to being fed regularly by visitors. A crowd of robins followed us hopefully whilst blue tits and great tits hovered nearby. At a bridge, we were treated to sights of a coal tit a few feet away from us great tits and blue tits were everywhere as were dunnocks robins and an occasional wren. A goldcrest hovered at the edge of a yew completely oblivious to our presence.

 

 

Our pleasure was increased by a flock of approximately fifty siskins who flew into the trees at the edge of the lake. One of two of us were sure there was redpoll amongst them but your father refuses to be convinced. None of those I saw had the red forehead but they did have the streaky pattern and buff wing bars of immature redpolls. 

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We headed back to the car seeing treecreeper, nuthatch and two great spotted woodpeckers on the way. We missed the brief flash of a kingfisher as it shot past. However, despite this disappointment, we saw three new species for the year Hawfinch, siskin and treecreeper. The drive home took twice as long as the early morning drive. For a short trip, we picked up four new species for the year, had wonderful views and had a lovely walk in the sunshine. A really lovely morning. As you can see the close-up shots of birds courtesy of Nottinghamshire birdwatchers are far superior to anything our camera can achieve. Hope everything is going well.

Love Mum 

 

A walk on the cold side

Hi

As you aware this week was my birthday. I had planned for us to go away for the weekend do a couple of walks enjoy a pub meal and visit the odd tea shop and potter home in tie for an early night before work on Monday. However when the weather reports forecast high tides, snow and gales and people on the coast started to be evacuated I reconsidered.

Despite the worst predictions of the weather forecasters today started off dry if rather cloudy. We decided to use the time to catch up on a bit of bird watching so we drove to Nottingham looking for waxwings. These rather endearing birds arrive in the UK from Scandinavia every few years when their numbers rise. They spend the winters here feeding on berries alongside the redwings, fieldfares thrushes and blackbirds. These four had chosen to Station themselves alongside a busy road in the suburb of Carrington in Nottingham where a row of trees full of berries were just ready to be eaten. They really were this clear

(Your father didn’t take his camera so this is one from LentonCliftongrove Birds – official website Cliftongrove Birds – official website534 × 640Search by image

Waxwing – Lenton)

 

waxwing2aWe also found a number of redwings enjoying the berries not to mention blackbirds and a mistle thrush.

(You can see the author of the image in the top)

redwingWe became a bit cold and decided to drive to Eyebrook Reservoir. We parked at the edge of the reservoir and found at least three male smew with attendant females.

Smew – Mergus albellus | NatureSpot NatureSpot773 × 563Search by image

Mergus albellus – Chris Lythall – Eyebrook Reservoir

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canstock13875012There was a shoot over the far side of the reservoir but we did manage to find a kingfisher at the dam . It was an excellent sighting of a male as it didn’t move for quite a few minutes. I also saw a great spotted woodpecker unfortunately it flew off before I could share it.

(owls about that then!: November 2015 Owl’s about that then!700 × 626Search by image

Kingfisher No 2)

kingfisherThe little owl was sitting in the sunshine against the tree but on the side out of the wind.  For once it looked more sleepy than grumpy.

(Rod’s Birding: A afternoon’s birding in Leicestershire and Rutland …Rod’s Birding800 × 450Search by image)

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We had a lovely few of fields of fieldfare and redwings.  Before we headed to Rutland Water. We were welcomed to the car park by the sight of a red Kite soaring above our heads.

Rod’s Birding: A day’s birding at Rutland Water, Rutland …Rod’s Birding800 × 450Search by image

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We found goosander on the main lagoon but instead of walking round we headed off to the North arm to see if we could find the black necked and slavonian grebes that have been about.

As we parked the car we found this bird in the edge of a lagoon along with grey heron and little egret just for comparison.

David Gray on Twitter: “One of the Great White Egrets on Lagoon 3 …Twitter1200 × 900Search by image

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We found both the slavonian grebe and black necked grebe 2 of each.

Slavonian Grebe – Podiceps auritus | NatureSpotNatureSpot1024 × 720Search by image

Podiceps auritus – Steve Mathers –

We heard that there was a red necked grebe on the Hamilton peninsula so we ended our day with seeing this bird.

Moysie’s Birding Blogmoysiesbirdtrips.blogspot.com400 × 296Search by image

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We found quite a few canny red legged partridge that had escaped the slaughter.  All in all we saw sixteeen new species had a lovely day out and were home before it got too dark

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Thank you to everyone whose images I have used to illustrate this narrative.

 

A reflection on 2016

So the old year has fled and the new year is entered as the song goes. It has been a turbulent year. Some events I found hard to believe and at the risk of sounding like Victor Meldrew I found myself amazed. Yet I still find myself believing that somehow through all the disasters and mistakes of the last 12 months things will sort themselves out.

 

I couldn’t believe that we voted to leave the EU and though I am resolved that when the majority of people vote we should follow their decision I still worry about what will happen in this country.  Perhaps if we succeed in those things that we excel at and improve in those things we are worse at, it will not be too bad. I seems that I am not alone in believing this.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/748918/britain-brexit-eu-referendum-positive-opinion-france-italy-netherlands

I couldn’t believe that the Americans voted for Donald Trump. This frightens me more than our own situation. However as there is nothing to be done about it it is a waste of time bemoaning the decision. There are enough people predicting doom and disaster. I prefer to concentrate on the positive things in our lives.

Finishing off the negative events

Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen are so awful they are beyond words.  I dare not dwell on the things that happen in these countries lest I despair.

This year we lost some of my favourite public figures Alan Rickman  was my favourite along with  Victoria Wood but I also liked Andrew Sachs, Jimmy Perry, Gene Wilder and Caroline Aherne, not to mention Ronnie Corbett and Terry Wogan. I all seems very sad. The list is available here. I always thought Alan Rickman was a very attractive man and Victoria Wood made me cry with laughing.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/celebrity-deaths-2016-debbie-reynolds-7797848

Finally there were the natural events earthquakes and floods. These also wrung our hearts.

The positive things

These have to be excavated from the general negativity of news. British athletes did incredibly well in Brazil as did the Para-Olympians.

Closer to home we live in a country where we can say what we want as long as we don’t  incite hatred and violence. We can do what we want unless we break the law . We can believe what we want and worship freely. Political debate is open and fair.

We have one of the best broadcasters in the world the BBC is renowned throughout the world.

We have a free education, free healthcare and a benefits system however overstretched these facilities are. Many countries do not possess these things.

The police and armed services work very hard to protect us from terrorists.

We have more top universities that most other countries, we have excellent schools. We have extraordinary museums, art galleries and libraries.

We have some of the most beautiful countryside in the world.

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We are never too far from the sea. We cherish our wildlife and our access to the countryside as few other nations do.

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We have a rich and diverse history that we celebrate and we produce some of the best scientists, engineers, actors, musicians, writers, and poets in the world.

Above all, despite the constant negativity of much of the media, I have found most people to be kind and courteous, welcoming and friendly.

I think on reflection that we have much to be proud and thankful for and that for us our lives have fallen in a good land.

I am facing this year with optimism in the belief that we will survive and prosper.

Happy new year

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Holidays

School finished for the Christmas holidays today. Concerts have been performed, presents given, the annual Christmas exhortation from the headmaster delivered, a mince pie consumed and with hugs and good wishes exchanged, off we went in our cars. I am going in over the holidays to sort some things out so the new term does not find me unprepared.

Meanwhile in another part of the city a young man covered in blood staggered about the street crying for help. When police found him he directed them to a house where a woman had been murdered. In a related incident another man stepped in front of a lorry on the M1. It certainly puts things into perspective.

Not that we were aware of any of this as we crawled home through the gridlock of the city caused by this incident. The long queues of traffic still very much in evidence this evening.

As there is nothing I can do about any of this becoming upset will merely weaken me whilst not helping anyone else, consequently time to move to another topic.

Just over two whole weeks of holiday what a luxury.

I made a few resolutions to keep myself from getting carried away. Meals at certain times so I don’t spend all holiday n the kitchen.

A walk every day so I get to see some trees and bushes and retain my sanity.

Beside my bed a pile of books is waiting. the anticipation of pleasure is often as great as the pleasure itself. Thus I am currently in the happy position of anticipating a full two weeks filled with reading, walks, sewing, music and good food.

We have visitors so I will clean and tidy initially and then relax.  The house is full of food and decorated for Christmas, there is plenty alcohol for my visitors ( I rarely drink).

Nevertheless a few chores await me. A visit to the vet with the elderly cat, currently on antibiotics and painkillers, a trip to collect my new winter pyjamas. Younger women may gloat over a new dress but I love a new warm pair of pyjamas to snuggle in clean sheets on the bed and a good book to read.

So I started to read Robert Macfarlane’s book Landscape about the terms used to describe our landscape. This is a fascinating read, many of the terms being archaic have fallen out of use.

I was disappointed to learn that many of the words for nature that I had taken for granted in my childhood were no longer part of the Junior Oxford English Dictionary. These are not unusual words but acorn, buttercup, almond, blackberry as a fruit, crocus etc.

This is a lesser celandine however just to remind me how much I look forward to spring

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All these words are connected with nature and have been dropped whilst blog, chatroom, cut and paste, block graph have been added. I have no problem with the additions. However I can’t help thinking that removing so many words related to nature reflects the increasing impoverishment of the lives of many children.

Are our urban areas so depleted of plants that children no longer recognise acorns and conkers or many wild flowers?

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Or is it that many children live in an urban environment they play indoors and spend many hours in front of a screen of one sort or another. Even when outside their phones go with them. Basically to summarise they live lives completed separated from the external environment ?

Since research has demonstrated that a connection to the natural world is beneficial for our mental well being will the next generation be more inclined to suffer from depression in addition to being deprived of some evocative names?

I read Nature Cure some years ago and was impressed with the account of how reconnecting with the natural environment enabled Richard Mabey to recover from severe depression. The articles below reinforce those arguments.

Here are the articles I read to research these phenomena

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jan/13/oxford-junior-dictionary-replacement-natural-word

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/healing-green/201212/biophilia-our-connection-the-natural-world

https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enhance-your-wellbeing/environment/nature-and-us/how-does-nature-impact-our-wellbeing

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4157607/

What do you think? Am I deluded or nostalgic for a past age where life was simpler? The problem with this is that I am too close to this subject to be truly impartial. I just wondered. I leave you with a picture of snowdrops as a foretaste of what is coming in the new year.

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Cardiff art collection landscapes

Hi,

Once again I am here telling you about our weekend in Cardiff. The meeting of BWARS was on at the museum in Cardiff so I accompanied your father down for a break. When we arranged it I wasn’t aware that one of you would be coming home for a wedding. However by the time I found out the hotel was booked. In the end as you only passed through briefly on Friday night and Sunday evening I didn’t feel I was neglecting you.

We arrived early for the first meeting and parked in the long stay parking. The entomology department has been reduced considerably  due to cuts and they operate on a skeleton staff.

In spite of this there were several younger people at the meeting. After eating lunch, I skipped the ID session not wanting to spend hours looking at insects down a microscope. I signed up for the free art tour and we were shown around by a volunteer who took us to see the landscapes.

The first landscapes were from the early seventeenth century and appeared more as architect plans for a house and garden than paintings. They were  designed to show off how wealthy the owners were and thus how much land they possessed.  Of course now that the house and gardens no longer exist it is invaluable to historians who want to find out how these houses were laid out and how the gardens of the time were designed. On painting is of the front of the house and gardens and one of the rear. On the right you can see the sea in the background

We were lead on a whistle stop tour through some Poussin landscapes where we were shown how the story of the picture had diminished over time and the landscape had come to dominate the canvas.

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The story of this particular landscape is of a general who had been falsely accused forces to commit suicide and here his body is being taken out of the city of Athens for disposal elsewhere. Late in the story he is pardoned so his grieving widow brings his ashes back for a proper burial in the city.  The other painting in this pair shows the widow of the general gathering up his ashes so that she can return them to the city.

Well that’s all right then unless you are the dead general. Anyway this particular painting was bought by Clive of India who had similar problems to the general in the painting without (thankfully) the forced suicide.  Perhaps he empathised with the plight of public humiliation of someone who had worked so hard for their country, perhaps he thought that his reputation would be cleared?

In the Nether;ands in the 17th century the merchant class grew after the end of the wars with Spain and as a result artists flourished as wealthy patrons looked for something to spend all that money on and show how wealthy they were. In this picture the scene is painted from a boat anchored on the water.

I expect if you were a merchant the last thing you would want on the wall sis a storm at sea, reminding you off all that investment perilously sailing to your customers. Consequently here it is very calm and the water is barely moving. Again for historians this provides a great deal of detail on costumes or ordinary sailors at the time and how the boats were designed. The sailing boat with the bent mast is a sail that is opened downwards under gravity rather than being hoisted. The operation requires fewer sailors and such sails were used on London barges of the time.

Then the pastoral movement provided bucolic scenes of plenty and contentment from artists that were removed from the daily privations. No mud, no toil, no smells, no poverty, no exploitation, just happy shepherds and milkmaids.

Here is a Gainsborough.

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This soldiers farewell was one of my  favourites, although the sentiments are maudlin and very Victorian the picture is almost photographic in the portrayal of the scene and so sharp. I felt I could touch the scene. (Of course I didn’t try). Fanciful I may be but not deluded.

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At the end of the nineteenth century came the impressionists and here the landscapes have an unfocused dreamlike quality. thanks to the generosity of two sisters who bequeathed their collection to the museum there are many impressionist paintings.

The bottom painting on the right reminded me of lake Anguilara although it is London.

 

These next paintings were painted by  Alfred Sisely and are a couple of views of the coast of Wales. He  was born and lived in France, but was a british citizen. He had a French mistress with whom he had a number of children. However it was the law that if you were not married neither your partner nor your children could inherit. So his mistress put her foot down and they came to the UK and to Wales presumably to keep things quiet in case of a scandal and they were married in Cardiff.  Once married there was no problem about the inheritance. During their honeymoon he went out painting every day and the result are these charming landscapes. He was one of the impressionists who believed in painting in the open air  “en plein air”. The museum has two lovely paintings of the Welsh coast that he painted at this time.

 

It is curious to think that had the railway not been developed artists would have found it much more difficult to travel to out of the way places to paint. In addition paint was produced in tubes making more portable, no more grinding pigments and mixing them every time you wanted to paint. Canvases were pre-prepared so they could be carried around . Do you agree? This impressionist painting reminded me of those intense dreamlike landscapes of Van Gogh.

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These tiny landscapes were lovely  despite being over 200 years old they appear curiously modern. I think it is to do with their  brightness, clean lines and clear colours. Again they had that photographic quality.  I liked them.

 

Finally here are the last few landscapes the first in a John Singer Sargent known for his portraits but here he paints a tyrolean landscape with two figures reclining. Almost photographic it draws you in.

 

Here are a couple of twentieth century paintings one of men making hay more modern happy peasants and the other cute children by the seaside. Both were utterly charming and portray an ideal world. After horrific wars perhaps people wanted to believe that the world would become a better place or perhaps they were harking back to an earlier more leisurely romantic time. What do you think?

 

 

 

The Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at the castle

Dear Sons,

On Sunday we decide to go to Nottingham castle to visit the exhibition of da Vinci drawings that have been loaned from the Royal Collection. As usual on a Sunday we had a number of jobs to do before we could go and it was late morning before we got the bus. Parking in town has become so expensive and difficult we preferred the bus.

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These were studies for a giant statue of a horse in bronze. However when the French captured the city the soldiers used his initial model for target practice and the statue was never built.

It was lunchtime when we reached the castle. At the moment if you pay for entry you get a years membership so it is worth paying. Both of us have  a years membership. It was a lovely late summer day just right, sunny but not too hot and with a light breeze to keep the temperature down.  We enjoyed the views over the city and pointed out landmarks for each other. The exhibition was upstairs next to the art gallery. Dad had brought his camera and took some photos so I could send them to you  (without flash of course).

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 These drawings are astronomical

Although there were only ten drawings in total, there was a video showing how the paper was prepared and the drawings executed. I found this fascinating. Then boards with details of Leonardo’s life and works. I was photographed as the Mona Lisa for a giggle I should crop it and use it as my avatar perhaps?

Finally we got to view the drawings and they were magnificent. Much smaller than you would think but so beautiful and enchanting in their perfection and playfulness. You could see where he had tried out ideas and scribbled notes and lines of poetry.

Here are some studies of felines of various species. I particularly like the miniature dragon

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It was all so much more intimate than seeing  finished art works. It felt as if we were seeing inside his thoughts, not quite as intimate as reading a diary, but an insight into the mind of a genius. Having seen the materials he had to work with, made the delicacy of the writing and the fine lines of the drawing all the more impressive. I had to keep reminding myself of how ephemeral these images are and how many hundreds of years ago they had been produced.

This is a study for the head of Saint Anne the mother of The Virgin Mary the final piece shows St Anne with Mary on her lap and the infant Jesus

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Here is a diagram of the circulatory system

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Here the diagram shows an enlarged pancreas and a small liver. It is inconceivable that such a meticulous draughtsman would have made an error, which could indicate that the subject whose dissection was the source for these drawings had diseased organs.

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We finished the visit by wandering through the artworks showing each other our favourites. I like the Laura Knights’ whereas Dad prefers the more romantic realistic landscapes. We debated the species of dragonfly in one of the still life paintings I argued for black tailed skimmer he favoured broad bodied chaser. We had lunch in the cafe and pottered back mid afternoon to do some work on the garden.

This drawing of blackberries is in chalk such an ephemeral material and it has survived all these hundreds of years.

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We bought the book of the exhibition and when we have read it we will send it to you. Well that is all my news for this weekend.

This figure is rather short and stocky but again incredibly well preserved considering the drawing was done when the wars of the roses were taking part in England.

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This is a storm scene

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