Panshanger Park wildlife trail

December 15, 2014

I am pleased to see that the new wildlife trail at Panshanger Park is now open to the public. The 185-metre trail is in the south-east corner of the park, at the eastern end of Osprey Lake, and is within the environmentally-sensitive nature reserve area of the site.

The project has been part-funded by Natural England and forms part of a three-year landscape-scale project, involving partners from, and improvement works to, places across the whole of the River Lea catchment area. The newly constructed trail will provide visitors with a new opportunity to view the wildlife at Osprey Lake, and next summer will give them close-up views of the dragonflies which live in the adjacent wetlands.

This is an impressive project, and I hope to pay a visit soon.

Yesterday’s sickening incident in Woolwich…

May 23, 2013

I absolutely condemn the horrific actions which took place in Woolwich yesterday afternoon. Praise should go to the club scout leader Ingrid Loyau-Kennett for bravely attempting to defuse the situation before security forces arrived. The Government’s immediate reaction and the reconvention of COBRA last night shows that such actions will not be tolerated in the UK. David Cameron’s statement this morning and the actions taken by the police and security forces subsequently, reinforces this message. Our thoughts are with the family of the victim concerned.

The Olympics and the Paralympics…

August 16, 2012

After all the time and effort spent preparing for the Olympics, I thought they went seamlessly -and I am not just talking about the brilliant medal tally GB achieved. Every day during the last two weeks, the BBC provided coverage of the many and interesting sports which athletes from across the world can take part in and when I could, I very much enjoyed watching them. I was lucky enough to attend the Olympic Park to watch one of the first basketball games live between Great Britain and Russia and despite the wet weather on the way to the Olympic Park which failed to dampen the British spirit, it was an extremely enjoyable experience. The whole park looked wonderful and was adorned with beautiful borders of flowers, which I understand were all grown in Norfolk. The support for spectators getting to the event, whether in the form of clockwork transport, smiley volunteers eager to assist with direction or just general lavatory facilities at the venue, was extremely efficient too. By last Sunday’s closing ceremony I scarcely wanted the Olympic experience to end but needless to say the closing ceremony like the opening one was a fitting tribute to the Games successfully interspersed with typically British overtones.

Thankfully however the Olympic experience is far from over because in under two weeks from now the Paralympics will commence and once more when I can, I will once more be able to indulge my fascination with sport. -For the Olympic events which have already taken place however, well done to all the incredible athletes who performed in them and well done to Lord Coe and his amazing team for making it happen. -For the Paralympics which have yet to start, good luck to all those taking part (especially the British ones) and let’s hope the medal tally is equally as high!

When is a field not a field?

September 24, 2009

forest3. landscapeWhen is a field not a field? When it is about to become part of Heartwood Forest, the largest new native forest ever to be created in England. The Woodland Trust charity has bought 850 acres of arable farmland at Sandridge, north of St Albans, and begins planting the first of 600,000 new trees in November. This will be a major boost for the Hertfordshire environment and put us at the forefront of nature conservation in the UK. I went for a walk around the site this week and was briefed on the work by the Senior Woodland Officer overseeing the project, Al Crosby, and Trust expert, Dr James Cooper.

We started in one of the 2 small areas of ancient woodland remaining on the land. It is shocking to hear that nearly 50% of ancient woodland (defined as being over 400 years old) that survived until the 1930s has disappeared since then. This small wood is mainly hornbeam which would previously have been coppiced for firewood. It is well-used these days by local scouts and schoolchildren taking part in Forest School sessions run by the Forestry Commission. This striking sculpture is a memento of a willow-weaving course run over the summer. forest2.jpg - stag

We walked on across the field where planting begins in a few weeks. The Trust hope that all of the new trees will be planted by volunteers, so that the local community will feel a sense of pride as the forest takes shape. Within 12 years, the area should be recognisable as woodland. We carried on to the second area of ancient woodland, which had a very different character. This was mainly ash and oak. Al has had an inspired idea. The adjoining wheat field was harvested last year and could have been included in the re-planting scheme. Instead, he has decided to leave a large part of it undisturbed to allow the wood to regenerate itself. Apparently ash trees produce plentiful seeds, which are easily carried on the wind. I was staggered to see that within the past 12 months, scores of seeds have taken root over a wide area of the field and have already produced shoots up to a foot high. There are also oaks growing from acorns carried by squirrels, but these are less abundant. forest4. Visit to Heartwood

This photo shows Al, me and James admiring one of the ash plants. I shall look forward to going back next year to see how this natural extension of the ancient woodland has progressed.

The Heartwood Forest project is exciting, imaginative and of enormous benefit to the county.

Watton-at-Stone Church Fete

May 26, 2009

There is something quintessentially English about a large Church Fete on a field below a flint church flying the St George’s flag. The last two Mays have been wet for fetes and Watton-at-Stone Church Fete has been no exception, so it was especially welcome that the weather kept fine on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon.

Christine and I were shown round the stalls by Ian Knight, wearing his other hat (from the River Beane Restoration Association) as one of the Fete organisers. My mother and daughter Victoria also came and enjoyed the stalls and the Tea Tent. The scones and home-made jam disrupted my latest diet. Victoria is an art student and thought many of the cups and saucers on the bric-a-brac stall “really cool and retro”.

Christine and I had a try at the grass skis and we felt that with practice … we could do well…Ian Knight used to run the darts stall and it showed. He won at “hit the pink spot” and I lost.

The dog show was a new innovation and the categories were not too strict. The winners were “beautiful dog” and “prettiest bitch” without too much Kennel Club input – just nice looking animals. The atmosphere was more fun as a result.

I was delighted that Des showed me round his traditional “Punch and Judy” Show. Everyone loved it and it makes you proud to see the tradition continue, although Des and other performers work for the pleasure of it. Parts of the act were quite scary, particularly Judy’s meat grinder! Local lads were enjoying operating the PC’s siren in his Z car and “Holby” fans had a chance to view a state-of-the-art ambulance costing £63,000.

I am short of a few runner beans and the Garden Stall obliged. It was nice to see local landowner Ralph Abel Smith on the gate collecting the entrance money and Parish Council Chairman Nigel Poulton on the “White Elephant” stall. Watton Fete did well and they hope to make £8,000 for the Church. Well done to everyone on a very worthwhile English occasion!

St George’s Day

April 23, 2009

Between school and university I spent some time living and working in Switzerland and I always thought of this poem when I remembered home. I am posting it for St George’s Day.

Home-thoughts, from abroad

Oh to be in England
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England – now!

And after April, when May follows
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark! where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops – at the bent spray’s edge –
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower
– Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower

Robert Browning (1812 – 1889)

Early Spring

Early Spring