Tuesday, 8 November 2011

At last a weekend at home........

It's the first weekend in November 2011 and at last I've taken a breath, workload is reducing slightly and I'm taken stock, feel the embryonic energies of blogging coming back to the fold. When I began this blog 4 years or so ago, I had a completely different lifestyle, different job, different places to visit and well looking back it seems like a long time ago, especially as back in those days I seemed to have to a lot more time to go out and watch wildlife. But then again I now get paid to go out and watch wildlife, can't be bad, so I hear you say, "he doth protest too much"

So, now the mood has taken me, let me take you back to last weekend. It began with that dreadful crash on the M5 on Friday, not that far from where I live. I do a lot of driving now for my work, too much really, and what happened then really makes one stop and think of the fragility, the veneer our cosy modern life provides. What happened at Taunton really made me reassess.

So it was with a relish we woke on Saturday for a pre-planned visit to friends in Thornbury, in South Gloucestershire. The weather was fine, so we pootled off for a wonderful 3 hour walk/talk/amble along the Gloucester Canal at Purton (home of the original Bill Oddie programme on starling displays, more on that later).

Not long into our walk, we spied a rambling ivy across a stone wall. Bearing in mind this was November 5th it was covered in insects feeding on the nectar of these late season ivy flowers. A year or so back I made a Living World programme on the importance of Ivy in the winter and ever since then have been fascinated by how important this plant is to insects later in the year.

So important in fact I think a campaign should be started, "leave ivy alone" - keep it bushy, keep it messy, until April at least.

Onwards we strolled to take in the sights and sounds of the canal

Where soon we came across the undisputed highlight of the walk....

I do like gnomes. Maybe not as many as there are here, but every garden should have one. We're all much too sensible these days, and actually the original gnomes were there to bring good luck to the garden.

I'd never been this way before but had heard of the Purton Graveyard. A century or so back the Severn was a shipping highway but by the 1960's this shipping was in decline. As boats became obsolete they were rammed into the river bank to help stop river erosion from the huge tides the Severn experiences. Until recently these hulks were slowly rotting into the silt, but now these fascinating remnants of an industrial past are being preserved, with regular guided walks and information boards on each boat, when it was rammed into the riverbank and so on. Industrial archeology used to bore me rigid, but now, I love it. A sign of getting older I guess.

Not everything is about the boats though, as on the riverbank between a pair of boats this chickory was in flower, with quite a bit of it growing around this area.

This tower gives the names of all the boats lying here...

A concrete lighter

A plaque commemorating the destruction of the Wye Severn bridge when a barge hit a pillar and the whole lot came a-tumbling down.

Not the actual barge, but you get the idea

Amazing so much activity took place in what is now such a peaceful place.

Soon it was journeys end, the entrance to the Gloucester Canal, now blocked off at Sharpness with a lovely waterfall

And an interesting building, which is under threat apparently

It had been a fascinating 'bees knees' of a stroll out to the end of the canal, but now it was time to return.

Which brought about the wildlife spectacle of the day, not one but three peregrines flying about the canal. Two birds were pseudo-food passing so presumably pairing up for next year. Amazing to see,especially thinking back that only a few decades ago, seeing a peregrine was a rarity and usually in very remote places. Good to see them making such a good comeback.

Nearly home now........ but it wasn't far from here we also saw a kingfisher.

That was Saturday, rounded off with a fantastic meal back at my friends and then home to see the fireworks.

Sunday dawned bright and fare. Which was good as it was destined to be make the Christmas cake day, as can be seen by the chef hard at work...... oh dear look at the state of that kitchen!!

It was all too much so we had to escape while the cake was in the oven. And escape we did, to the Somerset Levels, Canada Farm Lake to be exact, just a short drive from me.

Such a glorious late afternoon to be walking up the lane to the bird hide

And so we made ourselves comfortable in the hide and waited to see what happened.... such a wonderful and peaceful place.

We weren't expecting these but all of a sudden thousands of starlings emerged and flew right over our heads to Westhay a few miles away. This is the first winter starling flock I've seen this year and it was such a pleasure to witness it on our own, made more so by the surprise of their passing overhead. It's still early in the season for the big flocks of 1 million + birds , but a sure sign winter is on its way.

And while we waited for more to pass,we could just admire the view.

Again, again and again....

But all too soon it was getting too dark to see any more starlings so off we walked back to the car, observing this moon and sixpence view on the way back. Magical.

Lets leave the last word to the starlings though........


  1. Welcome back Andrew - sounds like you had a wonderful weekend.
    I love the gnome garden - I have a few gnomes scattered round mine and its nice to know they are supposed to bring good luck!
    And thanks for reminding me its Christmas Baking time!
    Look forward to your next post.

  2. Thanks Robin..... gnomes are essential!!

  3. Some lovely pictures here Andrew. You are putting an idea in my head that maybe I should have a gnome in the garden, lol.