Juney Tunes

We are now on the wrong side of the Summer Solstice but hold the despair – we still have a good few months of light evenings and (hopefully) agreeable weather ahead.

But enough about that – this is actually a blog that got in on time!

June was jam-packed and finished with a flourish at Lakenheath – despite an unusually poor start. The initial outlook of possible showers morphed into a bit of a deluge that kept us pinned in the coach for half an hour before we could venture out onto the reserve.

A former carrot field, Lakenheath is one of those reserves where seeing stuff is secondary to enjoying the vast skies and landscapes of the Suffolk countryside.

We had already enjoyed a brief stop at Weeting Heath where the Stone Curlews were upstaged by dancing stoats but Lakenheath is the superior site by far (and also not quite as needy for cash as Weeting’s Norfolk Wildlife Trust!)

Lakenheath spoiled us with Common Cranes, Bearded Tits, good views of Kingfishers, wads of Marsh Harriers and hunting Hobbies.

There was also this interesting insect on view. Obviously an Agapanthia villosoviridescens – the Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle no less.

Pete managed this snap of it.




OK, its a fair cop – we hadn’t a clue what it was really! However, Dr Joe Botting from www.britishbugs.org.uk helped us out with a swift identification!

Previous to this, we had started the month with a trip up to Bempton Cliffs, the soaring, seabird-stacked buttresses between Bridlington and Scarborough. A long coach journey was rewarded with a sunny day and splendid views across the sea. Just about every seabird imaginable was criss-crossing the sky and sea, or pinned to the cliffs. Even the clownish Puffins were showing better than in previous visits.

Pete managed to get some impressive photos by digi-scoping




Eyed Hawkmoth








After the cliffs, we ventured back south for the tidal reedbeds of Blacktoft Sands.

We watched a marauding Marsh Harrier snatch a gull chick from one of the scrapes, the raptor nonchalantly predating the colony with pretty ineffectual resistance coming from the screaming gulls.

There were also welcome entomological interludes with an Eyed Hawkmoth sunning itself, and an Ichneumon Wasp trailing the mother of all stingers across a window pane of the viewing hut.


Culture Alert!

I visited the BIAD Graduate Show, which was apparently bursting with creativity and fresh ideas but, in truth, I was more interested in having a look around this fine, old building.

Home of the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (in case you were wondering what BIAD stood for…) Margaret Street is a listed Venetian Gothic building with light airy studios and retains the original wood interiors, stained glass windows and mosaic floors. The splendid stairwells have since been updated with floating mezzanine levels, glass lifts and spiral staircases.

The work of the students doesn’t seem to have advanced much (is it relevant? Get me!) since I was a student at the Bourneville campus nearly 20 years ago.

However, there seems little doubt that they all enjoyed putting their final projects together – paint was Pollocked around like there was no tomorrow, and all manner of materials were cast in moulds, back-lit and stacked up in various arrangements. Some decent photography was evident, including one of a dead rook (this blog is getting way too ornithology-reliant…)


Tennis at Edgbaston was once again on the agenda but with only two rain breaks, both semi-finals were completed this year, and we had to make do with fewer visits to the bar.

Ana Ivanovic beat Shuai Zhang 6-2 6-2 and the tongue-trippingly Barbora Zahlavova Strycova beat Casey Dellacqua 7-6 6-1.


Culture Alert 2…

There was an interesting photographic and film exhibition – Birmingham’s Hidden Spaces, which celebrated the city’s architecture. It was being held at Curzon Street Station and, similarly to Margaret Street, I was drawn more to the venue than to the event it was hosting.

Although it’s been a long time since anything remotely locomotive trundled through these premises, Curzon Street Station is the world’s oldest surviving piece of monumental railway architecture, and worth a gander.

After so many years out of commission, I think it may be eventually incorporated in some way into the HS2 railway network.


Never Cast a Clout…

This year is going way too fast!

Yet another tardy blog but things have been a bit manic lately so it’s best to just press on with the events of last May – although ‘events’ is a bit over the top.

There were quite a few distractions going on in Brum during May, which is never a bad thing.

For a start, the Waterhall Gallery was showing an assortment of modern and contemporary art for their ‘For The Record’ exhibition. This included a range of artworks spanning the 20th century to the present day.

At the New Library of Birmingham, there was a fine exhibition of Daniel Meadow’s early photographic works, focusing on a record of urban society in Britain between 1971 and 1987. There was a series of photographs taken from identikit living rooms along a cobbled terrace street in Manchester with nary a difference between any of them – all households seemingly colluding in their choice of decor and mantlepiece ornaments.

Also, at the Library, two hours of archive time was scheduled for a brief showing of John James Audubon’s Birds of America – a colossal book in which the artist depicted life-size paintings of said birds.

Only 10 or 12 pages could be shown at the time, held in place and turned by attendants in dutifully gloved hands. Interestingly (no, really!) two of the featured plates showed last year’s elusive Pied-Billed Grebe from the Devon trip and the celebrated Brünnich’s guillemot of Portland.

In 1820, around the age of 35, Audubon declared his intention to paint every bird in North America. He mainly forsook oil paint, the medium of serious artists of the day, in favour of watercolours and pastel crayons. He fashioned a method of using wires and threads to hold dead birds in lifelike poses while he drew them. Presumably hungry work because the oven-ready chicken was completed without drumsticks…

It was originally published as a series in sections between 1827 and 1838; the library owns one of these, which retails at about 7.5 million at your local Waterstones.


There were plenty of birds readily available on our visit to Ynys-Hir reserve earlier in the month – Redstarts and Pied Flycatchers showing well with only Wood Warblers proving to be the elusive third member of the woodland triumvirate.


Red Kites put in several appearances and distant views of ospreys made for a satisfying day all round.

The oak woodlands were flooded with bluebells, making for a spectacular backcloth to this superb Welsh reserve. If you don’t get to see a single bird, it would still be worth visiting!


Here’s the blurb from Trev for this month’s ‘fell-walk’ around Alrewas and the surrounding Staffordshire countryside:


If you haven’t been to the National Memorial Arboretum before, it’s well worth a visit in its own right. We don’t have much time there in the morning but we walk through the site so you get an impression of it.

From the car park we go through the visitor centre, and cross the arboretum in a north easterly direction; then under the railway line, over the footbridge and follow the path towards Catholme. Turn left there and walk along the road crossing the A38. A short distance along the A38, step over the barrier onto the canal towpath. Follow the canal past Wychnor Church towards Alrewas. Just before the long footbridge turn right and take the waymarked Way for the Millenium past the Wychnor Country Club to Yoxall. In the village turn right along the main road to the Golden Cup for lunch. If the weather is good there is a nice garden at the rear (it was good!).

After lunch we head north along the A515 and turn left at the post office, we do a bit of a loop anti-clockwise to get to the old Yoxall Bridge. Cross the main road and take the path that follows the River Trent towards Alrewas. Leave this path to Orgreave Hall, then pick up the road past the gas compressor station to Alrewas. In the village take Church Road, right down Post Office Road, cross Main Street then down Fox Lane to the A513. Walk along the A513 over the A38 then turn left onto the path alongside the A38 to Croxall Road, turn right there back to the NMA car park.

The walk is around 15 miles, fairly flat along good paths with a few sections of quiet roads


Now for some photos – a bit buttercup-heavy but the wildflowers were particularly livid on this walk.

There was also a mad cow – it tried to gore Roy’s dog. Further inspection revealed a newly-born calf in the long grass.





That way!








Mad Cow glowering after Roy and Dog

There was time to squeeze a final walk in for the final weekend of the month.

A College jaunt over to Chipping Norton and a visit to the Rollright Stones – plus some mighty fare in the Chequers pub!

Annie joined us for this one – the weather held out despite a dubious forecast – and, if clichés be the food of the lazy writer, a grand day out was had by all!


Group GarrettnColette

Group2          Annie


Little bits and pieces corner…

Here’s poem by WB Yeats for no other reason than I quite like it. Maybe I’ll introduce a poetry corner to splice up the walking, drinking, culture and nature notes…


When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

William Butler Yeats

This month was also particularly good for film-going:

Mamoru Hosoda’s Toki o Kakeru Shojo –  The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, as well as a shortie – The First Time It Hits (all three minutes long!), all courtesy of the UCB Film Club.

Such cultural leanings also drove me to a couple of outings to the pictures to see Godzilla and Spiderman 2!