Attuned to June



National Trust, Waddesdon Manor / John Bigelow Taylor

Waddesdon Manor was the venue for our annual Staff Social day out. This plush country house in Buckinghamshire is the ancestral seat of those bankers, the Rothschilds. Built in the Neo-Renaissance style of a French chateau by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, it came in very handy for entertaining house parties and for showing off his fine collections of art.

Baron Ferdy originally bought it as a farming estate from the Duke of Marlborough (thanks to a hefty inheritance from his father) and he set about transforming the site with lavish gardens and an aviary.

The last member of this illustrious family, James de Rothschild, bequeathed the house and its contents to the National Trust and is one of their most visited properties.







It was the hottest day of the year (Scorchio!) and the food festival was in full swing as our coach set down and set forth the staff. The cider tent was a particular favourite…



The hot weather continued into the following week, which meant our regular visit to the Aegon Classic did not involve as much scurrying to the beer tent whenever rain threatened.


Svitolina to serve…

Thus we managed uninterrupted tennis on the first day and enjoyed four decent contests:

Naomi Osaka (Jpn) beat Laura Davis (USA) 6-1, 2-6, 7-6

Barbara Strycova (Cze) beat Yulia Putinteva (Kaz) 6-3, 6-3

Elina Svitolina (Ukr) beat Heather Watson (Gbr) 6-2, 5-7, 6-3

Naomi Broady (Gbr) beat Alize Cornet (Fra) 7-6, 6-0


Nature Notes Warning:


Frampton Marsh The RSPB

Frampton Marsh was to be the venue for the season finale of the West Midland Bird Club.

Frampton is one of many coastal wetland reserves where seeing anything ornithological is merely a bye-the-bye bonus to accompany a brilliant walk. However, high vantage walks look out across the Wash and inland views take in reedbeds, freshwater scrapes and marshy fields. With a new digital camera making its juddering debut, I blurred fairly decent views of Corn Buntings, Avocets, Lapwings, Yellowhammers, Reed and Sedge Warblers and Spotted Redshank – plus a pair of loved-up Spoonbills.

There are some great photos on the official Frampton Marsh website, which I’ve included here plus my own meagre offerings and a classic photo fail!






Another One






And if we are on the cute chick photos, we cannot fail to show these reed warblers (though they may want to improve on their toilet training!). Photo by Paul Sullivan


And these photos are by Neil Smith:




The parents are busy looking after their young. You don’t get more protective than avocets, who chase off things which might want to eat their chicks…

…and those that wouldn’t, but just get a little too close


September Sessions


The Business School at UCB held an industry updating session over two days in early September, which included a residential trip to London via Bristol. It was a mere case of hopping aboard.

First stop was the Engine Shed, a collaboration between Bristol City Council, the University of Bristol and the West of England Local Enterprise partnership.


Situated at the heart of the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone, the Engine Shed is based in Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s historic engine shed (bit of a giveaway) at Bristol Meads railway station.


This Tudor-style building was opened in 1841 and epitomized the cutting edge of technology in the 19th century. It is now a buzzing hub for new technology.


A short tour of the Shed and Innovation Centre then followed, plus a couple of presentations to be had before hitting Gorditos for lunch.


Then it was off to London for cocktails at the Ice Bar!

The Ice Bar is exactly what it says on the tin, with capes and gloves being provided before the quaffing can begin.

With the bar, cocktail glasses, tables and furniture carved from blocks of ice, this novelty venue only allows for short stints in allotted timeslots in which to enjoy its chilly atmosphere.





The hotel we were staying at was the fantastically quirky Qbic London City Hotel set in the trendy East End neighbourhood of Shoreditch.

This hotel is a great little melting pot of the unconventional – an eco-friendly hotel with serious commitment to environmental responsibilities, incorporating solar panels, with chemical-free cleaning and waste management within its design. It is sustainably built with comfy beds set in a trademark cuboid arrangement.

Here’s a useful video from their website showing how these unique rooms are put together. Its speeded up so don’t despair!


We just about had time to get ready for dinner, which was at Sheba in Brick Lane, an area famous for its ethnic food and drink.

Sheba is one of the longest standing restaurants in the area, not just celebrated for its Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani cuisine but also famous for being the setting for the Peter Kay commercial for John Smiths.


The location of the hotel is also ideal for experiencing the regeneration of the east of London, and a two hour walk around the area was arranged for the following morning.

Over the last decade, London’s East End has evolved from a run-down backwater of starving artists into an epicentre of creative energy.

The Shoreditch Grind was our chosen muster point, a peculiar circular building perched on the edge of the roundabout – an espresso and cocktail bar, with a recording studio upstairs.


The Shoreditch Grind

The walk took us through various cross-sections of the Shoreditch hubbub through a mixture of buildings including industrial and warehouse properties, with colourful Graffiti and street art covering many a wall.







Silicon Roundabout is fast becoming Europe’s answer to Silicon Valley, encompassing Shoreditch, Hoxton and Old Street. It is all happening here with hundreds of new companies rising up and employing thousands of people thus generating a sense of community, excitement and entrepreneurship in the area. It has become a profitable place to invest, attracting Google and Microsoft to set up business in the region.

And down in the subways, short-term rents were allowing entrepreneurs to set up and sell all manner of stuff.

The Boxpark was an interesting concept – the world’s first container mall house with an eclectic mix of established brands, independent boutiques and restaurants.


The Boxpark


The Tree Office





After lunch at the Old Shoreditch Station, a short presentation from the founder of a tech start-up was squeezed in.

A very competent and interesting talk was given about Makerble, a sort of charity projects subscription service, which can be funded and then followed with issues being addressed and changes implemented as various projects develop.


Then it was onto The Shard, where observation decks provided stunning views across the city.



The Italian architect Renzo Piano designed The Shard, and took inspiration from the spires of London churches and the masts of tall ships as depicted by the 18thcentury Venetian painter Canaletto. The Shard was designed as if a spire-like sculpture was emerging from the River Thames.

As if there wasn’t enough to cram into one day, we finally repaired to the London Bridge Hotel for afternoon tea – with no shortage of tea, cakes and scones on offer.


There must be something about September and city walking. As soon as the weekend was upon us, I joined a bunch of family and friends for a TV & Film Location tour of BIrmingham.

Mark Wilson and Sindy Campbell had joined forces to present an interesting and informative discovery trail of the city’s rich TV and film heritage, both present and future, which covered 40 years of film-making in the city.

We ventured into several filming locations from shows such as Hustle, Dancing on the Edge and Line of Duty. There was also the odd snippet of interest such as Cliff Richards’s starring role in the film Take Me High. His character in this veritable Hollywood blockbuster is sent to Birmingham instead of New York where he helps an unsuccessful Birmingham restaurant compete with its rivals by introducing a new gourmet delight – the Brumburger!

Here’s a couple of before and afters of the film from the website Reelstreets:



Before: Cliff entering Gas Street Basin from Gas Street.


After: A new bridge to take pedestrians over the canal. Gas Street Basin is where the New Main Line Canal of the Birmingham Canal Navigation (BCN) meets the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.

Highlight of the tour was access to the old Birmingham Municipal Bank with its grand ionic columns and Portland stone façade that squats on Broad Street. It is now used as a versatile and regularly used filming location. On the ceiling is an inscription: “Thrift radiates happiness” which could almost apply to me if I wasn’t so downright wanton with money.

In the basement, a door of 12 inch thick steel leads into two-feet-thick concrete walls, which contains the safety deposit strongroom.

Altogether the room houses a total of 10,528 silver deposit boxes, which are all still intact.

These tours are organised in partnership with Film Birmingham and are great way to spend a couple of hours mooching around the city and learning stuff.


Nature Notes Warning (the part where the blog gets down and birdy):

Frampton Marsh always does it for me: the big skies, The Wash awash (although not quite) and bundles of wilderness to get through. Who wouldn’t enjoy a visit here?

Always a favourite with its saltmarsh, scrapes and shimmering pools, this reserve offers up a real pic ‘n’ mix of birdy stuff with an impressive pool of waders taking centre stage. There are plenty of designated trails to follow, so we traipsed aimlessly around a selection of them enjoying good views of Yellow Wagtails, Ruffs, Little Stint, Kingfishers, Spotted Redshanks, Wood Sandpiper as well as Marsh Harrier, and a probable Merlin whooshing past.


Wood Sandpiper


Two fluffy Little Owls were perched over the rubble by a barn and (a possible first for the reserve) a Fulmar.

The Fulmar was out of sorts so we assumed it had made its way up through the gullies of the saltmarsh after suffering some mishap. Or it could have just been out on the lash last night and was recovering.


Fulmar – far from home…


There was still just enough of the month left to squeeze in a trip to the Trentham Estate in Staffordshire.


Apart from the mighty award-winning gardens, there is also a lake, lots of woodland, and a sizeable monkey  enclosure stocked with Barbary Macaques, which can be walked through.

A few of us opted for the miniature train ride up to Monkey Forest (how old are we?) as well as getting the boat back.

However, we did manage to scale the high peak to the monument.





Perseus with a big weapon


And now for a postscript.

That shy and retiring friend of ours, Stevie B, again had to be cajoled into getting up on stage during Musical Bingo at the Old Joint Stock – and it wasn’t even Karaoke night.


Ok, we’ll finish on a little poem – this posting hasn’t had nearly enough culture in it…

Yesterday returneth not,
Maybe tomorrow cometh not,
Today is thine,
Misspend it not.