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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

How Much ?!

As I mentioned I am visting London Saturday for a bit of sight seeing. Aspley House and the Banqueting Hall are in the vicinity of Buckingham Palace, The Houses of Parliament AND Westminster Abbey so expect some very touristy pictures of famous London landmarks. And I suppose one day I'll have to visit Buckingham Palace (only open in Summer).

I was tempted to visit Westminster Abbey and take a few pictures but the website indicates no photos. I then looked at the website and the entry fee is £10 although "The Abbey never charges people who want to worship.".

I've been before, and its a wonderful building it really is, but I'd rather spend my tenner somewhere new (I may pop into the Roman Catholic Cathedral at Southwark).

I checked out St Pauls and that is £9.50 and doesn't allow photos either! Canterbury cathedral allows you to buy a permit.

Some cathedrals ask for a donation. Salisbury has a payment desk but this is entirely voluntary. It foxes American Tourists though.

Tower Bridge is £5.50 which I would pay (regardless of photos) because I've never been. Anyway it's not open yet so a combined visit with the Tower itself is on the cards.

I've sort of lost track with how much such attractions charge. I mostly visit National Trust, Historic Houses Association or English Heritage properties. I wave my card and waltz on in.

To give you an idea of what you might be expected to pay at some of the "TOP" Historic Attractions.

Kensington Palace - £11.50
Kew - £12.25 + £5.00 for Kew Palace
Hampton Court - £12.30
The Tower of London - £15
Windsor Castle £14.20
Blenheim - £14.50
Castle Howard - £10 (member of the HHA scheme)
Buckingham Palace - £15
Warwick Castle- £13.95
Chatsworth - £11.75
Holkham Hall - £10.00 including Bygone museum (member of the HHA scheme)

National Trust Properties are not necessarily cheap. Two of the most famous Knole and Hardiwck Hall are £8.50 and £8.17,respectively

This heritage lark certainly draws the money in! All of these are fine buildings well worth visiting. So if you are serious about visiting lots of properties membership of the National Trust and the HHA is essential.

The National Trust are now quoting gift aid prices. For example at Hardwick the standard price is £8.17 and the gift aid price is £9

"The Gift Aid Admission includes a 10 per cent voluntary donation. Gift Aid Admissions enable the National Trust to reclaim tax on the whole amount paid* - an extra 28 per cent - potentially a very significant boost to property funds.

Every extra £1 paid under the scheme is worth over £4 to the National Trust ..."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

More Holidays!!

Well I have booked two more holidays. Still got a bit to book. Carried 5 days over!

In July I'll be staying, for four nights, at the White Buck Inn in Burley in the heart of the New Forest. I'll then be heading to the Red Lyon at Slinfold in Sussex for another four nights.

There are a few places I want to visit. Uppark in Sussex for example. Twice I've turned up on a day its been closed!! I'll also want to see a Golden Ringed Dragonfly and Thursley Common in Surrey is a prime location!

The New Forest is lovely and I expect the odd photo of New Forest Ponies!

End of September first week of October I'm spending five nights at the Hood Arms in Kilve North Somerset. And then on to The Fox Inn Ansty in Dorset.

There are a number of churches I want to tick off but I will definitely get to Tyntesfield. It was the subject of a massive purchase by the National Trust.

Booking Holidays

I've stuck in 3 weeks of holiday requests for the next holiday year. Woo hoo!!

I could have gone to Greece in May but instead I'm staying in the UK.

I've got 4 nights booked at The Old Black Lion in Hay-on-Wye. There's been a change of ownership since my last vist but the food has still an AA Rosette. I suppose I can say its a foreign country since Hay is technically in Wales! Hay is famous for the Hay Literary festival AND for the fact it has well over 30 second handbook shops.

On my way back I'll be staying at the Gatehangers Inn in Buckinghamshire for 4 nights. Lots of historic houses I want to checkout and a few churches.

Of course the big highlight of the holiday will be to hopefully meet BOO!!

When I get the nod for the others I'll start thinking of locations. July is planned to be Sussex (with a trip to the New Forest possibly). The one first week in October is planned to Somerset/North Devon border. The anticipated staying point is 41 miles from Tyntestfield!

Monday, January 29, 2007

This Duck won't lie down

Some of you may remember my blog about Perky the Duck who survived being shot and spending two days in a hunters fridge.

Well Perky has undergone surgery to repair the gunshot wounds. Perky died briefly on the operating table when her heart flatlined for 20 seconds.

The duck entered surgery with vets confident that she would survive the procedure despite serious injuries to her wing, leg and beak.

But her heart failed during the operation, prompting senior vet David Hale to declare her officially dead.

"We lost her. You know, the bird's dead and it's over. I'm sorry," he said of the operating team's immediate reaction.

"And then, you know, up comes that head and the wings start flapping and, honestly, what, 20 seconds later, I mean the bird was, like, up."

There were scenes of high emotion in the operating theatre, said Noni Beck of the Goose Creek Wildlife Sanctuary.

"I started crying: 'She's alive!'"

This duck really really wants to make it doesn't she!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Quiet Sunday

Well I got the tyre repaired. Luckily it didn't need replacing.

But other than that I did uh well uhm nothing!!

So I've been planning trips to historic houses. First one planned for next week. And of course at this time of year your blogger starts planning his summer holidays.

Not sure where I'm off to next Saturday. I had originally decided on Kensington Palace and Hyde Park but some churches I need are open mid week only so I may do that on a day off. If so it'll be Aspley House and the Banqueting House. I may have a look around Hyde Park as well.

Eltham is another possibility! But that is open on Sunday not Saturday.

Will depend on the weather I guess. If it's raining.......

I've decided that May will be three days @ Hay On Wye and 5 in Buckinghamshire waiting for prices from one establishment!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

some more

I took absolutes loads of photos. Some were NOT sucessful!! The cam sometimes mis focuses on small birds in trees!! and no I don't want a dSLR!!

this is perhaps better than the pic of the Puna Teal I posted earlier



the heron was fun and this one is interesting if not entirely sucessful




i appreciate that this didn't "quite" work out but I like it!!

Barnes Again

Went with Nic to Barnes today. Annoyingly the Peacock tower was closed!!

Used the trip as "snapping" practice.

















Very posey this chap!























Sparrow nesting terrace in visitors centre!
































We did some wild birds.

  1. Little Grebe
  2. Great Crested Grebe
  3. Cormorant
  4. Grey Heron
  5. Mute Swan
  6. Greylag
  7. Canada Goose
  8. Shelduck
  9. Wigeon
  10. Gadwall
  11. Mallard
  12. Teal
  13. Shoveler
  14. Pochard
  15. Tufty
  16. Ruddy Duck
  17. Sparrowhawk
  18. Pheasant
  19. Moorhen
  20. Coot
  21. Lapwing
  22. Lesser Black Backed Gull
  23. Herring Gull
  24. Common Gull
  25. Black headed Gull
  26. Feral Pigeon
  27. Wood Pigeon
  28. Ring Necked Parakeet
  29. Wren
  30. Dunnock
  31. Robin
  32. Stonechat
  33. Song Thrush
  34. Blackbird
  35. Long Tailed Tit
  36. Blue Tit
  37. Great Tit
  38. Magpie
  39. Rook
  40. Crow
  41. Starling
  42. House Sparrow
  43. Chaffinch
  44. Greenfinch

on way home Kestrel


All uneventful until the journey home!! When we managed to take a wrong turning oh we laughed.

And I think I have a puncture :( but a nice day in good company.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Happy Birthday Dave

It was Dave's birthday so we decided to celebrate by birding the new RSPB Reserve at Rainham Marshes in East London. Dave arrived promptly and we immediately went to Tesco for a very nice breakfast.

We still arrived before the reserve opened. The new visitors centre has an "interesting" design.



Ok its vile! It had two door handles falling off the entrance. I appreciate the RSPB put as much into bird conversation but......

Lets be honest we had a target bird, the Penduline Tit. The thing is reported every day! So we spent 3.5 hours at its favourite haunt and nothing. Did see a Yellow-Legged Gull and various Stonechats and heard Cettis Warbler. There were other bits and pieces but no Tit :(

So a bit of lunch and then back out.... and you guessed it the stupid bird show for 10 secs on 5 Reeds outside a hide!! Loads of birders dutifully walking up and down and if we had sat in a hide and counted ducks we had have seen it!! Kicks floor in disgust.

So we searched again and no joy MUTTER did find a Black Redstart!

An enoyable day out if bitterly cold.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

You are having a laugh!

I appreciate that Yorkshire folk aren't the brightest tools in the basket (and that should get a response!!) but this story left me in stitches!!

The Former Lord Mayor of York Jack Archer (age 87) was asked by staff at the Acomb branch of Morisson's if he was over 21.

From the BBC News Website

He said: "I don't look my age but I certainly don't look young enough to be in trouble for underage drinking."

Morrisons said staff had to ask anyone buying alcohol to confirm they were over 21, or provide proof of age.

Mr Archer said he often had a small glass of sherry at bedtime to help him sleep.

He said: "I was taken aback really. Afterwards I thought I should have showed them my bus pass and that would have proved how old I was.

"I must admit the lady wasn't too persistent and I realised she was only doing what she's been told to do."

A Morrisons spokesman said: "This is done with the best of intentions and we would hope it is taken in good humour by those obviously over the age of 21, as we do not wish to cause offence and no disrespect is intended.

"We take our responsibility with regard to selling alcohol very seriously and all our stores operate the Task 21 scheme, which addresses the difficulties staff face in being able to determine if a customer is legally old enough to buy alcohol.

"To further limit any element of doubt, staff at the Acomb store are required to ask anyone buying alcohol to confirm that they are over 21."

Anyone who appears to be under 21 has to provide proof they are old enough to buy alcohol.

Solicitors are kind people

One afternoon a Solictor (we'll call her Apple Pie) was riding in her limousine when she saw two men at the side of the road eating grass. Disturbed, she ordered her driver to stop and he got out to investigate.

She asked one of the men, "Why are you eating grass?"

"We don't have any money for food," the poor man replied. "We have to eat grass."

"Well then, you can come with me to my house and I'll feed you," Apple Pie said.

"But ma'am, I have a wife and two children with me. They are over there, under that tree."

"Bring them along," Apple Pie replied. Turning to the other poor man he stated, "You come along with us too."

The second man, in a pitiful voice then said, "But ma'am, I also have a
wife and six children with me!"

"Bring them all along," Apple Pie answered.

They all entered the car, which was no easy task, even for a car as
large as the limousine was. Once under way, one of the poor fellows
turned to Apple Pie and said, "Ma'am, you are too kind. Thank you for
taking all of us with you."

Apple Pie replied, "Glad to do it. You'll really love my place. The
grass is almost a foot high."

Wildlife News

I know that one or two of you actually read my wildlife blog (was a bit of a shock that!!) but I thought that two stories would be of broader interest.

The first is a link to the disaster off the Devon coast with the grounding of the MS Napoli. Far from being a modern Whisky Galore it is an environmental nightmare with the local RSPCA wildlife centre inundated with sea birds.

The other is the comparative good news from Iraq on the health of Iraq's birds.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

BT

ok last week I was phoned by BT and asked did I wish to upgrade my line to 8mb and my download limit to 5gb for..... FREE. In a moment of weakness I said yes.

They said they would confirm this by email to my btinternet address within 3 working days. I told the chap I don't use it and to send to my hotmail account.

Well 3 days came and went. I got into my bt account and guess what.... there was the email! And it had a one off charge of £30!!

After an hour on the phone - NOTHING! I did get through at one point and the bloke then lost me! But apparently they were "extremely busy and my call was important to them". Just not important enough to have sufficient staff on to meet demand.

To be fair this morning I got straight through. Apparently there was no cost and this was a mistake on the email. However I hadn't realised they'd send a new modem and I've cancelled the order. I can just see something going wrong and phoning them up is a nightmare. I take the view that it works fine so why tempt fate. A luddite I maybe but "if it ain't broke don't fix it".

Snow

I bet Nic is happy this morning.... its Snowing!! About 2cms - stop laughing OC

So I hopped straight out of bed and beat the traffic and got to work! I REALLY REALLY hate snowy roads.

I hope it clears up before Friday and Saturday since I'm birding with Dave one day and Nic the next. If the roads are icey I'm pulling the duvet up!!

Expect a rant after I've rang BT this morning.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I've been quoted!

From time to time I do a technorati search to see who has put a link to this blog.

Now knock me down with a feather I've been quoted! The piece features my reaction to the Mollet story about the then French PM's request to join the two countries ("it must be an April Fools Joke").

Others to be quoted are the Guardian and Le Monde!!

So what is a friend?

Whilst I was in Norfolk I heard a radio piece that stated that the average person routinely had loads of numbers on their mobile phones, BUT, that they couldn't remember who most of them were (not true for me!).

The same piece went on to say that people may claim 100's of friends but the real circle was often considerably smaller. Curiously I heard a similar piece on Richard & Judy a few years ago (I was round my Mums honest!). One claimed lots of friends the other said they only had a few.

Now it has always puzzled me that the virtually any z lister is a "friend" of Elton John. Elton obviously has different standards to me! I think that often what people call friends I'd refer to as mates. To me a friend is someone I really really trust, not someone I have a few beers with.

There are things in my life I've only ever told to one person. By my definition that person is a friend!! There are other people I regard as friends but for varying reasons I haven't felt the need to unburdon myself.

I don't want anyone reading this piece to think it's aimed at them, it was something that has struck me as odd at various times that people seem to have so many more friends than me. I've found it hard to believe that you can trust that many people so I've come to the view that there idea of friendship is more superficial than mine.

Strangely most of the people I regard as friends are female. I've always wondered why that is!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Things to Do, Places to Go

One of the problems with this wildlife lark is it gets in the way of other activities.

As most of you know I'm into visiting Churches and other Historic Buildings. I try and work my holidays around both activities with varying degrees of success.

Weekends and other days off are a problem. I tend to use them predominantly for wildlife watching but this year is going to be slightly different. For a start I'm not going to be concentrating on a year list (not that I really do anyway). One day a month is going to be put a side for buildings.

I am "ribbed" because I don't like driving in London but the trip to Barnes made me realise that some historic buildings really must be visited.

So in West London I intend to do Syon House and Osterley Park, both are on my ought to see list. In central London I want to visit Kensington Palace and Kew Gardens. I probably visited Kew as a child (any suggestions on best time to visit?). Kensington will be a train one I expect.

There are other places I ought to go to like Buckingham Palace and The Tower of London (I last went uhm well a long long time ago!). And to this I could add Ham House, the Banqueting Hall, Chiswick House and Kenwood House.

There are lots of churches but I doubt many of those will get done. There are 3 in Kensington alone Holy Trinity, St Augustine and St Cuthbert. And in Kew St Anne's. I'll have to see if they have opening times I can use with the Palace and the Gardens.

The first to go though is likely to be Eltham Palace in the East. I say this because it opens to the public from Sunday 4th Feb so the first sunny sunday of Feb!! Kenwood House is open as well.

I wonder how I will do come the end of the year!?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

One Tough Duck

A duck shot by hunter has not only survived being shot but, survived two days in a Fridge!!

The hunter's wife got a bit of a shock upon opening the fridge as the duck moved its head.

The duck is recupriating at an Animal Sanctuary.

Now as pleased as I am for the duck you have to ask why did the hunter said the duck to the sanctuary? He was obviously shooting for food? Obvioulsy its ok to shoot for food when you don't have to look the duck in the eye and its going Quack at you?

Hanningfield Reservoir

I just couldn't drag myself out of bed this morning!!

I ended up at Hanningfield Reservoir an Essex Wildlife Trust reserve.

I stopped on the causeway. The usual collection of ducks and gulls. The ducks included Ruddies!!



My eye though soon turned to this pair of hooligans!









There was a big flock of Long Tails in the car park.

Blue & Great Tits in the woods. And I found a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

In the meadow was a group of Greylags. Someone reported a White Front but I never saw it. Then again it could have flown before I got there!



This little chap was hiding!




More ducks!



The view from point hide. It was very windy!!




A few female goldenye and I "found" a male.

Lots of Pied Wags on the shore front as well as Chaffinches and Starlings.





This little chap was VERY obliging.