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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Struggling a bit

I'm struggling a bit at the mo. I still feel a bit drained and am having to force myself a bit. I assume this is just a reaction to the past few months which I guess is understandable. Even reading has become a bit of a chore. That said I have found reading the comic 2000AD quite relaxing! Talk about regressing!

I'm hoping the weather cheers up for the weekend. I can live with the cold but could do with some sun. The plan is to go to Anglesey Abbey what you say you've shown us that before and here but ah I want to look at the Snowdrops on Saturday. Anglesey has 230 varieties. If I wake to find snow on the ground (will OC please stop laughing) I may get a train into London and look around the Tower of London perhaps, and there is a garden nearer to home with Snowdrops.

I will also have a play with something else this weekend :D

White Falcon, White Wolf

There is an interesting wildlife programme on BBC2. White Falcon, White Wolf is broadcast Friday 1st Feb at 8pm and repeated Sunday at 5:55pm.

The program is set in Canada and show an Artic Wolf pack hunting wildfowl and features Snowy Owls and Gyrfalcons.

The BBC website has some clips
.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hummingbird uses tail to Chirp.

A team of US scientists have shown that the Male Anna's Hummingbird uses its rear tail feathers to make a chirping noise.

The team used specialised footage to show that male hummingbirds' tail feathers vibrated during high-speed dives that can exceed 50mph in displays to females.

The BBC have more info and film and sound recordings.

Which do you prefer........

Jack wakes up with a huge hangover after attending his company's
Christmas Party. Jack is not normally a drinker, but the drinks didn't
taste like alcohol at all. He didn't even remember how he got home
from the party. As bad as he was feeling, he wondered if he did
something wrong.

Jack had to force himself to open his eyes, and the first thing he
sees is a couple of aspirins next to a glass of water on the side
table. And, next to them, a single red rose! ! Jack sits up and sees
his clothing in front of him, all clean and pressed. He looks around
the room and sees that it is in perfect order, spotlessly clean. So is
the rest of the house.

He takes the aspirins, cringes when he sees a huge black eye staring
ba ck at him in the bathroom mirror. Then he notices a note hanging on
the corner of the mirror written in red with little hearts on it and a
kiss mark from his wife in lipstick:

'Honey, breakfast is on the stove, I left early to get groceries to
make you your favorite dinner tonight. I love you, darling! Love,
Jillian'

He stumbles to the kitchen and sure enough, there is hot breakfast,
steaming hot coffee and the morning newspaper. His son is also at
the table, eating.
Jack asks, 'Son... what happened last night?'

'Well, you came home after 3 A.M. , drunk and out of your mind. You
fell over the coffee table and broke it, and then you puked in the
hallway, and got that black eye when you ran into the door.'

Confused, he asked his son, 'So, why is everything in such perfect
order and so clean? I have a rose, and breakfast is on the table
waiting for me??'
His son replies, 'Oh THAT!... Mum dragged you to the bedroom, and
when she tried to take your pants off, you screamed

'Leave me alone, I'm married!!'

Broken Coffee Table £239.99
Hot Breakfast £4.20
Two Aspirins £0.38
Saying the right thing, at the right time . .. PRICELESS

or do you prefer....

Son asked his mother the following question:

'Mum, why are wedding dresses white?' The mother looks at her son and replies, 'Son, this shows your friends and relatives that your bride is pure.'

The son thanks his Mom and goes off to double-check this with his father.

'Dad why are wedding dresses white?'

The father looks at his son in surprise and says, 'Son, all household appliances come in white.'

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

You can but hope

I came home last night to find a letter on the mat from a bank.

Dear thequacksoflife

just a note to tell you that the rate on your account has been reduced to xx.xx%

yours sincerely....

I sat there thinking well I know I'm forgetful but WHAT account? I know a few years back I had had a fixed rate bond with them but that matured and I transferred it. Now in my heart of hearts I knew that some programmer had done an extract and included closed accounts BUT.

I phoned the number went through the security questions and then informed the lady of my query and yep it was a closed account.

Damn!! You can but dream....

Monday, January 28, 2008

I am a Mole and I live in a Hole

The People's Trust for Endangered Species are running a survey to find out more about Moles and want people to report sightings of molehills at Molewatch.

To see a rather cool picture of a Mole

PTES seem to run a number of surveys and you can house a Dormouse or adopt a Hedgehog.

Mallards under threat?

There was a report stating that winter Mallard numbers are at record lows with only the Ouse Washes having significant winter numbers. Apparently numbers have dropped by a third since the 1980's and on the Ouse Washes by 50%.

Now I am not certain what that proves. Does this mean that Mallards are under threat, or does it mean that less birds are needing to fly here to over winter, as their breeding grounds become less hostile? Bear in mind that in winter Mallard numbers are topped up by wintering birds.

The Times environmental correspondent starts his report with.

Children who enjoy throwing chunks of bread to mallards had better make the most of it because the ducks are disappearing from Britain’s ponds, a survey shows.


Is this true? Most over wintering Mallards behave as normal wild ducks and avoid humans I thought. The birds we feed are likely to be breeding birds that have become used to humans.

Still it would be interesting to know if there is a problem with how wintering mallards are doing on their normal breeding grounds.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The WI

Attila the Mom left me a comment

"I've got a silly question.

Hubby and I watched the show "Crisis at the Castle" on PBS last week about an elderly couple struggling to hold on to an old---I don't know what you'd call it---historical mansion (?) they bought in the early 60's.

The wife made a weird museum of sorts out of things she'd collected over the years and did tours.

Apparently most of her custom came from "W.I." ladies.

What the heck is that? LOL"

So what are W.I Ladies?

Well WI stands for the Women's Institue.

According to the WI
The Women’s Institute was formed in 1915 with two clear aims: to revitalise rural communities and to encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War. Since then our aims have broadened and we are now the largest women’s organisation in the UK. We celebrated our 90th anniversary in 2005 and currently have 211,000 members in 6,800 WIs.


The WI has a reputation for Cake Baking and being VERY traditional etc but to be fair these days it campaigns on the Environment, Farming, excess packaging etc.

A few years ago one WI group got together to raise money by doing a "nude" calendar. Given the women were of a certain age the photos had strategically placed items. There was a film made about it called Calendar Girls.

An American Visitor

The phone rang at 4:50 this morning!! It rang once and no number was left, I would be a "bit" miffed normally but today I was off to Norfolk (I left the camera at home).

I rolled up at Dave & Joy's at 7 and we were off. We were soon seeing nice birds, within about 5 minutes of each other we had seen 3 separate Barn Owls.

But lets be honest our real target was a transatlantic visitor. It has become a bit famous and even non-birders have heard about it. And it has been there for flipping ages! Yes folks FINALLY Dave, Joy and I were going to see the White Crowned Sparrow at Cley. We duly arrived.

For those of you who don't know Cley is the Mecca of British Birdwatching. The local birders realising that a bunch of saddos would drive miles to see this got together with locals and seeded a drive. This meant the bird would be easy for birders to see, birders (a notoriously poor group of individuals, you can tell this by the £1000 bins, scopes and cameras they all carry ;) ) were asked to donate to the repair of the parish church (a particularly fine building I might add).

Anyway we waited, local birds tried for attention. Chaffinch? pah! A Barn Owl distracted us momentarily and then a hub bub. The flashy yank made its appearance, ooh nice, it flew over and was about 15 feet from me NO CAMERA!!! It didn't sit still long so I probably wouldn't have got a good shot I try to convince myself. But who cares it was a lovely view.

And may I say its nice to see that over £3000 has been collected so far.

We went to Salthouse to see if we could see a Lapland Bunting, we didn't but we had super views of 50 or so Snow Buntings. Photographers had planted food and so they and Turnstone were coming very close.

I had my phone set up to receive texts of unusual birds in Norfolk and off we went to Saxlingham for a Ross's Goose. We duly found a field with several thousand Pink-Footed Geese and there it was and a Barnacle Goose.

We then decided we were hungry and popped in to the Jolly Sailors at Brancaster. Duly sated we popped into Titchwell. Bramblings were at the feeder. Not much off see Red Throated Diver and Goldeneye but the walk through up Little Egret, Brent Geese, Ruff, Bar and Black Tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Ruff, Redshank, Sanderling, Dunlin etc.

And so to home and one further Barn Owl on the way back!

A corking day in good company.

Oh picked up a super looking new book on British Dragonflies with a site guide.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Out and about

I took the old boy to Bury St Edmunds. A wander around the shops and a Tea and Scone in the cathedral refrectory. Oh I live don't I.

One day I'll wander into the cathedral and the other fine parish church which is its neigbour.

Just for OC I did take my little compact. The Abbey gardens are nicely kept.




I was attracted to an unusual bit of birdsong in the gardens. Well I say unusual I wasn't expecting a male Blackcap in January. Actually lots of birdsong and there was a goldcrest about as well.

Birding tomorrow. Sorry, camera at home.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Ahem

I went in to see Dad Wednesday night. The other week he had blood and water tests at the hospital to monitor his diabetes.

Anway he had just had a letter for him to make an appointment with his GP "to discuss the results". He was obviously a bit worried so it was a relief to get a call yesterday about 11am to be told the tests were fine. Phew

Today he has been back to have the nasty blister on his toe looked at again and that is still not resolved.

ARGH!

National Trust Membership

As a service to regular readers...

Any of you who are members should have your new National Trust Handbook inside is a nice car sticker. Please put it in the car as the National Trust has made many of their car parks pay and display and this is your free parking voucher.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

From Russia

If you're into art then you may, if you don't already know about it, that there is a major exhibition of Art at the Royal Academy of Art in London.

The exhibition draws from the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Art and the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow and the State Hermitage Museum and the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.

Over 120 paintings by Russian and French artists working between 1870 and 1925 will be displayed together in an exhibition which surveys the main directions of modern art from Realism and Impressionism to Non-Objective painting. Works will include paintings by Renoir, C├ęzanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Matisse together with those by Kandinsky, Tatlin and Malevich.

If you want to read more......

Whereas the likes of Diaghilev, Kandinsky and Chagall are well known over here (if you are in the area do go to Tudeley Church in Kent it has a complete set of Chagall glass) I believe it will feature the work of Russian artists unknown in the west.

Tickets cost £11.

To look at the Chagall glass at Tudeley

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dozey the Orphan Dormouse has Gone to Bed

Dozey the Dormouse was born late and he was found in October by a member with puncture marks that may have been caused by a cat.

Since then staff at the Secret World Wildlife Rescue Centre in Somerset have been desperately feeding Dozey to fatten him up so he can take his winter "nap". Dozey has successfully gained the requisite weight and is now in a special cold room at the sanctuary where he can sleep undisturbed.

If you would like to bask in some EXTREMELY CUTE pictures....

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In Search of England - Again

I finished In Search of England by H. V. Morton last night. As you may have guess I've enjoyed it.

Morton's route has been idiosyncratic but one I might have chosen. He has visited virtually all of the major English cathedrals and he has popped into small churches that I have known.

One thing kept gnoring at the back of my mind. Morton obviously enjoyed historic buildings but with the exception of cathedrals and churches hardly visited any others builidngs. It then dawned on me that pre-WWII the hertiage industry didn't exist as we know it. We had a National Trust but the big move of properties to the Trust wasn't until post-WWII.

It is perhaps chastening to realise that at present we are living in a Golden Age for those of us who want to share the Nation's Heritage. True at times more enlightened landowners like the Dukes of Devonshire have opened their houses to the public but the vast majority was closed. Whereas I understand the reasons for private property I find it sad that wonderful collections like those at Kingston Lacy and Waddesdon were denied to so many.

Morton visited the Monastic ruins at Beaulieu, the ruin at Kennilworth and Warwick castle. A Morton doing such journey today would have been sidetracked by Chatsworth, Castle Howard and Stourhead.

It also interesting to note his comments on the North. He comments that like so many Southerners he thought of the North as Dark and Industrial, whereas with the exception of narrow band running from Sheffield and Leeds in the East to Liverpool in the west the true North is full of stunning scenery. This, of is still true today and yet the image of the North is one of Bradford, Sheffield and Manchester not of the Moors, Peaks and Dales.

I can't help but think that in one aspect his journey was far more interesting than it would be today. To me the likes of Exeter and Gloucester have been shorn of much of their charm. But then all English towns drift one into another today and I have said ad nauseam in this blog it is the small market towns where what little charm remains. For Morton any town would hold special joy, for instance he found flint nappers at Brandon in Norfolk.

If you enjoy travelogues then I do recommend it to you. Will I read those on Wales, Scotland and Ireland? I don't know, for me much of the charm was to read someone else visit places I have known and loved and see it through his eyes.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Churches, Swans and Ducks

I was off today. I could have jumped out of bed and driven to Cley to see that long staying White Crowned Sparrow but when I woke I just wandered down and brought breakfast back up to bed.

So where to ? I had considered going to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge but guess what day it is closed? YEP Monday!

So I thought I know I'll show you All Saints Hildersham (Cambridgeshire). Its small and heavily Victorianized. I rather like it, it fell in disrepair and was restored in 1973 by Dykes-Bower (he designed Lancing Chapel I believe). The church is small I might add.


















Where to now? Ok they've started the midday Swan Feeds at Welney and so despite the awful light off I went. Unfortunately because of all the rain there were few Swans on the reserve still....



























Nice flock of Golden Plover on the way out.

About 1pm the rain started - GROWL

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I got out!!

I poked my head out of the front window this morning and was surprised to find none of that wet stuff normally found in the air.

I promptly went to Hatfield Forest. Oh boy is everything saturated! Nothing unusual about. Green Woodies very showy. Some big finch flocks, nice to see so many Greenfinches. Lots of Singing, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes in particular fine voice. Nuthatch about but I've still to see a Treecreeper (!!) and a Marsh Tit

The Lake highlight was the pair of Great Crested Grebes. Perhaps my favourite sites of Summer for the past two years has been Mr & Mrs Grebe and young and the Common Terns with young over the forest.

I wandered on and stopped at the entrance to Audley End Manor. The river was VERY high, amongst the Mallards and Canada Geese were a lone Black Swan, 4 Barnacle Geese and 2 Little Grebe.

Light still dull and grey. Still here are a few images.







Saturday, January 19, 2008

There is a Rumour it MAY stop raining

Well I am in shock it's raining. All flipping day, everywhere is sodden and grey.

So what have I done? Uh not much really. Read a bit, watched Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets oh and picked up Dad's new car!

We popped into Tesco this morning. We piled our shopping on to the checkout only to find we had picked the wrong checkout. Yes we had the Tesco checkout assistant who happened to know her customer and they were nattering.

ARGH!! PLEASE DO IT ON YOUR OWN TIME NOT MINE!!

I did look at my watch a few times but she was oblivious. Oh this was not Saturday student staff.

UPDATE - I would like to stress it was not the nattering but the fact that the checkout assistant stopped serving and the customer stopped packing that annoyed me. I thought women could multi-task? If they had kept serving and packing no problem.

Anyway still raining lets hope it'll stop for a bit tomorrow.

Friday, January 18, 2008

In search of England

I've started H. V. Morton's "In Search of England" a motor car trip around England first published in 1927. I've read 39 pages but last night I wanted to hop off my bed, grab my camera and share something magical with you gentle reader. Of course sanity prevailed and I turned the light off and snuggled under the duvet.

So far I've been to Romsey Abbey, Beaulieu and Buckler's Hard. The later with descriptions before they became mecca's for tourist. I'm sure Mary will be amused to hear me wondering where the motor museum had gone. This, of course, is a different world.

But it was not this that made me want to head off into the night. Morton also visited the church of St Cross in Winchester. What you ask? You just wanted to show us another church? Ah but St Cross is not just any church.

St Cross is England's oldest Almshouse. It was founded between 1132 and 1136 by Henry de Blois who was appointed Bishop of Winchester in 1129 aged 28.

Legend has it that Henry (who was a grandson of William the Conqueror) went for a walk in the Itchen Meadows where he was supposedly stopped by a young peasant girl who begged de Blois to help her people, who were starving because of the civil war. The parallel with the Virgin Mary was not lost on Henry, who apparently was so moved by the girl's plight that he resolved to establish a new community to help the poor.

It's probably all tosh but it is a pleasant story.

What is a fact is the Hospital was founded to support thirteen poor men, who were so frail that they were unable to work, and to feed one hundred men at the gates each day. The thirteen men became the Brothers of St Cross. In the fifteenth Century Cardinal Beaufort added to the buildings and provided a further foundation for more brothers.

The establishment was a secular one so it escaped the Reformation. Today if you go to St Cross you will still see the brothers. Some where black (provided for by Henry) and some Red (provided for by the cardinal).

Today St Cross has places for 25 brothers all Men who each have there own self contained flat.

To become a brother

The Scheme which governs the administration of the Hospital specifies that Brothers must normally be over sixty, no longer employed, and that preference should be given to those of low or limited income, although higher income is not a bar to entry. Emotional need is also considered. Brothers come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and are typically single, divorced or widowers. The Brothers do not belong to a religious order, but the Hospital is a Christian foundation and Brothers are expected to wear their gowns to attend morning prayers in the Church each day.


You can visit St Cross, and I strongly advise that you do. The church is one of the finest examples in England of Transitional Norman it has fine gardens, there is the Bretheren's Hall and the location by the Itchen is sublime.

If you visit one medieval custom still remains. You can ask at the Porters Lodge for the Wayfarers Dole, a horn of beer and a morsel of bread to any visitors who request it.

I can't show you any pictures but can point you to the website. There is a small admission charge but I believe the Church is free.

Forget Winchester, yes its Cathedral is magnificent but the town has been savagely scarred since Morton's day. It is at St Cross by the Itchen that a small part of Old England survives.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Introductions

I was reading a post on Mary's blog where she was bemoaning the invasion of her garden of a pair of House Sparrow's. One of the readers of her blog said that the only use for them was as Hawk food and that she could trap them for use at a raptor centre (I would like Jan to take a deep breath at this point and calm down ;) ).

This is a common view with introduced species, you read it here with the Grey Squirrel and the Ruddy Duck.

For those of you who aren't aware the House Sparrow was introduced as pest control in a number of US cities in the 1870's. Within a decade the introduction was regarded as a disaster (well that is a surprise). Today the Sparrow is one of North America's most abundant birds and is one of three (Rock Dove and Eurasian Starling being the others) it's legal to kill.

Apparently, well its says so on wikipedia, House Sparrows kill adult Bluebirds and other native cavity nesters and their young, smash their eggs, and take over their nesting sites, and as such are major factors in the decline of bluebirds and other native cavity nesters in North America. The House Sparrow is smaller than the native birds with which it competes, it is impossible to keep them out of nest boxes built for many native birds. Apparently the native birds are less aggressive.

The problem is what do you do with introductions? Is it realistic to remove all House Sparrows et al ? There are 150 million of them in North America. My guess is nothing, we have to accept that we have upset the natural balance and let nature take its course. A new natural balance will be reached. It may not be one we like but I don't see any other realistic option.

I think it just goes to show we should stop meddling.

Self-Destructing Palm

Apparently Botanists have discovered a new species of self-destructing palm on Madagascar. The plant is so big it can be picked up by satellite.

The plant is 20m high with 5m leaves. For most of its 100 year life span it looks unremarkable but it has a remarkable flowering pattern.

"It's spectacular," says Mijoro Rakotoarinivo, who works with Kew Gardens.

"At first there's only a very long shoot like asparagus from the top of the tree and then, a few weeks later, this unique shoot starts to destruct.

"At the end of this process you can have something like a Christmas tree."

The branches then become covered with hundreds of tiny flowers, which are pollinated and turn into fruit. The tree expends so much energy on flowering that it eventually collapses and dies.

What puzzles scientists is how the tree came to be in Madagascar, it bears a resemblance to a species of palm found in Asia but that is 6,000km away. It is hypothesized that it has gone through a spectacular evolution since Madagascar 80 million years ago.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

NO!!!

The BBC are reporting that Facebook has been asked to remove the Scrabulous Game from the website by the makers of Scrabble.

Lawyers for toy makers Hasbro and Mattel say Scrabulous infringes their copyright on the board-based word game.

Apparently there is now a Save Scrabulous Group on Facebook.

This had better come to nothing as I really enjoy scrabulous!!

The Energy has been sucked out from me

I was sitting in a meeting Monday afternoon when suddenly I just felt like the life had been sucked from me, it was all I could do to stay awake. Tuesday wasn't so bad but still this morning after a good nights sleep my eyes feel heavy.

I don't feel ill, ok not 100% but I feel fine. Is this just a reaction to the stress of the past two months or just a reaction to the fact that the weather is so depressing. Oh look its raining. AGAIN!

Well to cheer myself up I've booked some more holiday :D It seems like I'm "doing" the west country this year. Not only am I going to South Devon with Dad I've also booked a solo trip to the South West. In June I'll be staying on the Devon/Dorset borde for 2 days heading to Cornwall for 4 days and then back to the Devon/Dorset border for two Days.

I'm hoping that Abbotsbury will be open and that the bird flu scare will have safely passed.

I've stayed at both places before. The Belfy @ Yarcombe has been through changes of ownership and the Falcon Inn St Mawgan was where I stayed two years ago. It isn't the height of luxury just a pleasant rural pub. In cornwall I must visit the churches I need and maybe this time I'll get to The Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Eden Project!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

New Weekly Wildlife Magazine

The latest issue of BBC Wildlife came with a copy of issue 1 of a magazine called the Wildlife of Britain. Apparently its not new but was first published in 1997. At the moment 52 issues are planned.

Its one of these "published every week to bring you....".

So what is it like? Well glossy and lots of pictures. Some interesting articles and no adverts.

Issue 1 has the following articles


* The Wildlife year - September
* Our living seas - Hermit Crabs
* Wild flowers, trees and fungi - Poppies
* Know more about birds - Barn Owl
* Identifying wildlife - Recognising Tits
* Wildlife habitats - Wonders of the Oak Wood
* The lives of animals - The Family Lives of Hedgehogs
* Garden Wildlife - Honey Bees in Your Garden

Each issue is likely to follow a similar pattern and will cost £1.99 (issue 1 is 99p in the shops). If you click here you will find links to sample articles.

Is it worth it? For the hardcore naturalist no but it looks like an interesting read for those of us after a simple introduction into more about the world on our doorstep. It reminds me of a printed version of the BBC programme Hands on Nature.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Top Small Towns

The Saturday Daily Telegraph's property section had an article on the Top 10 Country Towns (and listed the top 50) in the UK.

"Small market towns are becoming increasingly desireable, as much for their natural beauty as for their shops and schools. Caroline McGhie seeks out the best, and finds Arundel the jewel in the crown".

Well no doubt she did. To get the list of 50 the Telegraph canvassed more than 100 estate agents and picked the brains of "experts" around the country. They referenced architectural historian Alec Clifton-Taylor's three landmark books on English Towns to whittle it down to the top 10. Does that explain the fact that no Scottish or Welsh towns make the top 10?

The criteria is, to be fair, one I would agree with
"What are our criteria? They have to have been shaped by history, dominated by a castle, abbey or a spectacular natural backdrop. Each has to be master of its own outstanding landscape, a place where specialist shops have not been obliterated by chain stores. It has to have a handsome church or market square that serves as a focal point. It may tinkle with money, smart frock shops and foodie specialists, and be a place where sports clubs and poetry groups thrive. Although it may have a large supermarket, it will be self-sufficient in banks, doctors and local stores. It will be padded with pretty Georgian or Victorian houses - a neatly wrapped package to delight the eye."

The Top 10 in Alphabetical order are
Arundel - West Sussex
Burnham Market - Norfolk
Bury St Edmunds - Suffolk
Great Malvern - Worcestershire
Hexham - Northumberland
Ludlow - Shropshire
Moreton-in-Marsh - Gloucestershire
Richmond - Yorkshire
Stamford - Lincolnshire
Totnes - Devon

I have visited 9 of the 10 (Really must go to Richmond one day).

One of the things that puzzles me is what is a Small Market Town. Bury St Edmunds is considerably bigger than say Burnham Market. Bunhham Market is really a large village. Bury St Edmunds feels considerably more substantial. Within the top 50 is St Albans which though nice wouldn't make my list. Far too big to be called small for a start (population over 60000).

Looking at the wider list there are some interesting facts. Yorkshire and Lincolnshire is a massive area but the 3 Yorkshire Towns (Pateley Bridge, Helmsley and Ricmond) are in the North and the one in Lincolnshire (Stamford) in the extreme south of the two counties. Unsurprisingly there are no Cornish towns. Cornwalls beauty lies in its coast. Surprisingly to me not one Cheshire town made the list.

One of the problems with popular towns is that often the locals are priced out. Burnham Market is often referred to as Islington Sur La Mer. If I'm honest I'd prefer Holt and Aylsham (both of which made the top 50).

Two Scottish towns made the top 50 (Kelso and Aberfeldy) and one Welsh (Ruthin)

My own much maligned county of Essex supplied two towns to the list Saffron Walden and Thaxted.

Oh booked a second holiday with Dad. We're going to Dartington near Totnes (see list above). I was in the area last year so I will try to find new places to visit so as not to be repetitve.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Just a bit further a field.

For the first time in ages i was free to travel further a field today. I didn't exactly go far as I went to the Essex Wildlife Trust reserve at Hanningfield Reservoir.

I was chuffed with a lone Black Necked Grebe from the causeway. Other notable birds were some distant Long Tailed Ducks (never saw one last year), Ruddy Ducks, loads of Goldeneye and Great Crested Grebes. In the woods were Blue, Great, Coal and Long Tailed Tit and a goldcrest flock.

After lunch I decided OC would be saying PHOTOS!! so I picked up my camera for a hour at Amwell. Saw my first Water Rail of the year as well.

The light was awful and I had to brighten the photos. That's my excuse.