When we first move to Knutsford in 1986 there was no generally recognised problem of blue green algae or cyanobacteria. There was a small sandy beach by the lake in Tatton Park, where people would go to picnic and bathe in the lakewater. Dogs swam in the lake without problem; even daughter’s Westie put his toes in.
Then, in the early nineties, notices began to appear about blooms of blue green algae in the water; dogs should not go in and people should definitely not bathe. They appeared with increasing frequency, and are now a permanent feature. The sandy beach is long gone.
Almost everywhere you go in Britain these algae seem to have got a hold, with a detrimental effect on other wildlife. Last year we witnessed dead Canada geese being removed from Shakerley Mere because of poisoning, suspected to be the very evident blue green algae.
Close up the resulting scum can appear ugly, but can sometimes give almost beautiful effects, as in the following picture.
So what causes these algal blooms and what changed?
The black pine is native to southern Europe. We found this gathering of black pines at Bodnant garden, in Snowdonia, North Wales. Bodnant lies in a sheltered valley, enabling many exotic species to flourish within this mountainous area. What really struck me was the enormous trunks extending up far and away, with just a relatively small amount of branches and leaves in the high canopy. The effect is striking, almost monochrome.
We haven’t seen many butterflies so far this summer, but there were plenty of these brown ringlets in the woodland during our recent visit to the National Trust’s Bodnant Garden, North Wales. Fortuitously, one paused on a neaby leaf allowing this shot.
The neolithic remains at Avebury are on an awe-inspiring scale. There were originally three stone circles, the largest having diameter 330 metres, inside the henge – a roughly circular bank with deep internal ditch. The stones are thought to have remained largely intact from around the neolithic period 3-4000BC until the late middle ages, the 14th century, when some of the stones were removed/ buried, presumably due to their pagan associations.
The stones were cataloged in 16C, removed/buried in 17-18C, and substantially restored in 20C. The village you can see in the background was built in one of the circles.
The site is now maintained by the National Trust, together with the long avenue of standing stones (West Kennet Avenue), connecting the circles to other contemporary remains including the mound at Silbury Hill. The whole is on a vast scale, indicating that this was no primitive society, as we tend to think.
The mass of yellow flowers and pungent aroma are long gone, and the rapeseed is left to ripen in the field by a favourite walk. The plants are not generally regarded as visually attractive at this stage, but the setting sun and cloudscape in the background give a helping hand, resulting in a pleasing image.
In my experience, dragonflies are difficult to photograph because they are constantly on the move, often patrolling their territory. I was probably lucky to catch these male black tailed skimmers basking in the sun, by the lake at the National Trust’s Ickworth House in Suffolk.
The red deer at Tatton Park are just now coming into velvet, starting to grow their antlers ready for the battles of autumn. On a hot June afternoon they’re content to rest in the long grass, awaiting the cool of evening.
On entering Glastonbury Abbey, one of the first buildings you come to is the charming little St. Patrick’s Chapel. Here is a mural which recalls the last days of the Abbey in 1539.
At the time of the Dissolution programme which began in 1534, Richard Whiting was the gentle and respected bishop of Glastonbury Abbey, the second richest religious institution in England, with around 100 monks. The story is well told by Wikipedia here.
In essence, Whiting was conned in the early years that the programme would only affect smaller institutions. By 1539 Glastonbury was the only remaining abbey in Somerset. On being told to surrender the Abbey, Whiting refused, acting legally correctly. Naturally, the Glastonbury leaders took steps to keep the abbey’s treasures safe. This was then turned round by the church commissioners, and ultimately Thomas Cromwell acting on behalf of King Henry VIII, as evidence of treason. His defiance was simply not acceptable to the all-powerful king. There was no due process. Whiting was convicted in secret, and executed on Glastonbury Tor with two of his team.
The mural shows three gibbets on Glastonbury Tor, where the 3 men were hanged, drawn and quartered. These were savage times, and of course Whiting was not the first religious leader to be so treated.
Whiting is considered a martyr by the Catholic Church which beatified him over 300 years later.
On a recent visit to Glastonbury we passed by two one-thousand-year-old oaks, in a lane that runs by the appropriately named Old Oaks campsite. These venerable oaks date from the time of the Norman conquests, a time when wolves and bears were still Britain’s top predators. Even the names Gog and Magog are associated with ancient myths and legends (see eg Wikipedia entry).
Sad to say, although alive when we last saw it, Gog died due to a fire in 2017. How a probably careless act destroyed this ancient being – somehow symbolic of the lack of care many modern people have for nature.
Magog still survives and flourishes, despite the decrepit aspect of parts of its trunk.
I love being on the cliffs at Thursaston on the Wirral side of the Dee Estuary. When the tide is down you are basically looking out over huge mudflats with the occasional resting anchored boat, and when it is up the expanse of water becomes huge. Amid this twice daily rhythm there are often spectacular sunsets, at this time of the year round the corner up the coast towards Liverpool and beyond. Although there are few birds just here at this time of year, you are almost spoilt for choice photographically. Here are just a few.
The little bird insistently called out from somewhere within the nearby hedging trees in Wirral Country Park. Eventually I managed to locate it singing away, showing just enough to take a photo. Of course, it was a chiffchaff, named onomatopoeically.
A second chiffchaff gave a better opportunity, caught in action singing away..
The early rape fields have been in flower for some time now, a great splash of yellow with an almost overwhelming aroma. Photographically they are rather boring; but the neat intermediate hedge gives some interest to the featured image, looking over farmed fields towards nearby woodland.
Hawthorn hedges and trees are also in full flower (‘May blossom’), giving the opportunity for the following pleasing juxtaposition.
A visit to the English seaside has always featured herring herring gulls, which are both an attraction and a bit of a nuisance when they steal food. Over recent decades some have moved inland, finding food quite plentiful there, as they are omnivores. But I think their preference is still to be by the sea. This one, at Mortehoe in Devon, was looking for food at the local teashop.
Despite this versatility, herring gulls are on the UK red list of endangered populations.
The astute observer will notice that the verticals and horizontals are not quite right – one of the hazards of impulsive candid shooting, which was on this occasion not easily corrected by editing.
I imagine that there is always a wonderful sunset in progress somewhere on earth; whether you see it is just a question of where you stand – a metaphor for the inner spiritual world that lies always within and is accessible with the right inner stance, or so we are told by countless mystics and sages.
The process of seeing the setting sun is, for me, in itself a spiritual experience, bringing me closer to that inner world. So the chance to stand on these Devon cliffs at the recent full moon, as the sun went down, was a privilege indeed. My trusty Panasonic ZX200 superzoom made a fair interpretation of the true glory of the colours, here presented in time sequence.
I was watching out for the green flash as the sun disappeared, but it was not to be on this occasion.
Meanwhile, behind me the unusually large April supermoon was coming up fast, a reminder that these two lights are inseparable and interdependent, as are mind and feelings, which they represent in astrology.