Flaming June


The month of June is quite often referred to as “Flaming June”. Depending on the weather this can be either a positive description or a negative one. This year I believe this description would be delivered as a positive.

The weather has been predominantly good, much to the benefit of the roses. Here are a few from my garden.

Yet Another Squirrel Picture


Over the last few weeks I have loaded up two of my bird feeders with around 2 kilos of sunflower hearts. One feeder has a stainless steel mesh and is mainly frequented by the various members of the tit family. Supplemented by the occasional visits of a pair of Nuthatches and Robins. And today we even had a Bullfinch, a first for us.

The other feeder is a little more open and needless to say is the preferred food source for, yep, you guessed it. The squirrels …..

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Loitering With Intent

I wouldn’t mind, but in stealing the birds food they spill more on the ground than they actually eat.

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Caught In The Act

This ground based bounty then attracts the attention of those flying pigs, the Wood Pigeons. I call them pigs because of the volume of seed a single pigeon consumes. I also refer to them as vultures, as they sit high up in the trees waiting for us humans to leave the garden so they can come down and scavenge. They remind me of that old cartoon and tee shirt design …..

Patience

One day they will lose their patience, fly down and attack me instead of waiting for me to fill the feeders.

Anyway, I know, it’s my fault, I bought the wrong type of feeder. But I have yet to find a squirrel proof feeder. These little scallywags have such sharp teeth and are so persistent, that they have chewed their way into every feeder that doesn’t give them instant access to the food, like the one above.

Like us humans and our money, who want instant access to our cash. We have ATMs, the squirrel community want ASDs. Automated Seed Dispensers.

 

The Bluebell Line


Continuing a theme of stepping back in time, today’s post is about the Bluebell Railway which runs between East Grinstead & Sheffield Park in East Sussex.

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Bluebell Railway – Sheffield Park Station

This was another “wrinklies” trip, organised by the IBM Retired Employees Club. And what a fine day out it was.

A coach trip through some of the finest countryside that Hampshire and Sussex have to offer. You see so much more from the high vantage point that a coach provides. Seeing much that is missed, hidden behind hedgerows when sitting in a car.

On arrival at Sheffield Park, we had time to wander the station, the gift shop and cafe.

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Bluebell Line – Sheffield Park – Platform view with some rolling stock in the distance.

Over to the right you can just make out a brown locomotive. This is the Fenchurch, the oldest engine on the Bluebell Line.

Fenchurch was built in 1872 for the London Brighton and South Coast Railway.

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It was sold in 1898 to the Newhaven Harbour Company where it worked for many years. It finished its working life on the Hayling Island branch where the light weight, at 28 tons, was valuable due to the limits on the bridge over the estuary.

Whilst wandering the platforms, browsing the souvenir shop and raiding the restaurant for some chilled water, our train arrived.

The walls of the station buildings are adorned with the advertising posters of yesteryear, many stirring quite strong memories.

Before we could board, the existing passengers had to disembark, and then the engine had to be moved from the one end of the train to the other.

While the engine swapped ends the carriage for our group was also being prepared for our luncheon. We were to enjoy a ploughman’s lunch and fresh brewed tea.

Once our engine was re-attached to our train there was just time for a few more shots before boarding.

And then we were off. Not the smooth running of todays diesel/electric trains. Rather a gentle pulsing which comes from the steam-driven pistons driving our locomotives wheels. Then there was the aroma, coal fire mixed with steam. Once experienced, never forgotten.

The line passes through some beautiful countryside. We saw cows, sheep, quite a few pheasants. I even saw, what I assumed was an owl box, shaped like the gable end of barn, mounted in a tree close by the railway.

We were sat across our table from a nice couple of gents with whom we nattered about all manner of subjects. We all enjoyed our ploughman’s lunch although perhaps it would have been more appropriate to have had an engine drivers breakfast. Bacon, sausage, eggs and toast cooked on a shovel in the firebox. But I guess that would have been too much to ask for. Even the tea could have made using steam from the boiler.

Ah well, perhaps another time. All too soon our journey was over and we all left the train and headed back to our coach for the drive home.

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Journeys End – an almost deserted platform

And finally, when we had a nationalised railway system, we all moaned and wished we could go back to the days of the independent and local railway companies. Now we have a national rail network with franchised companies running the trains. With the current, recurring railway network chaos headlining our newspapers and television news, it seems we are all wishing we had our old nationalised system under British Railways ……

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Monty The Boat Horse


As an IBM retiree, I am a member of the IBM Retired Employee Club. The club organises various activities to keep us occupied, mainly via organised excursions. These activities can vary from shopping trips to London, mystery coach rides through the British countryside, shows and visits to stately homes.

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Canal Side Flowers

A couple of weeks ago we did something a little different, for us. The scheduled excursion was a trip to the old market town of Marlborough, combined with a horse-drawn boat trip on the Kennet and Avon canal.

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Tranquility

So, reasonably early in the morning, we set of on the coach. It was quite a dull day, in fact it rained quite hard as we drove down the M27. This didn’t bode well for the time we were due to spend in Marlborough. Plodding around shops is not my idea of fun. Doing it in the rain, even less so. However, 90 minutes or so later we arrived at Marlborough High Street, the second widest in Britain. The rain had eased off to a light drizzle so that was good.

Marlborough is an interesting town but, since we have visited several times before, we opted to spend very little time window shopping. Instead searching out a cozy hostelry, namely the Castle & Ball hotel, which dates from the 15th century. Here we had a very pleasant meal.

Having completed our lunch, we were soon back on the coach, ready for the days highlight, the boat trip. And, after a short, thirty minute drive, we arrived at Kintbury and were soon aboard the canal boat.

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Kennet Valley – Our 1 Horse Power canal boat

Our horse-drawn boat, Kennet Valley, is a wide-beam passenger vessel, purpose-built in 1976. She operates from Kintbury and is 20.4m (67ft) long by 3m (10ft) wide. Powered solely by the 1hp towing action of a horse.

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Monty ‘The Star’ – a Welsh Cob Shire Cross

The horse in question is Monty ‘The Star’ a Welsh Cob Shire Cross. He was ready and harnessed when we arrived. Shortly, after all passengers were aboard, Monty was hitched up and off we went.

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Regular Stretching Exercises – Keeping The Rope Clear

This is a fabulous way to travel. So smooth and quiet. Sometimes, there are obstacles to negotiate. The guys, our crew of three, were very adept. Lifting the tow rope over other craft moored alongside, so as not to take down their chimneys ……..

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Aye Aye Skipper

….. steering to avoid oncoming craft. Yes it was very busy. I think during our three hours on the boat we encountered two other craft coming towards us. I think the rules were that, since we were under horse power, they had to give way to us. …..

…. Locks are an intrinsic part of the canal way of life. During our journey we had two locks to negotiate each way ….

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Passing Through The Lock

….. and bridges too.

Between locks, some of us decided to jump ship and walk alongside the canal. This was so relaxing.

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Threading the canal boat through the eye of the needle

If there hadn’t been some fifty odd passengers chattering away, this would have been a very quiet journey.

About half way through our journey, the galley was opened and we were served a fabulous tea. Hot tea and coffee along with Walnut Cake, Victoria Sponge and Lemon Drizzle Cake. Best of all we were treated to Fruit Scones with Cherry Jam and Cream. Surprisingly, the chatter level increased with everyone enthusing about the quality of the fare.

However, even with all that chatter, this was a lovely way to travel. No monotonous engine drone, no exhaust fumes, just the fresh country air. All accompanied by the bleating of lambs in the fields and the birdsong to join us on our gentle glide along the canal.

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Monty walked steadily along, grabbing mouthfuls of grass and other foliage at every opportunity. Literally, foraging on the hoof. During our journey, we were regaled with tales of how, on a previous “wrinklies” trip, Monty did a runner. When Monty was un-hitched to allow the boat through one of the locks, he decided he had had enough and took off along the canal-side, all the way home. This left the boat stranded while the skipper trotted back home to retrieve Monty and bring him back to finish his days work.

On this occasion he behaved himself. Our journey was all to soon completed and we were back on the coach. Safely back to our departure point and then on to home.

A Great Day Out.

Woody


You can tell that the weather is warming up. The ants get busy and then along comes this great little guy….

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European Green Woodpecker

This very smart bird is a European Green Woodpecker, Picus viridis

He and his pals visit our front garden fairly frequently since we seem to have more than our fair share of ant nests.  This member of the woodpecker family spends much of its time feeding on ants, on the ground. Unlike other species of woodpecker, he does not often ‘drum’ on trees.

They are supposed to be a shy bird but I have found them to be fairly tolerant so long as you don’t make any sudden moves. When they fly away they usually do so whilst emitting their very loud and distinctive call.

Super Car Sunday – Goodwood


Today was Super Car Sunday, part of the Breakfast Club series, held on the first Sunday of every month at the Goodwood Motor Racing Circuit.

The weather was perfect, with bright sunshine to show of the varied paint finishes.

Here are just some of the photos I captured.

I would just like to say thank you to the folks at Goodwood for hosting this event and to the owners of these fabulous machines for bringing them along for us to drool over.

And the best thing about this event, it is totally free.

Italian Adventure Part 8 – Hunt The Olive Tree


This was to be our last venture out before heading for home. As usual the weather forecast was mixed but, fingers crossed, we headed out. But, not before a couple of pictures taken from our hotel room.

Our target destination was the  Olivenbaum, at Marciano down near the tip of the Sorrento peninsula. As far as we could determine this is a piece of “folk art” initiated and maintained by the local villagers.

The satnag took us out from our hotel, weaving through Vico Equense,  Montechiaro and Meta along  the usual route to Sorrento.

From here we headed out into the countryside, into unknown territory. Needless to say we were presented with many beautiful views, although there wasn’t always anywhere to safely pull over and get the camera out. We did get some pictures ……

and there is more ……

The church and cemetery were situated on, by far, the quietest road that we had driven during our stay in Italy.

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View from via Nastro d Oro, over a small gorge, towards Capri

The following picture, taken by Gerry, shows three rocky islands …. The Sirenusas

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The Sirenusas – Gallo Lungo – Il Gallo Lungo, La Castelluccia & La Rotonda

So named as legend has it they were inhabited by sirens.  The most famous of whom were Parthenope, Leucosia, and Ligeia. One of them played the lyre, another sang, and another played the flute.

In more recent times the islands have been owned by Rudolph Nureyev, purchased in 1988. Following his death, they were purchased by  a local Sorrento hotelier.

According to Wikipedia: The property has been on and off the market for years, most recently a public listing of the three islands in 2011 was for US$268,000,000.

We never did find the Olive Tree. The satnag led us round in circles, telling us to turn when there wasn’t a turning. On one occasion we came across a narrow road/track, which might have taken us there but the road signs were confusing. Implying no vehicular access. Since there were no signs regarding the Olive Tree, we didn’t fancy hoofing it into the unknown.

Never mind, we were enjoying the views, the peace and quiet of the countryside. Well, peace for the most part. However, we were treated to a 21 gun salute. We had seen some signs for a military establishment and they were evidently practicing with their cannon. The puffs of smoke can just be seen in the following photo …

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Gun smoke ?

As I said this was our final day exploring the Sorrento Peninsula. Sadly, it was soon time to head back to the hotel and the inevitable suitcase packing.

Just time for one more shot of Vesuvius, across the bay from our hotel ….

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Mount Vesuvius – Viewed from Towers Hotel

So that is it, the end of our Italian Adventure.

Well not quite, our journey to the airport was nearly as complicated as driving to the hotel on day one. However, we made it to the airport, eventually found our way into the car rental compound and ultimately made our flight back to the UK and home. It was amazing how rush hour on the M25 seemed so tranquil, compared to the roads around Naples and Sorrento. And quiet, not on single toot of a car horn. And so few motor cycles.