Archive for April, 2019

Charles Edward Stuart was the grandson of King James II who had been forced to abdicate from the British throne in 1688. Charles’ father had briefly attempted to take the throne in 1715 but had not been able to raise the support in Scotland to challenge for the throne. So in 1745, it fell to Charles, Bonnie Prince Charlie as he would become known, to take up the Stuart cause.

He landed in Northern Scotland in July and proceeded south gathering support and in September took Edinburgh. He defeated the British forces at Prestonpans and decided to make a rapid descent on London. He marched south but although he did not encounter much resistance, he received little support and tired and worn-out his army reached Derby on 4th December 1745. During the 5th a messenger arrived with information that a large British force blocked the road to London and that two others were approaching from the West Midlands. Unbeknown to the Stuarts, this was inaccurate as all 3 forces were still days away and the road to London was still open. Acting on the information as they understood it, the Scottish Lords argued for retreat and Charles reluctantly agreed.

A reconstruction of the room in Exeter House where the Jacobites held their council of war in Derby (items and furnishings removed when it was demolished)

So a day after reaching Derby they began to march north again and kept going until they reached Glasgow. Another British army was encountered near Falkirk and the Scots again were successful, but despite this, the generals and Lords still argued for a return to their Highland lands to regroup. This delay was all the British Generals needed to muster their forces and the final battle was fought at Culloden near Inverness and resulted in a massive defeat for the Stuart army.

Charles escaped and despite a large reward and some narrow escapes he made it back to the continent where he continued to live until 1788. 

There is evidence of Pre-historic occupation in the Derby area.

The Romans built a fort on the site in 50AD and a vicus (town) grew up around it. However when the Romans left Britain the site was abandoned.

There was possibly an Anglo-Saxon settlement in the area, but the Vikings founded a settlement in 873 which was captured by the Saxons in 917. It prospered and a mint and market are recorded in the 10th century.

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The Doomsday book (1086) records a population of 2000 (The average size of a village was about 100-150).  It received charters in 1154 and 1204 and a wool industry was established in the town. Despite outbreaks of the plague in 1636 and 1665, the town continued to grow. The UK’s first silk mill was opened in Derby in 1717.

Bonnie Prince Charlie

The city was occupied by the Jacobite Army in December 1745 and King George I visited in 1773 and warranted the change of name for the local china from Derby to Crown Derby (it later became Royal Crown Derby by permission of Queen Victoria). The Railway reached Derby in 1839 and the Midland Railway soon set up a depot for maintenance and construction of engines.

The Old Roundhouse from the Railway Works

In 1907 Rolls Royce opened a factory manufacturing cars and airoplane engines.

Keith and I were fortunate that as we were exploring the grounds of the church in Snodland, a lady kindly offered to open up the church so we could have a look inside.

There is a possibility that there was a church on this site from around 660 AD although the first written record is from around 1000. The church was rebuilt in stone around 1100 and there is evidence that some of this came from a near-by Roman Villa as tiles and other Roman masonry have been found in the walls and in the infill.

The church was enlarged a number of times in the 13th-15th centuries, probably due to its position at the place where the Pilgrims Way from London to the tomb of St Thomas Becket in Canterbury crosses the River Medway (originally there was a ferry).

The tower included a Priests room, although this seems to have been converted into a lock-up when a rectory was built nearby in the 17th century to house the priest. There was much renovation in the 19th century and a vestry was added to the south side at this time. There are only a few fragments of original medieval glass as a land mine fell nearby in 1942 and shattered the windows. Some 19th-century windows remain plus more modern replacements.

An unpromising weather forecast but Keith and I decided to head off to New Hythe and Leybourne Lakes in search of Nightengales. This area in the Medway Valley is now one of the remaining strongholds for this declining species.

As we leave the train at New Hythe it has been raining but has now stopped and we proceed into the lake complex which is managed for fishing, leisure and Wildlife. Within a hundred yards we are greeted by our first singing Nightengale. It will be one of the 10-12 singing males we will encounter over the time we spend in the lake complex, which is excellent news for the forthcoming breeding season.

Recording of Nightengale singing

Other highlights were 15 singing Blackcaps plus a smaller number of Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge warblers, Reed Warblers, Cettis warblers and Chiffchaffs, but strangely no Willow Warblers, which neither of us has managed to hear so far this year. I hope they are just delayed and this is not an indication of some problem during their migration

We also had six species of Butterfly: Peacock, Speckled Wood, Green-Veined White, Small White and Brimstone.

As we were heading for Snodland Station we spotted a Kestrel on the church tower.

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Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Stock Dove [sp] (Columba oenas)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)
Eurasian Reed Warbler [sp] (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Lesser Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia curruca)
Common Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia communis)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Common Nightingale [sp] (Luscinia megarhynchos)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
White Wagtail (Pied) (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Chloris chloris)

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Sometimes also known as the Rose-ringed parakeet, these birds originally from Africa and Asia have become established in the South East of England and are spreading northward. The UK population is thought to be of Indian origin and established itself following escapes from captivity. Its amazing breeding success has seen a rapid expansion of range in a relatively short time.

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Even though Greater London and surrounding areas is still its stronghold, the species has been recorded in almost every county in England, and has reached Wales and the Scottish borders. The latest estimate is around 10,000 breeding pairs, but this may be an underestimate as the counts at our 2 local winter roosts were 6,000 and 2,000 birds  last year.

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A Bank Holiday Monday morning visit to the Kent Wildlife Trust reserve at Sevenoaks to look for Little Ringed plover and other migrants.

The reserve is based around two large lakes which were originally dug for sand and gravel extraction. My first stop was at the hide overlooking the west end of the main lake. This was where the Little Ringed Plovers had been seen the previous day but there was no sign this morning. More common birds were present including Tufted Duck, Teal, Mallard, Great Crested Grebe and a single Mute Swan.

Eurasian Teal (m)
Wood Forget-me-nots

I then walked through the wood to the hide at the other end of the main lake but only saw the same species. Blackcaps were singing in the trees but no other migrant warblers were heard. My final stop was at the hide on the second lake. Here there was a group of Greylag Geese. The feeding station was not busy and only a couple of Blue Tits, a Great Tit, a Dunnock and a Magpie visited whilst I was there.

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Stock Dove [sp] (Columba oenas)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
White Wagtail (Pied) (Motacilla alba yarrellii)

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines)
Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io)

45379: Black 5

Posted: April 22, 2019 in Trains
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45379 waiting to enter Alton station

45379 waiting to enter Alton station

The Stanier Black 5’s were designed as an all purpose engine for the London Midland and Scottish Railway.

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45379 was built at Newcastle in 1937 and saw service at Crewe, Rugby and Bletchley depots before being withdrawn from service in the summer of 1965. After stints at Avon Valley and Great Central railways it came to the Mid-Hants line in 2002.

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Canada Goose

Posted: April 19, 2019 in Birds, Natural History
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The Canada Goose was originally a native of North America. A few individuals manage to reach the UK naturally each year. However, the vast majority of the population dates from introductions. Historical records show that this was likely to have begun in the early 17th century, when a group of geese were presented to King Louis XIII in Paris. In the UK the first recorded introduction was in the late 17th century, when a group of Canada Geese were introduced into the Royal wildfowl collection in St James’s Park. From these small beginnings, it is estimated that the current UK breeding population is 62,000 pairs and the wintering population is around 190,000 birds.

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The Canada goose has become a common bird of UK lakes, gravel pits and urban parks. They usually form monogamous pairings which stay together until one bird dies. They can lay between 2-9 eggs per pair per year (average five) and it is not uncommon on our local lake to have 10 to 15 young every summer. In the UK there are not many things that will take even a half grown Canada goose and so it is easy to see how their numbers prospered over the years. Indeed, in some places measures have had to be taken to limit their success and prevent them becoming a pest. Interestingly, the UK population unlike its American counterpart tends to be a resident species with very limited migration.

Working at home today with a wonderful view from my study window

Edward was the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He ascended to the throne at the age of 60 on the death of his mother in 1901 and reigned for 9 years.

The statue, which stands in Waterloo Place, was erected by his son, King George V in 1921 and is by Sir Bertram MacKennal, an Australian sculptor who also designed the likeness of George V that appeared on his coinage.