Archive for the ‘UK’ Category

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.

Keith and I made a trip to the London Wetland centre in search of spring migrants. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much initial evidence except for a number of singing Blackcaps.

On reaching the tower hide we were alerted to a male Yellow Wagtail on the marsh, which was an unexpected bonus.

Yellow Wagtail (m)

Keith thought he heard a Chiffchaff calling near the secluded walk but it didn’t erupt into song and we never did locate it. Otherwise, the resident birds were getting on with preparing for the breeding season.

Tufted Duck (top left), Mute Swan (top centre), Common Redshank (top right) with Grey Heron (bottom)

The Sand Martins were back in evidence over the lakes having completed their journey from their wintering grounds in Africa.

Cowslip (top right), Common Shelduck (top centre), Common Snipe (top right), Tree Bumblebee (bottom left) and Great Crested Grebe (bottom right)

So apart from the Sand Martins, the Blackcaps and the Yellow Wagtail we didn’t find many migrants but there were plenty of other signs of spring with flowers blooming, Bumblebees on the wing and birds preparing sites for nesting.

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)
Gadwall [sp] (Mareca strepera)
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Common Snipe [sp] (Gallinago gallinago)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Rock Dove (Feral) (Columba livia ‘feral’)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
Eurasian Jay [sp] (Garrulus glandarius)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Sand Martin [sp] (Riparia riparia)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Western Yellow Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla flava)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Chloris chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)

I love walking along the banks of the River Thames whether in the city itself or the more leafy areas surrounding it. Here is an account of a city walk with some interesting literary connections.

Shakespeare’s Globe is located just east of Tate Modern. The reconstruction of the Globe Theatre from 1559 is a must-see for literary travellers.

Literary London: A stroll along South Bank with Dickens and Shakespeare — For Book Lovers and Random People


Posted: April 9, 2019 in Birds, London, Natural History, UK

I was pleased to hear our first Blackcap of the year singing in my garden a few evenings ago.

Blackcap (m)

The Blackcap is a small warbler, primarily a summer visitor is easily identifiable if seen. Both sexes are similar but the male, as its name suggests, has a black cap, whilst the female has a brown cap.

Blackcap (f)

It is estimated that around 1.2 million pairs breed in the UK and whilst most depart in the autumn, a growing number (currently estimated at around 3000 birds) now spend the winter here. However, research has shown that these are mostly birds that have bred in Germany or NE Europe rather than UK breeding birds.

Blackcap (m)

Born in 1782, he was brought up by his Uncle, the Earl of Derby, after his father died the same year. He was educated at Eton and the Royal Military Academy and was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers in 1798.

He served at the siege of Malta (1800) and the capture of Alexandria (1807). He served on the staffs of Sir John Moore and Sir Arthur Wellesley during the Penninsula war from 1808-1815 rising to the rank of Lieutenant – Colonel. After a brief spell in the USA, he returned to France. In 1821 he was appointed Commander at the Royal engineers Depot at Chatham and in 1828 he became Garrison Engineer at Portsmouth. In 1838 he was promoted to Major-General and Knighted.

In 1845 he was appointed Inspector-General of Fortifications and worked on defences in Gibraltar and the Crimea as well as in the UK. In 1854 he became Colonel Commandant of the Royal Engineers, being promoted to the rank of General the following year. In 1865 he was appointed Constable of the Tower of London and retired in 1868 with the rank of Field Marshall.

By Roger Fenton – Library of Congress, Public Domain,

He died in London in 1871 and was buried in Brompton Cemetry.


The Kingston Down brooch dates from between 600 to 625 A.D. This is one of the finest Anglo-Saxon brooches ever discovered and contains over 830 pieces of metal together with garnets, blue glass and Pearl inlay on a gold framework. It has been suggested that it may well have come from the same workshop as the finds discovered at Sutton Hoo in Essex. However despite it’s finery this was not just a display item and the wear pattern suggests it was quite regularly used and had been repaired a number of times. It was discovered at Kingston Down in Kent by Brian Fausett in 1771 and was offered the British Museum, following his death, in 1853. Amazingly, the British Museum declined the offer, apparently because at that time it had no interest in British history! A few years later it was purchased by Joseph Mayo and presented to Liverpool Museum where it can be seen today.

I was driving down the road in Catford where I used to live and noticed a brown plaque on the house next door to the house where I lived between 1965 and 1969.

The plaque is to commemorate Captain William Colbeck (1871–1930).  Captain Colbeck moved to 51 Inchmery Road in 1913, following an adventurous career at sea.

He was a member of the first expedition to spend a whole year on the Antarctic continent (The Southern Cross expedition, 1898–1900) travelling further south than anyone previously (to 78° 50’, on 17 February 1900), with the Norwegian leader of the expedition, Carsten Borchgrevink. He was also on the mission bringing food and fuel supplies to Captain Scott and his men on the ice-bound Discovery in 1903, and again in 1904 when he helped to release the Discovery from the ice, by blasting open an 18-mile passage to the open sea.

The plaque was erected in 2016.

Colin Campbell was born, Colin MacIver, in Glasgow in October 1792. After school, his uncle Major John Campbell, arranged for him to go to Gosport Military Academy. It here that it is believed that it was wrongly assumed that the boy had the same name as his uncle and so he was enrolled as Colin Campbell.

He joined the 9th Regiment of Foot as an ensign on May 26th 1808 and was posted to the Iberian Peninsula where he fought at the battle of Vimeiro in August of that year. He was promoted Lieutenant in July 1809. His battalion was transferred to Gibraltar in 1810 and he took part in the battle of Barrosa, where he was commended for his bravery. He took part in a number of other battles during the Peninsula war before being promoted to Captain and transferred to the 60th (Royal American) Regiment. He was sent to Nova Scotia but soon returned to England.

Following the contraction of the army after the battle of Waterloo, Campbell joined the 21st North British Fusiliers in 1818. He travelled to the West Indies and whilst there took part in suppressing a slave revolt in Demerara. He returned to England in 1828 and after spending some time in Ireland became commanding officer of the 98th Foot and was sent to China. In December 1842 he was made a Colonel and appointed commandant of Hong Kong. 1847 saw him transfer to India where he was involved in a number of battles. But after a disagreement with the Governor-General regarding punitive raids he resigned his commission.

In 1854, with the outbreak of the Crimean war, Campbell accepted the command of the Highland Brigade. During the battle of Alma, Campbell and his ‘Thin Red Line’ of Highlanders turned back the Russian attack on Balaclava. He was knighted in 1855 and returned home in 1856.

The following year he returned to India and was appointed to the command of all British forces and led the relief of the siege of Lucknow. In 1858 he was created Baron Clyde of Clydesdale. In retirement, he was promoted to Field Marshall in 1863 and died the following year at his home near Chatham. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.

This Statue by Carlo Marochetti in Waterloo Place was erected in 1867.

St Martin, Exeter

Posted: March 27, 2019 in Devon, History, Medieval History, UK

The site of an ancient church in the Cathedral Close, most of the current church dates to the 15th century. Its furnishings reflect the 17th and 18th-century low-church tradition.