Archive for the ‘UK’ Category

Day one of our 2020 trip to Dorset saw us travelling down from London to Weymouth. We stooped off at Blashford Lakes in Hampshire for a couple of hours in the afternoon and although we didn’t record a large number of species, we did see some good ones.

Arriving at the reserve we went straight to Tern hide and were soon watching a distant Long-tailed Duck, a species which is more commonly found on the coast. Also present were 6 Common Goldeneye and 2 Goosander and large numbers of Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Pintail and Gadwall plus smaller groups of Northern Shoveler, Mallard, Tufted Ducks and Common Pochard.

Goosander
Photo by Damian Walmsley (https://www.flickr.com/photos/damienwalmsley/)

The Woodland hide was quite quiet with only Great Tit, Blue Tit, Robin and Goldfinch present. Elsewhere on the reserve we also saw Chaffinch, Blackbird, Dunnock and Long-tailed Tit.

After a couple of hours, it was time to recommence our journey west, but an excellent start to our trip.

Keith park was born in New Zealand in June 1892. He joined the NZ army cadets, but at age 19 he went to sea on a merchant ship. At the outbreak of WW1, Park returned to the army joining a Field Artillery unit. He served at Gallipoli and was commissioned in July 1915. Late in 1915, he arranged a transfer into the British Royal Artillery. He was evacuated from Gallipoli in January 1916 and was then sent to fight on the Somme in France. In October that year he was wounded when a shell landed close by and he was sent back to England. Whilst he was recovering, he applied for a transfer to the Royal Flying Corps.

Following training he was posted to 48 Squadron in France in June 1917 and in August was awarded the Military Cross for his part in an aerial battle and promoted to Captain. He was subsequently promoted to Major and given command of 48 squadron.

After the war ended, Park stayed in the RAF with the rank of flight lieutenant (army ranks having been dispensed with on the formation of the RAF). After a period as a flight commander, he was transferred to the school of technical training. In 1922 he attended the RAF staff college and on completion there commanded a number of RAF stations. In 1938 he was appointed to the senior post in fighter command.

Promoted to Air Vice Marshall, Park was responsible for the organisation of 11 Group fighter command which covered London and the south-east of England and gained a reputation during the Battle of Britain as a shrewd tactician. In 1942 he was posted as commanding officer for RAF in Egypt and in July of that year was responsible for organising the air forces in defence of Malta. In February 1945, he was appointed as Allied Air Commander in SE Asia.

At the end of WW2, Park retired and returned to his native New Zealand, where he undertook a number of civic roles until his death in 1975.

This statue in Waterloo Place was unveiled on Battle of Britain day 2010 as part of the 70th-anniversary commemoration.

The awesome responsibility for the country’s defence rested squarely on Keith Park’s shoulders‘ Sir Douglas Bader (RAF pilot)

He was the only man who could have lost the war in a day or even an afternoon ‘ Air Cheif Marshall Dowding (Commander Air Forces during Battle of Britain)

The Deal Porters were specialised men who worked in the timber docks handling the timber as it came off the ships. It was a demanding job which required strength, dexterity a head for heights and was regarded as very hazardous. They were phased out as mechanisation replaced their jobs in the 1940s.

This statue in commemoration of the Deal Porters who worked in the Surrey group of Docks (which included the main timber docks) can be found alongside Canada Water and was designed by Phillip Bews and Diane Gorvin.

There are also a number of roads in the vicinity named after the Deal Porters.

Hampton Court

Posted: December 18, 2019 in History, London, UK
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Erected in 1855, the Bellot memorial in Greenwich commemorates Lieutenant Joseph-Rene Bellot, an officer in the French Navy, who drowned whilst carrying dispatches to the squadron that was searching for Sir John Franklin’s lost Arctic expedition.

Whilst we were walking in Hyde Park, Sue and I came across the statue of Peter Pan.

The statue was commissioned by the writer JM Barrie and was placed here in 1912. It has recently undergone restoration and maintenance and was re-unveiled on 1st May this year.

Hall Place

Posted: November 27, 2019 in History, London, UK
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Hall Place lies outside the ancient village of Bexley on the south-east edge of London. It was built in 1537 for Sir John Champneys, a wealthy London merchant. It is believed that much of the building material used in its construction was ‘recycled’ from the nearby monastery at Lesnes Abbey, which had been closed following the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. In 1649, the house was sold to another city merchant, Sir Robert Austin who expanded the building to double its original size. He made little attempt to harmonise his new building with the original style and thus the whole building looks very different whether viewed from the front or from the back.

In the 18th century, the house passed into the possession of Sir Francis Dashwood, a politician who had held the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, for much of the Dashwood family’s ownership, the house was leased out to tenants and at the end of the 18th century was used as a school for young gentlemen. The 19th and 20th centuries continue to see the house let to tenants, the last of whom was Lady Limerick from 1917 until 1943.

In January 1944 Hall Place was taken over by the US Army, where it served as one of the signal interception stations which fed messages into the code-breaking centre at Bletchley Park.

After the war had ended, the Place was used as a school annexe until 1968, when it became the headquarters of Bexley’s libraries and museums service. Today the properties managed by Bexley Heritage Trust and much work has been done in recent years to improve the facilities and the accessibility of this house and its large garden.

George Augustus was born in northern Germany in 1683 and was the last British monarch to be born outside of the British Isles. His father, the Elector of Hanover became King George I in 1714 and George II succeeded him in 1727. During the War of Austrian Succession, George became the last British monarch to lead an army in battle.

It was a time of major change in Europe and foreign affairs dominated George’s reign with the wars of Austrian Succession, the Anglo-Spanish war, the war of Polish Succession and the Seven years war being fought to decide who ruled the major countries of Europe. At home, he also faced and defeated the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 which sought to put the Stuart dynasty back on the British throne.

George donated the Royal Library to the nation and it was housed in the British Museum forming the core of the Libary now known as the British Library.

George died in October 1760. His son, Frederick had died 7 years previously and so he was succeeded by his grandson, George III. George was initially regarded as a weak king by writers and historians. However more modern research has challenged this idea and is much more appreciative of his contribution to history.

This statue of George sits in the central area of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich and depicts him in Roman military dress. It dates from 1735.

Elsing Spital

Posted: November 19, 2019 in History, London, Medieval History, UK
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I came across Elsing Spital (Elsing’s Hospital) whilst walking in the City of London during a lunch break in a conference. All that remains of this medieval hospital is the tower of the church, which now sits amongst the concrete tower blocks of the city.

The hospital was founded in 1131 by William Elsing as a hospital for the blind homeless people of London. In 1340 the running of the hospital was undertaken by the Augustinian order, who appointed a prior and canons to live on the premises. Eventually, the number of inmates would rise to around 100.

The priory and the hospital were closed during the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII and the property was granted to Sir John Williams, the master of the King’s Jewels. However, he did not get to enjoy it as within a year fire had destroyed the whole building.

As the city of London grew around it, the land of the hospital was used for buildings and by 1960, the remain buildings of the tower were enclosed by the surrounding buildings to the extent that they were no longer accessible by the public. However, more recent development have created an open plaza which contains the remains.

The weather forecast had not been too promising so Keith and I headed for the London Wetland Centre. As it turned out all the rain had blown through the night before and we were treated to a dry day.

The morning started well with a Sparrowhawk circling above the River Thames as we crossed Hammersmith Bridge. Arriving at the centre we followed our usual route and were soon getting good views of the wintering wildfowl.

Passing the feeding station, a Coal Tit was a good sighting as were the large number of Eurasian Jays that were on the reserve. Arriving at the Tower Hide, we were soon watching Water Pipit and Stonechats on what remained of the scrape islands (The water level was very high due to the recent rain and most of the Islands had disappeared below the surface). We also had a distant view of a female Goldeneye.

Water Pipit. Photo by Keith

Moving to the other side of the centre, we decided to stake out a good spot for Eurasian Bittern and also to look for the Yellow-Legged Gull that had been seen earlier in the morning. We did not succeed in either, although on a photo of some gulls Keith took, there was a good candidate for the Yellow-Legged Gull, but it was just to distant to be sure.

A very pleasant day considering the forecast.