Archive for the ‘UK’ Category

King Arthur

Posted: October 21, 2019 in cornwall, Dark ages, History, UK
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Another day of heavy rain forced us to look for somewhere indoor to visit and so we decided to visit the Arthurian centre at Slaughterbridge on the banks of the River Camel. Slaughterbridge stood at an important ford across the river and therefore was an important strategic site. The name of the village gives a good indication that this is the site of a battle, in fact, its two battles. The first was the battle between Arthur, King of Cornwall and Mordred his nephew, who was in rebellion and took place according to records in 537. The second was in 823 when the Anglo-Saxons under Egbert of Wessex defeated the army of Cornwall and Wessex took control of Cornwall. Numerous artefacts of dark-age weapons have been found on the site, showing this certainly was a battlefield.

On the site, there has also been the discovery of a 13th-century village and an 18th-century garden, but perhaps the most controversial finding is a dark-age stone (c540) found by the river which has both Latin and Ogham (ancient Irish language) inscriptions. The latter is almost unreadable due to erosion, but the Latin inscription has been interpreted by some as reading ‘Here lies Latin(us) the son of Arthur the Great’. An alternative translation and interpretation have read as ‘ Here lies Latinus, the son of Macarius’. Neither the less it is an interesting artefact as it is one of the few gravestones found in Britain that have both Latin and Ogham inscriptions together.

The exhibition and information are very good as they do not seek to verify the legends of King Arthur, merely to present what is known from historical and other sources and to let the visitor make up their own minds about what they believe is true and what is fantasy. My personal conclusion, Arthur was a Celtic War-leader, in the period when the Anglo-Saxons began to enter Britain. He fought to protect the western lands of the British Celts and was to a large degree successful as the Anglo-Saxons didn’t finally gain control of Cornwall till many years after his death.

After watching England beat Tonga 35-3 at the Rugby World Cup, we wondered about going out as it had been raining heavily all morning, but the sun came out early afternoon and so we drove to Roadford reservoir on the edge of Dartmoor.  Roadford Reservoir is a man-made lake, fed by the River Wolf, completed in 1989 as water storage for Plymouth and North Devon.

After a cup of tea at the cafe near the dam we went up to the nature reserve but there was not much to see.

It is quite odd to see roads going down to the water and the remains of trees, which are all that can be seen of the valley that existed here before the dam was built.

West Country 2019 (12): Hayle Estuary

Posted: October 16, 2019 in cornwall, UK
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It’s over 25 years since I last birdwatched on the Hayle Estuary in West Cornwall. It has changed a lot in that time with development, but it remains one of the best spots in Cornwall. We started off at Carnshaw Pool, where Rock Pipit, Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit and a passing Kingfisher were seen.

We then moved onto Lelant Saltings, where the Railway platform of the old St Ives Park and Ride station (now moved to St Erth) provides an excellent spot for observing this part of the estuary. Here we saw Ruff and Curlew plus a group of Teal and some Little Egrets.

Our final stop was at the RSPB hide at Ryans Field, where there was a large flock of Canada Geese, a small group of Ruff and a single Whimbrel. A small flock of Dunlin flew over the marsh nut did not settle.

One morning Sue and I went to Bude Marshes, an area of marsh and reed-beds on the edge of the town of Bude in North Cornwall. This nature reserve is Bordered on one side by Bude canal and on the other by a river.

A Cetti’s Warbler was calling stridently from the reed-bed and we had a brief view of a Kingfisher as it flashed past. 2 Chiffchaffs were also seen, this once summer visitor is now increasingly overwintering, especially in the Southaven’s and south-west. Apart from these sightings, the most striking sighting was the flock of over 300 Canada geese present on the canal.

In the afternoon we went to Tamar Otter and Wildlife Centre, a rather eclectic collection of animals in a beautiful valley setting. Its free-roaming Fallow Deer (a native species) and Wallabies (not a native species although there was once a feral population in Derbyshire) are semi-tame and some will approach you for food.

There are a number of European Otters at the centre. The centre was a breeding colony during the 20 year reintroduction programme (which ended around 2000) and now houses captive bred and rescued Otters. The centre also has Asian short-clawed otters, which unlike European otters live in family groups – the largest family in the centre has 17 members.

West Country 2019 (9): Bodmin

Posted: October 11, 2019 in cornwall, UK
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St Petroc is reputed to have founded a monastery on the site of Bodmin in the 6th century naming the place Petrocstow. Certainly, by the time of the Doomsday Book, the monastery held land across this part of Cornwall and the associated settlement was the largest in Cornwall at the time. The name Bodmin is probably derived from the Cornish for ‘dwelling of the monks’ and was recorded as early as 1100, although there are plenty of variants in documents including Bodman, and Bodmyn.

Bodmin was the centre for three Cornish rebellions. the first in 1497 when a Cornish army marched all the way to Blackheath in London in protest against increased taxes. here it was met by the Royal army, which defeated the rebels in battle. This unrest probably led to Bodmin being the place where the usurper Perkin Warbeck, masquerading as one of the ‘princes in the tower’ was proclaimed King Richard IV before moving east. However, once the army came up against forces loyal to Henry VII, it soon surrendered. The third rebellion was in 1549 when people in the west country objected to the imposition of the new prayer book by Edward VI. They advanced into Devon and besieged Exeter, but after fighting a number of battles, they were forced to retreat.

Bodmin briefly served as the County town of Cornwall from 1835 until 1876, when the administration moved to the newly created city of Truro. Bodmin’s former jail, courthouse and Barracks are now open as museums

Day 5: Our location today was the RSPB reserve at Bowling Green Marsh, just outside Exeter in Devon. The reserve sits at the confluence of two rivers, the River Exe and the River Clyst.

There were around 500 Black-tailed Godwits and 100 Eurasian Teal on the scrape with smaller numbers of Eurasian Wigeon, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler and Pintail. Sue spotted a Common Sandpiper on one of the islands and a Marsh Harrier over the Reed-bed. Also present were Grey Heron and Little Egret. Walking back to the car along the River Exe, we saw more Black-tailed Godwits and a couple of Eurasian Curlew feeding along the mudflats.

Black-tailed Godwits
Eurasian Curlew
Common Sandpiper

West Country 2019 (7): Slate

Posted: October 9, 2019 in cornwall, UK
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During our travels, we found lots of examples of slate in the Natural landscape. Lovely subtle colours.

Now I will confess to a liking for fudge, so I was delighted to find this shop in Wadebridge. Unfortunately, it was closed!

A wet day saw Sue and I start day 4 of our trip to the West Country at Davidstow Airfield looking for a Buff-Breasted Sandpiper which has been present for a couple of days. We found a number of Ringed Plover and lots of Meadow Pipits, but not the Sandpiper.

Ringed Plover

Our next stop was at Crowdy Reservoir, where a Northern Wheatear and a Grey Wagtail were on the dam.

Grey Wagtail

We stopped at Wadebridge. On the river Camel, we found a Little Egret, a Lapwing and about 30 Common Redshanks.

Our final stop was further up the estuary at Rock. The tide was low and the sandbanks exposed but apart from an Oystercatcher, a Raven, some Cormorants and Gulls there was little to see

West Country 2019 (4): Boscastle

Posted: October 4, 2019 in cornwall, History, UK

Sue and I went to the picturesque village of Boscastle on the North Cornwall coast. Historically, the harbour was important as it was the only harbour on the north coast for 20 miles. During its active time, it was used to import limestone and coal and exporting slate. The village is at the confluence of 3 rivers before they reach the sea.

On 16 August 2004 a flash flood, caused by heavy rainfall flowing down the rivers meeting a high tide, caused extensive damage as the water rose above the river banks and harbour walls. 50 cars were swept into the harbour and a number of buildings were seriously damaged including a number of the villages historic buildings. Amazingly no people were killed. The National Trust, which owns a lot of the properties and land in the area and other organisations set about restoring the village to its pre-flood condition.