Archive for the ‘London’ Category

My weekly wildlife walk takes me across the grounds of the estate where I live to the Tarn, a local park around a small lake. I am very fortunate to live on an estate with really nice grounds adjacent to a golf course and a park and so we see lots of wildlife.

After leaving the estate a short stretch of road leads to the entrance to the Tarn, descending from street level past the old ice well of Eltham House (now the clubhouse of the golf course).

I do this walk once a week and record all the wildlife I can see and hear. The results are then reported back to a number of different schemes set up to monitor the wildlife in the UK.

This week it is rather quiet. The Canada and Greylag Geese flocks are absent, they use a number of different sites in the area. There are good numbers of Mallard, Coot and Moorhens, so they have had good breeding seasons. The resident pair of Egyptian Geese still have 3 young but these are now indistinguishable from their parents. No dragonflies were seen, which is surprising as we usually have Common Darter present during August and only one butterfly, a single Speckled Wood was seen on the whole walk. It seems to have been a poor year for butterflies locally.

A couple of days ago I was going to visit a friend for the first time this year. As I waited for the bus in Eltham I noticed a seat which hadn’t been there before. It was dedicated to John of Eltham. It wasn’t a new seat so I imagine it had been moved there from another location during the changes that were made to the High Street layout during the pandemic. Anyway I wondered who John of Eltham was as I hadn’t come across him before.

John of Eltham

John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall was born at Eltham Palace in August 1316, the second son of King Edward II. His childhood was not a happy one as his father and mother (Isabella of France) were at war with each other, Isabella having allied herself with rebels trying to overthrow the King. In 1326 she invaded England from France and King Edward was captured and forced to abdicate in favour of their eldest son, also Edward, who became King Edward III. Despite his young age, John became a highly trusted advisor to his elder brother and occupied a number of important posts including ‘Guardian of the realm’ deputising for the King when he was away at war. Few details are known about John’s life, although records show a number of attempted, but ultimately abortive diplomatic marriages. He was a commander of the army at the battle of Halidon Hill, defeating the Scots and later in south west Scotland, supporting Edward Balliol’s claim to the Scottish throne. In some Scottish histories he is remembered as the man who commanded that Lesmahagow Abbey be burnt down, even though it was full of people. It is unclear whether this was actually true or not. In some versions of this story, John’s brother, King Edward was so enraged at this barbarous act that he killed John himself in fury. In fact John died at Perth in September 1336, aged 20, probably of a fever. He was buried with full honours in Westminster Abbey.

John of Eltham’s tomb in Westminster Abbey

Greenwich Reach

Posted: August 24, 2021 in Birds, Landscape, London, Natural History, UK
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Out for my monthly survey walk along the River Thames at Greenwich counting the waterbirds using the river. Even in the summer months when it is very quiet there is always plenty of activity on the river to see.

In addition my walk is opposite the historic town of Greenwich.

At the west end of the walk there are views up river towards central London

At the eastern end is the Millenium Dome, now known as the O2, a concert and exhibition venue.

But what about the bird survey. There are the first signs of birds returning from their breeding grounds – Black-headed Gulls which have been almost absent since April were back with about 150 seen on the walk. Other Gull numbers were up slightly and I would expect this increase to continue over the next couple of months. A Group of 16 Canada geese was more then I had seen previously here so it will be interesting to see if they stay on the river or are just moving through.

Other things of note were a Eurasian Sparrowhawk seen flying high over one of the riverside housing developments and a Great Cormorant perched on jetty – unfortunately he refused to turn round and so i only got a back view.

A new visitor to the Garden

Posted: February 25, 2021 in Birds, London, Natural History, UK
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Was surprised to find a Fieldfare in the garden the other day. This was the first record since we arrived here in 2000 and took the garden list to 46 species. I didn’t manage to photograph it but here are some pictures of Fieldfare taken at Bough Beech earlier in the year

In the cellar of the White Tower are some examples of items brought back from various military campaigns and presented to the Royal Armouries. Many of these are weapons but there are a few curiosities.

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A golden winged lion statue captured by British forces beseiging the French in Corfu in 1809.

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A bronze bell  taken from the Russian fort at Bomersund during the Crimean war. Most metal objects captured were melted down for casting as artillery, but this fine example survived.

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A decorated strongbox captured from the Spanish at Havana Cuba in 1762, It has an interesting security system – the lock on the front is a dummy and the real lock is concealed on the top of the box.

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A Burmese bell presented to Sir William Gomm, whilst he was Commander British forces in India 1850-55. He was later Constable of the Tower which probably explains how it came to be in the Royal Armoury collection.

The Remains of the Wardrobe tower with the white Tower beyond

The Remains of the Wardrobe tower with the white Tower beyond

The Wardrobe Tower stands adjacent to the White Tower. It was begun around 1190 and its name comes from the fact that it was used to store the Kings Wardrobe – his clothes jewels and personal articles. It is built on the remians of a Roman bastion in the old city wall.

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Only a fragment of the building remains today.

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The White Tower was the original castle keep started by William I in 1070, just 4 years after he won the battle of Hastings. It was located to protect the river approaches to the city but soon became favoured as a royal residence.

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The first reference to it by the name of ‘White Tower’ is in 1240 when the brickwork was painted.

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After it fell out of fashion as a royal residence, the tower continued to functions a the headquarters for royal and governmental administration.

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Coins minted at Tower mint

Coins minted at Tower mint

In 1279, William de Turemine was appointed Master Moneyer and the mint was moved from the city to more secure premises within the Tower of London. The minting of coins continued at the Tower until 1804 when a decision was taken to build a new purpose-built mint on Tower Hill, just outside the walls of the Tower. This was completed and opened in 1810 and production was moved from the mint buildings inside the Tower to the new site.

A Coin press

A Coin press

The history of the mint in the Tower is fairly unremarkable. But there was one attempt at robbery which nearly succeeded. On 20th December 1798, James Turnball, an ex-soldier working in the mint, locked a supervisor in a cupboard and made off with 2,000 newly minted guinea coins (a guinea was 1/4 oz of gold). He was able to make his escape from the Tower and went into hiding. No news of his whereabouts was known until on 5th January 1799 he was recognised, from a wanted poster,  trying to purchase a berth on a boat from Dover to France. He was arrested, tried and was executed on 15th May 1799.

From 1692 one of the public attractions at the Tower was the Line of Kings, a display in chronological order of the armour of the Kings of England.

Artists impression of Line of Kings

Artists impression of Line of Kings

A modern version is currently on display in the White Tower featuring some of the armour used in the original display.

Armour of Henry VIII

Armour of Henry VIII

Originally displayed from 1690 as armour of Edward VI, son of Henry VIII. Now believed to be Prince Henry, son of James I

Originally displayed from 1690 as armour of Edward VI, son of Henry VIII. Now believed to be Prince Henry, son of James I

Armour of young Charles I

Armour of young Charles I

Storage of Weapons and armour has always been part of the function of the Tower. Originally located in the White Tower the armouries were later moved to specialised buildings within the Tower complex. In 1667 it was recorded that 10,000 barrels of gunpowder were stored in the White Tower.

The New Armouries building was built in 1683 and now serves as a restaurant. The Grand storehouse which stood on the North side of the White Tower was burnt down in 1841 and replaced by the Waterloo Block which now houses the Crown Jewels.

New Armouries

New Armouries

Waterloo Block

Waterloo Block

The Armouries has a fine collection of guns from across British History.

Turkish Cannon c1530 -captured at Aden 1839

Turkish Cannon c1530 -captured at Aden 1839

British Mortar 1808 -probably used as a saluting gun

British Mortar 1808 -probably used as a saluting gun

Bronze 6 pounders captured at Battle of Waterloo 1815

Bronze 6 pounders captured at Battle of Waterloo 1815

Chinese Canon - Captured from Canyon fort during 2nd Chinese war 1856-61

Chinese Cannon – Captured from Canyon fort during 2nd Chinese war 1856-61