The Story of St Alban

Posted: June 26, 2019 in History, UK

The first Benedictine Abbey at St Albans was founded in 793 by Ulsinas. It is thought that this may have been on site further up the hill than the present building which was begun in 1077. It is a building which includes many architectural styles: Norman, Romanesque (11th Century) Gothic and 19th Century.

It is the burial place of St Alban, the first Christian Martyr in Britain.

St Albans

Posted: June 24, 2019 in History, UK

The City of St Albans is situated just north of London. It dates back to the Iron age when it was a local tribe capital called Verulamium, which lay just to the south west of the current city centre. When the Romans arrived in AD50, they developed it into a ‘municipum’. In 61 AD it was sacked by Boudica during the Iceni rebellion, but this was only a short break in its continued development. There were town other significant town fires, one in 155 and the other in 250, which caused significant damage.

When the Romans withdrew between 400 and 500 the town continued and eventually became an Anglo-Saxon Regional centre. An Abbey was founded on the hill overlooking the Roman town and gradually the centre of the town shifted to the area around the Abbey. The present abbey was begun in 1077 and contains much building material taken from abandoned Roman Buildings.

The life of the town continued pretty much unimpeded during the middle ages, although St Albans was the site of 2 battles during the War of the Roses.

In 1877, it was granted city status and the church became a Cathedral on the formation of the Diocese of St Albans in the same year.

River Ver at St Albans


The reserve was relatively quiet bird-wise with the highlights being a small passage of House-martins and a juvenile Buzzard, which unusually was laying on the ground. I heard it had been around the reserve for a couple of days and had been harassed by the resident crow population, so perhaps it just wanted to keep out of sight.


Lets settle this here and now!

Lets settle this here and now!

Migrant Dragonfly

Migrant Hawker

Marsh Frog

Marsh Frog

Wasp Spider

Wasp Spider


Common Lizard

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Common House Martin [sp] (Delichon urbicum)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Eurasian Reed Warbler [sp] (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta)
Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator)
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)


Peter Scott was born in September 1909. His father, the Antartic explorer, Robert Falcon Scott, died when he was only 2 years old. In his last letter to his wife, he encouraged her to get his son interested in natural history. Peter Scott read natural sciences at Cambridge but after graduation took up his interest in painting and had his first exhibition in London in 1933. He was also an excellent sailor and represented Great Britain at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where he took a bronze medal. He served in the Royal Navy during world war II seeing service in the North Atlantic and the English Channel and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Using his artistic talent, he designed a new camouflage scheme for ships and by 1941 this had been adopted by the Navy. For this, he was awarded an MBE. Leaving the Navy in 1945 he stood for parliament but was not elected.


In 1947 he founded the Severn Wildfowl Trust near Slimbridge (now the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust) and in 1951 he was a co-founder of the World Wildlife Fund. At Slimbridge in the 1950’s, he made his name in conservation by masterminding the Nene project which ensured the survival of the Hawaiin Goose which was on the brink of extinction in its natural habitat. From 1955 until 1981 he appeared regularly on the BBC programme Look as well as doing other documentaries. He continued to be an acclaimed wildlife artist and was the founder of the society of wildlife artists.

Peter Scott died, aged 79, in August 1989. One of his biggest wishes was to have a Wetland Centre in an urban environment and this was achieved when the London Wetland centre opened in 2000. This statue of Peter Scott stands at the entrance to the centre as a memorial to the man, his life work and his legacy.


Here are a couple of pictures of a Bittern taken at London Wetlands centre (6 miles from the City centre) a couple of weeks ago.

Gives an idea of how well camouflaged they are in the reeds.



When I was younger it was very rare to see these birds. I remember traveling to see them in NW England at Leighton Moss and then the excitement when they first re-appeared in the Lea Valley in Essex. Now we have them in central/west London. A great story of species revival.


Continuing the series of photos taken at the London Wetlands Centre whilst attending the wildlife photography workshop.






Am travelling a lot this week so a chance to look back at some posts from one of my favourite spots, The London Wetland Centre

The wetland Centre collection shows off the wonderful work that the Wetlands Trust do in helping to save and re-introduce endangered species from around the world. The centre collection area has also become home to native species such as the Moorhen, Tufted Duck and Mallard and helps promote other plants and insects.

Fulvous Whistling Duck

Fulvous Whistling Duck

photo by Sue

photo by Sue

Red Admiral. Photo by Sue

Red Admiral. Photo by Sue

Moorhen with chick. Photo by Sue

Moorhen with chick. Photo by Sue

Moorhen and chick. Photo by Sue

Moorhen and chick. Photo by Sue

White-headed Duck

White-headed Duck

June 14th 1645 saw a history-changing event. The English Civil War had dragged on for 3 years and neither the forces of King Charles I or those of the Parliamentarians had been able to make any significant victory. But on this day things changed.

Naseby Battlefield
By D Gore, CC BY-SA 2.0,

There had been victories and defeats for both sides but the tide was beginning to turn towards Parliament. The previous month the Royalists had sacked Leicester and a Parliamentary army under the command of Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell, destined to be the two most successful commanders of the war, was dispatched to finally bring the Royalist army to battle.

Oliver Cromwell
By After Peter Lely – National Maritime Museum, Public Domain,

This was the first outing for the New Model Army, a reformed Parliamentary army which removed all forms of external influence on its actions and formation and handed control to experienced campaigners rather than the anti-Royalist members of the House of Lords. It could be seen as a model for future army constitutions.

Following Leicester, King Charles was urged to attack the Parliamentary army before it was fully formed. But it was Prince Rupert of the Rhine, Charles’ senior advisor who urged retreat. This is interesting as the reputation of Prince Rupert that comes down from the Civil War is of a reckless, fearless cavalry commander who would charge into any situation. So the Royalists retreated.

Prince Rupert of the Rhine
By After Peter Lely – National Maritime Museum, Public Domain,

The battle went badly for the Royalists and even the small victory of Prince Rupert’s cavalry breaking through and reaching the baggage train behind Parliamentary lines turned sour when he realised that the opposition here was too strong and he would not be able to press home his attack. He returned to the main battle, which was by now going badly for the King, but having fought their way back, they were no longer in any condition to render aid to the failing royalist forces.

The Cavalier Monument at Naseby
By D Gore, CC BY-SA 2.0,

The aftermath of the battle was that although the King escaped, he had lost up to 15% of his army dead or wounded and another 70% surrendered or captured. The royalists were never able to put another army into the field and within a year the King was a fugitive fleeing for his life until eventually he was captured in January 1647. It really was a turning point.

King Charles I
By After Anthony van Dyck – National Portrait Gallery, Public Domain,

I remember walking along a boardwalk at a reserve in Texas and seeing an American Bittern in the marsh just to the side. It just stood and watched me as I walked right past it. Amazing experience.

Stephen G Hipperson


We saw a fair number of these Tiger-Herons.  This one was standing in a tree, quite some way from water.  It allowed me to get relatively close – had this been a UK equivalent it  would have flown as soon as it saw me approach.


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