"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Thursday, 30 June 2011

A Trip to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Just a brief interlude from the Isle of Wight Holiday - I will return to that tomorrow and also I must do a moth posting as I caught some really nice moths earlier this week including a very beautiful green moth - a garden first.

David and I went to London today to see Dr Faustus at the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

It was an incredible experience - the theatre itself is superb and very atmospheric and the play was brilliant. I've always wanted to see this particular play as it contains some beautiful poetry and the acting was excellent with some great special effects. How did they manage the scene where Faustus' head is cut off?

Its also quite interesting with the theatre being open to the elements which means there were quite a few birds flying around - mainly feral pigeons and gulls and I was distracted at one point by a blackbird who obviously had a nest within the theatre and was carrying a beakful of food for the young.

Sorry no photos as I decided to leave the camera at home and really regretted the decision as there were so many photographic opportunities. David took some photos on his phone so if and when he gets round to uploading them I will post them on the blog. We walked past the remains of Winchester Palace and the reconstruction of the Golden Hind and also Southwark Cathedral which would have been well worth a visit had we had more time.

After the play we went and had a look at St Paul's Cathedral - I even braved walking over Millenium Bridge to get there (and back). A scary experience for me as I hate heights and have to admit I walked at 5 times my normal speed literally running across without looking to right or left or the glass sides! It didn't help when I heard several comments about it swaying in the wind!

Had a nice meal at Pizza Express before catching the tube back to Euston. They do some great vegetarian pizzas and yummy desserts.

On another note - I am at a total loss to understand the need for the High Speed Rail at such a high cost (especially the potential destruction of ancient woodlands) when our train journey from Birmingham International to Euston took the grand total of just one and a quarter hours!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

A Futile Search in Parkhurst Forest and a Visit to Cowes

Day 5 - Wednesday, 22nd June

The weather this morning was cold and windy with showers at times but brighter and dryer in the afternoon.

The usual discussion first thing about where to go today. I again suggested Newtown (butterflies and birds) or Afton Marsh (water voles) whereas the others suggested Parkhurst Forest in the hope that they might get a red squirrel sighting too!! We went to Parkhurst!

Parkhurst Forest owned by the Forestry Commission consists of ancient woodland, relict heath and some plantation woodland. James I hunted deer in the forest but I have read that today there are no wild deer on the island. The deer I saw in a field on one of my recent walks around the local lanes must have been domesticated.

Going to the forest reminded me of another species I would stand a far better chance of seeing than at home and that was an adder. Sadly, adders are now thought to be extinct in Warwickshire.

We took the 2.5 mile long red squirrel trail through the forest even visiting a purpose built squirrel hide. I had put the 70 - 300 mm telephoto zoom lens on the camera this time just in case!

There were quite a few butterfly species on the wing - speckled wood, meadow brown, ringlet and I was really thrilled to see up to about half a dozen white admiral - the first time I have seen this species for years. Ringlet was also new for this year. I spotted a couple of fritillaries but they were too far away to be sure of the species. I know there are Pearl-bordered and Small pearl-bordered fritillaries in the forest but the ones I saw appeared more the size of Dark green or Silver-washed.

The only butterfly I managed to get a photo of was this Meadow Brown.

Unfortunately the wooden squirrel carving in the photo below was the closest today we got to a sighting.

After lunch we had a walk around Cowes

The paintings in these last two photos had been done by students at a local college.

In the evening we went for a meal at The Crown, Shorwell. Super pub with lovely grounds with a stream, pond and island and lots of ducks. The food was absolutely superb but the only downside was that we had to wait 55 minutes but I have to say it was defintely worth the wait as it was one of the best meals I have had in a pub.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

"Squirrrel Nutkin" at the Abbey

Day 4 - Tuesday 21st June

Weather - Cold, windy, cloudy with drizzly rain at times. It gradually brightened up as the day wore on with sunny intervals by late afternoon and evening.

Last year we went on an open top bus Breezer Needles Tour and had a great day so today we opted for the Breezers Downs Tour. The bus which runs every half hour follows a circular route stopping at various points of interest (in the case of the Downs Tour - Ryde, Quarr Abbey, Wootton Bridge, Steam Railway, Robin Hill Adventure Park, Amazon World, Newchurch Village, The Garlic Farm, The Downs, Rosemary Vineyard, Arreton Craft Village) and you can get on and off the bus as many times as you like. In fact, we first did a complete circuit to decide where we were going to explore!

We caught the bus halfway round the route having left the car at Arreton Craft Village.

The open top buses are a great way to see the island as you can see over the hedges!

and I saw a pair of grey partridge in a field near the Downs - a new bird tick for the year.

Our first stop was the village of Newchurch

The family disappeared into the pub whilst I visited the church. The sacrifices I make for my church visits - last year ice creams, this year a glass of wine!

The village is named after the Norman church originally built in 1087 by monks of Lyra from Normandy - only one wall remains today of the original building. The tower, thanks to its white boarding added in the eighteenth century, is visible for miles around.

As I entered the church I bumped into this figure which made me jump out of my skin! (It looked like something from a Doctor Who Adventure)

According to a couple of ladies in the church the figure was to be used in the flower festival at the church the following weekend.

The lectern is over 200 years old

The Francis Bamford Window (a popular vicar at the Church in the nineteenth century)

"The Adoration of St Francis" - a 17th century altar piece

The organ was installed in 1857

As I had less than half an hour to look round I only scan read the guide to the church and I discovered later I had managed to miss a rare copy of the 1716 Vinegar Bible so called because at the top of the page of Luke XX "The Parable of the Vinegar" is printed instead of "vineyard".

We continued our journey to Ryde where we ate our sandwiches on the seafront near the half mile long pier.

Next stop was Quarr Abbey

As we walked along the drive I was fascinated by the bark on an avenue of plane trees. When I looked at the photos the patterns reminded me of abstract art.

No donkeys here but there were some beautiful horses

There has been a Cistercian monastery on the site from 1132 until its dissolution by Henry VIII in 1536. Stone for the original Abbey came from nearby limestone quarries and this stone was also used in the construction of Winchester and Chicester Cathedrals.

Some of the stones from the original Abbey are retained in these attractive houses near the ruins of the old Abbey

The only other remains of the original Abbey are a few walls and a storehouse.

The rest of the family had raced off to have a look at the new Abbey whilst I was taking photos and chatting to a tourist from America who had traced an ancestor to the Island. As I walked towards the new buildings to catch up with the family I spotted a movement in a tree - woohoo a red squirrel!! I watched it for several minutes running along branches and from tree to tree.

And here is the worst photo you will ever see of a red squirrel taken with the 14 - 42 mm lens - you might know I had left the telephoto zoom in the car. If you click on the picture in the centre you might just be able to make out the red blur of a moving squirrel!!

The present Quarr Abbey was founded in 1901 by Benedictine monks and the building was constructed between 1908 and 1912. It was designed by Dom Paul Bellot (a pioneer of 20th century expressionism).

Whilst waiting for the bus (we had just missed one!) I spotted these horsetails growing in the verge on the opposite side of the road.

We arrived back at Arreton just before 5.00 - it was a shame the craft shops were closing as there is a superb glass works and also a pottery shop where you can see people at work and buy some great glassware and pottery.

I paid a quick visit to the Medieval Carp and Duck Pond featured in the Domesday Book and

St George's church which dates from the twelfth century and was restored in 1886.

A few years ago we went on an organised ghost walk around the gardens of nearby Arreton Manor and Arreton Village and there were some really hair-raising spooky tales of ghosts in this churchyard.

In the evening we went a walk along the lane which runs alongside the cottage and paused where the trees met overhead to form a tunnel which was being used as a "racetrack" by local bats swooping after moths. Amazing experience as they flew straight at you only swerving at the last minute and you could hear and feel the wind whooshing over their wings. We also went a drive along the Military Road hoping to see barn owls but there was no sign tonight - not even in the area where we have seen them in the past. Still at least I had seen a red squirrel!

Monday, 27 June 2011

And It Rained!

Day 3 - Monday, 20th June

Weather - still cold and it rained most of the day and evening!

We drove over to Ryde and visited the Waltzing Waters - a great 40 minute show of fountains in different colours synchronised to various types of music (classical and pop). They have been described as "liquid fireworks". Sorry no pics - cameras weren't allowed!

We then spent a couple of hours ten pin bowling.

Got back to the cottage early and spent the rest of the day reading (the cottage has a great selection of fossil and geology books and even a geological map of the island!) and watching Andy Murray in action at Wimbledon.

Highlight of the day was watching a family party of long-tailed tits foraging in trees in the garden. Too wet in the evening even to go looking for barn owls.

And shock, horror (:D) I have received a complaint that there were no photos yesterday of the donkeys at Carisbrooke When you see the rubbishograph below you will see why I didn't bother posting it!

Brian hoping for a strike at the bowling alley!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

A Castle, A Church and a Field full of Butterflies

Day 2 - Sunday, 19th June

Weather - Cold and windy, cloudy with some sunny intervals but at least NO rain!

Where to today? We were on a family holiday and now David and Emily are in their early twenties its difficult to agree on places to go! I suggested Newtown Estuary or the nearby woodlands for birds and butterflies or a walk looking for water voles and Emily suggested Carisbrooke Castle. We ended up going to Carisbrooke Castle!

The Norman Motte and Bailey Castle was built around 1100 and various buildings have been added since. It has been the most important stronghold on the Isle of Wight due to its superb defensive position.

The Gate House

Princess Beatrice, the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria, became Governor of the Isle of Wight in 1896 following the death of her husband and from 1913 she took up residence at Carisbrooke Castle for part of the year.

Since we last visited the castle the privy garden used by Princess Beatrice has beeen redesigned by garden designer and tv presenter Chris Beardshaw, based on the original layout.

Great Hall

It would be great to be able to visit at dusk because according to the plaque in the photo below the castle has the highest number of bats roosting in summer than any other site in Southern England. 9 of the 15 British bat species have been recorded at the castle.

During the Civil War the Castle was used as a prison with its most famous inmate being Charles I who was held here for 10 months in 1647/8.

He attempted to escape twice during this time. First from this window in his bedchamber when he managed to get stuck between the bars!

The second attempt was made via this window but he was betrayed by two guards.

Wood Carving of the Green Man

Carey's Mansion and the Great Hall

A Chapel on the site was first mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086 and chapels dedicated to St Nicholas have existed ever since. The present building was erected in 1904 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Charles I's execution in 1649. After World War I the decision was made to make the chapel the Island's War Memorial

There were a number of superb wood carvings

In the afternoon we went and had a look around the pretty village of Shorwell.

Whilst everyone was walking round the village I went to have a look around St Peter's Church. A chapel was first built here around 1100 and the church was completely remodelled during the fifteenth century.

I am always fascinated by the amount of lichens to be found in churchyards and on a previous holiday spent several hours in the churchyard at Chale with a Field Studies Guide to Lichens in one hand and a hand lens in the other attempting to identify the various species

Highlight of the church visit was this superb wall painting of Saint Christopher dating back to 1440 which measures 11 feet by 6.5 feet.

The pulpit is believed to be the only example on the Island of a medieval pulpit and dates back to 1440.

The cover to the font has a Holy Dove on the top - an example of Flemish metalwork

When we got back to the cottage I went a walk along the lane looking for butterflies - seeing my first meadow browns of the year on bramble, honeysuckle and scabious flowers. I walked back through a hay meadow which was an incredible experience as with every step several meadow browns flew into the air. There must have been hundreds of them in the meadow.

Other butterflies seen today - a red admiral at Carisbrooke Castle and a Small Tortoiseshell in the hay meadow.

The Hay Meadow with St Catherine's Down in the background

In the evening we went for a meal at the Buddle Inn, Niton - an old smugglers' haunt.