CDWS trees at Parc Mawr

At the 2018 Christmas gathering, our hosts, Bill & Sue Jones, asked that as a gift, they would prefer a donation to the Woodland Trust for trees to be planted at Parc Mawr.

Following the Society’s Oswestry trip in June, Bill & Sue drove on to see how the trees were doing. Here is their report:

 

Parc Mawr is on the very steep easterly facing side of the Conwy valley. It is an ancient 84 acre woodland occupying a very prominent position in the landscape. Historically, the wood was managed most probably as a high forest, with gradations between upland oakwood and ash / elm with a hazel understorey. The woodland is now a valued local amenity for walking and horse-riding, boasting a network of permissive and public rights of way and fantastic views.

Woodland Trust’s focus is on thinning the exotic species introduced by humans and restocking with native woodland.

We walked up the steep path along Grove 1 which is where the 6 CDWS trees were planted. Our path went roughly North South along the steep slope and was therefore a little more manageable, crossing an old byway leading to the ancient Llangelynnin church. This is the North Wales Pilgrims Way (linking Basingwerk Abbey with Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island)) and passes through the site from the south: a further information panel is provided near this route, at the bottom of the byway.

Along our walk we had glorious views over Conway Valley including to Dwygyfylchi (where Kay Day hails from), and Conway Castle.

The Woodland Trust had forewarned us that the trees were already planted and that they did not mark the trees in any way to preserve the natural beauty of their woods. We saw very many young trees but none that could be specifically identified as saplings.  Therefore, in the event we could not identify the CDWS new trees since they were interspersed with existing trees and growing rapidly.

So, having walked over a mile in and then back again, we did not specifically see our trees but had a glorious walk through lovely fresh woodlands listening to bird song and looking out on to wonderful views in the sunshine. Here is a map reference for the site at Parc Mawr.

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@53.2474083,-3.859518,2605m/data=!3m1!1e3

Bill Jones

WWT Slimbridge 12th September 2019

Slimbridge is situated north of Bristol, very close to the Severn estuary, and is home to many different types of birdlife. It was founded in 1946, by Sir Peter Scott.

Our coach arrived at Slimbridge at 11:15, giving us time to meet the others of the party who had arrived by car, to have a coffee or have an initial look around the reserve.

We split into two parties of twelve for the guided tour of the Scott’s house. The volunteers told us about Peter Scott’s earlier life, as a hunter and painter, his wartime career, as an Olympic sailing medallist, but he is best known for his passion for preserving wild life, founding the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, and especially for creating the World Wildlife Fund.

Scott’s whole house borders a man-made lake, where Berwick Swans and many kinds of other waterfowl were only a few yards from the windows. I looked down, and there was a snipe only four or five feet away.

We were shown the Scott’s kitchen, looking very much of the 1950’s, with its range and an old-fashioned Belling 2 ring cooker. There were hand-written notes inside the cupboards and in notebooks and it looked as though the family could return at any moment.

The Scott’s kitchen

We saw the dining room with its one long table, but were told that the Scotts usually ate on the small formica table in the bay window, where they could watch the birds.

We were also shown the study, where Lady Phillipa Scott had most of her effects and paintings.

Perhaps the most interesting room was familiar to any of us who had seen Peter Scott’s programmes on the television, with its painting easel, the wide panoramic view across the lake, and the extraordinary window which was built out in front of the house and extends about 8 feet in each direction, allowing an additional 6 of 7 people to enjoy the view, but not be in the room!

The tour took about 1 hour, and, as we were heading back to the main visitor centre, the guides asked us what we thought – as we were the first visitors to the house since the renovation! We have Peter Day (as chairman of the WWT) to thank for that privilege.

After the tour some of us went off to hear a talk about the re-introduction of the European Crane into the country (a couple of them could be seen skulking about on the other side of the pond) and then on to watch the otters being fed and playing in the water. These were North American otters rather than European, as European otters are nocturnal.

European Cranes

Other members of the party were more adventurous and walked across the flat site to one of the hides, where knowledgeable WWT volunteers pointed out interesting sites across the panorama.  These included cranes beyond the sea wall, godwits, curlew, knot, dunlin, linnet with it’s distinctive “puppet on a string” flight pattern, an array of ducks and a fantastic fly past by a skein of geese at eye height and within metres away.

The coach left Slimbridge at 3:30 and we had a swift and pleasant journey back. Jonathan Pegler thanked Peter Day and David Powell for arranging such a successful trip.

Spring Walk 2019

1st May 2019 Spring Walk

This year Gwyndaf added a visit to a local church to our Spring Walk.

We all met at the Red Lion pub in Little Missenden at 10:00 to order our lunches for later. Then 22 walkers set off on a 3 mile walk in the hills around the village.

We started off following the River Misbourne and in the first field we passed we saw a curious collection of animals – pot-bellied Vietnamese pigs, funny looking sheep that turned out to be goats and a magnificent turkey displaying for his harem of females.

In the next field we discovered an archaeological party surveying the field. They explained that they had detected signs of very old buildings (possibly Roman) close to the river and were tracing out the shape of the building with a view to a future dig.

We then followed the South Bucks Way footpath up the hill with wild flowers on either side. Janet John pointed out some of the flowers, and when we reached the top of the hill, she introduced us to the flowers and explained their common names.

From here we were able to admire the views across the Misbourne Valley.

The weather continued to be fine and we didn’t need our coats, as we turned back towards the village pub, chatting and getting to know other members of the society.  We arrived back at the Red Lion just before 12:00 after walking about 3 miles. There we were met by others who had come for the church tour, and there were over 30 of us when we sat down to lunch.

 

The food proved to be very good, with a wide choice from sandwiches to belly pork and sea bass. We also had time to sample the beer and watch the carp in a pond in the back garden.

About 2pm we walked the hundred yards or so to the village church, The Church of St John the Baptist, where we were met by the vicar, the Reverend John Simpson.

We were treated to a guided tour of the church and told that the original church dates back to Saxon times (about 975 AD). It was then added to by the Normans and by successive villagers over the centuries. The original Saxon church is very visible and you can see where the exterior walls and windows were.

The highlight of the visit was to see the medieval paintings on the church walls. There are a number of pictures on various walls, but the main ones on the north wall of the church show St Christopher and cartoons of St Catherine showing scenes from her life. The paintings have been declared ‘of national importance’ by the Courtaulds Institute and have recently been restored after receiving a grant from the heritage fund. During the restoration even more fragments of paintings were found on other walls around the church, dating from the 13th century and through to the reigns of Elizabethan and William and Mary.

The vicar made an excellent and enthusiastic tour guide, pointing out so many features of this old church that might otherwise have been missed. Our tour lasted about 1 hour and we were very impressed to see such artwork on our doorstep. You can find out more about the church and its paintings here: www.lmchurch.org

Many thanks to Gwyndaf and Janet John for organising such a fun and educational day.

Spring Walk 2018

Tuesday May 15th – Our Spring Walk & Pub Lunch took place on a gloriously sunny day. How could it have been otherwise!

The members gathered outside the Swan in Ley Hill. This attractive old pub faces the open land of Ley Hill Common and was originally three cottages dating from the 16th Century.

Sam, the bubbly landlady, unlocked the pub and came out to meet us – so some much needed relief was had before we set off!

Thirteen members went off on the walk with another five joining us later for the lunch.

Passing the little village Memorial Hall the footpath led to Tyler’s Hill. This woodland is full of large deep holes from which clay was excavated for the local brick and tile making  industry. We wound our way past and through these dips and on through open fields with distant views across the Chess valley, then followed a long, wide, but fortunately shady, path along a typical Chilterns “bottom”.  Finally we strolled up through open parkland and woods to reach the far end of the Common.

Ley Hill Common is the home of a golf course, and here Ralph Broomby was delighted to re-make his acquaintance with a par three hole of particular difficulty with the green located in a valley well below the tees. After admiring this tricky golf hole we strolled back across the springy turf of the common to the pub.

During the walk we learnt how to distinguish the scented native bluebell from the oft-planted Spanish species, smelt and tasted the leaves of Garlic Mustard, and discovered the extraordinary reproductive strategy of the Cuckoo Pint (also known as Lords & Ladies).

Inside the Swan still has the wooden beams, inglenook fireplace and the old original stove. Fortunately padded cushioning has been fitted to the old beams though I still managed to bump my head on one beam. After a rest with drinks in the cool garden we went in for our meal. Tables had been thoughtfully arranged in a U shape for us. Very conveniently the landlady had taken main course orders previously and had set up a tab for the various couples and singles present. The meals were excellent and quite a few found the desserts irresistible. The Swan delivered good food and excellent service.

All in all it was a relaxed day out. We learned about bricks and how they are laid as well as some natural history. And we enjoyed the good weather in some lovely Chiltern countryside.

Gwyndaf John

Spring Walk May 2017

 

The Hambleden valley was the perfect location for the Society’s Spring walk on May 9th. It shows England at its very best with the idyllic villages of Fingest, Skirmett and Turville, beautiful rolling countryside and quaint pubs.

Sixteen members met at The Frog at Skirmett at 10 o’clock on a dry but quite chilly morning. As a large herd of deer grazed in the distance we were glad to get going. The walk took us across the valley, up a gentle slope through Adam’s Wood, passing a field of rare breed sheep and lambs. Even those of us with an agricultural background were unsure of the exact breed!

 

Through the bluebell woods

We were in luck as there was still a fine display of bluebells scattered amongst the trees. When we emerged from the wood we were greeted by marvelous views taking in the villages of Fingest and Turville below us. Turville is often used for filming episodes of Midsomer Murders and The Vicar of Dibley is set in the local church.

 

Gwyndaf explains the view

Gwyndaf explains the view

The valley and surrounding hills are a haven for wildlife and flora and one of the highlights of our walk was Janet enthralling us with her knowledge of the local wild flowers. As well as naming the myriad of tiny hedgerow flowers, which many of us had not even noticed, she educated us on the subtle differences between different species. Who knew there were so many species of buttercup! We all gave her our full attention suspecting there might be a quiz when we returned to the pub!

 

 

Even though we were given the option of following a shorter route we were all made of sterner stuff and completed the full distance of Gwyndaf’s 3-4 mile walk, returning to Skirmett via Fingest and its ancient church. This is a Grade 1 listed building with a tower dating from the early 12th century. Surrounding the church is a cluster of medieval and Georgian houses and cottages.

 

 

The Frog at Skirmett

We were all looking forward to our lunch at The Frog and we were not disappointed. The food was excellent and it was difficult to resist those tempting desserts!

Our thanks to Gwyndaf and Janet for organising such an enjoyable and interesting Spring walk.

 

Gwyneth Herrington

London Wetland Centre, October 2016

Visit to the London Wetland Centre, October 2016

Peter Day guides our party

Peter Day guides our party

Having followed the amazing directions provided by Peter, via Gwyndaf, a select party of eighteen souls duly arrived at the Wetland Centre in Barnes late morning on Thursday 13th October. We were met and greeted by the WWT Chairman himself, otherwise known to us all as Peter Day. Having downed a very welcome hot coffee, we then embarked on our tour, under the watchful guidance of Peter.

We were led through a series of avian habitats from around the world, which have been expertly created by the efforts of the Trust. It is astonishing what the workforce has achieved in less than twenty years by remodelling the redundant Barnes reservoirs and diligently planting an abundant amount of trees and shrubs.

Emporer and red Breasted Geese

Emporer and red Breasted Geese

Peter walked us round, demonstrating a very impressive grasp of the subjects and imparting his extensive knowledge. He managed to answer virtually all our questions, no matter how obscure or trivial they may have seemed.

We were blessed with a dry and mostly sunny day, if a little chilly. There was
always plenty to see, with new surprises round every corner. Some of the birds there we would not have expected to see, like the Egyptian geese. However, as Peter pointed out, these had originally been imported from the Middle East by some unknown person and the young had escaped from their collection enabling them to fly to places like the Wetland Centre as and when they wished.

Puna Teal

Puna Teal

Cranes

Snooty looking Cranes

There is a constant threat from foxes and this has been largely controlled by surrounding the site with electric fences, extending up to three feet below ground, preventing burrowing. Incredibly they do not have a problem with squirrels or Canada Geese. The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, originally set up at Slimbridge by Peter Scott in 1946, is doing very valuable work in the
conservation of wetlands, their plants and waterfowl around the world. It is also providing an educational experience for many thousands of disadvantaged and other school children every year, some of whom we
saw, and they appeared to be having a very good time.

Southern Screamers

Southern Screamers

After lunch, in the excellent café, a number of us enjoyed seeing the Asian
otters being fed. Others enjoyed further strolls, taking in some of the hides
where the wild birds can be observed in peace and quiet.

All in all the visit to the London Wetland Centre proved to be both extremely
enjoyable and rewarding. A visit we are likely to repeat in the future. We thank
Peter Day very much for organising it and proving to be an excellent host.

Steve Adams

Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawk

Cliveden Walk – 19th May 2016

Cliveden 1Cliveden is conveniently local and was an excellent choice for a Society excursion on May 19th.


Cliveden 3The grand house, standing high over the Thames, is surrounded by gardens and extensive woodland. It is owned by the National Trust with the main part of the house leased to a luxury hotel group. An ideal place for our members to meet up and enjoy a convivial lunch, then take  walks in the fresh air before returning for afternoon tea and a tour of the house.

Many members will have visited Cliveden before, but not so many will have enjoyed a guided tour of the house, led by a knowledgeable National Trust volunteer. Our party of twenty members discovered that there seemed to be two ways to become owners of such a magnificent residence. One was by family members consorting extremely closely with their King, whose favour resulted in titles and wealth. The other was for your family to develop housing in Manhattan and eventually become fabulously wealthy slum landlords.  Even after the property passed to the National Trust its association with scandal continued as it featured in the “Profumo Affair” in the early Sixties.

interiorWe were impressed by the opulent interior of the property. The extremely ornate “French Dining Room” had been re-assembled after being transported from a French hunting lodge, and no expense had been spared on wood panelling, ceilings and pictures.  As we wandered through the hotel and stood in the Great Hall we got a  hint of the what it must be like to stay at this luxury hotel as a steady stream of staff passed by us on their service errands. On the banks of the river we saw their beautiful boats of wood and gleaming

Suzy_Ann_Clivedenbrass, ready to be hired for trips along the Thames.

For those who were members of the National Trust, all but three of our group, the event was completely free. Though the Trust café did very well out of us during the course of the day!

 

Gwyndaf John

London Walk

On a sunny Saturday morning on 26th July a group of about a dozen members met our guide Caroline James, at the foot of The Shard to explore sites around Southwark. IMG_0771
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The area is at the southern end of London Bridge which in Medieval times was closed at night.

Many inns were built there and thrived as staging posts for travellers. Theatres opened there, as did hospitals for the poor, sick, incurables, and homeless.  Bear baiting, prostitution, and similar activities, which were illegal in the City, all flourished.

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The ‘garret’ of the c17th St Thomas’ hospital houses its c19t operating theatre.

Betsi Cadwaladr from Bala worked there. She worked as a nurse in the Crimea with Florence Nightingale though their personalities clashed as they were from completely different backgrounds.

In the collonade of the adjacent Guy’s hospital a niche, from the old London Bridge, houses a statue of Keats.

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Off a short stretch of Borough High St are the ’Yards’ of many ancient galleried inns. Only the splendid George Inn remains and is often seen in historical films.
Little Dorrit Park and Marshalsea Rd were reminders of Dickens stories set in this locality.

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Nearby Redcross Gardens with its gabled cottages are a haven of serenity. They were founded by Octavia Hill who was one of the founders of the National Trust.

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In Tabard St the Cross Bones graveyard is an overgrown, unconsecrated plot where about 15,000 bodies of suicides, prostitutes, plague victims and other ’undesirables’ are buried. We all felt sorrow just being there.

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The Welsh Borough Chapel has just been renovated. One of its founders was ‘Gin Shop Jones’. An old sign on its rear wall reads ’Commit No Nuisance’IMG_0780

From near the Globe theatre the dramatic view across the Thames included the recent ’Gherkin’,  ‘Walkie Talkie’, and ’Cheesegrater’ buildings, all of which were outshone by glorious St Paul’s.

Near the riverside Anchor pub was the site of the Anchor brewery which in the 18th century had the greatest output in the world. The wife of it’s owner, Henry Thrale MP, was Hester Salisbury  a socialite from a wealthy Caernarvonshire family.

Little remains of Winchester Palace from which the Bishop once issued permits for prostitution in the area (these poor girls were known as Winchester geese).

We concluded our walk at Southwark cathedral and thanked Caroline for planning a walk with such a variety of places of interest to show us.

Ralph Broomby