Archive for the ‘Carsington Reservoir’ Tag

Northern England, Derbyshire and Essex: 2nd – 10th July 2016   Leave a comment

Wales trip route

In my last post I described the journey Margaret and I took through Wales. In this post I continue the saga as we drive from north Wales to Liverpool, Southport and Blackpool in Lancashire, Leeds and Harrogate in Yorkshire, Duffield in Derbyshire and eventually arrive at Maldon in Essex.

IMG_6126 dock

I have visited most of the major cities in the UK at one time or another but Liverpool has remained an exception. Margaret was keen to visit this most iconic of cities too. We arrived in the late afternoon and booked into our hotel adjacent to the newly refurbished docks.

IMG_6105 Anglican cathedral

As it was Sunday the following day we thought we had better visit the two cathedrals straight away as services would be going on in the morning. First, Liverpool’s imposing Anglican Cathedral.

IMG_6096 Anglican Cathedral

According to Wikipedia: The cathedral is based on a design by Giles Gilbert Scott. The total external length of the building, including the Lady Chapel (dedicated to the Blessed Virgin), is 207 yards (189 m) making it the longest cathedral in the world;[n 1] its internal length is 160 yards (150 m). In terms of overall volume, Liverpool Cathedral ranks as the fifth-largest cathedral in the world[2] and contests with the incomplete Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City for the title of largest Anglican church building. With a height of 331 feet (101 m) it is also one of the world’s tallest non-spired church buildings and the third-tallest structure in the city of Liverpool. The cathedral is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building.

IMG_6095 Anglican Cathedral

This cathedral spent a long time in the planning phase, as it’s construction was first authorised by Parliament in 1885. The initial site was unsuitable and due to various delays (including two World Wars) the opening ceremony wasn’t until 1978.

IMG_6101 Anglican Cathedral

The beautiful Lady Chapel was the first part of the cathedral to be completed.

IMG_6111 RC Cathedral_edited-1

As the song In Our Liverpool Home goes if you want a cathedral we’ve got one to spare, Liverpool has two cathedrals. The Anglian version, although most impressive, is based on a traditional design, the Roman Catholic one is a wonder of modern architecture.

IMG_6114 RC Cathedral

The circular design and the beautiful colours are quite breathtaking. Again from Wikipedia: ‘officially known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King,[it] is the seat of the Archbishop of Liverpool and the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool in Liverpool, England. The Grade II Metropolitan Cathedral is one of Liverpool’s many listed buildings. To distinguish it from the Anglican Liverpool Cathedral, locals call it the “Catholic Cathedral.” Nicknames for the building include “Paddy’s Wigwam” and “The Mersey Funnel.” Unlike the Anglian one, construction was rapid, starting in 1962 and completed by 1967 although the site was purchased as long ago as 1930.

IMG_6115 RC Cathedral

We were glad we visited the cathedral on Saturday afternoon but wished we had come half an hour earlier as we arrived just as they were locking up and we just had time to take a few photos of its wonderful interior.

IMG_6109 China town

We completed the day with a nice (chinese) meal in Chinatown.

IMG_6135 Albert Dock

The following day we walked the short distance to Albert Dock, an area of dockland that has been renovated and turned into attractive accommodation, shops, museums and other attractions.

IMG_6150 Museum of Liverpool

We paid a quick visit to the Tate Liverpool (but although I like some modern art, I found little to my taste there) and a much longer visit to the Museum of Liverpool where we could have spent all day if we had the time.

IMG_6152 Ben Johnson painting in museum

I was very impressed by this panoramic painting by Ben Johnson (not the athlete) of the Liverpool skyline, with both the Anglican and RC cathedrals being clearly visible

IMG_6156 Town Hall etc seen from museum_edited-1

The imposing Port of Liverpool Building, Royal Liver Building and Cunard Building at Pier Head are known as ‘the Three Graces’. This photo was taken through glass from the Museum of Liverpool, hence the unusual tint.

IMG_6142 Liver Bird

On the top of the Royal Liver Building are the two Liver Birds, the symbol of the City (and the name of an entertaining 70s Liverpudlian sitcom by Carla Lane).

IMG_6177 The Carvern

But for all it’s great architecture, unique culture and importance of one of Britain’s most famous ports, Liverpool is best remembered by most as the origin of the Mersey Sound in the early 60’s, when various talented artists started to play live music in this famous club.

IMG_6160 wall of fame

Across the road from the entrance to the Cavern is the ‘wall of fame’ commissioned by Gerry Marsden of Gerry and the Pacemakers which lists all the artists who played at the club in the 60s and 70s and few who have played more recently since it was refurbished. Centre stage, of course, is kept for the ‘fab four’, the Beatles, who not only put Liverpool on the world’s musical map but changed the face of popular music for ever.

IMG_6159 wall of fame

However there is one artist I would have liked to see more than any other and his name is in the centre of this photo. I had a chance, but I was working at my father’s shop during University holidays in 1970 when Hendrix played at the Isle of Wight Festival. I could hardly go sick or just pack the job in without my father’s permission. If I had known that a few weeks later Hendrix would be dead then I might have acted differently!

IMG_6174 The Cavern

We took a look inside the Cavern ….

IMG_6165 The Cavern

….where even on a Sunday morning someone was playing ….

IMG_6173. guitar signed by Queen

…. and admired a number of guitars donated by famous artists, for example this one has been signed by all the members of Queen.

IMG_6184 Queen Vic

We carried onto St George’s Hall and Lime Street Station and the imposing statue of Queen Victoria before heading back through a series of shopping arcades and covered walkways ….

IMG_6189 Albert Dock Liverpool

…. until we were back at Albert Dock. There was much more to see in Liverpool but time was now pressing ….

IMG_6190 Nia and Graham

…. as I had a long-awaited reunion in front of me. I first met Nia in 1970 at Leeds University on our microbiology course. We worked together after University in the Leeds Public Health Lab, but in 1974 she moved to London and we lost touch. She contacted a mutual friend via Friends Reunited six or seven years ago and he put her in touch with me. In the mean time she had moved to Lancashire, brought up two children and has a number of grandchildren. She now lives in Southport with her husband Graham. It was great to meet up gain after 42 years!

IMG_6196 Southport pier

Before we left Southport we had a look at Southport Pier ….

IMG_6201 noddy train

…. which can be accessed either on foot or via a ‘noddy’ train.

IMG_6198 Southport pier

The pier overlooks the Ribble Estuary which is probably the second most important site in the whole of the UK for wading birds and wildfowl. In winter it plays host to tens, if not hundreds of thousands of waders but in July we just saw a flock of Dunlin fly by and a distant gathering of Oystercatchers.

IMG_6192 Marshside RSPB

The nearby RSPB Marshside reserve added a few new species to our trip list, but once again winter would have been the time to come. We had already agreed with Nia and Graham to come again sometime in the future, but this time in February or March.

IMG_6191 Marshside RSPB

Looking across the mud-lats of the Ribble we could see the famous Blackpool Tower and the scary roller-coaster, and that was to be our next destination.

IMG_6235 Blackpool_edited-1

I have never been a fan of the traditional bucket and spade seaside resort, at least not in adulthood. Poole doesn’t fall into that category and Bournemouth only just does. Blackpool however is the epitome of ‘tack’ with its amusement arcades blaring out loud music, multiple fish and chip shops, candy floss stalls, the three piers with their ‘faded elegance’ and peeling facades and the ever-present smell of doughnuts.

IMG_6234 Blackpool Tower

The weather soon turned bad and there seemed to be no point in going up the famous Blackpool Tower as visibility was very poor ….

IMG_6217 Tower ballroom

However Margaret, a fan of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, was keen that we visit the overly ornate Tower Ballroom.

IMG_6214 Tower ballroom

With only two couples dancing the visit was hardly the ‘Strictly’ Blackpool extravaganza but it was well worth visiting.

IMG_6204 Blackpool

I wasn’t too keen on the idea of going on Britain’s tallest roller-coaster ….

IMG_6207 horse and cart

…. or travelling in a gilded carriage ….

IMG_6221 comedy tiles

…. but I was amused by these tiles on the promenade composed of a collection of comedy punch lines and dialogues, none more so then this famous dialogue from Fawlty Towers. The sketch, of course, was not intended to be critical of the Germans but of those fuddy-duddy Brits (epitomised by Basil Fawlty) who couldn’t put the past behind them. As can be clearly seen in this photo the rain was now very heavy, so we returned to the hotel to dry out.

IMG_6224 gulls being fed

Some holiday makers complain about gulls swooping down to snatch their food and are campaigning for a cull. I think this is absurd because if they don’t want their food snatched outdoor they obviously should eat it where that can’t happen (like indoors) plus they would be better off directing their anger instead towards those to intentionally feed the gulls and teach them that holiday makers equals free food!


From Blackpool we headed east to Leeds where I used to live in the 70s and booked into a hotel on the south side of the River Aire.

IMG_6242 Harewood House

We were visiting Leeds to meet up with my old school and University mate Nigel Mackie whom I have known since 1967. Nigel greatly influenced my choice of music and my choice of politics and it is a great shame that we live so far apart. Rather than wander around Leeds again, we took advantage of the nice weather and went to Harewood House near Harrogate.

IMG_6239 Harewood House

Buddhist monks in the gardens of a stately home was an unusual sight.

IMG_6253 Harewood House

Taken from Wikipedia (again): Harewood House is a country house in Harewood near Leeds. Designed by architects John Carr and Robert Adam, it was built between 1759 and 1771 for wealthy plantation owner Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood. The landscape was designed by Lancelot “Capability” Brown and spans 1,000 acres at Harewood. Still home to the Lascelles family, Harewood House is a member of Treasure Houses of England, a marketing consortium for ten of the foremost historic homes in the country. The house is a Grade I listed building and a number of features in the grounds and courtyard have been listed as Grade I & II

IMG_6252 Harewood House

The house, the upper stories of which are still lived in, contains the usual wonderfully ornate bedrooms, sitting rooms and libraries ….

IMG_6258 Harewood House_edited-1

…. none more so than the beautiful gallery. The extensive grounds were the site of a Red Kite reintroduction program and in spite of the huge numbers we saw in Wales, it was wonderful to see these soaring over the park and even over the suburbs of Leeds.


Leaving Leeds we drove south to Duffield in Derbyshire to visit my brother and his family. On route we called into Carsington Reservoir in the Derbyshire Dales as I know this to be a reliable site for two species we don’t see in Dorset – Tree Sparrow and Willow Tit. I’m glad to say we saw both.


As always we paid a visit to my sister-in-laws parents, Ida and Dennis. Dennis was full of his usual amusing stories and anecdotes – never a dull moment!


Leaving Derbyshire we drove south-east via the M1 and A14 to Essex. We had hoped to visit friends in Sussex on route but they had last-minute change of plans. With time on our hands we detoured to the town of Kettering in Northamptonshire where I lived from the age of 4 to 14 and I showed Margaret the house we used to live in, ….


…. Wicksteed Park that I used to visit at lunchtimes as it was adjacent to my senior school ….


…. and my old primary school that I attended from 1956 – 62.


There was more nostalgia as I returned an area known as Headlands. This railway bridge was much easier to look over then and several boys and I used to go train spotting from here. On the other side was open fields, a wood and a stream and here I remember seeing Water Voles, Foxes and a Barn Owl – all magical stuff for a kid like me. Now, of course, its a housing estate dominated by the roar of traffic on the A14.


With time for another stop, we had lunch at Fen Drayton near Cambridge and did a little birding at the nearby gravel pits. My last visit was in 2014 when I twitched a Baikal Teal but there was nothing of that quality on view today. However on the nearby Great Ouse River we had prolonged views of a swimming Grass Snake, a species I haven’t seen for many years.

IMG_6286 Glossy Ibis

We arrived at Margaret’s daughter Anita’s place in Maldon Essex on the evening of 7th. As Anita and John were at work on the Friday we met up with Simon Cox, an Essex birder I have met on several BirdQuest trips and another ringer. He was not doing any ringing that day but agreed to take us to the RSPB’s Old Hall marshes where we found this Glossy Ibis. In spite of the recent increase in numbers this remains a fairly rare bird.

IMG_6294 cr Blackwit

Whilst staying at Maldon I took the opportunity to bird at Haybridge Basin on the other side of the Blackwater Estuary from Maldon. In a flock of 400+ Black-tailed Godwits I found three colour ringed individuals. Colour ringing is an excellent way of tracking some birds movements but the colour rings only allows a certain number of combinations and works best on long-legged birds that feed in open areas like mud flats where the ring combination can easily be read. All three birds had made remarkable journeys during their life, the best of the three I have reproduced below, showing multiple sightings in eastern England in winter and Iceland in the breeding season as well as a visit to Holland.

Black-tailed Godwit adult, male
R8-LO 15.07.10 Siglufjordur, N Iceland
R8-LO 07.03.11 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 18.03.11 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 09.03.12 Gansooiensche uiterwaard, North of Waalwijk, Noord-Brabant, C Netherlands
R8-LO 23.03.12 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 27.08.12 Heybridge Basin, Maldon, Blackwater Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 30.08.12 Heybridge Basin, Maldon, Blackwater Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 10.09.12 Heybridge Basin, Maldon, Blackwater Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 21.09.12 Heybridge Basin, Maldon, Blackwater Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 09.10.12 Heybridge Basin, Blackwater Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 15.01.13 Heybridge Basin, Maldon, Blackwater Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 22.03.13 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 07.08.13 Heybridge Basin,Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 12.08.13 Maldon, Blackwater Estuary, Essex, E Eng
R8-LO 20.08.13 Heybridge Basin, Maldon, Blackwater Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 29.08.13 Heybridge Basin, Maldon, Blackwater Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 3.10.13 Heybridge Basin,Maldon, Blackwater Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 4.02.14 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 21.02.14 Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 26.02.14 Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 2.03.14 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 3.03.14 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 5.03.14 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 6.03.14 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 11.03.14 Heybridge Basin, Maldon, Blackwater Estuary,Essex, E England
R8-LO 11.03.14 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 16.03.14 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 20.03.14 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 21.03.14 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 26.03.14 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 02.04.14 Stutton Mill, Stour Estuary, Suffolk, E England
R8-LO 04.04.14 Stutton Mill, Stour Estuary, Suffolk, E England
R8-LO 08.04.14 Stutton Mill, Stour Estuary, Suffolk, E England
R8-LO 09.04.14 Stutton Mill, Stour Estuary, Suffolk, E England
R8-LO 11.04.14 Stutton Mill, Stour Estuary, Suffolk, E England
R8-LO 13.04.14 Stutton Mill, Stour Estuary, Suffolk, E England
R8-LO 14.04.14 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 16.07.14 Frampton Marsh, the Wash estuary, Lincolnshire, E England
R8-LO 21.07.14 Heybridge Basin, Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 23.07.14 Heybridge Basin, Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 29.07.14 Heybridge Basin, Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 7.08.14 Heybridge Basin, Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 13.08.14 Frampton Marsh, the Wash estuary, Lincolnshire, E England
R8-LO 22.08.14 Heybridge Basin, Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 5.09.14 Heybridge Basin, Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 20.12.14 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 20.12.14 Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 17.01.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 18.01.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 20.02.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 21.02.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 01.03.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 02.03.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 23.03.15 Stutton Mill, Stour Estuary, Suffolk, SE England
R8-LO 28.03.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 09.04.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 10.04.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 18.04.15 Arnarhóll, Flói, Árnessýsla, S Iceland
R8-LO 21.04.15 Arnarhóll, Flói, Árnessýsla, S Iceland
R8-LO 21.04.15 Vorsabær, Flói, Árnessýsla, S Iceland
R8-LO 29.08.15 Stutton Mill, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 1.09.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 2.09.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 11.09.15 Heybridge Basin, Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 8.10.15 Heybridge Basin, Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 14.10.15 Heybridge Basin, Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 22.10.15 Heybridge Basin, Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 22.11.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 07.01.16 Heybridge Basin, Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 09.01.16 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 09.01.16 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 10.01.16 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 11.01.16 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 13.01.16 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 16.01.16 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 27.01.16 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 29.01.16 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 30.01.16 Mistley Quay, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 7.02.16 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 07.02.16 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 20.02.16 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 1.03.16 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 7.03.16 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 23.03.16 Stutton Mill, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 9.07.16 Heybridge Basin, Maldon, Blackwater Estuary,Essex, E England
R8-LO 12.07.16 Heybridge Basin, Maldon, Blackwater Estuary,Essex, E England

Of course we spent most of our time with Anita and John and went on a nice bike ride to the island of Northey which sits in the Blackwater Estuary opposite Heybridge Basin.

We headed home on the afternoon of the 10th after a very pleasant 14 days away having visited various friends and families and explored several areas of the UK that were new for us and driven some 1600 miles.

During the preparation of the post I found I had used up all the allowed space on this blog. This is entirely my fault for uploading high-resolution photos. As a result the last few shots were uploaded at a very low resolution and hence are poor quality. I need to decide how to proceed from here as the upgrade WordPress want me to take is quite expensive.


2nd – 5th July 2012: visiting family and friends in Leeds and Derbyshire   Leave a comment

In the last post I described how Margaret and I visited her daughter and three sets of friends in East Anglia between June 26th and July 2nd. We left Framlingham in Sussex on the morning of the 2nd and drove to Leeds in Yorkshire.

IMG_8953 Fairburn Ings

We made good progress and I considered we had enough time to visit Fairburn Ings, an RSPB reserve to the east of the city near the A1. I started birding in 1977 and although I had to catch two buses and walk a couple of miles to get there, Fairburn Ings became my ‘local patch’ until I moved to Poole in March 1978. At that time the reserve consisted of a lake and a few pools sandwiched between the village of Fairburn ….

IMG_8952 Fairburn Ings

…. and the hill in the background which at the time was a slag heap. I saw most of first waterbird species here along with a selection of passerines.

IMG_8951 Fairburn Ings

…. but there weren’t these reed beds, woods or raised walkways ….

IMG_8948 Collared Dove

…. nor was there a visitor centre with book shop, cafe and bird feeders complete with flocks of Tree Sparrows (and the inevitable Collared Dove), I think the RSPB should be congratulated in turning this area of mining subsidence into a first class wildlife reserve.

IMG_8952 Whitelocks

We headed for Leeds and checked into our hotel just south of the river. In the early evening we headed to a 300 year old pub called Whitelocks on Briggate in oder to meet up with my old friend Nigel.

IMG_9039 Nigel

I first met Nigel in 1967 when he moved to our school in Duffield, Derbyshire to do his A levels. He was instrumental my musical education, converting me from being a fan of Motown and Soul to Jimi Hendrix, the Nice and above all The Incredible String Band. Nigel also went to University at Leeds in 1969 and we shared accommodation for much of the next seven years. Nigel remained in Leeds when the rest of the gang moved away and served as a councillor for many years and was given the title of Alderman for his services to the city.

IMG_8953 Victoria arcade

Leeds is known for it wonderful shopping arcades, one of the best being Queen Victoria Street in the Victoria Quarter between Briggate and Vicar Lane. This was a street open to the sky when I lived there.

IMG_8953.6 Leeds arcade

Nearby is the ornate County Arcade.

IMG_8953.9 R Aire at night

After a lovely meal and further drinks we headed back across the River Aire to our hotel.

IMG_8957 riverside appartments

Nigel was busy the following morning so we explored the riverside area. Back in the sixties and seventies this part of the city was very down-at-heels, full of old warehouses, shabby shops and the sort of pubs where if you go in for a pint you leave quickly with just a bag of crisps. Indeed I avoided this area in general especially at night. There has been a wonderful transformation, the riverside warehouses have been turned into fashionable dwellings ….

IMG_8960 R Aire

… many new buildings have been erected and the Leeds – Liverpool canal has been cleaned up and is now a place for a pleasant stroll.

IMG_8959 canal Leeds

Docks have been created along the canal as well as numerous high-rise buildings.

IMG_8963 no she's not

Oh no she’s not!

IMG_8979 R Aire and Leeds Liverpool canal

Near where the river and canal divide lies the Royal Armoury,  a multi-million pound purpose-built museum that opened to the public in 1996. It was built to house a large part of the national collection of arms and armour, and displays over 8500 objects throughout its six themed galleries: War, Tournament, Oriental, Self-Defence, Hunting, and Peace.

IMG_8967 Royal Armoury

Looking upwards into the Hall of Steel is quite awe-inspiring.

IMG_8978 Royal Armoury

We visited the Royal Armoury on a previous visit but Margaret found the open glass staircase induced vertigo, so our visit was cut short. She has greatly overcome this fear recently (as our trip to the Alps proved) and had no problem climbing up to the third floor.

IMG_8972 Leeds Liverpool canal

The view over the river and canal from here is quite impressive.

IMG_8977 Leeds Armoury

Of the many exhibits this ‘war elephant’ caught my eye.

IMG_8968 Royal Armoury

…. and the cavalry section.

IMG_8981 Leeds Minster

On our way to meet up with Nigel we passed Leeds Minster.

IMG_8984 Leeds Minster

Our arrival coincided with the two-minute silence for the victims of the dreadful massacre in Tunisia and we were able to pay our respects in a most appropriate place.

IMG_9000 Leeds arcade

As we made our way through the city centre we came across many covered shopping arcades. I remember from my time in the 70s that many of the minor roads between Briggate, Boar Lane and the Headrow were poorly lit and uninviting and in general places to avoid. Again there has been a huge transformation.

IMG_9006 Leds Town Hall

We met Nigel at the art gallery near Leeds Town Hall.

IMG_9015 Leeds art gallery

Nigel’s main interest these days is art and he showed us around the gallery. I liked the symbolism, if not the sentiment, of the large painting on the left depicting Britannia slaying a tiger, symbolic of the ruthless suppression by the British of the locals after the Indian Mutiny of 1857.

IMG_9011 Leeds art gallery restaurant

This hall houses the restaurant, incredibly this room was bricked up some time around the 60s and for years no-one could remember what was in there. Recently the room was opened up again and this gorgeous tiled interior was discovered. Wonderful that this gem still exists and wasn’t destroyed in the name of ‘progress’ but what a shame that generations of art lovers were denied the pleasure of seeing it.

IMG_9031 Saltaire Mill

The three of us then caught a train to Saltaire, a former Victorian mill town near Shipley and a World Heritage Site. Nigel particularly wanted to show us the art collection that is now housed in the old mill.

IMG_9040 Titus Salt

The town gets its name from a combination of the surname of its founder, mill owner Sir Titus Salt and the River Aire. The woolen mill was built adjacent to the river and the Leeds-Liverpool canal.

IMG_9034 Saltaire town hall

Titus Salt was an enlightened mill owner, building decent stone houses for his workforce with wash rooms and bath houses, a hospital and also (above) the Victoria Hall. Because of this combination of houses, employment and social services the original town is often seen as an important development in the history of 19th century urban planning.

IMG_9042 Saltaire gallery

A whole floor of the mill is dedicated to the work of the Bradford-born artist David Hockney.

IMG_9048 Salthouse gallery

A modern painting of the mill in its heyday.

IMG_9056 the Lewis'

On the 4th we left Leeds and drove to Duffield in Derbyshire, a slow journey due to the almost continuous road works along the M1. We arrived at my brother’s house mid morning. In the afternoon we went for a walk along the nearby Ecclesbourne valley. L-R my niece Jennifer, my sister-in-law Viv, Margaret and my brother Simon. My elder niece Miriam is away on a gap year before University.

IMG_9062 the Ecclesbourne

Simon and I used to go to the nearby Ecclesbourne grammar school which used to have a school song that went ‘a school grows here in Duffield by Ecclesbourne’s fair banks’. According to my nieces who are (or have been) at the school recently they have dropped this hideous ditty.

IMG_9063 the Lewis'

The Lewis’s on parade.Viv, Jenny, Margaret and Simon.

IMG_9078 lamp switchoff

Switched off between midnight and 0530 to save electricity and turned on during the day to waste it!

IMG_9082 Carsington

On the morning of the 5th we paid a visit to Viv’s parents, the always entertaining Dennis and Ida and called in at Carsington Reservoir. I usually visit around Christmas time when the reservoir holds many wintering wildfowl and is a good place to see Tree Sparrow and the increasingly scarce Willow Tit. Well the Tree Sparrows were in evidence but not much else, but it was a nice place to complete our journey.

So all that remained was to drive back to Dorset. A 1000 mile journey over 10 days, enjoying the company of family and old friends and seeing some interesting sights and wildlife on route.

Christmas Eve 2014 to New Year’s Day 2015   Leave a comment

This post covers our time in Essex. Sussex and Derbyshire over the festive period plus the New Year boat trip in Poole Harbour.

IMG_4056 sunset

The famiy spent this Christmas in Maldon, Essex with John and Anita. We traveled up on Christmas Eve but Janis and Kara arrived the day before. In the late afternoon whilst the family watched TV, I drove down to the nearby Blackwater River for a bit of birding.

IMG_4049 Avocets R Blackwater

Good numbers of waders and ducks including this flock of Avocets was seen.

IMG_4052 Avocets Blackwater River

Avocets on the Blackwater River.

IMG_4075 unwrapping presents

Christmas Day Morning – the present opening ceremony. Clockwise John, Anita, Amber, Kara, Margaret and Janis.

IMG_4067 Amber & Kara Xmas 14

Sisters reunited. Amber has been living and working in Essex with her aunt and uncle since June, whilst of course Kara and Janis still live 100 yards up the road from us.

IMG_4081 family at Xmas

Merry Christmas from the Lewis/Dreosti family.

IMG_4084 Kara's prom dress

Kara shows off her new prom dress.

IMG_4092 Wallasea Island

On Boxing Day morning Margaret and I drove to the new RSPB reserve at Wallasea Island, about 45 minutes to the south from Maldon.

IMG_4107 Wallasea Brent's

It was a grey day on the saltmarshes with the temperature hovering around freezing. There were many birds on the reserve, large flocks of Brent Geese were to be expected but it was the large numbers of Corn Buntings and Stock Doves (both relatively scarce in Dorset) that impressed me. We also saw up to four Marsh Harriers, a Peregrine, Merlin, Sparrowhawk, Short-eared Owl, Common Buzzard and several Kestrels but not the hoped for Rough-legged Buzzard.

IMG_4105 conveyer belt Wallacea

The reserve is undergoing a major development. Using  spoil from the Crosslink rail project the land is being raised whilst basins are being created elsewhere. When completed the seawall will be breached in places allowing the basins to flood, so producing a mosaic of tidal lagoons, saltmarsh and rough grazing. The conveyor belt in the photo above is where the spoil extracted from beneath London is brought ashore from barges.

IMG_4108 Burnham on Crouch

Across the river from the reserve is the town of Burham-on-Crouch. Whenever I see that name I am reminded of the excellent, if saucy song ‘Billericay Dickie’ by Ian Dury ‘Oh golly, oh gosh come and lie on the couch with a nice bit of posh from Burnham-on-Crouch’


On the 27th we left Essex and headed north to my brother’s place in Duffield, near Derby.  On route we stopped at two sites in Suffolk, the RSPB reserve at Boyton and the famous archaeological site of Sutton Hoo. My reason for going to Boyton was to see the two Trumpeter Swans that have been present for the last couple of weeks, one of just five waterfowl species in the world that I have yet to see.

There has been some discussion at to whether these birds are wild or escapes from captivity. Arguments for them being wild are 1) they are unringed 2) the species is increasing rapidly in numbers in the USA due to re-introduction schemes 3) the species is partially migratory 4) there have been severe storms on the east coast of the States which may have induced dispersal out to sea 5) when they first arrived some staining, possibly iron oxide, was seen on the head, something that has been noted on Whooper Swans from Iceland and 6) another large bird from USA/Canada has occurred in the very same area – a Sandhill Crane in 2011. Arguments against are 1) they are adults, the vast majority of vagrants are first years 2) although the species is partially migratory, no really long distance movements have been noted and the swan is not found on the American east coast. The nearest population on the Great Lakes only makes short distance movements to ice free areas in winter and 3) they have arrived on the east coast when you would expect vagrants from America to arrive on the west coast or in Ireland, 4)the comparison with the Sandhill Crane is not really valid as that bird was a first year and had already made landfall in Scotland before moving south in stages, a pattern shared by the previous Sandhills in Britain.

There is almost always a case for and against a particular American vagrant being wild. If we were to give Chimney Swift, an undoubted vagrant, a score of 10 and Harris’s Hawk, a common falconer’s bird and a frequent escape, a score of 1, then I would allocate the Trumpeters a score of 4. Am I going to add them to my British list or my World list – no, am I glad I went to see them – yes, but only because I was in the area anyway.



In spite of the wind and rain I had great views of the Trumpeter Swans but then realised I had left my cameras SD card back in my laptop. The following photo was taken earlier in the month by LGR Evans and is used with permission. See

IMG_4119 burial mound

By the time we reached the nearby Sutton Hoo archaeological site of Sutton Hoo the weather had improved. In the late 30’s burial mounds on the site were excavated, many had already been plundered by grave robbers but one was intact and proved to be a ship burial of a Saxon noble, probably King Raedwald who died about 625 Ad..

IMG_4118 Sutton Hoo treasure

The grave was full of the most wonderful treasures, which are now in the British Museum, but replicas of some are on show at Sutton Hoo. Saxon’s are often thought to be uncivilised people from the ‘Dark Ages’ but these burial goods have shown they could produce the most wonderful artifacts like this gold and enamel purse ….

IMG_4117 Sutton Hoo treasure

…. the fabulous metalwork of this sword ….

IMG_4115 Sutton Hoo helmet

…. or this helmet.

IMG_4113 ship burial replica

The visitor centre had a recreation of the ship that the king was buried in. His body was laid out surrounded by the goods that he would want to use in the afterlife.

IMG_4120 Edwardian House

One floor of landowner’s Edwardian Manor House has been preserved as it was at the time of the excavations.

IMG_4277 Cromford

When we arrived in Derbyshire we found that the rain we experienced in East Anglia had fallen as snow further north. The following day we drove north into the Derbyshire Dales and found a picture postcard landscape.

IMG_4195 Carsington

Our destination was the scenic Carsington Reservoir where we saw some great birds, a pair of Bewick’s Swans and a flock of 300 Pink-footed Geese flying between their wintering grounds in Norfolk and Lancashire.

IMG_4186 Dunnock

With the cold conditions plenty of birds, such as this Dunnock, were coming to feeders.

IMG_4198 Willow Tit

I was particularly pleased to get views of Willow Tut, a species that has long been extirpated from Dorset.

IMG_4204 Willow Tit best

These two photos show several of the subtle features that separate Willow Tit from the similar Marsh Tit. Willow Tits have a duller crown, thicker neck, a pale wing panel, a more diffuse border to the bib, a subtle gradation from the cheeks to the side of the neck, lack of a pale patch at the base of the bill and a smaller difference between the length of the longest and outermost tail feathers. In spite of all these fine pointers the best ID features remain the vocalisations.

IMG_4230 Tree Sparrow best

Another bird that we seldom see in Dorset but which is delightfully common at Carsington, is Tree Sparrow.

IMG_4282 Cromford canal

Later we went to the nearby Cromford Mill, a site where Hawfinches are often reported but are never there when I visit. This actual mill is considered to be the birth place of the industrial revolution. The canal which once brought materials to and from the mill is now a pleasant place for a walk or a spot to feed to feed the ducks.

IMG_4295 Di, Steve, Nigel, Margaret

During our time in Duffield we spent some time with my brother and his family and also visited several of my old friends. We picked up my old school and Uni mate Nigel (sat next to Margaret) and visited friends from school and also Di who was at University with me and her husband Steve.

IMG_4305 fireworks on TV

We didn’t do anything to celebrate New Years Eve and just ended up seeing the New Year in by watching the Queen concert and the fireworks on the telly.

IMG_4321 bird boat

We are very thankful to Mark and Mo Constantine for putting on their annual bird boat around Poole harbour on New Year’s Day. About 65 birders took up their kind offer and we had a good social as well as some good birds. Only a few are in this shot as most are upstairs enjoying the birding upstairs.

IMG_4306 raft race

Poole Quay was busy and parking places hard to find due to the crowds watching the annual New Years Day raft race which seemed to involve all contestants getting thrown into the water.

IMG_4319 Spoonbill

It was a very low tide and the boat couldn’t get around all the islands as a result we didn’t visit the area to the west of Brownsea which often holds interesting ducks or Arne where most of the Spoonbill flock hangs out. However we did see this Spoonbill near the boat near Ower Quay. Not being able to complete the circuit was to our advantage as when we retraced our steps we came across a Black Guillemot near Brownsea Castle. This is the first time I’ve seen this species in Poole Harbour. I didn’t get any photos but some along with another account of the bird boat have been posted on Steve Smith’s excellent blog at

IMG_4325 Purps

After the boat docked Margaret and I drove round to North Haven and the mouth of Poole Harbour where in spite of the crowds going for a New Year’s Day walk these Purple Sandpipers were dodging the incoming waves.

IMG_4336 Purple Sand

An arctic breeder ‘purps’ winter on rocky shorelines, in Dorset this means they are seldom seen away from Mudeford Quay at Christchurch, the North Haven in Poole, Portland Bill and the Cobb at Lyme Regis.