Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Pan Pipes

Pan Pipes
On a summers day in York this duo of South American street musicians were entertaining the shoppers with their feathers, flute and pan pipes. I have seen them in various town centres in the north of England on both sides of the Pennines.  I imagine in the winter they would have to wear something a little warmer, or perhaps they fly south.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at P here

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Needle Navigation

Known locally as simply 'The Needle' this is the only survivor of 13 navigation beacons build in the 19th Century (c1875) to lead ships in the port of Barrow in Furness. The brickwork is red and yellow but the June flowers are outdoing the structure for yellowness.  Its official title is Leading Light Number 4 and the  66 feet (20m) needle rises on the foreshore at Rampside.  Originally one of the other towers would have been nearby on the Island of Foulney, a low lying shingle spit home to nesting birds which can be walked to at low tide
on an old shingle and rock causeway
and is somewhere in the middle distance to the left of the Needle in this photograph. Piel Island and its castle can be glimpsed on the horizon to the right.  What a pity there is no time machine to journey back in time and see the glow of 13 beacons shining out in a dark 19th Century sky warning and guiding ships as they thread their way through channels, past sandbanks, islands and shingle spits safely into port.

An entry for ABCWednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at N here

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Monkey Puzzle

Here is a conifer on the very start of its journey when instead of looking down we will be looking up to eighty, a hundred or more feet.  This is the Chilean Pine which used to be abundant in that country but a million have been burnt in forest fires as the climate becomes hotter and drier and the fires become more frequent.  The English speaking world knows the tree more familiarly as the Monkey Puzzle and you can judge its hight here below by the house in the background..
The seeds of the tree are edible (although do not appear until the trees are 30-40 years old). When the botanist Archibald Menzies was served them as a desert at a dinner given by the Governor of Chile in 1795 he pocketed a few and grew them on the ship back to Europe, of the resulting 5 healthy plants two were planted at Kew Gardens.  Fast forward to 1850 and Charles Austin (a barrister who made his fortune during the Victorian Railway Mania era) was being shown around a garden in Bodmin, Cornwall and made the comment "It would puzzle a monkey to climb that" and the tree became popularly known as the Monkey Puzzler and then the current name of Monkey Puzzle.  The French call them d├ęsespoir des singes (monkey's despair)
Like the set of four trees above most were planted in the landscape gardens of large houses in the 19th Century and these trees from the Jurrasic era (sometimes called a living fossil) were quite a status symbol.  In the 1900s and especially the 1920s they became a very popular plant for the suburban garden where they just grew and grew.  I seem to remember there used to be a lot more around but perhaps their large size and sharp pointed leaves may have overwhelmed the owners, or maybe I just found them fascinating as a child so noticed them more.  Today a lot of these long lived trees have tree preservation orders on them so they cannot be cut down and remain to entrance us.  Perhaps I am wrong about the numbers for Sarah Horton in a labour of love is mapping Monkey Puzzles here  and blogs about it here joined by her Monkey Puzzle agents to potentially photograph and map the Monkey Puzzle world, although as she is based in Liverpool there may be a British Isles bias.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at M here 


Saturday, 3 October 2015

Small Tortoiseshell

Small tortoiseshell enjoying the  unusually warm October weather amongst the flowers.
which are as brightly coloured as it is.
Soon it will be time for winter sleep and a dreaming of cloud flowers.