Saturday, February 28, 2009

Walking donkeys on the Thames Path

It is not every day that you come home the long way round, along the Thames Path, and run into three women walking a dog and two donkeys. Great to see. I very much like that fact that the Surrey Docks Farm donkeys are given a good outing from time to time.

I had been going to post some mail and buy a local newspaper but I still had my camera in my bag and somehow ended up in the park. Although it was not early there were very few people there, which surprised me for Saturday because even though it was quite grey it was also quite warm.

Even two days on has seen some changes, and I expect that this will continue to be the pattern for the months leading up to and throughout the summer. Lots more daffodils are in flower now, which is lovely, although many more are yet to come into bloom so there is still much to look forward to. I went to revisit the violets to see if I could narrow down the specie but was unable to do so. I really need to take my books with me next time.

I didn't see any foxes today, and there were no butterflies or bees, but there were squirrels, the birds were everywhere, small and large, and all seemed to have something to communicate. The Great Tits were particularly deafening, their distinctive call resounding across the treetops. A tree full of Goldinches was a terrific sight and an amazing sound. Different types of finch chattered and darted around, and House Sparrows were dotted around all over the area, and I saw several Robins.

Of the larger birds the magpies were out in staggering force. Walking around a corner I sent a group of them into flight and counted seven. A few minutes later in a different area I saw another five, all on the grass together. The vast black birds were out in large number as well but I still cannot pin down what they are - either jackdaw (which I'm leaning towards due to the black beaks) or crows. There was an entire tree full of starlings who all looked at me without interest, but which proved to be impossible to photograph usefully due to the angle of the light.

Walking back along Greenland Dock I saw with amusement that Coots are again nesting on the pontoon by the blocked cut-through to the shallow remains of Norway Dock, in a vast array of rubbish. There were Great Crested Grebes on the main body of water in Greenland Dock and a few seagulls, but apart from some more Coots there was nothing else to see. There were no geese, which surprised me because they woke me this morning making the most amazing ongoing din.

More from yesterday, 27th February 2009

None of these photographs is great. Again I had the wrong lens on the camera, having left in a bit of a hurry with my museum lens and without my telephoto zoom.

The last of the images shows the worst case of scarcoptic mange that I have seen so far this year. The poor creature has almost no fur left. The first, second (right at the top of the stream) and third photos all show the same fox that I had the close-up photographs of last week.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A perfect Spring day

Today was remarkable. It is the end of February and today was less like a perfect Spring day than a perfect early Summer day - except that the plant life is all absolutely typical for the season. The ideal combination.

There are going to be hundreds of daffodils and a couple of the brave souls have stuck their heads out, bright yellow characters against bright green backgrounds. Crocuses were out in huge number, many in tidy beds prepared along the edges of Waterman's Walk, others scattered through the Woodland. One or two fugitive purple crocuses are popping up along the side of the green. Snowdrops are still out and look lovely in amongst the bolder colours of the newer spring bulbs. In a little corner of Stave Hill Ecological Park there were, to my absolute delight, violets. They come up in the same place every year. Daisies, so annoying in a perfect lawn, are beginning to come into flower and look lovely. The gorse continues to flourish a show of bright yellow flowers.

Even the trees were coming into flower, which may help me to identify them because I'm not generally very good at identifying trees.

There were birds in the trees, singing beautifully, but very few water birds. I spotted a Robin, a Acouple of Great Tits, Goldfinches, several House Sparrows and a small grey bird which I have so far been unable to identify. There were also a few pigeons and a couple of blackbirds.

I saw two foxes, the one of them first down at the Globe Pond stream which later moved to sunbathe where I photographed it before, and the second in the area behind the windmill. The one behind the windmill was in a dreadful state. If the scarcoptic mange goes untreated I don't think that we will have much of a fox population left by the summer.

I disturbed a squirrel which is something of a novelty at the moment because they are so few and far betweeen. Before I went away in October last year they were virtually tripping people up at every corner and you could hear them everywhere even when you couldn't actually see them.

There is still very little in the way of insect life around. I saw two honey bees and a single bumble bee. To my amazement I saw a butterfly. In spite of the fact that it refused to settle even for a second I followed it for a short distance but it was clearly a fritillary. Without getting a closer look it was impossible to know which one.

I will post more photographs from today over the next few days.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

New Book: Great Houses, Moats and Mills on the South Bank of the Thames

An Amazon alert has just informed me that the following book is now available for pre-order. I thought it might be of interest to other residents of the area. The price being quoted by different suppliers varies substantially so I would recommend that you shop around if you decide to pre-order it. Amazon and Oxbow books are both offering it for pre-order

Great Houses, Moats and Mills on the South Bank of the Thames: Medieval and Tudor Southwark and Rotherhithe (MoLAS Monograph 47, Museum of London Archaeology Service 2008) (Hardcover)
by Simon Blatherwick (Author), R. Bluer (Author)

Product details:
* Hardcover: 240 pages
* Publisher: Museum of London Archaeology Service (10 Oct 2008)
* Language English
* ISBN-10: 1901992837
* ISBN-13: 978-1901992830

Product Description
Regeneration in the 1980s-90s on the south bank of the Thames resulted in archaeological and historical investigations at Platform Wharf, Rotherhithe, and next to London Bridge, in Southwark. The development of both sites from the 14th century is of major interest. The Rotherhithe property was acquired c 1349 by Edward III and the existing house rebuilt by him in 1353-61 with two courts, including a riverside range of apartments. Royal interest ceased after Edward's reign, and the house passed to Bermondsey Priory in 1399. The fragmentation of the site into smaller properties, including ones with industrial uses, is charted. The Southwark site contained three notable residences during the medieval period and tidal mills on the waterfront.The 14th-century moated house of the Dunley family and a pleasure-house built by Edward II, the Rosary, were both acquired by Sir John Fastolf for his own grand London residence in the 1440s. In the later 16th century there was massive immigration into this part of Southwark and by the mid 17th century the former moats and gardens were built over with small properties and alleys. The moat infills produced exceptionally rich assemblages of domestic artefacts and ceramics, the waterside location preserved a wide variety of plants, timber structures and woodworking evidence.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

More photographs from yesterday


I cannot even dredge up a best-guess on this one.
I'll need to ask someone.

The new hoardings at the Downtown site by the Surrey Docks Health Centre.
Inevitable, I guess, but so very ugly.

This little pond was a seething mass of Yellow Flag last summer
So I assume that these little shoots are more of the same. Very pretty!

Possibly a bit premature for a guess but it may be that this is
Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) or a relative.

This always looks like something out of a low budget horror film to me.
Definately terrestrial but terribly eerie at the same time. All
darkness and decay, lined up in neat little rows along the path.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Spring is advancing slowly

It certainly feels as though Spring is on its way, advancing in slow steps. I was delighted to see two deep yellow crocuses coming into flower and everywhere you look there are new shoots. Even on a small oak which is wreathed in dead brown leaves new buds are appearing, and the barest of stems is producing new life.

There were lots of birds around, all singing their heads off (mainly Great Tits, House Sparrows and Robins), but none were particularly visible, apart from the magpies which were around in huge numbers. I didn't see any finches today but I startled a Jay, which departed in a flickering bright blue shimmer. Again, there were almost no water birds to be seen. There were a few squirrels and I saw the same fox that I took the close-up photographs of during the week.

I walked home via Yvonne's convenience store on Elgar Street, passing the Downtown site which is now encased in hoardings (very ugly) and proceeded down the side of Greenland Dock, where the only water birds visible were a lovely pair of Great Crested Grebes.

As usual, click on the image to enlarge if required.


Daffodils - ready to go!

Thanks very much to my Dad for telling me that this is Garrya elliptia.
Neither of us knows which variety, but it is native to California, not Surrey Quays!
Certainly an import.

New bud on old bramble

An very young oak, with dead leaves, but a brand new bud at the tip of the branch

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Thames frozen at Rotherhithe with Tower Bridge in the distance - 1895

PortCities London

It's a week or so late to be strictly relevant to our current weather conditions, but here's a rather good photograph of the Thames in front of Tower Bridge, with huge chunks of ice sitting on the river, in 1895.

Description: In January and February 1895, a severe cold spell created huge ice floes on the Thames. Although the river did not freeze over, the ice played havoc with the workings of the port. This glorious photograph, taken from the south bank at Rotherhithe on February 11, shows the ice in the Pool of London east of Tower Bridge.

Creator: Unknown

Date: 11 February 1895

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Yesterday's foxes - and Sarcoptic mange

I saw five foxes yesterday, and all suffered from Sarcoptic mange, which starts at the tail and works backwards. Eventually it will kill the animal concerned. It is caused by mites (Sarcoptes Scabiei) and is not exclusive to foxes. It can transfer to other canines, where it is easily treated by a vet, and to other species as well. The irritation caused by the mites causes the foxes to scratch themselves to the point where they create open sores which invite bacterial infections. The infected animals become very sick very quickly.

One of the symptoms of serious mange is a lack of fear of humans - something which was very evident yesterday as very few of them could be bothered to move away when I approached, albeit at a respectful distance, to take photographs. I hadn't realised whenI approached how badly afflicted these foxes were. I felt fairly grim, afterwards, about disturbing them.

The first three photographs all show the same fox. The last photo shows the mite concerned.

Youth crime in the Greenland Dock area

There have been an alarming number of youth crime incidents in the area surrounding Greenland Dock and Salter Road.

Please see the Recent News page on the Friends of Russia Dock Woodland website for more information.

If you are a victim of even a minor crime please report it to the police so that they are able to assess the volume of problems occuring in our area.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday 16th, a perfect early Spring day

Today was the perfect early spring day. It was quite warm, and the sky was a pale silvery blue but the sun was clear and bright. The bird song was fabulous, bright light notes of pure happiness.

I have learned where the different species of birds prefer to hide out and today, for the first time, managed to get a half decent photograph of a Goldfinch. Although they are very noisy they are also fast-moving and quite shy, so are terribly difficult to photograph. And they are a complete joy to watch and listen to.

Other birds around in large numbers were sparrows, Robins, Great Tits, Magpies, the usual selection of pigeons, and a couple of blue tits. I even managed to track down and photograph the elusive wren that can be heard but rarely seen at the Downtown pond. It was bouncing around noisily in the reeds. It's not the best photograph ever, but better than nothing. Click on the image to see it in more detail.

There was a notable shortage of water birds today - a couple of coots and mallards but nothing else.

There were one or two squirrels around, most of them quite lethargic.

I saw five foxes today, and managed to photograph some of them, but they were in a dreadful state as the photographs that I'll post in the next few days will show. It is simply stomach-turning to see what a mess they are in. I won't post the worst of the photos.

The bulbs continue to come up. There are lots of snowdrops out, which are very beautiful, but the daffodils are still in tight yellow-green bud and nothing else has come along that far. Many of the shrubs are producing new shoots.

The water levels weren't as high as I expected but the Downtown pond is still flowing over the metal barrier into the channels along Waterman's Walk.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tree felling at the Downtown site

The Downtown site, which includes land currently occupied by the Surrey Docks Health Centre and extends from Redriff Road to the Downtown pond, where the kingfishers have been resident this winter, has been the subject of extensive dispute for many years now. People in the adjacent homes have been rightly alarmed by the scale of the development plans. It is owned by Barratt Homes who purchased it with a view to developing it, and have been pushing frequently inappropriate planning applications which have been challenged by local residents and some Southwark councillors.

It was only recently found that an earlier application had been subject to a High Court judgement which quashed the plan for reasons which still haven't been resolved in the current application. The current application was accepted in November, but only subject to a number of changes which have not yet been submitted. This means that any work carried out on the site, particularly in terms of any destructive activity, is at best unethical. This has not, however, prevented Barratt Homes for going ahead with the felling of trees on the part of the site adjacent to the health centre.

I went to join the Chairman of both the Friends of Russia Dock Woodland and the Downtown Defence Campaign to see what was going on. Here are some of the photographs. taken by Kam Hong Leung, Steve Cornish and myself. For more news about the Downtown site, updated regularly, see the Downtown Defence Campaign News page.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Snow and ice in the Russia Dock Woodland and Stave Hill Ecological Park

I was in Wales on every day of the snowfall in London, except the first one, when I was busy struggling through the public transport chaos to get to Euston and from there to north Wales. I didn't have the opportunity to take any photographs over the road but others were in the right place at the right time.

There have been some wonderful photographs of the Russia Dock Woodland and Stave Hill Ecological Park by local residents. The photo on the left, showing a rather brave fox crossing the ice, was taken by Steve Cornish, but see the links below for other lovely snowy photographs by Mike Scott, Kam Hong Leung, Beatrice Leung and Les Butler.

Today, of course, it is pouring with rain, but here are some of the lovely photos from last week:

BREAKING NEWS re Downtown Site: High Court Quashes Government Planning Decision as "Inadequate and Predudicial"

PRESS RELEASE – IMMEDIATE Issued on behalf of the Downtown Defence Campaign (DDC), Rotherhithe, London SE16 on9th February 2009

The High Court of Justice has overturned a UK Government decision which gave the go-ahead to a bitterly disputed planning development in an ecologically sensitive wild-life area in south east London, as “inadequate” and “prejudicial”, it was revealed today (5 February 2009).

Furthermore, the Government has agreed unconditionally with the Judges’ Ruling, and picked up the tab for the legal costs of Southwark Council who brought the Judicial Review which challenged the controversial multi-million pound planning development. Now the developer, Britain’s giant home builder - debt-burdened Barratts Homes - is nursing a big headache as local campaigners celebrate this landmark legal planning ruling.

Visit the Downtown Defence Campagin News page for the full press release and more information about the Downtown site in Rotherhithe.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Snow at Greenland Dock

When I woke at 5.15am the sky was a milky peach colour. I was going to turn over and go back to sleep but I was intrigued I sat up and had a look. I found that it was thick fog, with snow, with the orange lighting around the dock diffusing through it. By now I was wide awake so I got up to have a look at the travel information on TV and the web.

In an hour's time I'm supposed to be making my way to catch a train from Euston to Chester, where my father is supposed to be meeting me. But it has snowed. No buses, partial suspensions on the Jubilee Line, cancellations on Virgin Rail's live online departures board (but whose website Service Update widget still say "0 Service Updates: There is currently a good service on all Virgin Trains routes"). Looks as though I'll either be walking to Euston or not going at all. My experiences with Virgin seem characterized by disaster. Last time I traveled north an aeroplane had hit the overhead lines, and on the return leg of that same trip overhead lines at Wembley were down. At least the website was being updated on both occasions, with clear instructions for passengers. The National Rail website has ground to a complete standstill. I dread to think what sort of traffic is hitting their servers.

Apparently it is the heaviest snow that we've received in the south east in 18 years

I wouldn't want to venture out on the roads today but people are struggling with their cars in Russell Place and managing to get them out of the carpark, albeit somewhat precariously. Good luck to them. There's at least two feet of snow on the walls outside my house and the palm trees look fabulously bizarre. The snow continues to fall thickly. Very beautiful but a damned nuisance.

Now where did I leave my woolly hat? I am going to need it.