Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Badger Watch

On the 28th of May, I stayed the night at the house my grandad and nanna are staying in in England. It is a small cottage with a backyard 4 acres in area and has a newt pond and an orchard. Green woodpeckers, foxes, rabbits, pheasants, partridges and muntjac deer have been seen in it by my Grandad.

Grandad and nanna picked me up from my house and took me to their house. After a snack we went pond dipping in the newt pond. Pond dipping is when you scoop up pond life in a butterfly net. We caught lots of the wild animals that inhabit the pond - water striders, an aquatic leech and lots of common newts. The male newts were very colourful with a long crest and the females were plain and brown.

A female newt

Me freeing a newt

Me watching the newts

A male newt

Then we had to go inside and after having dinner, left for Tewin Orchard nature reserve. We were going to stay up late, in a badger hide!

Me, Nanna and Grandad
We arrived at the hide at 7:45. There were lots of rabbits outside it and we caught a glimpse of a muntjac deer, trotting across the meadow into the undergrowth. About an hour later, we heard the scream of a barn owl and the hoot of a tawny owl. A muntjac deer came right up to the hide windows and started eating the nuts laid out to attract animals.

The muntjac deer
A little later, a fox's silhouette crossed the meadow and another silhouette crossed the meadow a minute later. The second silhouette was different to the first, it was much stockier. The silhouette shuffled towards the hide and suddenly, it was close enough for me to see its head colour. Its head was white, with black stripes. It was undoubtedly a badger!

After that it just got better. The badger came right up to the hide and after sniffing the air, settled down to a dinner of nuts. Soon another badger arrived, and a mangy fox which sat behind a log right near the hide. Then a third badger and a young fox arrived. The foxes ate a few things on the ground and I think one killed a rabbit. Anyway, the other fox came to the one with the rabbit and the two started fighting rearing up on their hind legs and narrowing the eyes, they snarled and showed their ferocious toothy jaws before one of them trotted off towards our hide. More and more badgers arrived, feasting on the nuts. It was an incredible experience!

A badger

four of the badgers (the fifth was just outside the camera view

Me with my binoculars

Soon we had to leave the hide. After briefly getting very lost in the nature reserve, we reached the car. We got back at 12:30 and on the drive home I think I saw a bat!

The Tewin Orchard Badger Hide was great!!

Monday, 27 May 2013

Richard Kingsnorth

On Thursday the 23rst of May, we drove around Kent, the home of some of my ancestors, the Pullens and Kingsnorths. We visited three villages, Chilham, Headcorn and Staplehurst. This blog post will focus on the latter of these villages where many of our Kingsnorth ancestors that came from. One of them was called Richard Kingsnorth.

Richard Kingsnorth, was born in Stuart times, we have no idea where or when. He became a Baptist in 1644 after watching a Anglican Vicar declare he was converting to being a Baptist. Richard Kingsnorth was persuaded by the Vicar and some time in the 1640's set up a secret baptist church in his house, as there were no other baptist churches in the area . At the time it was illegal to have a baptist church meeting in your house. If a church was discovered there, you would be fined and sent to jail. We know that he was never caught.

When we visited Staplehurst we saw Richard Kingsnorth's church where he was married and the font where he was christened.

We walked along a muddy track betweent two fields that Richard Kingsnorth himself would have walked down all the time to get to the centre of Staplehurst.

At the end of the track was his house, where he had set up the church.

It was an excellent day!

the track up to the house

Richard Kingsnorth's house where the church met in 1644

Paxton Pits

A couple of Saturdays ago we drove out to Paxton Pits nature reserve, a series of pools bordered by reeds and located near Little Paxton, Cambridgeshire. It is home to otters, water voles, shrews, kingfishers, cormorants, newts and nightingales. In fact, Paxton Pits is the best location in the UK to hear them!

Our trip to Paxton Pits started well. In a pond in the picnic area there were newts, backswimmers, water striders and great diving beetles. Great diving beetles are medium sized insects which eat fish and tadpoles. Backswimmers skim upside down just under the surface of the water and are a carnivorous insect. Like the diving beetle, water striders stand on the surface of the water and zoom about like a hovercraft. Newts are amphibians resembling lizards that spend half the year on land and half in the water.

I am not sure what the types of newts I saw were. Possibly they were great crested newts, smooth newts or palmate newts.

We started the walk which was called the Heron trail. It went in a circle around the pits. Along the walk we came to a hide where you could look out over the water and be hidden from the birds. We saw cormorants, great crested grebes (a type of water bird) and other types of birds.

We continued the walk and heard nightingales and cuckoos call. We saw some more birds - a nesting coot and two mute swans. Soon the walk was over. Paxton Pits Reserve was great!
Looking for newts

Great crested grebe
Great cormorant

a robin singing

Monday, 20 May 2013

William Wilberforce

Recently we have studied William Wilberforce. He has earned his place in the history for playing a very  important part in the abolition of the slave trade. The slave trade was an abominable trade of african men and women, who were cruelly taken from their homeland, packed extremely tightly in the hulls of ships and left there for the whole voyage. They were never allowed to leave the ship's hull to go the toilet or breathe in fresh air, and by the time the ship reached its destination, half the slaves were dead.

The slaves were then sold to wealthy sugar plantation owners, branded with a red hot iron and sent to work on the sugar plantations toiling in the hot sun to make sugar, cutting their hands badly all the time and being whipped by their merciless owners.

William Wilberforce was born in Hull, the son of a wealthy merchant. When he was a child his father died and he had to live with his aunt and uncle in London. While he was there he started to attend church services and talked to John Newton, a former slave ship owner who had realised how bad the slave trade was and campaigned against it. Wilberforce was considering becoming a Christian. When his mum heard he was going to church he was instantly taken back to Hull.  Soon, he had gave up being a Christian.

Wilberforce studied at Cambridge University and while he was there he started a friendship with another student that would last until this student's death in 1806. The student's name was William Pitt.

When William Wilberforce graduated from Cambridge University, he became member of parliament for Hull. William Pitt became a member of parliament too and soon afterwards became Prime Minister. He also became a campaigner against the slave trade alongside Wilberforce.

William Wilberforce was helped by his good friend  and former school master Isaac Milner to become a Christian in 1784. 

In 1787, he was encouraged by Thomas Clarkson, a campainer against slavery, to embark on the greatest challenge of his life, the abolition of Slavery. To pass a law in parliament, it has to be agreed by a majority of  MPs. However, almost all the people in Parliament where involved in the slave trade and they weren't going to give up their money (or their sugar) so easily. Wilberforce and other campaigners had a difficult job ahead of them. 

After 18 years of putting bills into parliament, collecting facts about the slave trade and signing petitions, in 1807 slavery was finally abolished in all British dominions. By then Wilberforce was married to Barbara Ann Spooner, with whom he had six children. 

Wilberforce was an incredible man who used his talents, being very persuasive and having a strong voice for an excellent cause. I hope he will always be remembered.

The statue of William Wilberforce at St John's College, Cambridge

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Byron's Pool

Recently my mum, Becca, Elsie and I visited Byron's Pool, a nature reserve in Grantchester, a small village outside Cambridge. It is called Byron's pool because the poet Lord Byron used to bathe there, naked. There, at the pool we wrote romantic poems, copying the style of Wordsworth and Coleridge. Here is mine, about Byron's Pool.

Byron's Pool

I wander through a woodland green
beneath the roof of tree branches,
stretching across the sky.
Blue bells cluster together
Over the dry and empty litter
of long dead leaves.
I see a scene so beautiful:
A river of beautiful sheen,
Moving gently and sparkling
As diamonds beyond price.
The reeds and the trees sway towards
Each other and dance wonderfully;
Butterflies are fluttering by;
The birds chuckle in the trees
And play their instruments, an orchestra,
Every musician clothed
In the most wonderful colours.
And all this beauty under
An azure sky,
Dotted with cotton fluff clouds
And beside a patch of woodland green.

While we were there, we saw some very interesting things, butterflies I had never seen before, a moorhen and its chick and a kingfisher. Also I was bitten by a leech. Byron's Pool was great!

 Becca and me writing our poems

Byron's Pool

A view through the branches of a tree, over the pool to Becca and me.

Becca, Elsie and me looking at the pool

Thursday, 9 May 2013

This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison

Today we learned about Romantic poets.

Romantic poetry is a style of poetry written in Georgian times. A lot of romantic poetry is about nature. Three of the most famous romantic poets are Coleridge, Byron and Wordsworth.

I have heard a few poems by these poets and would like to share one of my favourite romantic poems. It is called  'This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison' and is by Coleridge:
Well, they are gone, and here must I remain,
This lime-tree bower my prison! I have lost
Beauties and feelings, such as would have been
Most sweet to my remembrance even when age
Had dimm'd mine eyes to blindness!
They, meanwhile,
Friends, whom I never more may meet again,
On springy heath, along the hill-top edge,
Wander in gladness, and wind down, perchance,
To that still roaring dell, of which I told;
The roaring dell, o'erwooded, narrow, deep,
And only speckled by the mid-day sun;
Where its slim trunk the ash from rock to rock
Flings arching like a bridge;--that branchless ash,
Unsunn'd and damp, whose few poor yellow leaves
Ne'er tremble in the gale, yet tremble still,
Fann'd by the water-fall! and there my friends
Behold the dark green file of long lank weeds,
That all at once (a most fantastic sight!)
Still nod and drip beneath the dripping edge
Of the blue clay-stone.

Now, my friends emerge
Beneath the wide wide Heaven--and view again
The many-steepled tract magnificent
Of hilly fields and meadows, and the sea,
With some fair bark, perhaps, whose sails light up
The slip of smooth clear blue betwixt two Isles
Of purple shadow! Yes! they wander on
In gladness all; but thou, methinks, most glad,
My gentle-hearted Charles! for thou hast pined
And hunger'd after Nature, many a year,
In the great City pent, winning thy way
With sad yet patient soul, through evil and pain
And strange calamity! Ah! slowly sink
Behind the western ridge, thou glorious Sun!
Shine in the slant beams of the sinking orb,
Ye purple heath-flowers! richlier burn, ye clouds!
Live in the yellow light, ye distant groves!
And kindle, thou blue Ocean! So my friend
Struck with deep joy may stand, as I have stood,
Silent with swimming sense; yea, gazing round
On the wide landscape, gaze till all doth seem
Less gross than bodily; and of such hues
As veil the Almighty Spirit, when yet he makes
Spirits perceive his presence.

A delight
Comes sudden on my heart, and I am glad
As I myself were there! Nor in this bower,
This little lime-tree bower, have I not mark'd
Much that has sooth'd me. Pale beneath the blaze
Hung the transparent foliage; and I watch'd
Some broad and sunny leaf, and lov'd to see
The shadow of the leaf and stem above
Dappling its sunshine! And that walnut-tree
Was richly ting'd, and a deep radiance lay
Full on the ancient ivy, which usurps
Those fronting elms, and now, with blackest mass
Makes their dark branches gleam a lighter hue
Through the late twilight: and though now the bat
Wheels silent by, and not a swallow twitters,
Yet still the solitary humble-bee
Sings in the bean-flower! Henceforth I shall know
That Nature ne'er deserts the wise and pure;
No plot so narrow, be but Nature there,
No waste so vacant, but may well employ
Each faculty of sense, and keep the heart
Awake to Love and Beauty! and sometimes
'Tis well to be bereft of promis'd good,
That we may lift the soul, and contemplate
With lively joy the joys we cannot share.
My gentle-hearted Charles! when the last rook
Beat its straight path along the dusky air
Homewards, I blest it! deeming its black wing
(Now a dim speck, now vanishing in light)
Had cross'd the mighty Orb's dilated glory,
While thou stood'st gazing; or, when all was still,
Flew creeking o'er thy head, and had a charm
For thee, my gentle-hearted Charles, to whom
No sound is dissonant which tells of Life.

The poem is about Coleridge (the narrator) having to stay in his garden under a lime tree because his leg is injured while his friends go out on a walk. Coleridge at first is frustrated he has to stay but then has fun imagining what his friends are doing on the walk and what they are seeing (he has been on the walk before). Then he realises how beautiful the lime tree is and enjoys looking up at it! Here is a group some of the lines that I like:

On springy heath, along the hill-top edge,
Wander in gladness, and wind down, perchance,
To that still roaring dell, of which I told;
The roaring dell, o'erwooded, narrow, deep,
And only speckled by the mid-day sun;
Where its slim trunk the ash from rock to rock
Flings arching like a bridge;--that branchless ash,
Unsunn'd and damp, whose few poor yellow leaves
Ne'er tremble in the gale, yet tremble still,
Fann'd by the water-fall! and there my friends
Behold the dark green file of long lank weeds,
That all at once (a most fantastic sight!)
Still nod and drip beneath the dripping edge
Of the blue clay-stone.

I like the poetic feel and rhythm to the poem, how you can picture the scenes of the walk in your in your head, how he travels with his friends along the walk through his imagination and how he ends up delighting in the lime tree, which started out being described as his prison!


Last Saturday we drove out to Blakeney Point, a greyish area of tidal salt marsh by the sea filled with all kinds of birds. There was a black headed gull at the car park and many others elsewhere, a house marten next in the information centre, Brent Geese (usually winter migrants leaving in early Spring but Spring came late this year), oyster catchers (black and white birds of the seashore that eat molluscs, a Temmink's stint (I think), common terns, little terns, sandwich terns and artic terns, other types of gull and pied wagtails. In short it was full of fascinating birds I had never seen before!

But the main reason we had driven in the car for 2 1/2 hours was for the seals.

Blakeney Point houses a seal colony and is one of the best places in the world to see grey seals. But to see them you had to go on a boat trip to the point itself, a small peninsula of land, jutting out into the North Sea.

So, we got our tickets and while we waited for the tide to come in we had a very quick peek at a book sale then went on a walk along the marsh. Like I said it was a saltwater marsh and the vegetation there was quite grey, giving everything a primeval look, especially in the cloudy weather. You could imagine cave people stalking the geese in the marsh, armed with longspears.

Soon it was time to go on the boat. Lydia couldn't go out into the boat so dad had to look after her in land. As it turned out Lydia had a great time singing, watching sheeo, crabs and ducklings!

Anyway, when the boat left I was very excited! First we sawn the Tern colonies. Flying around them were heaps of terns and even more terns were flying out above the water, diving down under the water and flying out again with sand eels in their beaks.

Then we saw the seals. They were AMAZING!!! There were angry seals and common seals (or perhaps one or the other), peeking out of the water, swimming around and laying on the sand in huge quantities! There were juveniles and bulls and cows and all of them were amazing.

Next we left that incredible place and drove to Oxburgh Hall - and amazing moated house originating from Tudor times. On the way there Elsie saw her first deer and I saw two hares boxing.

me and my sisters enjoying the boat ride

picture of the seal colony

male seals fighting

a seal 'bottling'

At Oxburgh Hall

Dad, Lydia and me at Oxburgh Hall

Me coming out of the priest hole.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Anglesey Abbey wildlife discovery area

On the 2 May we revisited Anglesey Abbey, but this time we saw the wildlife discovery area. It was a walk through a large area of woodland in the abbey grounds, called Hoe fen (which was strange as a fen is like a marshy, boggy area with heaps of water reeds, nothing like the wildlife discovery area).

 We climbed to the top of a viewing platform, 6.5 metres in the sky, built around a large tree. We could look down at birds hopping around below us! Then we walked along through the woods to a huge insect hotel. There were hollow sticks of bamboo and bricks with holes drilled into them, as well as many other things made to provide homes for wild insects. The shelters were positioned so people could easily see inside them to observe the insects. Then we visited the wildlife watch hut, a small bird hide beside a pond with lots of bird feeders near it. We saw lots of birds there! Apparently, wild grass snakes and roe deer bucks have been sighted in Hoe fen, but we didn't see any of those. We did however see a few song thrushes, lots of robins, a pair of jays, some great tits, some blue tits, some slaters in the beetle hotel, a dunnock, a chaffinch, a common moorhen and a common pheasant!

In the Anglesey abbey shop, we got some bird seed which we have put in our bird feeder. The Anglesey Abbey wildife discovery area was fantastic!!!!!!!!

Song thrush

Lime Tree Lookout

Playing with my sisters

Insect hotel

Great tit



our bird feeder

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Last Saturday

On Saturday we visited two museums: the Newton and Cowper museum and the John Bunyan museum.

The Newton and Cowper museum was in a small village called Olney (pronounced Oh-Nee). It was a small museum built inside the house of the great poet William Cowper (pronounced Coo-per). William Cowper was like I said, a very good poet who is quite famous today. He lived in the 18th century in a largish house with a very nice garden. The house is quite large but no where near as big as a mansion. William Cowper used to keep hares as pets, they used to live in one of the parlours. William Cowper was good friend with his minister, John Newton.

John Newton was originally a slave trader but became a Christian and quit the job. He became one of the main people fighting against slavery and lived to see it stop. He used to help Cowper when he was depressed and talk to him about God. Together they wrote hymns like Amazing Grace.

In the museum there were hundreds of things belonging to the friends, some mentioned in Cowper's poem's and some famous like Cowper's couch, from his most famous poem, 'The Task'.

Cowper and Newton museum

outside the summer house where Newton and Cowper met
looking at the Summer house

in front of the famous chair!

 Next we saw the John Bunyan museum. It was incredible! It was a small museum and it was free but it was full of things belonging to or made by John Bunyan! It had the pulpit he preached on (you could stand on it) a tin violin made by him, the door of his prison cell, a flute made by him out of a chair leg and parts of the room were made to look like parts of his house and his prison cell.

statue of John Bunyan

outside the museum

It was amazing!!!