Monthly Archives: October 2017

30th October, 2017.

Yesterday visited a craft fair at Burton Constable Hall, central Holderness, East Yorkshire. So long since I had been to Burton Constable Hall that it was in effect a first visit. The event was held in part of the stable block of buildings, as the room was so large and showed no signs of past stable partitions I imagine it was once used to train horses, or indoor high jumping, dressage, or the like. The two courtyard stable block incorporates all the support trades needed for hunt horses and those used to transport the family and guests, many like the blacksmith’s ‘shop’ restored.

Also toured the house interior, self-guided route with guides in each principal room to discuss the fixtures and fittings should you wish. All very interesting and informative, although many items lack an explanatory caption. A couple of particularly interesting things for me were; the top floor of the three-storey building  were mostly servants quarters and it is only on specific days once a month that they are open, however a number of the principal rooms had the door by which the servants would have gained entry open so the steep, narrow access stairs and corridors were visible. Particularly interesting was the servants access behind a door into the master bedroom, on one side all opulence on the other a very steep wooden-stepped spiral staircase leading to a narrow dark corridor almost ‘in the wall’, this was the access whereby warm water was brought to the ‘master’s’ washing table (a modern-day health and safety nightmare).

Also the Roman Catholic chapel incorporated into the 18th century restorations. The Constable family were generally noted Roman Catholics, some members suffering for their faith. Maybe dictated by necessity, the high alter was not at the east end of the room. Similarly the beds in the various bedrooms faced various directions, north-south as well as east-west (a traditional notion being that one’s bed should have the same orientation as one’s grave will have, east-west).

The landscaped grounds are very fine with the plantations and individual trees still set in permanent grassland (unlike, for example Brocklesby Hall, north Lincolnshire, where the parkland has mostly been ploughed-up. Also at Burton Constable the grass of the parkland is cut and the clippings removed, giving a pristine image to the parkland. The ‘ridge-and-furrow’ evidenced in much of the parkland may be a remnant of a pre-enclosure open field or, maybe, evidence of being once ploughed-up (perhaps in the Second World War) by single, fixed-furrow ploughs.

More on Burton Constable to follow.


26th October, 2017.

On watching the sheep in the field between this road (A1077) and the clay-bank of the Humber Estuary, on watching the birds at the bird-table (see above), on watching the dozen or so ducks on the ‘Beck’ in Barton and on numerous other occasions in the past I have noticed evidence of varying personalities among the wildlife in question. Although reacting collectively to a stimulus e.g. food given further observation shows variations. Usually the most apparent is the ‘bully’ or bullies, this identifying in turn the timid ones who have to spend considerable time fleeing back and forth (although the bully spends much time chasing rather than feeding!), this maybe evidence of Darwin’s concept of ‘survival of the fittest’, on a micro-scale. Although there is much less observational evidence for this, one imagines that this behaviour by the same animals is long-term rather than just the once.

So populations of species have a diverse range of personalities across individuals. Leaving aside for a moment the issue of factors which determine these diverse personal qualities, it seems that there is ‘good, bad and indifferent’ in all populations, and to bring this into human context, whether family, neighbourhood, village/town, county, nation or race. Daily, it seems, one hears ridiculous conclusions from surveys. Recently a social survey concluded that one particular London borough was the worst place in the country for women (this presumably based on recorded incidents of sexual abuse, sexism etc.). In response a group of female residents were on Radio 4 to challenge this and apparently all the women they know (one lived in a flat rented at £2000/month) were ‘nice’. So who was right? Neither.

So are the women in this London borough to live in fear while those in Hartlepool, for example, need not? Do the group of women in the borough know everyone there?

The maxim of a friend of mine is ‘you do not know what life is going to throw at you, it’s what you do in response to things that matters’.

For some years I lived in Hull, then said to be the third most violent city in the country. I went round the streets every evening with the dog of to meetings etc. and only once encountered a violent episode, and that was drug fuelled and there is not a community in the country where drugs do not exist. By the way, the incident in question, I didn’t deal with it very well!

22nd October, 2017. Trees, again.

Following on the theme of a few days ago Andrew Robinson gave a very good presentation on trees in Barton on Humber to the local civic society last Friday evening. His slides were excellent, and because they had been deliberately taken when few people or vehicles were about, e.g. Sundays, they focussed attention on the trees. He already knew, or had done his homework, how to identify each species. The bulk of the presentation was divided into (a) ‘native species’ and (b) ‘exotics’ with examples of both categories growing in Barton. This was surprising as many trees have been lost to the town in the last couple of decades, even some with tree preservation orders, also Andrew did not include the trees in Baysgarth Park. Apparently, there are about 35 native species (the definition being those species which naturally colonised the British Isles over time and following the retreat of the last Glacial Era – the definition of ‘exotics’ being species which have been introduced by man following global travels) of which about 15-20 are in evidence locally. Surprisingly Sycamore and horse chestnut are ‘exotics’. Many environmental organisations have a resolve to plant only native species, this including the Lincolnshire Trust for Nature Conservation and probably other county conservation organisations.

The above picture is of the main arcade at East Park, Hull, almost certainly Hull’s most wooded public park.

19TH October, 2017. A life well lived.

Above is part of the cover of an occasional newsletter published by the ‘Animals Asia’ international charity. The principal aim of this charity is to rescue close-caged black bears that otherwise are kept in this state all their lives so that bile can be extracted from their abdomen, this being an ingredient in some traditional Oriental medicines. The charity owns and runs on a day-to-day basis a number of refuges where rescued bears have some chance of being nursed back to some degree of health and where they can gain some quality of life, in as far as their previous treatment will allow. The details of their lives in captivity are sickening. As I understand it, wherever possible, the founder and day-to-day worker for the reserves Jill Robinson negotiates the release of the bears.

This recent newsletter was celebrating a new agreement between Animals Asia and the Vietnamese government which will further outlaw the practice of ‘bile farming’. This despite the fact that on paper ‘bear farming’ was made illegal by the Vietnamese government back in 2005, however, as with much legislation in this country, their were loopholes and exceptions which were exploited by those who were either commercially ruthless or those reluctant to give up traditional activities.

In deed the whole range of ‘traditional Oriental medicines’ is peppered with extracts from wildlife, much of it endangered. We all try to be reasonable individuals but sometimes you just have to side unreservedly with one side or another.

Jill Robinson’s is a life well lived. Animals Asia has a website.

17th October, 2017. Fragility of great trees in the face of natural forces.

How amazing, yet how predictable, that the warnings about potential damage to property and transport from the remnant of hurricane Ophelia should happen exactly 30 years since the ‘Great Storm’ of 1987. Whereas the worst affected areas in 1987 were the south-east and southern East Anglia (15 million trees blown down) in 2017 it was the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland that bore the brunt of the storm. The north-east, although experiencing strong winds, was saved the worst effects on both occasions. The pictures in the press reminding us of the events of 16th October, 1987 often show that large mature trees were uprooted, rather than snapped-off above the ground, this showing the ‘bulldozing’ force of the 100+ miles an hour winds.

Also in the news at the moment is the huge destruction of the natural environment in Portugal by many forest fires, these following on the heels of reports of the same environmental destruction by forest fires in California, U.S.A. In both cases a protracted drought and strong low humidity winds have made it very difficult for the authorities to contain the blazes.

In eastern England it has here, so far, been a comparatively dry autumn. In Barton there is another threat to many local trees – deliberate felling for commercial development – see previous blog on ‘Top Field’.

14TH October, 2017 Wildfowl ‘metropolis’.

At lo, or late ebb, tide the part of the central Humber Estuary at and around the mouth of the River Ancholme can be seen a mass of water-fowl, mostly on the exposed mudflat extending east of the remnant of Reed’s Island but also on the exposed lower River-bank, at the water’s edge or swimming on the water itself. Literally thousands of many different sizes and breeds – geese, ducks, gulls, heron, swans etc. Out on the Estuary mudflat the geese and gulls may be seen standing as close and dense as a crowded platform on the London Underground system. Doubtless many of the customers to the now flourishing Hope and Anchor public house and restaurant appreciate the location for its window on this aspect of the natural world.

(Sorry no photo, camera problems).