West Highlands, 2022 – 6

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Friday, 16th September, last wildlife day. Out before breakfast, for nearly two hours! We had two hopes: to see black grouse lekking, and to see otters. For the first, we drove through Fort William and just out the other side, to the south I think. When we got to the lekking ground, at first light, the first thing I saw through my binoculars was a jogger climbing a stile at its edge. “Well, that’s put paid to that, then”, said Jon. We hung around a bit to see if any grouse that had been frightened off would come back, but they didn’t.

We moved back through Fort William to the mouth of the River Lochy, (which joins the junction of Lochs Linnhe and Eil at which the town is built) parked in a small industrial estate, and walked through it to the river, with instructions to be very quiet, and not stand too close to the edge of the bank, because the otters were likely in their dens below our feet.

The view at that time of the (very cold!) morning was gorgeous.

Sadly we saw no otter, but did, in the early morning dimness, and over the other side, see goosander,

swans, (plus hooded crow and pigeon),

and a couple of white-tailed eagles, which was an unexpected pleasure.

It was good to get back to Glenloy Lodge for a warming breakfast.

For the rest of the day, it was much warmer than it had been earlier in the week. Not hot, but pleasantly warm, especially in the sun. Today’s main outing again took us on the very first part of the Road to the Isles, that is along the north side of Loch Eil, then back along its southern side, then south along the western side of the upper part of Loch Linnhe.

From the southern side of Loch Eil, we again saw The Jacobite, aka Harry Potter’s train, passing along the northern side.

Oystercatchers
Highland ponies glimpsed from the van
Yet more while-tailed eagles. Jon thought they might be the same we had seen before breakfast.
Highland cows, in their original colour. The Victorians preferred the red, so red was bred to become the norm.
Jon sees what he can see.
I cannot find this caterpillar in my butterfly book, but an internet search leads me to think it may be that of a Knot grass moth.
An alpaca and two rheas, not animals you expect to see in the Scottish Highlands

Around midday, we left the van for a walk up Stronchreggan, off Loch Linnhe.

David, Jon and Angela ahead of me
One of the largest British dragonflies, the golden-ringed
Two of the smallest, black darters

The others got very excited to see this, an azure hawker. It is only found in the West Highlands. And according to my book, this was pretty late for it to be about.

This, on the other hand, was just a common hawker…

The moon was going down…

Unconnected with that, we had to turn round and make our way back to the van, not least to have some lunch. But I held back, so reluctant was I to tear myself away from the magnificent view, and just being – warm what’s more – in such wild splendour. I took large breaths to try to take it in.

Comma butterfly, unusual in Scotland apparently

We moved further down Loch Linnhe,

and went for another walk, this time along the Cona Glen.

David was very keen to find a Scotch argus butterfly. As we were about to turn round, Jon and Angela found one for him, and caught it in their net. It was very near the end of its active life, but at least it was a Scotch argus.

Meadow pipit

A final look at Ben Nevis, and it was time for home. We returned via the Corran Ferry.

A pine marten decided to oblige before dinner, while there was still some reasonable light for photos.

Those claws!

The wildlife trip was over, but not my holiday. Because of transport timings, I had to remain in the area for another day, so stayed in Fort William on the second Saturday night. The last post in this series will recount a very different day, yet one with some links to the previous six.

West Highlands, 2022 – 5

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Another journey on the Road to the Isles on Thursday, 15th September, and this time we went right to the end, Mallaig. Jon had been disappointed to tell us that we would not be able to do the three-hour wildlife boat trip he had planned, as the company had just announced its end for the season, but he would find us a boat trip of some sort.

Loch nan Uamh
Arisaig. The three-hour boat-trip would have departed from here.
Walk along Camusdarach, near Morar, the weather as cold as it looks
See those waves!
The Cuillins of Skye in the background in this zoomed photo
The van which sadly will likely be out of service, as Glenloy Wildlife anyway, from the end of the year
Mallaig harbour
Our boat, the Western Isles, in front of the Mallaig RNLI lifeboat
The lifeboat full on. I’m a great fan of the RNLI, and the TV programme, ‘Saving Lives at Sea’.

Shortly after setting off on the hour-long boat trip, we saw dolphins, Jon also reckoning he saw a whale. This was fairly typical of my efforts to get photos of the dolphins. To be fair to myself, I had a poor position in the boat, not near enough to the edge to get, for instance, good views of the bow-riding creatures, let alone good photos.

We sailed towards the Knoydart peninsula, the Isle of Skye over to the west, on our left, and Loch Nevis, nothing to do with the Ben, on our right.

Common seals

We hoped to see both common dolphins and the whale on our way back. The latter did not co-operate, but when we saw a crowd of gulls, we knew that fish must plentiful there, and therefore hopefully dolphins.

We did see the dolphins, quite a lot of them. My photography was limited for reasons already given. But I’m quite pleased with this.

Four-in-one

As we were leaving Mallaig to start the return journey, Jon kindly stopped the van for a few seconds on a main road for me to be able to take the Jacobite, before it started its journey back to Fort William, via Glenfinnan.

We returned to and beyond Arisaig, and had our rather late lunch, sheltering as best we could from the strong and cold wind.

Looking across Loch nan Ceall to Arisaig

We walked along a small no-through road in changing light conditions. No particular wildlife was to be seen, bar a distant redshank, but we were invited to squeeze the leaves of bog myrtle between our fingers. My response was to say I wanted to bottle it and take it home, so sweet yet sharp and fragrant it was. I was told how I would be able to on Saturday. (I see that residents of Dumfries and Galloway are blessed with the plant.) I took no photos of it though.

Skye in the distance
All these little rocky islets are known as ‘skerries’.

As we walked back to the van to make for home, Jon’s keen ears first caught the sound of a skein of geese approaching and flying overhead.

West Highlands, 2022 – 4

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Wednesday, 14th September. Today was to include our first boat trip.

But first, before breakfast, it was time to examine the moth trap, set up overnight because conditions were thought likely to be favourable. This time there were some temporary captives, of which to my eyes this was the prettiest.

Canary-shouldered thorn by name

For today’s tour, we skirted Fort William again, but this time turned west before needing to cross Loch Linnhe. We drove the first part of the Road to the Isles, along Loch Eil and stopping at the side of Loch Eilt.

In the dim distance we could see at least one of the Small Isles, part of the Inner Hebrides, south of Skye. Zooming with my camera, which sadly focussed on the near vegetation, I could see that the sun had picked out one of them, while Eigg (with the apparent knob on, though in fact it’s the end of a range) remained in the shade.

Loch Moidart

Followed a pleasant walk along the River Shiel, mainly in woodland. We were particularly looking for butterflies, but the weather was not really warm enough to bring them out, though I found plenty to please my eyes.

Goosander
A foreshortened view of Castle Tioram
Sadly by the time we had come close, the sun had deserted it.

No need to walk back to the van. Angela had driven it to the end point of our walk. She took us to Acheracle, where we were take a boat along Loch Shiel, where we hoped to see, particularly, white-tailed (aka sea) eagles.

We did, near the beginning of the trip. As many as five in the air at one time for a short while.

Juvenile. Most uncharacteristic to see one on a fence post

A boatman threw a fish out, and I was fortunate enough to see this eagle come to get it,

and fly off.

Instructor and pupils

The end of the loch came into view, with the Glenfinnan Monument and the Jacobite railway (aka Harry Potter’s train) viaduct at Glenfinnan.

Again Angela was waiting for us with the van, and on our way back we stopped for a walk at Fassfern, again hopeful of seeing butterflies, and also dragonflies. We didn’t, but had some lovely views and one breathtaking one.

Explanation: I did not lie on the ground to take a picture of the sky through the plants. It is reflected in the pool.

We abandoned the pool and started climbing a gentle hill. At one point I turned round and took a sharp, involuntary intake of breath. Ben Nevis was picked out in the early evening sunlight, and gave me my header picture for this post. A little further up, and we had this, the full Nevis range.

No pine marten this evening when I was looking (and knitting), though one or more surely came later, as the bread was all gone in the morning, as ever. The wood mouse, another regular visitor, could not have carried it all off.

West Highlands, 2022 – 3

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Tuesday, 13th September. Today, having passed through Fort William, we went down the eastern side of Loch Linnhe (pronounced ‘Linnie’) to its narrows, where we crossed the loch by the Corran ferry, enjoying the view of the lighthouse on the other side.

After the narrows the sea loch is much wider. We followed it southwards.

Looking back
Looking forward
Red-breasted merganser
Common seal ‘banana-ing’
Distant red deer

At one stop along the loch I was pleased to have my 2007 Open University geology revised. I had never realised that Ben Nevis was an extinct volcano.

We left the Linnhe at one point to visit a small lochan (that’s tautologous) with a very long name in Gallic.

Whinchat and stonechat by the lochan

Back beside the Linnhe, I was delighted to see a seal come in to cavort in the rocks and weed. It was some way away, and rather difficult to photograph, but these are my two best pictures.

Our packed lunch was taken at Kingairloch,

from where we made our way inland on the Morvern peninsula to Lochaline, on the Sound of Mull. We had on the way passed Loch Whisky and Gleann Gael. [Linguistic note!: I wrote ‘Whisky’ in my notebook, because that’s what I thought I was being was told, being assured that it was its real name, and that ‘whisky’ means ‘water’ in Gallic. I was being teased to a certain extent. On the map I find it is spelt ‘Loch Uisge’. And ‘uisge’ does indeed mean water, ‘uisge beatha’, the water of life, being the Gallic for ‘whisky’.]

Distant sika deer, and sheep
Isle of Mull behind the ferry

We walked away from the Sound, and made our way a short distance along Loch Aline off it, past a fascinating sand mine and its works.

There was some waste sand lying around. On picking it up we could see and feel just how very white, fine and soft it was, quite unlike any I had encountered on a beach.

I would love to have had a visit round the works, not to mention the mine itself!

David and Jon (hidden behind his telescope), look at the storage
Conveyor belts
Sand just about to be dumped onto a conveyor belt

We walked on.

Tern of some sort being photobombed from the front by a young gull

I then got absorbed into the next activity and totally forgot to take any photos of it. There were literally hundreds of ‘devil’s toenails’ on the beach. David collected several. Devil’s toenails are fossils of bivalves, gryphea, about two inches, 5 centimetres, long. And here’s a (copyright-free) picture of one found on the internet..

Time to go home the way we came.

This evening a pine marten visited even before our meal, so it was possible to get some semi-daylight pictures through the glass.

Clearly not worried by us, as long as we stayed we we were. We could even move around.

West Highlands, 2022 – 2

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I had planned to get this second post out yesterday, but I got distracted into the Laver Cup. Having taken out a Eurosport subscription specifically to see Federer’s final, historic match, it seemed not to take advantage of the chance to watch other matches.

Angela joined us on Monday, 12th September, as she did most. This was the day we went off the map to the north-west, via Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and the south west part of Loch Ness. We soon left the famous home of Nessie though, and went along a road parallel to the loch, to its east. (On the way we learned that almost every loch has its resident monster, or suchlike. Jon told us about kelpies, though he didn’t mention the steel ones at Falkirk.)

Our first stop was at Loch Tarff…

… where, despite appearances, it was very cold at the top of a small hill. We saw no kelpie, there or in any other loch that day. But we did see a dor beetle, the Scottish dung beetle.

On route to our next stop, no distance problems to see these sika deer.

Nor they us.

Our next stop was Loch Killin, where we hoped to see a big bird or two. We saw a couple of buzzards, but no eagles.

I got a better picture than yesterday of a dipper though.

It brightened up during our pre-lunch stroll.

A view from our lunch spot

We rejoined Loch Ness. Directly opposite was the second most visited tourist attraction, after Edinburgh Castle, in Scotland. Hmm.

It became a little more recognisable when I zoomed in.

Urquhart Castle

Jon told us we would next visit Loch Ruthven, which rang bells with me, and joined up some dots. I had visited it in June 2019, during my first stay in Grantown-on-Spey, on the eastern side of the country. I had then hoped, in vain, to see a Slavonian grebe. We did so this time, though right across the other side of the loch, only visible in a telescope. But we did see two kinds of fungus, shown here along with one we had seen during our walk along Loch Killin.

I forget the name of the first, the others being birch boletus and fly agaric.

Another headless osprey
I don’t think it was just wind that sculpted this tree!

From here we moved on to our last loch of the day, Loch Mhor. On the way we saw a lapwing,

red kites,

and a red kite accompanied by two ravens.

Once at Loch Mhor we saw a hare, though it was rather distant.

Finally, on the way back to Glenloy, the sun going down, we passed through this lovely view, which, we were told, is called ‘Cumins Seat’, presumably with reference to the Clan Comyn/Cumming, which according to this article can have 18 different spellings.

West Highlands, 2022 – 1

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Saturday, 10th to Sunday, 18th September. I stayed at Glenloy Lodge, our accommodation hosts, Jon and Angela, being our wildlife hosts also. Sadly, they are giving up at the end of the year.

In this map, the Isle of Skye is top left, that of Mull bottom left, Loch Ness top right, and Fort William somewhat to the right of the middle, at the head of the narrower part of Loch Linnhe. Glenloy is just a few miles due north of Fort William. Marked up are all the places we visited in the 556 miles we did in the week, except that we went a little off the map beyond Loch Ness once. Clicking/tapping on the map may enlarge it.

I had, reluctantly but due to several uncertainties about rail travel (and reckoning that I couldn’t actually prevent the plane from flying, whereas I could prevent my car from burning up fuel), flown to Glasgow from Bristol, and then taken a scheduled bus service from the city to Fort William. I had planned to listen to a number of podcasts I had downloaded during that last, three-hour, part of the journey, but in the event was so taken by the beautiful scenery that I just looked out of the window all the time. It was very sunny, and I didn’t think I would be able to take any useful photos because of reflections. But, frustrated all along Loch Lomond, I couldn’t resist any longer, and grabbed my phone to take a few of Glencoe. This is the most successful.

Those geography lessons about glacial U-shaped valleys kept coming to mind.

Jon met me at the bus station, and told me that there was just one other guest, David. It was not long before we had our meal, after which was the evening ritual of looking out, from the comfort of the sun lounge, for the pine martens who came to enjoy the peanuts and peanut-buttered bread put out for them. So strokeable – though perhaps not with those teeth. As long as we stayed indoors they were not fazed by our presence.

Before breakfast on Sunday, we were summoned to see what, if anything, had been attracted to the moth trap overnight. The answer was no moth, but a couple of sedge flies.

Each day, once we had set off at about 9.30, we were out until 6.00. This day, led by Jon, our first stop was in Glen Roy, famed among other things for its ‘Parallel Roads‘, mythically caused by giants racing in competition along the hillsides, but in fact caused by the shorelines of a retreating lake, which finally disappeared when a glacier blocking it melted.

We were meant to be looking for wildlife, but this is the first creature that caught my eye.

Gloucester Old Spot

These sika deer were a very long way away. I could not see them with the naked eye.

Young stonechat, waxcap fungus, grass of Parnassus (shame I took only this out-of-focus photo), yellow saxifrage

The Parallel Roads can be seen here.

These black-faced sheep distracted me. We saw hundreds of them every day.

Here the Parallel Roads can be seen, along with another geological feature, the river terraces of loose deposits left behind as the River Roy retreated. The little houses are shielings, summer accommodation once used by those tending animals, and their families.

The River Turret flows into Glen Roy. You need to cross this very attractive bridge to continue up the latter.

Two carnivorous plants, round-leaved sundew and butterwort

Campanula and friend
Somewhere in here is a dragonfly
Looking back down Glen Roy

The shieling children did not escape schooling in the summer. This is where they went for it.

Wood tiger moth caterpillar

We turned back a way. Views up and down the glen from our lunch spot.

Before leaving the glen entirely, and having seen a couple of exciting golden eagles, impossible to photograph, we saw two old monuments, and at Spean Bridge a modern one.

Said locally to be a communion table used by the Roman Catholic populations after the Jacobite rebellions. Communion cup carved much more recently.

Info on the Battle of Mulroy here.

This memorial to the Commandos, who trained in this area, was inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1952. I was to learn much more of this later in the week.

We moved on via the Mucomir Power Station on the River Lochy (which afforded no interesting photos) to the Eas Chia-aig Falls, where the the lower pool is known as the Witches’ Cauldron.

Near there we saw some map fungus and some lungwort.

On to Loch Arkaig, where we took a short walk. The light was not good, and we just made it back to the car in time before it started raining.

Wagtails of various kinds

Very distant adult and juvenile dippers

Osprey. It really does have a head.
The evening’s pine marten

I am very conscious that one of the readers of this blog used to live right by Glen Roy. He will no doubt be correcting any errors I have made!

Two Chews

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Chew Magna Lake is the fifth largest artificial lake in England, a reservoir in Chew Stoke, Somerset, opened by H M Queen Elizabeth II on 17th April, 1956. It is owned by Bristol Water, who encourage the use of the lake for leisure purposes.

Last week’s ‘first Friday’ walk was a circular one from its north-western edge up part of the 17-mile Chew Valley nearly to Chew Magna, and back along a different route. It is only a small river at the best of times. In the present drought conditions, it is even smaller, and slow-moving.

We parked our cars at Woodford Lodge, which now calles itself the Woodford at Chew. The Chew Valley Lake Sailing Club is adjacent.

You don’t need a boat to go fishing, but it must make for a different experience.

As we approached the dam at the lake’s northern end, we could appreciate just how low the water was, with spillway on the left and outlet tower to the right. (I have, minutes ago, just learned the term ‘outlet tower’, and much more from The British Dam Society.)

I think this would be called a ‘shaft’ spillway (same source). Whatever it is called, it is not needed right now.

We heard the tower humming as we passed it.

In the far distance, we could see dabchicks (aka little grebes) and Canada geese. I have not been able to find a collective noun for dabchicks, or any grebe, but did find in this list a wedge, nide, skein or plump of geese, depending on where they are located.

We turned away from the lake and walked northwards, along the Chew valley, frequently encountering the small river or its even smaller tributary streams.

At one point we came across a large patch of scabious,

and I was thrilled to capture this small blue butterfly, even if it was clearly nearing the end of its life cycle.

Many small bridges – or was this a stile? – helped us along. I loved this huge slab across a small stream. I wonder how long it’s been serving.

One information sheet pinned to this tree told us, among other things, that it was Californian redwood, (aka Sequoia, and Wellingtonia) and the other how much treecreepers loved the arrival of the species in the UK because of its soft bark.

Zoe for scale

I like to think that this is a packhorse bridge, though it is not included in the ‘official list‘. Note the ‘tidemark’.

This is Chota Castle, described on one site as a cottage and on another as a 19th century folly-castle. Chew Valley Films have made a 52-minute film about one of its post-war residents. Or, lasting one minute, here is a Facebook entry by British Country Homes, giving a good look round!

But perhaps this magnificent tree is its greatest attribute.

We thought that perhaps these steps were to help cattle escape should they fall into the stream. Though, come to think of it, why not humans too?

Zoe spotted this deer in the distance.

This beautiful tree greeted us as we neared Woodford Lodge again,

where we had lunch enjoying this view.

The Newt in Somerset, Roman Villa – August 2022

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Time for another visit to The Newt in Somerset. I’d done the Cyder [sic] Tour there a month previous, and had come away with samples. I’d then taken the opportunity to walk down to have a quick look at the exterior of the new Roman Villa Experience (they’re all ‘experiences’ these days, aren’t they?) and back along a vast new area that the enterprise had opened up.

A few days ago, I met Mary off her – delayed – train at Castle Cary station. Arrived at The Newt, we started with the obligatory coffee, and did a bit of setting the world to rights – it’s a big job these days.

This merged seamlessly into lunch.

We were booked in to the Roman Villa for 3p.m., so set off an hour earlier to make our way there via the newly opened area. This involved setting off from the pergola and its many different members of the gourd family.

Going ‘the long way round’ it was about a mile to the Villa, but there was plenty to entertain us on the way, including The Grotto with its Wyvern. The difference between a dragon and a wyvern?

First of all, dragons have four legs, while wyverns have only two. Their front legs are fused to their wings, so they cannot move their wings as easily as dragons. Dragons are also a lot larger than wyverns, and they are believed to be the most powerful creatures in the world. Indeed, it’s very impressive: dragons are very hard to kill and, unless they are killed, they will live for thousands of years.

Still, wyverns, who are considered to be one of the breeds of dragons, can’t be called harmless in any way. Though smaller, easier to attack, and with fewer powers, wyverns can move around a lot faster than dragons, thus making them a big advantage. So, you can never underestimate a wyvern: due to the fact that it’s so swift, it might attack and kill even more efficiently and effectively than a dragon.

When I’d visited in July I had heeded the advice below. I really am too literal-minded – children were actually being encouraged to be disobedient, when they would have had a flaming surprise!

Sadly, by the time of this visit, the Wyvern had no head – some children had been too violent. Safety, electric wires and all that, had led the management to remove it entirely. (It is to be replaced.) But here’s a picture I had taken of it on my previous visit.

We moved on, and were amused by these parallel sheep, all moving towards our right.

Even on my first visit to The Newt, in January 2020, I had seen, in the inaccessible distance and from another angle, what looked like a dovecot. Now we were able not only to approach it but to go inside.

Through the, evidently unglazed, windows, were several views, including this one of the Roman Villa for which we were heading.

Reception and the museum

The Newt’s website said to allow 90 to 120 minutes for the tour of museum and villa. Reception said not to linger too long in the former, as the house alone would need at least an hour to be appreciated. We only had two hours before they would close – and we had ordered Roman food for the end.

We were issued with GPS-guided headphones. In the museum, one pressed a lit ring by an exhibit to learn more. In the house, commentary was stimulated by proximity to any given area. I love audioguides – but there is a huge disadvantage in that you have to rely on your memory a few days later … So there are many lacunas now …

The reconstructed Roman villa is by the site of a real one, burnt down in the 4th century, and first re-discovered in the 19th. Part of it is incorporated into the museum and part of it has been returned to the ground.

More historical information is here and here. The latest archaeological excavations took place after Koos Bekker, the South African billionaire owner of The Newt in Somerset, had acquired the property in 2013.

I was frustrated not to be able to tell which exhibits were originals and which reproductions. (But these surely were all the latter.) Only on examining some of my pictures have I realised – I think – that there were symbols by the captions which would have told me. (Next time – which is soon.)

The villa, seen from the museum
This was the spa/bathing area.
These light fittings are made up of small shards found on the site.
From the games exhibits
Part of the food and cooking exhibit

More time would have allowed a more in depth perusal of the exhibits, (and outside the holidays would have perhaps avoided some rather noisy children, but they were having enormous fun). We moved on to the villa, through vineyard and orchard.

We were welcomed to the ‘Villa Ventorum’ by Diana, in Roman dress. She explained that this room is the furthest most visitors would have been allowed, a place where business transactions would have taken place. From then on our visit was led by the audioguides.

They told us the route to take. There were no stewards, no barriers, no ‘do not touch’s (though our headphone commentary made that polite request) and no – conspicuous anyway – CCTV. And I should mention that the visit is entirely free once entry to The Newt is paid, either by annual membership, or as a guest of a member.

I wondered whether a 21st century person had modelled for this portrait. Indeed, could it be Karen Roos, joint owner of The Newt?
Recognisably the British Isles, though Scotland’s round the bend.

No detail has been missed in the development. The Villa has only been open to the public for a couple of months. My assumption would be therefore that this scorched effect has been added artificially.

We met this cheery fellow in the peaceful rear garden.

A child’s bedroom, and a child’s collection

Parents’ bedroom, and parents’ jewellery

The ‘bibliotheca’ was always in a mess, we were told through our headphones.

The route from Villa Ventorum to London and beyond

Next, to the linked music and entertaining rooms

I cannot imagine how one could eat recumbent, propped up on one arm.

Round to the front of the villa again, and down to the lower courtyard to be served our Roman street food.

This young man told us that the stall was totally authentic, apart from the stainless steel serving pots. We each had what could be described in modern terms as a vegetarian wrap – containing broad beans, asparagus, coriander and a few other lovely things – delicious. I had cider with mine and Mary a sort of cold mulled red wine, the name of which I couldn’t retain.

View from the room in which we ate

We walked back the direct way to the hub of The Newt, still about a kilometre, wondering whether we would see any of the deer.

We certainly did, and they seemed, untypically, to be herded to an area which was inaccessible to the public (possibly because the rutting season is coming up?).

I had never seen so many of them together.

This beech tree fell during Storm Eunice on 18th February this year. As the panel beside it says, it is being left there to become a home for fungi, beetles, and bugs, and, in due course, to become compost. Such shallow roots for such a tall tree!

We had some time before Mary’s train back to London, and, since all refreshment facilities had by now closed, we sat for a short while on a conveniently placed bench, with Newt Lake and the young apple orchards ahead of us, and Hadspen House, the Long Walk and the kitchen garden at 2 o’clock.

In due course we made our way back to the car park.

Just yesterday, when a friend called to offer me some plums from her garden, I was telling her about the Villa. We have arranged to go together in about a month’s time, when I will hope to fill in some of those lacunas, and indeed to observe more.

Footnote: Never – £500, £600, £700 and rising per night! – will I be in a position to take photographs of those parts of The Newt reserved to guests in its hotels, Hadspen House and The Farmyard. But here is a short article by those involved in the interior design, which will show a little of how the Other Half lives!

Cornwall 2022 – 11. Castle Drogo

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Well, not strictly Cornwall, but Devon. Monday 4th July. I had sadly from my patio to say goodbye to the birds on the RSPB Hayle Estuary reserve, and start making my way home.

I was not going to be able to pick Bella up from her cattery until 4.30, so had plenty of time to make one last visit, and chose the National Trust’s Castle Drogo, near Exeter, a 20th century castle. I saw a robin in the grounds, and realised I had not seen one all week.

Castle Drogo was built by Julius Drewe, founder of the hugely successful Home and Colonial Stores . (He retired on his fortune in 1889 aged only 33.) He was convinced that he was descended from a Norman baron called called Drogo de Teigne, from Drewsteignton, and bought land there, overlooking the River Teign, to build a castle. He asked Edwin Lutyens to be its architect. Lutyens would much have preferred to design ‘a delicious loveable house’, but Drewe insisted. Construction started in 1911, but in the event, he lost heart after losing his eldest son in the First World War, and started to dislike the cost of it all, and only about a third of the original concept was realised by the time construction was completed in 1930. Drewe died a year later, but had been able to live there since 1925. It is the last castle to be built in England.

I just loved its Art Nouveau Tudor style. (That’s my description; I’ve not seen it elsewhere, and Wikipedia calls it ‘mixed-revivalist’.) It is entirely built in granite, and was given to the National Trust in 1974, its first 20th century acquisition.

Drogo nomen et virtus dedit: Drogo is my name and valour gave me arms

The building may have been twentieth century, but the collected pieces were authentic.

Julius Drewe
Opposite him, across the main stairwell, his wife, Frances
Even parts of the castle where the owners would not be expected to go were beautifully designed by Lutyens. Off this corridor are various service rooms.
No label to this room – the housekeeper’s sitting room?
In one corner of the butler’s pantry, the internal telephone exchange and the indicators of summonses by bells
Off the butler’s pantry, the bell hop’s room
The kitchen
The scullery
The internal staircase. The granite steps are entirely cantilevered, the beautiful wooden handrail not attached.
Shower, Spray, Plunge, Hot and Cold
A more informal drawing room for the family
Room dedicated to the memory of the oldest son and heir, Adrian, killed in WWI
Lantern lighting the kitchen

To reach the undercroft, which became the chapel in the revised design, it is necessary to go outside. A chance to see the wonderful granite blocks again.

After some lunch in the recent visitor centre and cafe building, I spent an hour or so wandering in the gardens. The rose garden was outstanding, and would have been even more stunning had it been brighter and warmer. (It seems strange to be saying that at a time when UK all-time heat records have just been broken by a considerable margin.)

‘Gertrude Jekyll’

My final stop was at the circular lawn, where a mesmerising robot lawnmower entertained me for a few minutes.

But let my final picture in this series of posts about this so enjoyable holiday in Cornwall – and Devon – be of the class of animals which had given me such pleasure all week, the birds. Much more entertaining on the lawn than the robot was a pied wagtail, a species which, as with the robin, I hadn’t seen all week.

Cornwall 2022 – 10. Trencrom and Trelissick

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(‘Tre..’ means ‘homestead’ in Cornish.)

Sunday, 3rd July. Membership of The Newt in Somerset gives free entry to a few other gardens in the UK (and one in South Africa!). I had my eye on two of them as I considered what to do on my last day in Cornwall. But I found that neither Trebah nor Tregothnan opens on a Sunday. So I turned to my booklet, ‘Cornwall’s Archaeological Heritage’ for the first time this week, and also to my National Trust handbook. The former told me about Trencom Castle, a hill fort just a few minutes from where I was staying. Among other things it told me that, “The enclosure may have originated in the Neolithic period and many flint arrowheads were found here in the early 20th century.” So I made this my first destination. But first I had of course to look out to see what was happening in the RSPB reserve, and have some breakfast.

Cormorant over by the Causeway

Guess who appeared while I was eating. But at least today he didn’t tap on my window.

I really like these Cornish stiles – especially if they provide a post to hold on to.

The top of the fort was not high, about 180 metres (the same as Glastonbury Tor), and my car was parked at 135, so not much effort was needed. The path was well trodden.

Yet another view of St Michael’s Mount

I didn’t stay at the top for long, not least because there was a party of walkers up there disturbing the peace.

The main visit of the day was to Trelissick House, National Trust. ‘The estate has been in the ownership of the National Trust since 1955 when it was donated by Ida Copeland following the death of her son Geoffrey. A stained glass memorial bearing the Copeland coat of arms was donated to Feock parish church by Mrs. Copeland. The house and garden had formerly been owned and developed by the Daniell family, which had made its fortune in the 18th century Cornish copper mining industry.’ (Wikipedia, which does history so much better than does the National Trust on its site) The Copelands had been co-owners of Spode, the ceramics company based in Stoke-on-Trent.

The Water Tower is one of several holiday ‘cottages’, as the NT calls them, on the estate.

I started in the garden and grounds.

This was not the only time in Cornwall that I saw both pink and blue flowerheads together on hydrangeas. I don’t understand how that can happen, unless the gardeners tamper with the nature of the soils. But what do I know about botany – or chemistry for that matter?
‘Jack’s summerhouse’ from which, but for the trees in the way, one could have seen the King Harry Ferry over the River Fal
Its floor

At the entrance there had been a notice saying a choir would be singing on the terrace of the house at 1.00 pm. I heard their songs wafting towards me as I wandered around, and at one stage was near enough to zoom a photo on it. I thought how pragmatic the uniform was in the not very warm weather. Blue jeans of any hue and any black top.

I went round to the front of the house and looked round. ‘Trelissick is not your typical country house visit. It is presented as neither home nor museum, but was opened in 2014 simply as a place to enjoy the view. It plays host to a modest collection – including ceramics …’ Here is one which rather pleased me.

Arriving in the small café very late for lunch, I was fortunate to get the very last portion of soup. Visitors were allowed to take their food to any of several rooms. Most of the places were taken, and I ended up in what was called the Solarium, (which I would have called an Orangery otherwise). It was very warm there, unlike outdoors. This was my view.

I think these were ensconced in the Drawing Room for the afternoon!

It became warm and sunny enough to sit out on the sheltered terrace. The choir had long gone, and I found a vacant deckchair.

Not a bad view.

I heard someone nearby talk about a castle in the distance, and sure enough, with my camera on maximum zoom, I could see Pendennis Castle, about 800 metres away, in Falmouth. (It’s on the list for next year.)

Back for my last evening at The Old Quay House, I spent my time, as every evening bar Friday (Minack), divided between Wimbledon and bird-watching.

The gang and their friend
… who has temporarily deserted the Shelduck family
and occasionally likes to be alone.
Oystercatcher
Curlew in the fading light

Home the next day, but the visits aren’t over…