While I love my home city, I succumb to tendencies of wanderlust. After a September filled with a whopping three trips, I must admit to enjoying some at-home time ... though I regularly catch myself reminiscing about that last jaunt a couple weeks ago -- a lovely vacation to London and the north Cornwall coast. In a desire to see EVERYTHING, there's never enough time for it all, including nature appreciation. Still, we did pretty well. Here are a few of the nature sights.
Hyde Park: our hotel was nearby and the closest entrance along Bayswater Road led to a wild meadow area full of uncut grasses. Divine, and I could have spent the entire morning parked in the midst of flowing Poaceae (plants in the grass family) yet the wristwatch was calling. Crows (not positive of the exact species) scoured the overgrown turf for snacks, while wildly playful Magpies hopped under large oaks collecting acorns. Above, Wood Pigeons-- think of our little pidges on steroids! -- were precariously balanced on branches also collecting their winter acorn stash.
Measuring over 300 acres, Hyde Park boasts a large waterway called The Serpentine but in our limited time with Kew Gardens calling that same day, we could only make a brief stop at the Round Pond next to Kensington Palace. Hardly a disappointment -- a spotting of bespectaled Egyptian Geese, along with European Starlings in their native habitat! The Coots were close and cooperative along with the delicately-formed yet raucous Black-headed Gull.
Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew: Ah, the mother ship! The end-all, be-all for gardeners. Maybe it was the time of year, maybe I didn't have enough time -- while this was a stunning specimen of public horticulture, I was not moved to tears as expected. Considering its size and the pleasant heat wave during our visit, I expected to see birds and bugs galore, yet both seemed to be a bit shy during our visit. No matter, as the arboretum was cool and shady and the late-season perennials in perfect form. Hey, I'm willing to give these few hundred acres another go! After all, our last visit of the day was to the pond in front of the famous Palm House -- full of waterfowl and the trip's first sighting of a Grey Heron offering high hopes for a later visit. And even if the growing season was on the wane, the botanical displays were lovely.
London Wetland Centre: Now this is where it's at --a joyful 42 hectares just south of the Thames, focused on habitat preservation and accessible by public transportation. Instead of the bus, we opted to load into dear pal Wayne's now deceased Mini Cooper for a visit to this wonderful sanctuary. Also a nature enthusiast/photographer, Wayne focused in on the native plants while I couldn't divert my eyes from new birds (particularly the very cooperative Grey Herons). Up in one of the two-story hides we enjoyed the company and expertise of Ziggy, sanctuary manager for a nearby preserve who was involved with a dragonfly count.
Oxford: Rats! The one day I leave the big lens behind is the day...the ONE day... that we spotted a most incredible bird. But let me back up. Our trip to this academic city was focused on history and its great mystery shows, namely Inspector Morse and Inspector Lewis. Today, nature would have to take a back burner which we later regretted during a walk through a riverside meadow with the most interesting bird -- the Jay. You'll excuse these photos taken when I was ill-equipped, but I couldn't resist the temptation to capture this bird.
Cornwall: Sigh. Compared to the London sun and heatwave, Cornwall's northern coast was unfortunately just what the seasonal weather averages expected -- chilly, windy, with intervals of rain, sun, rainbows, sun showers, mist, sun, followed by rain. While this changing forecast put a bit of a damper on things, during those less gloomy moments we covered a lot of ground, enjoying the most incredible coastline I've ever seen. The wind was constant and penetrating to the point of madness (I now understand the meaning of a common local saying "Goin' Bodmin" when one loses their marbles), so birds and insects were hunkered down and clearly we missed the good months for plants. But oh! -- the cliffside walks, the tides, and those birds and plants that could tough out the climate. Such glory in sturdy species.
I'm long unpacked, but ready to saddle up again for travels. So many places yet to go even when limited to one place. Wayne mentioned the deer in Richmond Park, and I would like to see Ziggy's spot in Morden. And those mud flat moments along the Thames called out to me and my muck boots. Cornwall's incredible low tides and associated tidal pools were not explored fully, along with the shared walking paths with grazing livestock, along with a few nature preserves.
Enough already! My bags will be packed in an hour!