Cornwall, Ecology, Urban environment

Seals on the Balance of Nature.

Seals are doing well around the United Kingdom since we stopped persecuting them, like these common seals seen earlier this year on a beach in Cornwall near to my daughter’s home. The common or harbour seals are smaller than the grey seals and, I think, look cuddlier although don’t get too close! Their faces are concave, more dog shaped than the grey seal below.

Grey seals are larger, often darker, greyer and with a more aquiline profile to their muzzles and their eyes are set further back. The greys tend to lie close together in groups when hauled up on the beach.

Here is a mixed group, some lying like bananas to keep their extremities out of the surf as the tide comes in. You’ll often see them doing this perched on a rock as the tide comes up to eventually lift them off and remind them that it is time to go and hunt.

As their numbers increase their distribution is becoming wider. My other daughter took this photo in Peterborough, 40 miles inland.

Two common seals by the lock on the River Nene in Peterborough. Man is no longer the top predator of seals here, but killer whales keep down their numbers in Scotland and hunt them in shallow water, and the inlets of sea lochs, David Attenborough said so — will they eventually follow them down the coast and up the Nene? That will give us something other than sewage to worry about when we do our wild swimming and canoeing!

Urban environment

Follow the Music Man

in time to the throb of his African rhythm.  He’s tall and lean, stylishly frayed, fist bumping the man in the sleeping bag propped against the wall by the old cinema and the girl sitting cross legged on the pavement – but on he swerves, swinging – things to do – people to see.  He looks ahead but sees all around. The large plastic bag, for-life, slung over his shoulder matches his trainers.  The rest of him is swathed in black and he rocks… Side to side he rolls to the beat. 

Past the logjam of bins, suddenly he’s gone – slipped down the alleyway behind the restaurants. 

This town is changing quicker than I can keep up — a grown up female of ample proportions holds forth through the plastic hole at the post office, hair jet black and dyed, held back by an Alice band sporting kitten ears on which the queue behind her fix their impatient attention.  At the other till the woman with a tattooed face tries to answer unanswerable and unconnected questions from a customer who must have ADHD.  Outside a striding woman screams obscenely into her phone to the accompaniment of a placatory man, conveniently on speaker, but to no avail. I open the door to the chemist for an elderly couple to dash in with their buggy, taking their grandchild out of this uncertain world – we sigh.  I browse £400 tooth brushes – one has Bluetooth – I wonder why.

Homeward bound, Edward East, famous son, RA deceased, raises an eyebrow from his plinth.   The chewing gum has been cleaned from the pavement outside his gallery, long closed, but he is as bemused as I…  And now, behind I hear the music too – it follows at an uneasy distance.  I can’t outrun the music man – I am old – he is the future.  His music drifts forward from the other side of the street and is getting louder.  I look straight ahead but see all around.  I keep to the pace of his rhythm and when a lorry passes, I slip down an alleyway like a fox.

Architecture, Urban environment

Laughing Shark Yard!

Kettering is not a bad place and it tries very hard.

It is full of proper, hard working people and has a proud industrial, non-conformist and anti-slavery history.

They got a bit carried away in the 1960’s when town planning, which had just been invented, got out of hand and they knocked down lots of buildings that they shouldn’t have.

There is still a beautiful parish church appreciated by the nesting peregrine falcons that live in the spire.

There are still some fine Victorian buildings and some earlier ironstone cottages and alms houses.

The Victorians also used some local ironstone, but mainly red brick.

Here is an elegant example, squeezed in next to a neoclassical bank building where shoe barons discussed investments with a bewhiskered bank manager. On the other side is a mid-twentieth century cinema, until recently an illicit cannabis farm, putting the “high” back in the High Street..

Here is the Royal Hotel — erstwhile commercial hub in the town’s heyday, where deals were negotiated for leather and shoes and more recently, probably marijuana.

Can you see someone at a first floor window, he gave me a friendly wave — one of the 40 people to whom the Royal now gives asylum. Despite the objections of the county council and police, Kettering seems to be surviving.

Development money has been spent regenerating the centre. There is the hint of a developing cafe culture.

A lot has been spent on new planters — the gardens have always been well tended.

Today I discovered the Yards, described as a cool, laid back, shopping area with lots of small, independent traders (I’m all for that). The old fire station calls itself “A low impact regeneration project”. I’d call it alternative — there is a terrific clothes shop with a clever buyer sourcing stylish, quality garments at low prices. There are shops, a food bank and cafes and places to hang out — and there are murals — large murals.

Ecology, Urban environment

London surprises

The human habitat expands in three dimensions.


But just the other side of these buses is a tributary of the Thames — the River Wandle, that gives its name to Wandsworth — and look what we have here!


A cormorant wrestling with a large, live eel which it eventually swallows whole.


There it goes!

A short walk (for a country person, her daughter and her new grandson) and we are up-river in Barnes, in the wetland reserve that nestles in a meander of the Thames.

“Wake up, Little Grandperson!  Look at these!”


Otters in their almost natural habitat doing what they do best — exploring!