Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Congratulations to Wales on becoming the first Fairtrade country in the world!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Birds and frogs

This is a very media friendly heron that was hanging out by the path at the Wetlands Centre. It took no notice of the massive lenses pointing at it (and my little dinky one from a camera I "borrow" from work whenever I forget to return it...) and kept a look out for frogs and other tasty morsels. There are a fair number of these grey birds around my neck of the Thames and at least it's easy to identify. I still struggle enormously to identify all/any of the wildfowl at the Centre despite having been there for over a year. I try to comfort myself with the fact that I rarely see them as we're always busy with the kids programme, but it is still a bit embarassing...

Here's a funny little fellow that lurks in the shed over the winter and gets (literally) wheeled out in the summer to entertain and edify. I helped wash it down the other day and it is quite remarkable. It has several boxes under the frog that store items like dead beetles and egg shells etc to bring out and show the public. It's quite heavy to get moving but once you do it's a lot of fun. As long as you aren't too distracted by a mammoth frog following you!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The joys of living by a river

I like this picture! It's taken by a friend and is quite magical. Next to the cars - under the water between the wooden posts and the scrub poking up from the water - is a footpath and the cars are in the Ham House carpark. It also has a slight feel of a car tv advert where the cars are poised before surfing in the waves or other such foolish things.

The Thames is tidal and a remarkable number of people do get caught out by that, myself included on a memorable occasion where we got stranded on a bench for several hours as the waters lapped around our feet. Keeping an eye on the tides is always a wise move.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

A day on a boat

Throwing ropes like Shirley Bassey, the Lightman's Hitch also known as a Tugman's Hitch, Thames Hitch or Brentford Hitch, risk assessments in term of slot machine lemons, cups of tea, and a quick impromptu trip to empty the sewage tank at the neighbouring commercial boat launch...

These, and lots more, were part of the crew training day on the Richmond Venturer last Friday. It was such a fascinating day and I learnt loads. The two other new crew members I was training with had an amazing amount of experience of working on and with boats and could launch into all sorts of technical (ie. incomprehensible) talk at a drop of a hat which was rather intimidating at first. I have been on a few boats and even helped sail one, but that was years ago and I couldn't properly remember how to do any knots! But there was still a lot they learned too, and they were very friendly and kind to the boat novice (and didn't laugh at questions like "what is 'boat' for the back of the boat?" The answer is 'stern/aft'.).

I'm even more excited about going out on trips with the project now and hopefully I won't have to wait very long. The furthest upstream that the Venturer can go in Windsor Castle. After that the bridges get too low for her to go under. On day trips though she won't go that far up, usually up to Walton on Thames or there abouts. And our skipper is licensed to take the Richmond Venturer as far down the river as Putney. That is quite a range. And I'm ready to explore as much of it as I get the opportunity to do!

The training day didn't originally include any trips but we got a bonus little jaunt upstream under two bridges (from one side of Kingston to the next) and I got to throw a rope onto the jetty we came alongside. That was only a little thing but it felt such a responsibility! Thankfully I was able to execute my task with honour:)

Actually, the next time I'll be on a boat is next week Sunday when I'm going on a Batty Boat trip. We head out in the evening on a boat and look for bats - another of my current obsessions! I've been helping out on Bat Walks at the London Wetland Centre and learning loads there. I am looking forward to seeing and hearing what we will on the Thames.