28 February 2012

Book Review: A Brush with Nature

This book offers a selection of Richard Mabey's writing from his BBC Wildlife magazine column. With the underlying theme of nature, Richard writes about various topics and they are organised into the following chapters: Roots, Wings, Leaves, Tracks, Images, Words, and Issues.

At first I struggled with this book. The writing seemed a little abstract, but it is likely to have been my current disconnect that was the issue. I soon got to grips with Richard's writing and enjoyed reading his ideas and opinions on various matters that I, myself, think about. The rants are intense, but so is his appreciation and love of nature. I'd never thought that we can be over bearing with conservation, but I'm beginning to understand that we can sometimes look after the species to the detriment to the ecosystem. Everything has it's day, then after a rise comes a fall. This is the same with species, which is why we have such wonderful and awe inspiring variations in nature. I think this is what Chris Packham meant when he spoke about the conservation of Pandas.

As with most naturalists, of whatever experience level, I have read Food for Free. Which is a wonderful collection of food that we can harvest on hedges and such like, along with various recipes and the history of them. I do feel, though, that this is so much more than that. This collection allows us to have a connection, however brief, with a man that has spent his life considering nature. This collection allows us to think about what he says, and whether we agree or not isn't the point. The point is that however much we feel we consider nature, we should sit back and think for a moment how we can appreciate it more.

Own or Loan: Loan
Read Again:  No
Recommend: Yes
Overall out of Five: 3

27 February 2012

26 February 2012

Common Hair Cap Moss - Polytrichum commune

Date Photographed: 25/02/2012
Location: Warminster - Eastleigh Wood off Five Ash Lane
Resources: http://www.naturespot.co.uk/species/common-haircap-moss

Daffodil - Narcissus pseudonarcissus

Date Photographed: 25/02/2012
Location: Warminster - Corner verge of Elm Hill and Westbury Road
Resources: http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Narcissus+pseudonarcissus

Lungwort - Pulmonaria

Date Photographed: 25/02/2012
Location: Warminster - Verge of Copheap Lane and Westbury Road
Resources: http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Pulmonaria+officinalis

Date Photographed: 05/03/2012
Location: The Courts garden, Holt

25 February 2012

Snowdrop - Galanthus nivalis

Date Photographed: 25/02/2012
Location: Warminster - Eastleigh Wood off Five Ash Lane

Date Photographed: 28/02/2012
Location: Lacock Abbey
Resources: http://www.kew.org/plants-fungi/Galanthus-nivalis.htm

Snowdrop Seed Heads
Date Photographed: 12/03/2012
Location: The Courts garden, Holt

Planetary Alignment: Jupiter and Venus: Photo Update

Planetary Alignment: Jupiter and Venus

23 February 2012

Book Review: Flower Hunters

Flower Hunters is a superb book written by Mary and John Gribben, at the time of writing the book they are Visiting Fellows at the University of Sussex and have written other books related to the sciences.

This book looks at John Ray and then follows on with 11 flower hunters covering a period of time between 1627 - 1911. They laid the foundations of Botany with their insight and with the plants and trees that they introduced to England and other parts of the world.

The book is so well written that it has interrupted my reading of other books and captured my imagination. I can't help but admire these botanists, whether they were involved with the theory, naming nomenclature, exploration for new specimins, or as with Marianne North; painting fantastic images of the plants in their native environment. Along with the story of these brave explorers of Botany, which provides a great insight to the lengths they were willing to go to in obtaining the plants they so desperately needed, at the end of each chapter a section entitled 'In the Garden' invokes a sense of what the Botanists would have had in their gardens, or what we can plant to feel more connected to them and the plants they spent their lives questing for.

Here is a list of the individuals explored in this book:

Name Life span Best known for
John Ray 1627-1705 Classification of Plants
Carl Linnaeus 1707-1778 Binomial Naming System
Joseph Banks 1743-1820 Endeavour Voyage, Botany Bay, Kew
Francis Masson 1741-1805 Kew Garden's first flower hunter
Carl Peter Thunberg 1742-1828 Botanical Explorer of Japan
David Douglas 1799-1834 Introduction of many trees for the timber industry
William Lobb 1809-1864 Commercial Explorer for Veitch
Thomas Lobb 1817-1894 Commercial Explorer for Veitch
Robert Fortune 1812-1880 Botanical Exploration of China. Creator of Black Tea industry in India
Marianne North 1830-1890 Botanical Artist, travelled around the world twice painting plants and flowers
Richard Spruce 1817-1893 Cinchona tree, saving millions of lives from Malaria
Joseph Dalton Hooker 1817-1911 Antarctic and Himalaya Exploration, Rhododendron craze

Own or Loan: Loan
Read Again:  Yes
Recommend: Yes
Overall out of Five: 4

21 February 2012

Planetary Alignment: Jupiter and Venus

For those of you that enjoy being outdoors at night, for camping, walking or especially stargazing, this weekend looks promising for good viewing up in the night sky. The Moon, Venus, and Jupiter will be making a triangle this weekend.

The view in the excellent Starry Night Explorer
In the next few weeks Jupiter and Venus will gradually continue to close their alignment in our view. By the 25/26 March, Jupiter and Venus will have swapped over (with Jupiter being lower than Venus in our view), after looking very close together from our viewpoint. The moon will give us a similar triangle that weekend too, but you'll want to be looking earlier around 20:30 - before Jupiter dips below the horizon.

Here's a video from NASA with visuals of what you can expect if you're looking West before 22:00 this weekend:


Hope you all get to enjoy it :)

18 February 2012

Tyler Tracks

The paw print of one of the dogs we walk at the Bath Cats and Dogs home.

Date Photographed: 02/2012
Location: Melksham

10 February 2012

Pigeon Tracks

Date Photographed: 10/02/2012
Location: Melksham

01 February 2012

New Era for the Waterways

Fellow Outdoor Swimming Society member, Fiona Weir, has set up an online petitionto put public access at the heart of the Government proposal for a New Era for the Waterways.

I think that Fiona makes a valid case that "people often find themselves confused, being ‘moved on’, breaking the law or (perhaps worst of all) staying away from inland waters altogether, because it is not clear where they are allowed to paddle, wade, kayak, canoe & swim." I know that Lucy and myself have been a bit reluctant at times to investigate new places because we're not sure if it's 'really' ok to swim there. It's been a relief, so far, to find that the places we have been to have had people already swimming!

Please add your name to the petition so that we as the users of the waterways can be heard. As clarification of areas we can use will not only help us, but will encourage others to join in the fun.

The petition is available here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/25118

The Defra consultation document regarding the 'New Era for the Waterways', explaining the proposals in depth, is available here: http://www.defra.gov.uk/consult/files/A-New-Era-for-the-Waterways-FINAL.pdf