Sunday, 28 April 2013

April’s Charms

April 23rd was the feast day of St. George, England’s patron saint. His name was invoked to his soldiers by King Henry V in his speech on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. According to legend, St. George was a soldier in the Roman army who killed a dragon and saved a princess. The anniversary of his death, was seen as England's national day.  Compared to national day festivities in other countries worldwide, it was not widely celebrated and recognised as a public holiday in this country. But, in March 2011, the Tourism minister, John Penrose, announced that the government was proposing to move The May Day bank holiday to St George’s Day. Lets join the campaign to request that ‘Our Day’ be made a public holiday in England so that it can be recognised and celebrated as it should be.

On St. George’s day

Remember that you are an Englishman, and have consequently won first place in the lottery of life

~Cecil Rhodes, 1853-1902~

April 23 was also the UNESCO’s International Day of the Book, chosen in honour of Shakespeare and Cervantes, who both died on April 23 1616. On World Book Night, from Treasure Island to Casino Royale, and Judge Dredd to Girl with a Pearl Earring, 400,000 books were given away by 20,000 volunteers in an attempt to spread the love of reading around the UK. Each volunteer  had been given 20 copies of their chosen title, and gave them away to potential readers around the country. A further 100,000 books – bringing the total number to half a million – was distributed in venues including hospitals, shelters, care homes, community centres and prisons.

The idea of giving books began in Barcelona to celebrate San Jordi Day, when men gave their women a rose and women returned the compliment with a gift of a book. On World Book Night; a lovely poem by Edgar Guest identifies his sheer joy and appreciation for books.

Good books are friendly things to own,

If you are busy they will wait,

They will not call you on the phone

Or wake you if the hour is late.

They stand together row by row,

Upon the low shelf or the high

but if you’re lonesome this you know;

You have a friend or two nearby.

~Good Books~

This week, my colleagues and I were busy with another mini project that needed to be completed by the end of May. We were given 200 bibliographic records each that had no 050 fields i.e classification numbers supplied by the Library of Congress. This was needed by the Collection Management team when they were working on the re-labelling of books in the H ( Social Sciences) and J (Political Sciences) section, all shelved on the 5th floor. We found out that these records were very basic and needed upgrading to bring it up to standard. It was quite a laborious process because we were overlaying records without seeing the books.

AM and I finally resumed our walking exercises. The sun was still shining when we started walking at about 7.30 pm. I arrived home from work at about 6 pm and was straight in the kitchen preparing dinner. On Monday, it was usually Sunday’s leftovers. I dish up a plate for Babe and I will have mine after my walk. AM and I also re-join the exercise classes at the community centre. It was fun to be with these ‘mature’ ladies and some of them were more flexible than both of us :-0.

I also joined a newly-formed rounders team at work. I’d never played before and it would be fun to start learning a new game. I’ve stopped playing badminton after I tore a muscle about a year ago. It was painful to play again especially when you need to hold the racquet above your shoulders. The practice was held after office hours on Wednesdays and it was a wonderful way to wind down after a hectic day at work.   Warwick University - Playing Rounders.

The game of rounders had been played in England since Tudor times. It was a bat-and-ball game played between two teams. It was a striking and fielding team game that involved hitting a small, hard, leather-cased ball with a round wooden, plastic or metal bat. Players scored by running around the four bases on the field. Gameplay centred around a number of innings, in which teams alternated  at batting and fielding. A maximum of nine players were allowed to field at any time. Points (known as 'rounders') were scored by the batting team when one of their players completed a circuit past four bases without being put 'out'.

On our first practice, we’d 6 players, the minimum number needed to form a team. It was a good social mix of staff from different departments, grades, sizes and ages. :-). We played on a very hard field near University House. The funniest thing was that nobody had read the rules and we were just batting and running. It was hopeless but we’d lots and loads of fun. The weather was on our side. Babe was there and unofficially became Hit Squad’s photographer. Thanks darling…Warwick University - Playing Rounders.

I ended the working week with a trip to Kings Hill Nursery with CC during our lunch break. This nursery provided placements, training, work experience and jobs for people with a broad spectrum of Learning Disabilities within Horticulture. A wonderful idea that I thoroughly supported. There were a few changes when we were there. Finally, they were given permission to put up a signage at the entrance because if you blink, you’ll miss it.  They now sell hot drinks and you can have them surrounded by the gorgeous blooming flowers. It was too early to purchase vegetables plugs. But I still came home with 2 pots of Bidens and Sempervivum

On Saturday, Babe and I spent the day chilling out at home. I did the laundry and hung them on the clothes line but had to bring them in about an hour later. The heavens opened and suddenly hailstones tumbled down. And that kept on repeating sunny spells interspersed with freezing hailstones. I was even pelted while I was walking home from the library. Ouch…Shots from our Home and Garden

"In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours." 
-  Mark Twain

On Sunday, we checked out the Spring Alpaca Festival at Stoneleigh Park. It was run by the Heart of England Alpaca Group on behalf of the British Alpaca Society and one of the largest shows in the Alpaca calendar. With the event traditionally aimed at both hobby and large herd alpaca breeders, I was very thankful that they opened their doors to the public as show organisers responded to the growing popularity of one of Peru’s most beautiful animals. Alpaca Show - Stoneleigh Park

It gave the public the opportunity to learn more and get closer to the 300 different alpacas of 6 different colours and two different breeds including the popular fluffy ‘Huayaca’ with fluffy fibre sort of like sheep and the rarer ‘Suri’. The later have long silky dreadlocks and looked like the Bob Marleys of the camelid world.

The Llama is a wooly sort of fleecy, hairy goat, with an indolent expression and an undulating throat; like an unsuccessful literary man.

~Hilaire Belloc~

Alpaca Show - Stoneleigh Park

Alpacas were smaller and less stroppy than their cousins, the Llamas. Originally from the Andes region of Peru, Bolivia and Chile, they were domesticated thousands of years ago by the indigenous South American people for their fibre. They were truly charming and adorable. On top of the very lovely, silky fibre that makes great yarn, they have the most soulful, big, dark eyes with long lashes, sinuous necks and soft noses.

“A wrinkled face like an old woman’s, came shuffling slowly along in list slippers, a shiny alpaca overcoat hanging on his stooping shoulders, no ribbon at his buttonhole, the sleeves of an under-vest…”

~Honore de Balzac, Cousin Betty~

Alpaca Show - Stoneleigh Park

I tried my very best to take a photograph of Babe standing beside them. Why? Cos they were known to spit. Sorry darling :-). But they were having none of it. All the animals were on their very best behaviour. They were very inquisitive and friendly especially when they knew you’re harmless. All of them would surge forward to check you out which was just adorable. And they hum an almost continuous, low, musical noise that, like a cat’s purring, was soothing and sweet. But when we asked one of the owners, it meant that they were stressed. Oops… we always leave when we heard the humming, no matter how soothing they sounded to us.Alpaca Show - Stoneleigh Park

Since it was still early, we drove down to BMNR. Unsurprisingly, the car-park was full. Everyone was out and about taking advantage of the wonderful weather. Compared to yesterday’s confusing weather, the sun had decided to come out and play. We went straight to Baldwin Hide where Babe had spotted the Great Crested Grebe performing some amazing courting displays earlier during the week. We think their eggs had been destroyed and decided to try again. Unfortunately, they weren’t seen anywhere today. I guess they must be chilling out somewhere among the undergrowth.Brandon Marsh D300s X14  26-04-2013 14-10-04

But there were plenty of other things to keep us occupied. The Common Sandpiper were flying to and fro from the island beside the hide. Little Ring Plovers were busy feeding along the mudbanks on the main island. The pair of Oyster Catchers were playing tag around the reserve with their crackling calls trailing after them. But my highlight was when I had my first sighting of a Common Tern, having a bath at the far end of the main island. Soon, they will be occupying the pontoon and raising a family. I couldn’t wait.Brandon Marsh - Grey and dark

Everywhere, daffodils had finally bloomed brightening a spring landscape in pots, yards, fields, gardens and roundabouts. What a pretty sight seeing these bright yellow faces confirming the long winter season had finally ended. Lets pause in wonder, and murmur rapturously with William Wordsworth:Shots form Warwick University

"I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils."

Shots from our home and garden

Friday, 26 April 2013

Bring the Happy

I made a pit stop at the Bubble Chamber in the Bull Yard to contribute to the ‘Bring the Happy’ project. This was an ongoing project about happiness, an attempt to map moments and memories of happiness in Coventry and across the country. The memories were represented on the 3D map of Coventry. A first kiss, a lost love, a longed for baby, childhood heroes, a proposal, a dance, a chance encounter—where did it happen and how happy did it make you feel on a scale from 1 to 10. Out and About in Coventry

After three weeks, these memories were collected and transformed into the Bring the Happy Live performance. Participants were given a discounted ticket to attend the event at the Warwick Arts Centre. In collaboration with Hope & Social and Invisible Flock, the live performance promises to be an interactive, intimate and highly moving evening where the performers ask the audience to join them in celebrating the happiness of Coventry. I haven’t decided yet whether I will be attending the performance but this was what I wrote.

“Brandon Marsh

The first place we went when we moved to Coventry 6 years ago. You can find us here most weekends for long walks, bird watching, photography. A place to relax and rewind. “ 

Babe (who always made me happy)  and I checked out our happy place later in the evening.  The reserve looked blooming marvellous as the sun came out to play. It was quieter too as the visiting time was over. As we walked past Kingfisher pool, we were greeted with this stunning view. The bank was dotted with hundreds of blooming Primroses facing happily towards the sun. Rosettes of pale, lemon-hued flowers with wrinkled spoon-shaped leaves. One of surest signs that spring was on the way. They were very much a part of the distinctive character of the country in spring, forming wonderful displays on hedge-banks.Brandon Marsh - Early spring 

“They speak of things above my verse.

Of thoughts no earthly language knows,

That loftiest Bard could ne’er rehearse,

Nor holiest prophet e’er disclose,

which God Himself no other way,

Than by a Primrose could convey’

~William Gay~Brandon Marsh - Early spring

We also spotted our first Peacock butterfly of the year. They too had finally emerged from their hibernation, Outside Baldwin Hide, we saw our first Whitethroat flitting among the trees. When we opened the shutters, we noticed that the Canada Goose had abandoned its nest and whatever eggs were there were already broken and shells scattered all over the ground. The Great Crested Grebe was still sitting on her nest. Brandon Marsh - Early spring

“The  butterflies, by eager hopes undone,

Glad as a child, come out to greet the sun’

~John Clare~

We then checked out East Marsh Hide. Along the path, we spotted more Peacocks whizzing about and Whitethroats skulking in the trees. We were surprised to find the hide nearly full but we managed to squeeze in. House-martins were zipping in and out of their sandcastle. Little-Ringed Plovers were playing tag around the reserve. A Redshank flew in and started feeding on the island. And this Common Snipe suddenly appeared in front of the hide. He was so well camouflaged that we didn’t notice him feeding along the mudbanks.     Brandon Marsh - Early spring

On Sunday, we took advantage of the free entry vouchers to participating National Trust properties. Babe wanted to check out Charlecotte Park again. We’d been here during one of the heritage weekend a few years ago. We arrived at about noon and the place was buzzing. We weren’t alone in taking advantage of the offer. Entrance to National Trust properties weren’t cheap. It would cost us £9.35 each. After parking the car, we joined the long queue to get our tickets.Charlecote Park - Grey day

Charlecote Park was a grand 16th century Tudor country house and a Grade 1 listed building with imposing chimneys and mellow red brickwork. It was surrounded by its own deer park on the banks of the River Avon. The Lucy family owned the land since 1247. Charlecote Park was built in 1558 by Sir Thomas Lucy, and Queen Elizabeth I stayed in the room that was now the drawing room in 1572. I love this thatched Summer House that looked like something out of a Tolkien novel. It was created by Mary Elizabeth Lucy in the mid 1800's. She had it built for her grandchildren. Lucky kids…

Charlecote Park - Grey day

Our first stop was the parkland. We wanted to check out the fallow deer that had been here since Tudor times. William Shakespeare was allegedly caught poaching deer at Charlecote around 1583 and many years later immortalized Sir Thomas Lucy in ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’. We spotted a flock of deer from a distance and made our way towards them walking past the St. Leonard’s Church. Traditional oak paling fencing was designed around the park to keep the deer in. Charlecote Park - Grey day

Then we strolled around the freezing park that was landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown in about 1760. A pair of Buzzards were soaring and gliding over us and mewing from time to time. We walked along the River Avon that runs through the parkland. I was on the look out for the Jacob sheep. The ancestors of this flock were brought here in 1756 by George Lucy and were the first flock of Jacobs in the country but they mere MIA today. I guess they were hiding from the crowd. Charlecote Park - Grey day

We wandered around the newly restored woodland garden which was an absolutely delightful. I was so envious of the different varieties and colours of Hellebores that were blooming beautifully in cream, pink and almost black. The delightful scent of Mahonia enveloped us as we strolled through. Dens of different shapes and colours were scattered around the garden for the little people to play. These rattan balls added a different feel to the atmosphere. We walked past the Orangery Restaurant where people were queuing (im)patiently to get in.Charlecote Park - Grey day

Babe waited for me by this 180 year old yew tree while I search for the facilities. We were too early to see this Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum)  in full flower. From here, we could see the parterre while enjoying a view of the River Avon from a different angle. Fragrant wallflowers were blooming among hundreds of glorious tulips. A new project to expand and replant the croquet lawn borders with a soft colour palette of cottage garden favourites was planned for summer. It would look amazing.Charlecote Park - Grey day

At the entrance front of the house, the 16th century Renaissance porch featured the arms of Queen Elizabeth, celebrating her visit to the Park. The magnificent wisteria on the front of the house will look stunning when it blooms in late spring. Clipped yews and espaliered fruit trees lined the walls. Specially-commissioned Whichford Pottery pots planted up in front of the porch added to the tasteful formality of this area. We didn’t join the hundreds of visitors who were queuing to get into the house. Instead we checked the eaves for house-martins to see if these summer visitors had arrived and started nesting. Again, we were early. We gave the brewery, carriage store, kitchen and gift shop a miss as more visitors were queuing to get in.Charlecote Park - Grey day

We left as more visitors were still coming in. We walked under this imposing gatehouse, the only original Elizabethan feature to survive intact. The rosy, pink brick provided a very 'warm' welcome to anyone entering the park. The 2nd hand bookshop and family museum situated in this building was closed. We walked straight to the car and had something to eat and drink. While Babe rested in the car, I checked out the garden centre. It was mind blowing to see the huge selection to choose from and they weren’t cheap. In the end, I purchased a tray of ‘Rainbow Lights’ chard plugs, a pot of sweet peas and Bellis plus local homemade ice-cream to cool down before we made our way home. Charlecote Park - Grey day

I ended my happy week by baking a cake. But I took a very short-cut. I purchased Wright’s chocolate fudge cake mix where I only needed to add 200 ml. water and 60 ml. cooking oil. They were then blended to a smooth batter for 1 min. using an electric mixer. I placed the gooey batter into a lined tin and baked in a preheated 180C oven for 60 mins. It really couldn't be easier!  Simple instructions were on the pack.  And it contained real chocolate crumb to produce a rich and indulgent cake. It was a bit dry but still yummy and delicious.

Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love and something to hope for

~ Joseph Addison~

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Mindful of You the Sodden Earth in Spring

"Mindful of you the sodden earth in spring,
And all the flowers that in the springtime grow,
And dusty roads, and thistles, and the slow
Rising of the round moon, all throats that sing
The summer through, and each departing wing,
And all the nests that the bared branches show,
And all winds that in any weather blow,
And all the storms that the four seasons bring.
You go no more on your exultant feet
Up paths that only mist and morning knew,
Or watch the wind, or listen to the beat
Of a bird's wings too high in air to view,—
But you were something more than young and sweet
And fair,—and the long year remembers you."
-  Edna St. Vincent Millay, Mindful of You the Sodden Earth in Spring

Shots from our home and garden
Winter was finally over and it was about blooming time. After weeks of snow and freezing weather, spring had arrived bringing temperatures of up to 20C. Woop…woop. The Jetstream, which governed the weather in the northern hemisphere, had started to move north leading to spring-like conditions. But don’t reach for the parasols, shorts and flip flops or ditch the winter coats yet. Bitter Scandinavian winds kept temperatures freezing and the settled weather meant heavy downpours. Meanwhile brighter, warmer weather was promised. A typical spring mish-mash.
We’d another party to say good-bye to MK who will be returning home to Nigeria. MK had been one very busy lady. She’d completed her Phd and will be getting married too. I’d known her ever since I started working here and I’m going to miss her loads. My colleagues and I all turned up to give her a wonderful send-off. I contributed my signature spring rolls for the table. Goodbye and good luck to a great colleague. We promised to keep in touch.

Shots form Warwick University

Another colleague, KJ, had just moved to Coventry and wanted CC and I to take her to the Noodle Bar. She didn’t have to twist our arms cos we went willingly. As usual, I ordered my favourite Fried Udon with the seafood special and Chinese vegetables and washed down with cups of steaming Chinese cha. We ate while watching people walking below. It was buzzing in the city-centre because 3 different sports were being played on the same day. We were trying to match the clothes they were wearing to the sports they were attending.

At the Ricoh Arena, Marray and Fleming beat Kunitsyn and Balluda to revive Great Britain hopes in the Davies Cup. On Sunday, the team defeated Russia 3:2 in the Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 second round. They were drawn away against Croatia for September’s World Group playoff and Andy Murray had promised to make himself available. Also at the Ricoh, Coventry City equalise 1:1 to Brentford. While Coventry Blaze ice hockey team went down to a 5:1 defeat to Belfast Giants in the play-off semi-final in Nottingham.

After the lovely meal, we took KJ to a tour of Coventry Market which was voted the National Association of British Market Authorities' Indoor Market of the Year for 2007 and Britain's favourite Market in 2010 in an online poll. 1958 was the year Europe's only circular retail market was built, with 234 stalls, including a fish market, storage in the basement and a car-park on the roof. It has twelve sets of doors , giving each trader a fair share of any customers entering the market. Plans for a £1bn transformation of the city centre were thrown into disarray when English Heritage announced the market had been given Grade II-listed protection. In granting its listed status, English Heritage said the building was "nationally important" and praised its "flying-saucer like" building with its painted murals and mosaics. It was a symbol of the city's rebuild after being bombed in 1940. "The impressive socialist-realist style murals by East German artists show humans and animals in farming and industrial scenes and are very unusual in England," a spokesman said.

Out and About in Coventry

A new staff member, CF, reported for duty as RC’s maternity cover. She’d a long list induction programme and I’d her for 2 sessions. One was the introduction to classification where I showed and demonstrated the different classification systems we used. There was Library of Congress ( standard and local), Dewey Decimal, Moyes for law, UDC and other schemes for official and European publications. Although she was working primarily on thesis, she need to keep abreast with developments in cataloguing and classification. I also had another short induction with a new member of staff, LM from Resource Delivery. It was just a short introduction to who’s who in Data Services and what were our contributions to the library. 

Babe brought down the nest box at the bottom of the garden. We wanted to clean and disinfect it before the next occupant arrive. Last year, we’d seen a pair of Blue Tits last year inspecting the box but they didn’t stay. We’d a wonderful surprise when Babe opened the roof and found 3 old Blue Tit eggs. Wow… they’d taken residence but somehow had abandoned the nest. I hoped they will be successful this year. Check out the size of the very tiny egg against an ordinary chicken egg.Coventry D7000  15-04-2013 17-15-06
“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. we are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”
~C.S. Lewis~
It was that time of year again for the dreaded Annual Review. As usual, it was a cutting last year’s aims and objectives and pasting it on the new form. Easy peasy. It was listing the objectives for the coming year that was a bit hard. I’m very smug that I’d completed all my aims and objectives due to good time management. In fact, I’ve accomplished a few that wasn’t on the list. It was going to be hard to beat that. But I’ve still got a few up my sleeve.

I also attended a drop-in to the Teaching Grid for an exhibition-style update on the latest Library projects. Colleagues who were involved in the projects were on hand to give demonstrations and provided updates on their work. I was available to check-out and thoroughly enjoyed Talis Aspire, WRAP, the Environment videos and Website redevelopment. It was a good opportunity to network with each other, ask questions and catch up with initiatives before the start of the summer term. And I thoroughly enjoyed the generous helpings of cream cakes. Yummy…

Shots form Warwick University

I’d another outing with the girls at Ikea. Yummy, mummy RC needed some time away from her gorgeous bubba and have some adult conversation. It was lovely seeing her again and motherhood suits her well. I’d the usual fish and chips with a slice of cheesecake and washed down with glasses of lingo-juice. We’d a wonderful time exchanging gossips, laughters and news.  The views of Coventry from the top floor were breath-taking. After lunch, we checked out the different floors and I came out with a pot of Sansevieria Cylindrica, a white serving plate set, 2 packets of biscuits and a bottle of lingon juice. I’d to leave early because Babe wanted to have a quick walk at our favourite playground.

  Out and About in Coventry

Before I met the girls, I noticed this handsome Stormtrooper causing a stir among the shoppers at Broadgate. He was standing so still that you think that it was a statute. I managed to get a few shots before a little boy and his father walked by and asked him for a photograph. They were posing happily before a few other children were brave enough to join in. I think he was raising money for
charity because there was a charity pail beside him.

Out and About in Coventry

Babe and I made our usual trip to our favourite playground. As we were walking along the path towards Baldwin Hide, a wren was vehemently rattling a territorial song. When we opened one of the shutters, we saw a Canada Goose nesting right below it. What a risky place to have a nest, The Great Crested Grebe was sitting on a nest, well hidden under a weeping willow. A pair of very noisy Oyster-Catchers with their black and white plumage and startling orange bills landed on the island beside the hide. All you could hear was our cameras rattling away

. Brandon Marsh - Early spring
After getting our fill, we walked to East Marsh Hide. We heard the familiar shrills of the Long-tailed Tits from the bushes, When we looked up, we saw this adorable cutie gathering moss. We quickly walked away because we don’t want to stop it flying to its nest. From East Marsh hide, we spotted Little Ring Plovers and Common Snipes but they were too far to photograph. We went home as the hide was getting too crowded and noisy

. Brandon Marsh - Early spring

“And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest
~Percy Bysshe Shelley~
Shots from our home and garden

Friday, 5 April 2013

A Photographic Day at Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

On Bank Holiday Monday, we went out for another adventure. We were going to check a new playground. First, we’d to join the long queues before the traffic turned off for the Wellesbourne Airfield. Finally we were on wintery country roads of the Oxfordshire rolling hills, past frozen fields and hedgerows, ancient grey, stone walls and pockets of snow.  The current bout of icy weather was being blown in from snowy wastes of Scandinavia and Russia. High pressure to the north and east and low pressure down in the Mediterranean had created an easterly flow and brought in the cold.     Shots form the Car We came across historic market towns and charming picturesque villages, in the very heart of rural England. Unlike the rugged mountains of Mid-Wales, the landscape was far softer, with no jagged peaks and not many very steep climbs.  The idyllic stone-built villages were soft brown rather than rugged grey. Buildings and landscape blended together in perfect harmony with ancient abbeys, medieval churches and manor houses, bustling market towns and quiet picturesque villages, all built in the local honey-coloured limestone, architectural gems that bejewel the region and enhance its natural beauty. Since it was a bank holiday, all the towns that we came across were buzzing with tourists. Tourism was a major economy in the Cotswold.  Shots form the Car We drove through the wide main street of the medieval town of Burford. We passed uphill through an old bridge built in 1322 over the River Windrush and was flanked by rows of exceptional period houses. We saw 15th century almhouses. Three miles south of Burford ,we reached our destination, the Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens. Shots form the Car After parking our car, we were greeted with snow showers :-). Babe wanted to find the facilities but the sight of this three awesome white rhinoceros ambling into view was a sight to behold. All that separated us was just a large moated paddock.  Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey day

The rhino is a homely beast,

For human eyes he's not a feast.

Farewell, farewell, you old rhinoceros,

I'll stare at something less prepoceros.

—~Ogden Nash~Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey day

Unlike Ogden Nash, they were a magnificent feast to our eyes. We stared at them for quite a while. They, together with a herd of cute Chapmans zebras, were grazing in the grounds of the 19th. century gothic Bradwell Grove mansion. Woo..hoo. We were speechless. All you could hear was our cameras rattling away. And this was only the beginning. We still have 160 acres to go:-). Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey day Bella the train carrying visitors were criss-crossing the park and I planned to be on them later. We got close to a herd of Bactrian camels grazing in the near-by field. It was surreal to see these desert mammals in an English environment. They looked a bit worse for wear because they were moulting. Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey day

Nearby are big cat enclosures which house a pair of Asiatic lions which last bred in 2002 and Amur leopards, the world's rarest cats. Both were  fast asleep. Next was the giraffe enclosure with a walkaway where we were at the same height and eye-to-eye with them. This beauty was so close that I could count the sweeping eyelashes. Due to the freezing weather, all three giraffes were in their paddocks and this one was inches away from us munching his tea. Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey day As we navigate around the park, Babe was distracted by the rhinoceros again. I went to check an ostrich by another enclosure. Suddenly a flock of 4 came thundering towards me. Oops…they were checking me out. Although they were behind a barrier, I’d to move back. They were huge and their necks were quite long. I could see how curious they were. Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey day We followed the path and came across a pond full of different varieties of ducks. Most we’d seen before but it was still lovely to see them again. It was feeding time and the usual scramble was in motion. Among them were the obligatory Mandarin ducks, Eider ducks, T-Bar geese, Snow Goose, Golden Eye, Wood Ducks, Barnacles and Grouses. Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey day We walked on raised walkways through a wooded enclosure to catch a glimpse of Canadian timber wolves. They moved in here in 2006 and were fast asleep after a big meal. We spotted a huge half-eaten carcass of something in the middle of the compound. The park authorities had made the surroundings as close as possible to their natural habitat  that It was quite surreal walking through the shaded woods. I felt like a wolf could pounce any time.Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey day We continued on and walked past a sleeping Wallaby, a flock of pretty, smelly pink Flamingos, being chased away by a male White-Naped Crane because the female was sitting on eggs, Capybaras and various bird aviaries with Burrowing Owls, Giant Hornbills, Scarlet Ibis, Guira Cuckoo and Vultures. But a pair of Anteaters caught our attention. I’d to chuckle when Babe mentioned that he found it all but impossible to look at them and not, at some point, expect someone to undo a zip and climb out of the costume…That was in my head all day :-)Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey day

"A genuine anteater,"
The pet man told me dad.
Turned out, it was an aunt eater,
And now my uncle's mad!

~Shel Silverstein~Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey day There was a section for the little people where they can stroke rabbits, guinea-pigs goats, sheep and other domesticated breeds. There was also a spacious adventure playground for them to be explored. Domesticated breeds can be found in the Children's Farmyard. We checked out the gorgeous Farmyard animals and marvel at the ‘old’ species. They really looked different from the commercially-bred one. I couldn’t resist a photograph with this Wickerman of Oxford designed by Callum Smith who was only 10 years and built by ‘Wicker Man Oxford Community Project’.

Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey day

In 2008, the Park opened Madagascar, a walk-through exhibit inside the Walled Garden which draws attention to the plight of endangered Madagascan species. We strolled around but the no-one was about although Babe did spot a pair of Ring-tailed Lemur with a very tiny baby. The ever-popular Slender-tailed Meerkats were busy entertaining the visitors with one acting as a look-out.Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey day
There was a huge crowd surrounding the Oriental small-clawed otters. Their cries of these adorable mammals were echoing around us. You just have to smile to see their antics.Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey day

You are my palpable, lithe
Otter of memory
In the pool of the moment,
Turning to swim on your back,
Each silent, thigh-shaking kick
Re-tilting the light,
Heaving the cool at your neck.
And suddenly you're out,
Back again, intent as ever,
Heavy and frisky in your freshened pelt,
Printing the stones.

~Seamus Heaney (1939-), The Otter~Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey day

And then we sniffed a very fishy aroma. We were nearing the Humbolt Penguin enclosure where you could literally p-p-p-pick up a penguin and frankly, I was soo tempted. Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey day

“It’s practically impossible to look at a penguin and feel angry.”

~Joe Moore~

As we were leaving the Walled Gardens, the loudspeaker came on to ask the visitors to make their way to the lawn in front of the manor house for a falconry demonstration. An opportunity that we weren’t going to miss. We sat by the edge of the lawn and watched displays by Kestrel, Barn Owl and a Falcon. Some of these birds were spooked by the Red Kited and Buzzards circling the skies above us.Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey day The final enclosure we saw belongs to the adorable Red Pandas. They were soo playful and just looked like a huge teddy-bear. One was climbing right to the tree-top and it was a miracle that he was able to climb down.Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey day By this time, Babe was already exhausted. It was a long drive home and it was snowing again. We gave the train ride a miss. We also missed the sheltered Walled Garden, the Tropical House with free-roaming sloths, bats and birds, the Reptile House and the Insect House. We will definitely come again to check all these places. It was a photographer’s heaven as we could get very, very close to the animals and there were no fences or glass panels giving us unparallel access to many of the animals. Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey dayAmur leopard

 There are lions and roaring tigers,
and enormous camels and things,
There are biffalo-buffalo-bisons,
and a great big bear with wings.

Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey day
There's a sort of a tiny potamus,
and a tiny nosserus too -
But I gave buns to the elephant
when I went down to the Zoo!

Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey day

There are badgers and bidgers and bodgers,
and a Super-in-tendent's House,
There are masses of goats, and a Polar,
and different kinds of mouse,

Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey day 

And I think there's a sort of a something
which is called a wallaboo -
But I gave buns to the elephant
when I went down to the Zoo!
If you try to talk to the bison,
he never quite understands;

Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey day 

Ring-tailed Lemur

You can't shake hands with a mingo -
he doesn't like shaking hands.
And lions and roaring tigers
hate saying, "How do you do?" -
But I give buns to the elephant
when I go down to the Zoo!

Cotswolds Wildlife Park - A very grey day

Prairie dog

~Alan Alexander Milne, ‘At the Zoo’~