Monthly Archives: September 2014

Northumberland island curio goes on show in London

 
The Coquet Island hide and the lighthouse in the background

After months of relative solitude on an island off Northumberland, Wesley Davies has just set off for London.

He is delivering a hide with character, which shelters wardens on the RSPB reserve of Coquet Island off Amble during 24-hour watches to guard against egg thieves.

The hide, which will be re-erected as part of a London festival, mimics the appearance of the lighthouse on Coquet Island.

It was made by award-winning blacksmith Stephen Lunn, from Red Row in Northumberland.

The 6ft by 6ft structure includes a metal wood-burning stove in the shape of a clam shell, also made by Stephen, who is a volunteer on the island.

It replaced a stove in the shape of a puffin, called the puffin puffin.

The disco ball in the hide roof
The disco ball in the hide roof

Since it was built in 2005, the hide has gathered eccentricities, such as a lighthouse top and a glass disco ball.

This reflects the light at dusk and dawn to signal the start and end of the overnight watching shifts.

An old paraffin lamp completes the decor.

The 24-hour watches during the seabird breeding season are necessary because the island is home to the only Roseate Tern colony in the UK.

The hide, which was erected after roseate eggs were stolen nine years ago, is taken down in the autumn and stored until next spring.

But for 11 days it will be a feature of the Migration Festival at The Forge arts and music venue in Camden in London.

One of the festival events will see 11 artists producing work on the theme of extinct birds.

Visitors will be invited to sit in the hide to observe the artists as they create in the Ghosts of Gone Birds event.

Wesley, assistant warden on Coquet Island, said: “What began life as a basic shelter has gradually developed its own unique character and evolved into a work of art. I think it will look very at home in the Forge.

A view of the lighthouse from inside the hide
A view of the lighthouse from inside the hide

“It’s a miniature version of the lighthouse and its character had grown.

“Going to London is a wonderful journey for the hide to go on. It is going to be fascinating for people in London to see it, and hopefully they will love it.”

Chris Aldhous, curator of Ghost of Gone Birds, said: ‘“The Live Art Studio at the Forge offers visitors the perfect opportunity to immerse themselves in the Coquet Island experience, while watching the Ghosts artists in their natural habitat, breathing life back into Gone Birds.”

Charlotte Caird, artistic director of the Forge Venue, said: “The Camden Migration Festival is an exploration into the migration of birds and people through the arts, celebrating cultural expansion but also considering its environmental impact, particularly on bird extinction.

“The bird hide represents the positive impact that man can have on bird populations, as well as being an interesting and rather beautiful piece of furniture, full of weather-beaten stories and a real-life connection to migratory birds and those who choose to protect them.”

The hide’s journey from Coquet Island to Camden has been partly funded by Northumberland Tourism.

It has been a good season for the breeding birds of Coquet Island. The 93 pairs of roseate terns was a 19% increase on last year.

Arctic Terns with 1,464 pairs were also 19% up, and the common terns total of 1.196 pairs was an increase of almost 15%.

It’s been a very good season, with good food supplies and weather, and no disturbance,” said Wesley.

Source – Newcastle Journal, 30 Sept 2014

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Sightings of another out of place creature in Wallsend

Hot on the heels of recent reports of an Eagle Owl on the loose in Wallsend, Tyne & Wear, North East England – https://alchemyandaccident.wordpress.com/2014/09/23/eagle-owl-spotted-in-wallsend/  – comes this…

 

Is it a dog, a badger or an old fox?

Well, experts think this may be the first sighting of a Raccoon roaming free on Tyneside.

The furry mammal, usually found in North America, was spotted by a surprised jogger in Wallsend on Friday morning.

Wildlife experts believe it is the first recorded sighting of the wild beast in the area.

Tom Hughes, 22, was running through the grounds of Wallsend Hall at around 7am when something caught his eye.

He said: “I was running along and came across this curious creature.

“At first I thought it was a badger but its unusual facial markings made me think it was a raccoon.

“It was big and stocky, but very placid and didn’t seem to be in a hurry to get anywhere.”

Tom, who lives in Howdon, near Wallsend, is training to be in the Navy.

He said he hasn’t seen anything like this before but hoped to raise some awareness of the creature being out there.

I wasn’t going to go for my run on Friday morning but I’m glad I did now,” he said.

The early bird catches the worm, as they say.”

The last recorded sighting of a raccoon was in Sunderland in 2012.

They are considered dangerous with changeable temperaments, but some people are known to keep them as pets.

Following a change to the law in 2007 which removed the need for a licence, they are becoming more prominent in Britain.

Several sightings have also been recorded in County Durham.

Steve Lowe, head of conservation at the Northumberland Wildlife Trust based in Gosforth, Newcastle, said: “That is either a raccoon or a raccoon dog.

“Because we can’t see the feet we can’t be certain which.

“These are non-native animals which appear to be kept as pets. They can be aggressive so inevitably in such circumstances the owner finds them too hard to handle and abandons them.

“They are also extremely good escapologists. Two were recorded in County Durham recently but this is the first for us and not especially welcome. “

The last record of one was in Sunderland in 2012.

“It may be the same animal although it’s a stretch to say that it definitely is.

For a recent Racoon sighting in Chopwell, Gateshead, see :

https://alchemyandaccident.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/raccoon-spotted-in-north-east-england-garden/

Source – Newcastle Journal, 26 Sept 2014

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Binchester Roman Town bought by the Auckland Castle Trust for £2m

A Roman site dubbed the Pompeii of the North has been bought for £2m, allaying fears for its future.

The Binchester Roman Town, where archeologists unearthed artefacts dating back 1,800 years, has been bought by the Auckland Castle Trust.

The Church Commissioners have accepted a £2m bid for the site, having originally rejected it.

Trust bosses had launched a petition urging the commissioners to accept the bid, which 4,000 people signed.

The trust had feared that the commissioners’ plans to sell the site in two lots could have made it harder to preserve the fort and ensure there is public access to it, but have now spoken of saving it for the nation in its entirety.

The fort, on the banks of the River Wear in County Durham, on the outskirts of Bishop Auckland, a mile from Auckland Castle, hit the international headlines in the summer when it was revealed archaeologists had uncovered some of the most exciting historical finds in living memory.

The commissioners then announced plans to sell it in two lots. While the site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and can’t be built on, one plot includes Binchester Hall and has planning permission for conversion and development, while the second includes 50% of the Roman remains.

The trust launched an 11th hour bid to buy the site for £2m, ahead of a tender deadline today, Monday.

Bosses feared that if it was split between two owners it could open the risk for surrounding development, curtail public access and see the end of years of academic research. The organisation argued that bringing both plots under its wing would safeguard future access and research.

Its initial bid was rejected, sparking the e-petition which 4,000 signed. And now, the commissioners have accepted the original bid.

Dr Chris Ferguson, Auckland Castle’s head curator, said:

“This is wonderful news and we are delighted that Binchester will now be protected for future generations.

“Contracts still have to be exchanged, but the Auckland Castle Trust has successfully come through the tender process as the preferred bidder and now we can start to look to the future of this vitally important site and ensure its past and status as one of not just Britain’s but Europe’s most important Roman sites is secured.

“Here at Auckland Castle we have been thrilled by the goodwill and support we have received as we strove to raise awareness about Binchester.

“Our first priorities are to secure the site for the winter, work with Durham County Council and English Heritage to help shape Binchester’s future and to start pulling together plans to ensure the Roman remains continue to be available for archaeologists and the public to enjoy for generations to come.”

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  23 Sept 2014

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Grandmother swears like a trooper after stroke changes her personality

Prim pensioner Pat Preston swears like a trooper for the first time in her life after waking from a stroke with a changed personality.

Grandmother Pat, 65, has shocked her husband, Michael by turning the air blue with a stream four-letter words in front of her doctor; has sworn in the presence of friends; and has been known to call her grandchildren “little b****s” since suffering a stroke in January.

It is a complete departure from the type of language the retired bank customer service advisor would have used in the past and she even has a ‘swear box’ she adds money to after using inappropriate words.

Pat, of Whickham, Gateshead, said:

“Before I had a stroke I would still get annoyed at things but I could control my upset, however now I just can’t help it. I can swear during conversations and a couple of weeks ago my grandchildren were playing up and I called them ‘little b*****s’.

“My husband gets annoyed because he’s a retired headteacher and gets horrified sometimes at what I say. I can get a little nervous too about what language I might use.

“If something really annoys me I am not able to keep my thoughts to myself and I’m quite outspoken. If I go into a shop and don’t like how the assistants are reacting to me or even someone else I will say so.

“I was not aware that a stroke could affect someone in this way and change their personality. My close family and friends still can’t quite accept that I’ve had a stroke.”

Pat, who also has the condition Lupus, had just enjoyed a weekend of birthday celebrations in January and was in the MetroCentre when she began to feel unwell with a headache, sweating and feeling faint as she got new glasses fitted.

She immediately called her husband but she could not get her words out and it was clear that all was not right. Yet it was not until she got home and was unable to move her legs to get out the car that the emergency services were called.

Pat was taken to Gateshead’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital where she was assessed and treated by specialists. She remained in the combined stroke unit for more than six weeks and now requires the assistance of walking aids to get around, and her home has been adapted to her needs.

I would be telling lies if I said that there is not a time each day that I don’t think about what happened and the impact it’s had on my life,” explained Pat.

But I have to accept what has happened and move forward the best that I can as you only get one life. I am about 75% back to what I was like before the stroke. I feel very lucky that I can carry on with my life as I am and you have got to see the funny side of things or it would get you down.”

Pat is receiving help from psychologists to come to terms with the changes in her life and has been able to regain movement to her affected left side thanks to working with occupational therapists.

Specialist stroke nurse Marie Twentyman, who works at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, said:

Patients can have a change of personality following a stroke. Sometimes words get mixed up in the brain and vocabulary that would not normally be used by a patients is.

“Stroke affects everyone differently. When Pat was on the ward you could see that she would become frustrated as she had been so independent before, and it was when she became tired and frustrated that she would use language that she would not normally have used.

“It is very important that if anyone is suspected to have suffered a stroke that they seek medical treatment quickly so that treatment can be given as soon as possible.”

Source – Newcastle Journal,  23 Sept 2014

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Eagle Owl spotted in Wallsend

Eagle Owl spotted in Wallsend garden

A rare Eagle Owl was spotted perching on a roof in Wallsend, North East England.

Garry Smith saw the bird in his garden on Monday lunchtime.

The eagle owl is one of the largest species of the bird and can have a wingspan of up to 74 inches.

It is regarded as one of the most ferocious birds , known to be intolerant of sharing their territory with other birds of prey and owls.

They are known to hunt rabbits and pheasants, but little is known about what else they eat in Britain.

It is not considered a British species as it is a danger to some of the country’s own birds of prey, such as Hen Harriers. Despite that, it remains a protected wild bird.

Garry warned his neighbour not to let his cats out while the bird was in the garden, but said it flew away after someone nearby began made a loud noise.

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  23 Sept 2014

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Marsden White Horse revamp ‘leaves a bad taste’

COUNCIL bosses have been challenged over the future upkeep of a historic local landmark.

South Tyneside Council came under fire after it restored the White Horse, which was painted on the rocks at Marsden Craggs in the 19th century – but decided did not to tell anyone about the revamp.

Now local resident Kevin Flett is demanding to know who is going to going to look after the iconic landmark which he and other people in the community had been taking care of over the years.

Council bosses say they want to work with local people to maintain the site.

Mr Flett said:

“The way it was handled has left quite a bad taste in the mouths of those of us who have been looking after the horse for a number of years now.

“We have all worked hard to maintain the area, seeking donations of paint and going on a regular basis to remove graffiti.

“Then along comes the council who just disregard everything we have done.

“They have managed to get rid of all the layers of history which had culminated over the years. You are never going to get that back.

“I know people who have volunteered their time to look after such an important part of the history of South Shields, but are very much reluctant to stay involved now the council has just steamrollered ahead with this.

“There has been no consultation about any of this work, and I would like to know now if the council are going to taking care of the upkeep of The White Horse in the future.”

Residents are also concerned that the work involved the entire crag face being scoured and that the horse is not so easily seen.

The background limestone turned black over the centuries – creating a stark contrast with the white horse. It is now a white horse on a light grey background.

South Tyneside Council said the work is being paid for with cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and it did not publicise it to combat potential vandalism.

The council insists the work was carried out to restore the White Horse “to its former glory”.

A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said:

“The White Horse is a landmark of significant local interest which holds a special place in the hearts of the people of South Tyneside.

“We have spoken to the community group, and a countryside officer will be meeting with them in the next few weeks.

“We would like to work with them, and any other interested groups, to agree a co-ordinated approach to protect and enhance the area of the Marsden Old Quarry Local Nature Reserve for both local people and visitors.

“We are carrying out further work in the area, such as repairs to fencing and litter picks.

“Any volunteers who would like to help to preserve the area are asked to contact the council. “

Source – Shields Gazette, 18 Sept 2014

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Marsden White Horse – local council under fire over revamp of landmark

2013_0925sept0016

Council bosses have come under under fire after leaving residents scratching their heads over the revamp of a South Tyneside landmark.

People were stunned last week when the White Horse, which has been painted on the rocks at Marsden Craggs since  the 19th century, disappeared.

It later emerged that the landmark was being restored by South Tyneside Council – which had decided not to tell anyone about the revamp.

The painting is thought to date back to at least 1887, and has regularly been repainted and cared for by local people.

Janice Collinson, 59, from Buckingham Close, Whitburn, said:

“I saw the horse had gone, and I was very shocked. I was just sad.

“It is such an iconic symbol of South Shields and I think it is a shame the community wasn’t consulted.”

South Tyneside Council says the work is being paid for with cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund and it did not publicise it to combat potential vandalism.

The council insists the work was carried out to restore the White Horse “to its former glory”.

A spokesperson said:

“We are delighted to have been able to secure funding from Limestone Landscapes partnership – a project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund – to have the White Horse re-painted.

“The restoration involved the removal of the existing paint and graffiti. Work started on Monday using a needle gun to remove the paint.

“The removal of the paint was completed yesterday.

“The horse has been repainted by a qualified artist, who works as a sign-writer for South Tyneside Homes and is the same man who has repainted it in the past.

“The council didn’t want to highlight the proposed works, as this may have attracted additional graffiti, which would have delayed the restoration.”

Some residents are still concerned that the history surrounding the painting has been ignored – and have vowed to examine the new version closely to make sure it is up to standard.

Jim Robertson, 65, from Boldon Colliery, said:

“It was repainted about a year ago. In the past, the people have over-painted so you could see the layers of paint and the history of it.

“What this council seem to do very well is wipe history away like it never existed. There is now no way you can see the history behind it, as there will be just one layer of paint.

“I am disappointed. In my opinion it was totally unnecessary.

“There was no consultation about this whatsoever, and I think it has been handled very badly.

“I will be comparing photographs to see how the new one compares to the old one.”

Source – Shields Gazette, 13 Sept 2014

By coincidence I was in the vicinity a couple of days before the story broke and, as I usually do, payed a visit to the White Horse. Work had evidently started, tools were lying around, but no-one was in attendence. To be fair, they were probably on their lunch break.

I took this photo –

2014_0913sept0016

The workmen appear to have removed the black painted background and retouched the Horse, which is now white on natural limestone – not the greatest of contrasts.

This secretive revamping seems to have got a lot of backs up – I wouldn’t be particularly suprised if at some stage the black background  reappears, no doubt the work of fairies.

Of course, the Horse does change from time to time. Here’s a photo I took…well, its undated, but I think probably in the 1990s –

Marsden White Horse4

For more on the history of the Marsden White Horse, see –

http://spiritofplace.weebly.com/marsden-white-horse.html

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