A Day Off

Tempting though it was for me to return to Whixall Moss for a second go at snapping the celebrity White-faced Darters (Leucorrhinia dubia), I decided to try a little alternative entertainment – revisiting life before Odos, as it were. Besides, I’ve tried revisiting sites on days following first trips before and found them to be potentially quite lacking. The first day at a new site is always the most interesting. Maybe you can have too much of a good thing.

_MG_0303We headed first into Shrewsbury, which was my first visit. I know more about the geography of France than I do my own country so I hadn’t initially realized that Shrewsbury was on the River Severn. In fact, it’s almost an island created by a large, wandering loop of a very meandering river. As a non-shopaholic, I tend to term anything as “just another town” [major exception: Luton, which sucks big time]. Shrewsbury, though, was noticeably quite pleasant with a park beside the Severn, complete with some kind of festival going on. Shrewsbury’s main claim to fame is as the birthplace of the eminent Charles Darwin, who is rather difficult to escape, not that I’d want to. Darwin’s memorial sculpture, Quantum Leap, I found the most interesting part of the visit. (Now there’s a thing – I don’t usually do art, either.)

_MG_0334 First fllagsLunch back chez Guillaume on his campsite revealed a disturbing trend which I can only describe as competitive flag flying. Above one caravan behind Guillaume, had been fluttering three sizable flags, flying quite high on almost whip/fishing rod-like poles which I imagine were carbon fibre. A curious practice, I thought. A neighbouring van was also flying the leftmost of these flags which, courtesy of last September’s trip to Scotland and the north-east of England, I recognised as being that of Northumberland. The other two were problematic; enter Wikipedia and 3G smart phones. The lower flag is that of County Durham whilst the upper flag is that of Durham City. Talk about making a point. Strewth!

_MG_0343 Second flagsTwo further flags, fluttering from a similar rod/pole, had now sprouted up above another van neighbouring these two. Even I can recognize the red cross of St George for England and the red rose looked like it was going to be one of Yorkshire/Lancashire (I never can remember which is which). It turns out to be one of the flags, the white flag, of Lancashire, though the “official” ground colour appears to be yellow. I was expecting a skirmish to break out over the intervening territory any minute.

As someone who dislikes all forms of nationalism, never mind regionalism, I find this practice bizarre at best. In truth, everyone seemed very friendly, it’s just a bit odd.

_MG_0315 Haughmond AbbeyAbout two miles away across some fields, lay the ruins of Haughmond Abbey (pronounced “haymond”, apparently). Oh joy, another pile of old stones. 😀 Anyway, it seemed like a reasonable destination for a walk in the afternoon sun. We made our way through several flocks of sheep with their almost-ready-for-the-freezer lambs, past a small dragonfly pond in a farmer’s field, and arrived, as one might hope, without mishap.

_MG_0317 Unusually friendly lambThe last flock of sheep proved more interesting than is normal with flocks of sheep. You know how farm animals tend to approach walkers to within a certain notionally safe (to them) distance and stare with apparent curiosity, only to run away if said walker then makes any move to get closer? Well, as Franco was scaling the last stile, two almost-ready-for-the-freezer lambs ran towards him bleating.  I expected them to stop short, as usual, but they kept coming. They then began nuzzling my trousers. One even thrust its head between my legs, then raised its head skywards as if looking for somewhere to suckle. A proffered finger was duly nibbled and sucked. Cute! Since they did not appear to be attached to any ewe, we wondered if this abnormally forward behaviour was due to their having been bottle fed. Perhaps their mother had not survived giving birth. We’d certainly witnessed that kind of problem chez Luc and Nadine in Fanjeaux during our lambing trip in 2009.

The walk back produced another two Odo ponds so I just had to note the species in order to submit records to the Shropshire county recorder. When I did, she got quite excited. It appears that the Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) we’d seen at the flooded quarry on our campsite was a first for that site. Fortunately I had photographic evidence so she was more than satisfied. Very gratifying.

_MG_0244 Rape fieldsThis campsite being on top of an old hill fort, it is well positioned for vistas across the surrounding countryside. One view in particular appealed to the landscape photographer in Francine. I can see why.

Well, almost a day off. 😀

Posted in 2013 Shropshire

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