Friday, 9 December 2011

Castles Made of Sand - Jimi Hendrix

and so Castles Made of Sand fall to the sea - eventually!

The almost continuous rain and high wind overnight gave way to calmer and drier condition before dawn, and as daylight broke all that remained was a broad, but threatening, band of dark cloud right across the Weymouth area. By the time I reached the cemetery, where there was just a single Mistle Thrush of note, this had pretty much cleared to the east leaving in its wake a sunny but somewhat colder day.

Radipole came up with this single male Wigeon, at great distance, while along with the regular Bearded Tits, Cetti's Warbler and Water Rail there were a few Meadow Pipits along with 2 Redwings over-flying, a Grey Wagtail, 6 Black-tailed Godwit and

this fairly obliging Reed Bunting.

Before leaving the Reserve and stood on the main bridge, I was nonplussed to see this female Tufted Duck with this 'contraption' attached to its bill.

Making tentative enquiries, it was thought to be of French origin but this was by no means a fact? I have never been against 'tagging' birds believing that even if there is a small trauma during the process, this is far outweighed by the information gleaned allowing appropriate conservation actions to result, but this seems ridiculous. I await further knowledge before making any rash statements!

A nearby male looked a little bemused (but then don't Tufted Ducks always look like that?)

and began 'roll preening' to show off his own leg adornment.

After a few more Mediterranean and Common Gulls I encountered this Lobster fisherman alongside the Inner Harbour, baiting his pots and discarding the offal overboard.

This brought about a meleƩ among the attendant Gulls,

and an ideal opportunity to fire off a few shots of this Great Black-backed Gull, one of the most adept and powerful of scavengers.

Almost from the inception of this Blog I have been meaning to bring these next 2 photos to the readership, but you know how it is - snow on the roof, nothing in the head! On close inspection, the reader will detect just below the left upper window a scar and a black dot in the stonework.

On closer inspection, it can be seen as a Cannonball that is lodged above the first floor window. It is said to date from the Civil War when the Royalists, who had captured the Weymouth side of the harbour, bombarded the Melcombe side which was held by the Parliamentarians. My Grandfather 'Scan' had a much better story to tell the 'captive audience' of his 4 grandchildren as we sat on the harbour wall sharing a bag of chips. His was of Pirates and Cut Throats raiding and looting the town, and being an Ol' Sea Dog himself who did we believe?

As the bus sped past Ferry Bridge there were once again several hundreds of Brent Geese on the foreshore, and by way of a change I opted to alight at the end of Wakeham at the top of Portland and about half way to the Bill. This area holds many treasures, and I can almost hear Deborah Tessier gasping in anticipation of what is to come next!

I doubt there is anyone alive now who can remember this building as anything else but The Mermaid Inn, a 'watering hole' of the very best before it became redundant and started falling into disrepair. Several months in the doing, it has now been rejuvenated into a fine 'town house', and lucky those who are going to live there say I.

A little further down the incline stands Avice's Cottage which houses the Portland Museum.

Founded by Dr Marie Stopes the famous birth control pioneer in 1929 and who gifted the cottages to the people of Portland in 1930. It is housed in two, 17th century, picturesque thatched Portland Stone cottages, nestling above Church Ope Cove. Inspired by one of these cottages, Wessex author, Thomas Hardy, made it the home of Avice, the heroine in "The Wellbeloved", one of his last novels. Apologies for the blurred photo, I was thinking of the times The Mermaid was thriving and couldn't stop my hand from shaking!

This is the afore mentioned Church Ope Cove a fine bathing beach, and what used to be a great area for 'spearfishing'. On my arrival a

female Blackcap emerged from the undergrowth, while just across the path I located a

Firecrest on call. One, if not 'the' favourite bird on the British List it is (along with the Goldcrest) the UK's smallest breeding bird but oh so striking.

As if to round off the 'hat-trick', there was also a Song Thrush, but none of these lingered to be photographed, these images being taken from the archive for illustration only.

Close by stands what remains of Rufus Castle, probably built for William II (called "Rufus" for his red hair). It is likely that the structure we see today was the keep of a larger castle. Little remains of that first castle, with the possible exception of the arch that spans the path from Church Ope Road.

In 1142 Robert, Earl of Gloucester, captured the castle from King Stephen on behalf of Empress Maud, and a license to rebuild was granted in 1258. The castle was rebuilt in the 15th century, and much of what remains dates from this time. The castle is constructed in the form of a pentagon, and the 7-foot-thick walls are pierced by numerous loop-holes meant to allow archers to fire upon attackers. This gives rise to the castle's alternative name; "Bow and Arrow" Castle.

Just a little closer! Next door,

was built by John Penn, grandson of the founder of the State of Pennsylvania, USA, using land given by his friend King George III. By 1800 Penn had spent £20,000 on his 'castle' and enclosed the land containing St Andrew's Church and Rufus Castle - much to the dismay and animosity of the local Portland people. In the same year King George III and Queen Charlotte visited the castle and enjoyed their 39th wedding anniversary in festive style.

Pennsylvania Castle. Note:- Portland does boasts a 'third' castle but that will have to wait for another day.

Looking back east along the coast.

A visit to see The Secret Lemonade Drinker was long overdue, but in doing so this morning there was the added bonus of seeing local business man and dignitary Dennis Fancy. I can tell you, there were a few wrongs put to rights around that table this morning.

and finally, a chance to survey the progress on the bridge building that will, when complete, join the two sections of the Rodwll Trail formally the Weymouth to Portland railway line. They seem to be managing very well without me!

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