Monday, 15 August 2011

Welcome to Parley Court Farm

Justify FullI consider 19 hours far too long to be at home, so under an overcast sky, already dropping some light rain, it was to the Portland Bird Observatory to pay my respects before heading off to East Dorset.

On the way I stopped off to take my first look at the now completed, and active, new Weymouth Fire Station, and have to admit it looks mighty impressive.

That done, it was time to commit the next 10 days to dear friends first stop being at Parley Court Farm, close to Christchurch, Dorset.

A veritable wonderland of things to see and do, much of which I hope to bring to the readership during my short 2 days stay.

Not the Dovecote, but why use the Dovecote when there are outbuildings available.

Harbins Farm House, is home of Hugh & Janet Dampney + Family and unarguably the best Restaurant and Wine Bar hereabouts. After the pleasantries the next priority was to have a wander around the property, which is many things as well as a farm and ever changing, to see what improvements had been made since my last visit.

The vegetation around the main Parley Pond at this time of year just about blocks out the view, but I did notice the new addition of a 'shingle beach'.

Coots and Moorhens seem to have fared well in the breeding stakes here, but nowhere near that of the local Mallards which, until my arrival, had been content dabbling in the margins.

One look at me and they were gone. I have that sort trouble with all the girls.

Another thing immediately noticeable was the reduction in numbers of the 'gaggle' of Farmyard Geese from the original 9 to 3.

The Turf Fields also looked a little dried out, not surprising given the weather, but

what appeared to be Field Mushrooms are prolific and all over the place. I'm calling them Mushrooms and if they are perhaps Hugh should consider cultivating these, but I'm certainly not going to try one. I'll leave that to the Fungal Punk!

In the subsidiary pond across the track the Water Lilies seem to have done well, but there was little sign of the Goldfish which once used to dwell here in almost plague proportions. That is hardly surprising, as an Otter was seen leaving the pond just last month, while a second was found just over the hedge a victim of road kill'.

Other birds, both expected and seen, were this Collared Dove, probably 'hundreds' of Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Kestrel, Black-headed Gull, a single Common Buzzard, many dozens of Swallows and House Martins while a Green Woodpecker was heard some distance away, but remained unseen.

A Robin was feeding on the manor House lawn and wall,

as quite a few 'young' Pied Wagtail were content with what they were finding among the turf.

It would seem the Gamekeeper has also been busy, as the pens were full of these anaemic looking juvenile Pheasants, probably contemplating their fate?

The miles of hedgerows looked particularly Autumnal, as Sloes, the fruit of the Blackthorn, were ripe to bursting and

the berries of the Hawthorn were 'red as', umm dare I say, 'a Berry'.

They, the hedges that is, were full of vocal and flighty Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers as the odd cheeky Whitethroat put in brief appearances before heading off to the depths of the bush.

The baby Moorhens were prepared to put in a short appearance at Mrs Dampney seniors pond,

while the herd of Simmental cattle take no 'snapping' at all.

As I headed back towards the house the Starling pre-roost had started to gather

between short sorties to take a final feed in the fields.

Back to the Parley Pond, where unusually the only Mute Swan to be seen, and

equally unusual was to see it was not 'ringed'. Will have to call the Swan Uppers in!

Finally, having received a number of photographs from Deborah Tessier, it seemed something of a waste simple to consign them to the archive, so here are a few for your enjoyment. They were taken during an Observatory vacation by all participants except for myself. A fantastic time was had by all.

Katie, Gill & Dave (The Fungal Punk) Higginson Tranter, Simon Earwicker, Moi with the studious John Lucas

A chance to put the Fungal Punk right on our recent 'Master Class' Yea alright!

Me, Patsy, Katie, Gill, Simon & El Punk on the West Cliff, Portland

Deborah Tessier & Simon Earwicker

Roll Up, Roll Up get your Tombola Tickets here!

There's A Seven Forty Seven Coming Out of the Night - Saxson

As far as long haul is concerned my trip home was more or less without a hitch, and a great story to relate, and while not wishing to sound like a UK basher, it's only when you reach Heathrow that everything turns to 'rat sh*t'. OK, not having checked in on-line I had to run the gauntlet with the airline 'check- in clerk' who would not be moved regarding consigning my (wheely) back pack to the hold, I don't remember ever having my luggage taken from me on any flight before except in Tokyo when they wouldn't allow my tripod in the cabin. Re-jigging my bag I returned to check-in to find a different lady who was equally determined that the bag was heading for the hold, but did placate me by seating me at a window at the emergency exit. These days seats with much more leg room command an extra tariff, in this instance Aus$ 160 (£102 GB), but there was no charge on this occasion.

Boeing 747

You may find this part of the story interesting enough not to skip?

The 8 hour leg Sydney to Bangkok was a dream with exceptional service from the cabin crew, decent food, a drop of wine and no delays but most importantly no need to remove our belonging when the plane was cleaned and re-crewed in Bangkok unlike the outbound journey. That done, we re-boarded to be met by an announcement from the Captain saying there had been a fuel spill resulting in a short delay, but by this time I had switched off and simply waited to go. However, with close on 350 passengers onboard there was the inevitable mutterings, but that was when one of the male cabin crew singled me out (reason not known), crouched in front of me and simply enquire "do you drink wine sir"? Many of you will know the answer to that, as he went on to ask if I had a preference of grape variety. For easy drinking I told him that Merlot would be a choice, but in recent years I had graduated closer to Malbec due to the time I have spent in Argentina. "Unfortunately we don't have either of those, so would you like a Shiraz or a Cabinet"? Either would be fine, and he headed off towards the front of the aircraft. By this time the passengers around me were looking a little miffed, but even more so when he returned with not one but two 'proper' wine glasses announcing that as I couldn't make my mind up he had brought me both and asking my opinion of them later in the flight.

About 2 hours from London I discussed the merits of each of the wines with him, my closing remark being "I would be happy to have a case of each in my cellar (aka 'under the stairs')". He then returned to his duties but just before landing he appeared again clutching a bag containing the 2 bottles pictured above, as a parting gift. I'm certainly looking forward to my next flight, and of course sampling the above.

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PS - There will be no time for 'resting on Laurals' as my Next Adventure commences TOMORROW