Monthly Archives: January 2017

The Flying Scotsman Comes Home

The legendary locomotive, Flying Scotsman, was built in Doncaster for the London and North Eastern Railway. Work was completed in 1923. Whilst in service the Flying Scotsman hauled the train of the same name between London and Edinburgh, and it quickly became famous. It was also a record breaker: the first locomotive to run non-stop between London and Edinburgh, and the first locomotive to reach 100 mph in the UK.

The Flying Scotsman remained in service until 1963, when it was retired by British Rail. Between 1963 and 2004, the engine was in private ownership. It toured the US and Australia, but the occasional financial crisis put the Flying Scotsman at risk. One owner went bankrupt and the locomotive was stranded in the US for a number of years.

In 2004 the National Railway Museum, based in York, headed up a campaign to raise funds to buy the Flying Scotsman and preserve it for the nation. In 2006 a £4.2 million restoration process began, designed to restore it to full-time working order.

The restoration programme was completed in 2015 and, following tests, was once again licensed to run on UK mainline railways. The Flying Scotsman is now based in York, but spends much of its time running excursions round the country.

The Flying Scotsman finally came home to York February 25th 2015, and by a stroke of good luck I just happened to be in York with my camera at the time. A large crowd greeted the locomotive as it pulled into York station, before being moved to a siding at the National Railway Museum for the official greeting ceremony.

It was a grey and chilly day, but I managed to get some decent photographs, despite the crowds.   Fortunately I had a long zoom lens on my camera that day, and most of the photographs were taken with my camera held above my head.

It was quite moving to see the locomotive pulling into the museum siding: I think steam railways are in my blood. My grandfather was a railway signalman, and my father started his working life as a railway engineer. I’ve also unearthed some more railway workers in my family, so I’ve got family connections to the railway going back at least 150 years.

In truth there’s not much of the original Flying Scotsman left, most of it having been replaced in various refits and repairs. But that’s not the point: what’s more important is the fact that it lives in people’s memory as a powerful reminder of the past.

Enjoy the photographs!

A packed welcome

There was a big crowd to welcome the Scotsman back to York. I’m so glad I had a long zoom lens with me.

Flying Scotsman Crew

The crew of the Flying Scotsman, resting after bringing it into York. It just goes to show that steam trains aren’t just for old men!

Piped Home

What better way of welcoming a Scotsman home!

Speech Time

There were speeches of course. The woman in the red dress is Mary Archer. I don’t know what she was looking for: maybe Jeffrey’s done a runner!

Splendid Isolation

A lucky picture of the Scotsman without the crowds.

Flying Scotsman Chimney

The Scotsman’s chimney and smoke box, not long after it pulled into York. Like the rest of the engine, the paintwork is pristine.

Flying Scotsman's Front End.

A night shot of the Flying Scotsman’s smokebox door. Close up it’s like a resting giant.

Scotsman By Night

When everyone had gone home I had the Scotsman pretty much to myself. At night it was even more imposing and magnificent than in the day-time.

 

Happy Accident

Some of the best things that happen to me are often unplanned. Last February, Liz and I were travelling to York to pick up a new car, and I just happened to have my camera with me. We were listening to the local radio station, which was reporting the return of the legendary steam engine, The Flying Scotsman, to the National Railway Museum in York, after a £4.2 million refit.

I don’t know why I’d taken my camera with me, but it just seemed too good a chance to miss. So, after picking up the new car, Liz dropped me off in York. I arrived at the museum just in time to watch The Flying Scotsman pull into the sidings. This week’s photo-essay is about that day.

There’s something thrilling about seeing one of the great steam engines close up. It just shows that it’s always a good idea to carry a camera around: you never know when you might bump into something interesting.

I hope you enjoyed reading about Jack last week. Quite a few people recognised him and the pub he drank in. That’s probably because there’s a Jack sat at every bar in almost every pub. That’s the great thing about pubs: if you sit around in them long enough, you meet all sorts of people.

Next week, it’s book review time, but I hope you enjoy the pictures of the Flying Scotsman, let me know what you think.

Jack

‘Nobody’s been married longer than me. Nobody.’

Jack hit the bar of the Miners Arms with his open hand, sending bitter slopping over the top of his glass. He picked up the pint and drank half of it down without swallowing, while the other drinkers standing close by eyed him warily. They’d suffered his ‘marriage’ routine at least twice a week for years and didn’t want to hear it again. But the Landlord, who enjoyed winding Jack up, couldn’t resist.

‘How long have you been married then?,’ he asked.

‘Twenty eight years and every one of the buggers counts as double.’

Only Jack laughed at the joke, while everyone else smiled wearily. No one would be able to stop Jack now he was on his favourite topic.

‘I deserve a medal, I do,’ Jack said bitterly. ‘Nobody’s put up with what I’ve had to put up with. That’s for sure.’

‘And what was that?’

‘Oh please don’t,’ moaned one of the regulars as the Landlord stoked Jack’s fires.

‘Neglect lad, sheer bloody neglect on a grand scale,’ Jack replied, pointing to his substantial beer belly as evidence. ‘I don’t know how I’ve managed to keep body and soul going. I’ve worked damn hard all my life and she’s had it all. I can barely afford the pennies for a pint every now and again. I’ve been mistreated and no mistake.’

‘T’other way round, if you ask me,’ muttered Pam, the landlord’s wife, who was busy stacking soft drinks behind the bar.

Pam’s judgement of the customers was harsher than her husband’s: he liked to keep his regulars happy and spending money.

‘What do you mean?’ Jack asked.

‘From what I’ve seen it’s your Sheila that’s had to do most of the putting up’

‘I don’t get it,’ said Jack.

‘Well,’ said Pam, ‘how many nights have you spent in here? Plenty. And how many times have you ever brought Sheila in? None, that’s how many.’

‘She won’t come to pubs, ‘cos she’s allergic to beer,’ Jack pleaded.

‘Not allowed in you mean. You wouldn’t want her in here to see you carrying on with other women.’

‘I don’t do carry on’s,’ said Jack indignantly. ‘I might like a little drink now and again, but I’ve never carried on with anybody.’

Jack finished his pint and handed his glass expectantly to the landlord, while he looked round his fellow drinkers for moral support. They all avoided his beery gaze: no one dared to side with Jack against the Landlord’s wife.

‘You tell me,’ he continued when a fresh pint was securely in his grasp, ‘you tell me when you’ve seen me carryin’ on in this pub?’

‘Well not recently, I must admit,’ said Pam, ‘but there was a time when you had a different woman in here every month.’

‘They weren’t women,’ said Jack defensively, ‘they were valued work colleagues. We came here for meetings, we weren’t carrying on.’

‘What, on Friday’s, with them dressed up for a night out? Rum meetings if you ask me.’

‘You’ve got it all wrong.’ Jack wagged a finger at Pam. ‘I’m as pure as the driven: the only thing I’ve pulled in years is my back.’

Jack drew on his new pint, and winked conspiratorially at the Landlord with a bloodshot and watery eye. A more sensible and sober man would have quit now, but Jack was stubborn and wouldn’t let things go.

‘But if you’re so sure of yourself,’ Jack continued, ‘how come you’ve never said anything to Sheila?’

‘As if she didn’t know already,’ said Pam ‘Besides, I’m not one to interfere when a man’s making a fool of himself.’

‘What do you mean a fool?’ asked Jack. I was entertaining people from work. They were new people; it was part of their induction.’

‘Rubbish. Most of them were barely out of school. I didn’t notice you bringing any middle-aged men in here for their “induction”. It looked bloody pathetic mostly.’

Jack and Pam glared at each other. The Landlord, realising he’d made a mistake, tried to ease the tension.

‘And if Sheila had found out she’d have stopped you coming in,’ he said. ‘Would have halved my profits.’

Everyone laughed, except Jack who stood there looking foolish.

‘Anyway, there’s nothing I can do about it now,’ remarked Pam ruefully. It’s ages since you dragged anyone in with you: you must be losing your touch lad.’

‘Losing my touch,’ said Jack, beginning to lose his temper, ‘I am not! It’s just that work’s…work’s different now, that’s all. Look, I’ve had enough of this, and if this is how you treat a valued customer I’ll go and drink somewhere where I won’t be insulted.’

‘You’re choice,’ said Pam, who’d heard this threat before.

‘Right, I’m going then. I don’t care if you beg me to stay. Mind you, I’d better have one more to steady myself before I go. And I’ll have a small whisky with it.’

It was late the next morning when Jack woke up. His head ached ferociously from the beer the night before, his eyes itched, and he was badly in need of something to drink. As far as he knew it was Saturday, but he couldn’t swear to it: the only thing he really knew was that he was in pain and felt sick.

Jack reached out across the bed, checking to see if Sheila was still there, but she was already up. This meant a few minutes grace where he could prepare himself to face the torments of the day ahead and try to piece together his memories of the night before. He half-remembered trudging aimlessly between pubs looking for anyone who’d sit and listen to him. Then he’d been refused entry to some trendy modern bar in town, but what happened after that was anybody’s guess.  Eventually Jack gave up trying to remember and decided that his hangover would be no worse if he got out of bed. He dragged himself upright and shambled into the bathroom where he spent a minute inspecting the image of a jowly, unshaven old man that presented himself in mirror every time he stood in front of it.  He considered shaving, but decided that this was a step too far for now, so he made do with splashing some cold water on his face, and running a  comb across his thinning hair.

Getting dressed took a while but eventually he managed it and, grasping on to the bannister for support, he made it downstairs. As he entered the kitchen, where he expected to be confronted by Sheila, he held his head very still in what he hoped was a natural looking position. The hangover hurt like hell, but he was damned if he was going to let her see it. Sheila was sat at the kitchen table, drinking tea and reading that morning’s edition of the Daily Mail. She briefly glanced up at him and brushed a strand of greying hair from her careworn face. Jack walked across the room to join her and as he sat down he prepared himself for her usual hard stare, which always managed to look both blank and frosty at the same time. Instead she smiled at him for the first time in months.

‘Sit down love,’ she said with only the slightest trace of animosity in her voice. ‘I’ve got you some breakfast ready.’

Thrown by this sudden and unexpected pleasantness, Jack drew a chair back from the table and did as he was told. He tilted his whole body downwards very slightly, to avoid having to move his head, and took in the state of the tabletop. It was completely transformed from the usual neglected state: the scratched wood was covered by a green and red checked tablecloth and Sheila had laid out cutlery and a serviette for him.

‘Thanks love,’ Jack’s voice betrayed just a hint of suspicion. ‘Is it a special occasion?

‘Not particularly,’ replied Sheila, ‘I just thought you’d appreciate something a bit different, that’s all.’

Jack’s stomach turned slightly at the prospect of food, but he wasn’t going to refuse a breakfast if it was on offer. And by the sight of the table it looked like it was going to be a good one. Not only was there cutlery, Sheila had put out his favourite sauce and there was a large tea mug waiting to be filled.

‘I’ve got most of it done already,’ said Sheila. ‘It’s been keeping warm in the oven so I just need to lay it out for you.’

She got up from the table and walked round behind Jack. He sat perfectly still for fear of making his hangover worse, while Sheila opened and closed the oven door.

‘Now are you sure you’re ready for this?’ She asked.

Jack nodded very slightly so, leaning over his shoulder, Sheila slammed a can of bitter, slightly warmed by the oven, right down in the middle of the immaculate place setting.

‘There you bastard’, she bellowed in his ear. ‘You like this so much I thought you’d want to carry on where you left off last night.’

Sheila came and sat back down at the table, her stare now restored to its usual place. But there was a challenge in her look too. Jack didn’t respond at first, but then wordlessly he picked up the can, jerked back the ring-pull and took a long swig. The tilting motion of his head and the taste of the tepid and tinny beer made him feel sick, but he was determined not to show it. When he’d drained the can Jack placed it carefully back on the table.

‘Thanks love’, he said with feigned relish, ‘my favourite. How did you know?’

Jack’s daredevil gesture gained him a few seconds of moral ascendancy while Sheila stood up and banged angrily round the kitchen. Then she came back and stood next to Jack, which forced him to look up at her, sending shooting pains down the back of his head.

‘Three this morning you came blundering into our room,’ she shouted hoarsely. ‘Do you think you could get home early just once in a while? Before midnight would be nice.’

‘What difference does it make to you?,’ asked Jack.

‘You stank of beer and then bloody well snored through the rest of the night. I’ve told you before, sleep in the other room.’

‘Buggered to see why I should’, grumbled Jack. ‘It’s my house too and I worked hard enough for it.’

Sheila leaned over Jack and shouted in his face.

‘Well if it’s your house why don’t you see to the drains? They’ve wanted clearing for weeks.’

‘I’ll do ‘em tomorrow’, Jack replied.

‘Earlier would be nice. Like tonight if you get home before midnight.’

‘Look, if tomorrow’s not good enough for you why don’t you get a man in?’

‘Might do’ mused Sheila. It’s the first time we’ll have had one in the house since our Peter left.’

Jack stood up and marched unsteadily to the back door, and took a jacket from the coat rack.

‘Right, that’s it,’ he said. ‘I’m off to work.’

‘On a Saturday. For God sake Jack. When are you going to stop…’

‘Enough.’ Shouted Jack, ‘it’s overtime isn’t it and better than doing nowt.’

‘And what time will you be home?’

‘Sometime. But why the sudden interest? You stopped asking years ago.’

‘You’ve got to take an interest in your loved ones. It says so in paper,’ Sheila said sarcastically as she pointed to the Daily Mail.

‘Don’t bother, the shock’ll kill me.

On his way to work Jack realised that walking out on arguments seemed to have become a habit of his. At this rate, he thought, I’ll have nowhere else to go but bloody work. It was quiet in the office, and Jack sank gratefully into his deeply padded leather chair. He closed his eyes with a sigh and let his hangover wash over him while throbbing pain, nausea and sleep fought over him. Sleep started to get the upper hand, but even then Jack was troubled by blurred and floating images of Sheila and Pam shouting at him about blocked drains and carrying on…

…’Where do you want these, Mr Goodall?’

‘Where do I want what love?’

‘It’s these invoices, Mr Goodall. Mr Jackson said you’d want to check them before they were paid.’

The girl stood in the doorway of his office and looked down at the papers in her hand. She was young and confident.

‘Oh them. Just put them over there on the corner of my desk.’

Jack looked appreciatively at the girl as she walked towards him and was forced to lean over his desk to put the invoices on the spot he’d pointed to.

‘You’re new here aren’t you?’ he asked.

‘Yes, Mr Goodall. I started on Monday.’

‘Look Jack’ll do when we’re on our own: Mr Goodall’s for when we’re in company. And what do they call you?’

The girl smiled and brushed a strand of straw coloured hair from her unblemished face.

‘They call me Sheila, Mr Goodall, Sheila Marsh.’

‘It’s Jack, remember. Well Sheila, has any one told you about the company induction programme?’

Sheila looked puzzled and shook her head.

‘Well,’ explained Jack, ‘it’s usual for a more senior member of staff to help new joiners to get to know their way around better. If you like I could help you.’

Jack ran his hand through his glossy hair and smiled a blue eyed winning smile, but Sheila shook her head again.

‘I don’t want to put you to too much trouble, Mr Goo.., er Jack, you look really busy.’

‘Now then Sheila, not too busy to help new talent settle in. Always help someone on the way up, that’s my motto. Besides, I expect Mr Jackson would expect it and we don’t want to disappoint him in your first week.’

‘Well if you’re really sure,’ Sheila said reluctantly. ‘Do I need to tell Mr Jackson?’

‘No, I’ll do that for you love. Now normally I like to meet new members of staff more informally to help them settle in. How would Friday after work suit?’

‘Oh no,’ said Sheila, looking really alarmed this time. ‘I’m not sure about that. Is it proper?’

‘It’s not only proper, it’s company policy.’

As Jack looked into the girl’s grey eyes, he knew he’d won. By hell, he thought, you’ve got the touch, Jack lad.

In the middle of a prolonged snore Jack woke up in his office. It was cold and getting dark and he’d slept away another short winter’s day. In the light filtering through the grimy windows, he could barely make out the tools hanging from the walls of the shed. His hangover had nearly gone, but he had a stiff neck from sleeping in the battered leather chair, the one he’d bought for the shed on the day after he’d been asked to leave work. Reluctantly he rose and stood in the doorway of the shed looking at his dimly lit house. For a few minutes he stood considering his choices: should he go and confront his future or his past?

‘Miners Arms or drains?’ he asked himself.

Sad or Bad?

This week’s short story offering is called Jack. I wrote this story as part of my creative writing course in 2009. The brief, if I remember rightly, was to write a story about an unsympathetic character from their point of view.

The inspiration for Jack is based on somebody I knew. In reality he was a bit of a rogue, although his heart was in the right place. When I was writing this story I had to work hard to tone down the pleasant parts of his character and emphasis the worst bits.

It’s quite tricky writing about someone you don’t particularly like, and I spent a long time trying to get the balance right. In the end I think he’s a sad and disillusioned man, rather than a bad one.

So even if you don’t end up liking Jack, I hope I’ve managed to portray some humanity in him, leavened with a bit of humour. Let me know what you think.

Other than editing Jack this week, I’ve been planning how to go about structuring the family history/book project. I want to try to go back at least eight generations, there’s three generations worth of us still alive today, and another five will get us safely back to the late eighteenth century. If we can research ten generations we could get back to the 1700’s which would be even better.

If we manage to unearth all the family records and limit the people we write about to the immediate family ten generations would take in at least 270 people. If we add siblings of people in the direct line, who knows.

I think there’ll be some adventures on the way, and I hope something worth writing about on this blog.

Next week’s post is a photo essay of the legendary steam engine, The Flying Scotsman. I was luck enough to see it return to York in February last year after a multimillion pound refit, and I got some good photographs.

Regards

Dave

Book Review: Viking Fire

Every Christmas my wife and I give each other books as presents. Mostly they’re one’s we’ve chosen for ourselves, but there’s always a surprise too. This year my wife gave me a novel: Viking Blood, by Justin Hill.

Viking Blood  is the story of the great Norse warrior and king, Harold Hardrada. Harold lived in the eleventh century and was known as the greatest warrior of his age. His story is a fascinating and epic one. Forced to flee Norway after the death of his brother, King Olaf, at the battle of Stiklestad, Harold is exiled for almost twenty years. His adventures take him through Sweden and Russia, and finally to the great city of Constantinople.  Here he ends up in the famed Varangian Guard, at the service of the Byzantine Empire.

Eventually Harold gathers about him a band of warriors and enough treasure to return to Norway and make a successful bid for the kingship. After many years as King of Norway, Harold takes one last gamble and, invades England. Although initially successful, Harold is finally killed at the Battle of Stamford Bridge near York, in 1066. The story is fascinating in itself, but also adds an extra dimension to the story of events surrounding the Norman Conquest of England.

I was hooked by this novel from the outset and read all 380 pages in just over a day. So what makes it such a good book? For a start, it’s historically accurate. I find it a real turn off when an historical author gets the facts wrong or distorts them for effect, but Justin Hill isn’t guilty of this. It’s easy in a way, because Harold’s story is such an amazing one, that Hill doesn’t need to change the facts. But he also gets the detail right, which is what gives this book its feeling of realism.

Not only is the story accurate, but it’s also an epic one. Rather than focus on a narrow timeframe and location, Viking Fire takes in a great sweep of history. It  spans fifty years in many different locations. We tend to think that globalisation is a recent development, but this novel shows that early medieval society, although more limited than ours, still had an international dimension.

History tends to portray Harold as violent and barbaric: the stereotypical Viking. But by telling the story in Harold’s own words, Hill makes him a much more sympathetic character. He’s loyal to friends and family, pious, just, and compassionate. It’s true that Harold is still capable of violence, but it reflects the world he lives in. He’s neither unduly vindictive or gratuitous. Justin Hill does a very good job of portraying him as a decent man in a violent world.

Another aspect of the book that appeals to me is how Justin Hill portrays Harold as he ages. Harold starts off as an impulsive youth, and we see him as he matures into a fearsome warrior, a great leader of men and a wise king.  Towards the end of the story, a note of wistfulness is introduced as Harold contemplates his life, and the people he has lost. In the end Harold accepts his fate, and the portrayal of old age, (he’s only 53 when he dies, but that was old for the time), is very realistic.

The climax to the story takes place close to where I live now. At the end of the story Harold fights his two last battles, at Fulford, near York, and at Stamford Bridge, a few miles away. I know both places well and have walked over the battlefields, and this adds to my interest of the story.

If you want a realistic, well written, epic story. I’d strongly recommend  Viking Fire to you. It’s a fascinating book about a frequently overlooked character, and the fantastic, but true world he lived in.

Viking Fire is published by Little, Brown. I haven’t read any of Justin Hill’s other books yet, but he’s written another book set in eleventh century England, Shieldwall, and several about medieval china. He’s definitely an author I’ll read in the future.

Plans and Pints

This week I’m publishing a review of a book I received as a Christmas present, Viking Fire, by Justin Hill. It’s an exciting and epic novel set in the eleventh century, and a great read.

Now that the new year’s underway, life’s settling back into a routine again. This week I started to do some planning about the family history I mentioned in last week’s editorial. As usual, this involved a lot of sitting in front of a blank sheet of paper with a mug of tea. It might not look like I’m busy, but it helps to get the thoughts flowing. I love the start of projects: I start off with lots of unconnected bits of information, that gradually form themselves into a big picture. I get a lot of my ideas when walking the dog or sitting in the pub with a quiet pint, as if I need an excuse.

I’ve also been doing some planning for this blog and I’ve chosen the subjects for the next two months worth of posts.  I’m also trying to keep a week or two ahead of myself with posts, so I’m not rushing around at the last minute. That’s quite a challenge for me, as I’ve always worked right up to the deadline with projects. Actually though it’s a relief to take some of the pressure off.

Next week it’s story time again with a tale called Jack. As with a lot of my stories, there’s a germ of truth in it, and it draws on my past.

I hope you enjoy the review, and are tempted to read Viking Fire. If you like the review, don’t forget to share it with your friends.

Regards

Dave

Pond Life

On the edge of a small housing estate near where I live is a small nature reserve and pond. It’s one of my favourite places to walk with the dog in the morning.  Hundreds of people walk round the pond each day, but it never seems overcrowded, and I take hundreds of photographs there each year. The pond’s edges are mostly lined with reeds, and there are two magnificent willow trees too. The pond teems with birdlife: mostly ducks, moorhens and swans, but there are other visiting wild birds too.

I confess that I don’t like January and February: they just seem to be a cheerless slog.  If you dislike winter too, the selection of photographs in this essay might just cheer you up and point towards better months to come.

The Pond

Here’s the pond on a sunny day in March 2016. It’s still early in the year, but there are signs that spring isn’t too far away. In a few weeks it will be packed with wild birds, and there’s no shortage of people who want to feed them. In the height of summer a crowd of ducks, swans and moorhens will mob anyone who turns up with a stale loaf. Originally it was the mill pond for a corn mill: it’s still fed by the mill beck and drains into the River Derwent, so the water is always fresh and clear.

The Pond

Here’s a wide angle view of the pond. It’s fairly small as you can see, but teems with life all year round. A footpath runs round the perimeter, and I walk there most days.

Ducks

Noisy, argumentative and endearing: I can sit and watch the ducks all day. The duck population on the pond is mainly mallards, and there must be at least a hundred of them at the height of the summer. By and large the ducks live peacefully with each other, except for during the mating season when the drakes compete for a mate. The ducklings are normally the first birds to hatch on the pond, in spring: I love it when the first of them appear because I know summer’s on the way.

Ducks at Mating Time

Three of the dozens of ducks on the pond. Mating time’s always a contest between the drakes. One of these is going to lose out!

Ducklings

Here’s two of the dozens of ducklings that are reared on the pond each year. I love watching them grow up and learn to forage for food.

Moorhens

There are always several pairs of moorhens on the pond and they breed every year. When the chicks are very young they look just like small feathery balls. They are always on the move, scurrying round the pond’s edge and they have a distinctive call, which you can hear at night when all the other birds have settled down. They have huge feet, quite out of proportion to their bodies, but it makes them agile in the water, and they can outmanoeuvre the ducks when competing for bread.

Moorhens

Moorhens make me smile. They’re quite shy animals, ungainly on land, but always darting about busily on water. They spend most of their time amongst the reeds along the pond’s edge and rarely swim across the middle. They move around rapidly and they’re quite a challenge to photograph.

Moorhen Chick

Moorhens tend to stick close to the edges of ponds, where they forage for food amongst the reeds. The chicks are quite elusive, so I’m quite pleased with this picture.

A Quick Trip Ashore

Moorhens have the funniest walks of all the residents on the pond. These two have come onshore to forage for breadcrumbs. They’re definitely better swimmers than walkers.

Swans

It’s impossible not to be impressed by the swans. The same pair nest on the pond each year, and they are imposing, regal and graceful animals. Every year I follow their progress as they build their nest and lay the eggs. Sadly, I always seem to be away when the cygnets hatch, but hopefully this year I’ll be there to see them new born.

King and Queen of the Pond

A pair of swans nest on the pond each year. They are bird-life royalty, but live happily with all the other birds. They are imposing animals and will definitely warn you off with a hiss if you get too close. Fortunately they’re quite used to people, so are reasonably approachable.

Nesting Time

The swans build a nest in the same corner of the pond each year. It’s fascinating to watch them build it, and then carefully tend it afterwards. They’re quite imposing structures and solidly built and sited to give the swans protection from predators.

Counting the Eggs

Whilst they’re incubating their eggs the swans guard them carefully. It’s quite rare to get a view of the clutch of eggs.

Swan and Cygnets

It’s always a tense time waiting for the cygnets to hatch. These three must be about a week old, because for the first few days their down isn’t waterproof and they can’t swim. The swans laid nine eggs this year, sadly only three cygnets survived from the clutch.