I could not let my first attempts at blog entries pass without mentioning our visit to High Wycombe last Wednesday afternoon. I first met Graham and Janice Smith last year at the British Tarantula Society [BTS] fair in Birmingham. They very kindly gave me my dear Matilda, a praying mantis, who sadly died last month. She was a wonderful creature and, for a praying mantis, a very well-travelled one also! On several occasions she accompanied me on the train, or in my car (seat-belted in of course) on my visits back and forth to Devon and chomped her merry way through various delicious morsels of flies - much to the disgust of my youngest daughter, Olivia, and interest of her elder sister, Shosh (you can tell by that comment, perhaps, which one is studying vet med!).
So.......Graham and Janice live on the outskirts of town in their own peaceful haven of nature. Their back garden is amazing and bursting with trees and shrubs, all inter-twining together and creating a calming oasis away from the hub-bub of modern living.
After sitting in the sun on the patio for a while - chatting and watching a robin frequently coming down to take the food left out for him (and demanding more when that had run out) - we moved to the shady area at the bottom of the garden to cool down a bit and discuss future exciting plans in detail. A red kite flew overhead. Living near Fineshade and Wakerley Woods in Northamptonshire, and driving past them frequently on my way to Devon, I have often seen red kites flying in the skies above, but to see them so near urbanisation was amazing.
Then to their bug-house. Graham describes this as very 'Heath Robinson' and it is absolutely heaving with mantids, beetles, cockroaches, stick insects, spiders and frogs etc. A fascinating collection of beasties of varying shapes and sizes. Graham and Janice are both passionate about what they do and it shows. They also happen to be lovely people.
That evening, whilst digesting a splendid Indian take-away, we all sat on their patio and eagerly awaited the arrival of a special visitor. He did not let us down and sure enough, from out of the darkness, he trundled up the garden to tuck into Janice's specially prepared peanut butter sandwiches. I have, many times, seen unfortunate badgers at the side of our roads, but this was the first time I have seen one in the wild. It was an experience not to be forgotten - such a wonderful creature.
Thanks very much, you two, for a wonderful afternoon and evening.