Tuesday 1 April 2008

At the third stroke it will be...

During last week we spent four days out and about in the Midlands and Hertfordshire. Off we, and Olivia and her boyfriend Robert (following on behind in her car) went up the jolly old M5 on Easter Monday afternoon, via Tropiquaria, to stay in Birmingham for one night - near Shirley so that Jon could look around the aquatic shop there. We were basically on the hunt for creatures to add to the zoo’s collection.

Olivia and Robert went off back to Stamford on Tuesday morning while Jon and I visited the shop, and then it was off across to Rutland to visit my mum in Oakham. We took her out to dinner at Barnsdale Lodge and all of us made a mental note to return there during the summer months so that we can take advantage of the view from the restaurant window. Barnsdale is a complex just outside Oakham that sits on a hill overlooking Rutland Water. It is made up of time-share chalets and boasts an indoor swimming pool and gym amongst other modern-day luxuries if you are inclined to be up to that kind of thing! Originally called Empingham Reservoir, Rutland Water was constructed in the 1970s and was originally intended to supply water to the East Midlands. It now offers many activities – sport, leisure and wildlife conservation (Rutland Water Nature Reserve). It has become a well-known bird watchers’ paradise and since around 1999 it has become a successful breeding site of the osprey. I was lucky enough to espy one through my binoculars on a visit there a few year’s back. http://www.rutlandwater.org.uk/

The necessary flooding of the lower land to create Rutland Water in 1976 caused Nether Hambleton (known as the ‘lost village’) to be deserted and left under the water. It has been shown by excavation to have once been a sizeable medieval settlement. The construction of the reservoir left Upper Hambleton and part of Middle Hambleton – now known together just as Hambleton (meaning ‘the settlement’ (tun) ‘on the crooked hill’ (Hamble)), which is situated on the Hambleton Peninsula surrounded on three sides by Rutland Water. Hambleton has a history pre-dating the Domesday Book and is thought to have once been the capital of the Anglo Saxon Kings of Rutland. According to the 1086 entry in the Domesday Book, it boasted a population of 750 – with 3 priests, 3 churches, a mill and 45 ploughs at work!

But enough of the history lesson, which although it may intrigue me, may well not be everyone’s cup of tea.

So ….we took my mum back to her flat and had intended to move on to our digs in the local Travelodge, but after chatting until gone 3.00 am we thought we may as well stay put and slept on her sofa bed instead.

Wednesday it was off down the A1 to Hatfield to visit Shosh with eggs and presents (it had been her birthday on Easter Sunday) and to look around some more fish and reptile establishments. Ameyzoo is an intriguing little place in the small town of Bovingdon, about half an hour away from Hatfield, run by Mark and Siouxsie Amey. They have some wonderful reptiles and amphibians in there and we reserved a pair of Madagascan painted lizards and a white throated monitor that we would pick up on Thursday on our way back home.

On Thursday we went off to Crews Hill to potter about the various stores there and bought some fish for the aquarium at Tropiquaria – 4 baby whale mormyrids, 2 giraffe cichlids, and 2 African pike. Jon also got himself a pair of gambusia, which he is ‘over the moon’ about, but must be a couple of the most ordinary looking fish I have ever seen. The female is about four times as big as the male (poor sod) and there is nothing very out-of-the-ordinary about them at all. But he likes them – bless.

We had a bit of a rush visit with Shosh, and dragged the poor girl around with us whilst on our shopping trip and all too soon it became time to say goodbye to her and to think about the return journey home across country, via the zoo to drop off their new residents. It was a bit disappointing to learn, on our return to Ameyzoo to collect the aforementioned creatures, that we could not take the white throated monitor after all as we, nor they, had a container suitably strong enough to transport it. Hmmm – what is this creature? A baby Godzilla? With the threat of it bursting from its confines as we sped down the motorway, and launching itself at my jugular, you could say I was glad that we didn’t have a suitable box. So we had to leave that one behind on the promise that we would return in the, not too distant, future with a suitable box (and perhaps with us wearing extremely tough protective clothing – you know …. just in case).

It was a bit nerve-wracking driving back with all those live animals under our care on the back seat of the car, but we, and they, all got back to Tropiquaria in one piece, and apart from one of the whale mormyrids (which died a couple of days later) are all still fit and healthy in their new homes.

We got back to CFZHQ at around 3.15 am, slightly exhausted to say the least! And, since then, I have been trying to catch up on work and Jon has been laid low for a few days with a bad cold. He has, since, all but recovered and has managed to finish the seventh On the Track which is now up on YouTube.

Amusingly, altering the clocks caught me out at the weekend – I had no idea it was that time of year again! I went downstairs to get a drink and came back up at 1.05 to notice that my computer said 2.05. Hmm, I thought, my computer is playing silly devils again. Then it clicked. D’oh.

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