Pensthorpe: Introduction

Introducing what will be a mini-series about the West Norfolk Autism Group visit to Pensthorpe Natural Park.

Yesterday saw a West Norfolk Autism Group excursion to Pensthorpe, a nature reserve combined with a working farm a few miles from Fakenham in Norfolk took place. This post introduces what will be a mini-series about the day as I experienced it. I will be doing specific posts about the varieties of ducks and geese on show, the flamingos and cranes, the discovery centre, the sculptures (probably these last two will share one post) and the Explorer trip. The gallery for this post will feature some introductory and general pictures.


Pensthorpe, which was a village until the 14th century when the black death accounted for so many of its inhabitants that the survivors had no option but to up sticks and move down the road to Fakenham, which was originally the smaller of the two places is now home to a nature reserve which is involved in a number of very important conservation efforts. There is also a working farm, and a lot of the electricity the site needs is generated by solar panels on the roofs of the farm buildings – for so big a site it has a tiny carbon footprint. I was booked on the 12:00 Explorer ride (and could also have had a place on the second ride an hour later, but the weather cool, though at least it stayed dry, so I settled for one trip. Otherwise between our arrival just before 10:30, and our departure, scheduled for 3:30PM it was entirely up to me how I spent the time.


Here to complete this introductory post are some photographs…

Watching The Metronomes In Action

An account of a day trip top Broxbourne to watch the Metronomes in action.

On Sunday the Metronomes, a cricket club who raise funds for charity and who I follow on twitter, were playing at Broxbourne and since that is close enough to me that I can get there and back in a day, even on the Sunday before a bank holiday Monday I decided to go and watch. This post describes the day from my point of view.


I arrived at King’s Lynn station in good time for the train I intended to catch, noting immediately that it was terminating at Ely, which meant a replacement bus service would be operating between Ely and Cambridge. Fortunately this did not materially affect the outward journey, and I arrived at Broxbourne at 13:16. The walk from the station to Broxbourne cricket club is short and scenic, much of it being within sight of the river Lea. Among the highlights were Canada Geese.


I found a seat with a decent view of the action, and ate my lunch and drank my bottle of water. Later I bought a good but seriously overpriced pint of beer. The opposition, the Three Graces batted first, and they did not fare especially well. During the innings break Mark Puttick, a keen statistician and part of the Metronomes introduced himself. Later, during the Metronomes response, their founder, Bex Coleman, also introduced herself. Mark had expressed his belief that Metronomes could chase down the total without needing him to bat, and that proved to be the case – a superb opening stand set them up, and there only ever looked like being one outcome. I left shortly after the handshakes, to ensure that I could get home at a sensible time.


The train from Broxbourne to Cambridge stopped at every station along the way, and I had a bit of a wait for the onward bus connection to Ely, and then a substantial wait at Ely for the train to King’s Lynn (fortunately the weather was very pleasant – Ely is a nice station, but in bad weather it is a horrible place to have to wait – the wind can be vicious in East Anglia and Ely is very exposed. I got home just before eight o’clock.

Australia Prewar XI

A look at Australia’s best test cricketers of 1877-1914 and a large photo gallery.

Having just finished a brief look at England men’s test cricket through the ages I now turn England’s oldest adversaries in international cricket, Australia. I start with the best players of 1877-1914 inclusive.


  1. Warren Bardsley (left handed opening batter). Until Don Bradman came along and blew all such records out of the water he had scored more FC centuries than any other Australian batter and more than half of those centuries were scored on tours of England (compare and contrast a left hander of much more recent vintage in David Warner). At the Oval in 1909 he became the first ever to score a century in each innings of a test match.
  2. Victor Trumper (right handed opening batter). One of cricket’s immortals. In the wet summer of 1902 he scored 2,570 FC runs for the tour including 11 centuries. In the Old Trafford test of that series, where an Australian win by three runs ensured that they kept the Ashes he reached a century before lunch on day one.
  3. *Billy Murdoch (right handed batter, captain). In 1880 at The Oval he won a sovereign from WG Grace by scoring 153* in Australia’s second innings to top the bearded Doctor’s 152 on the opening day of the match. Four years later at the same ground he scored test cricket’s first ever double century, 211.
  4. Clem Hill (left handed batter). Until Hobbs overhauled his tally he held the record for test career runs. He amassed eight test tons in total, including the only century of the only test ever played at Bramall Lane, Sheffield in 1902. He also had a unique sequence of near misses in the 1901-2 series, making 99, 98 and 97 in successive knocks.
  5. Charlie Macartney (right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner). He had only just begun his rise to the top before WWI, but did enough, including taking his one and only match haul of ten wickets, to claim his spot in the XI.
  6. George Giffen (right handed batter, off spinner). Australia’s first great all rounder. In the 1894-5 Ashes he scored 475 runs and claimed 34 wickets.
  7. +Jack Blackham (wicket keeper, right handed batter). The ‘Prince of Wicket Keepers’, and enough of a batter to have been the first keeper to score two fifties in the same test match. He played in each of the first 17 test matches ever contested, before missing one due a dispute over pay, and then returning and playing on until the 1894-5 Ashes.
  8. Hugh Trumble (off spinner, right handed batter). Good enough in his secondary department to have done the season’s double on the 1899 tour of England and to have been Australia’s highest individual scorer at The Oval in 1902. He took 141 test wickets all against England, including doing the hat trick twice in his career. His 141 wickets against England remained a record for almost eight decades after his retirement, until Dennis Lillee overtook him at Headingley in 1981.
  9. Fred ‘Demon’ Spofforth (right arm medium-fast). A master of changes of pace, he took the first ever test hat trick, and it was his bowling that won the 1882 match at The Oval that led to the creation of the Ashes.
  10. Charlie ‘Terror’ Turner (right arm medium fast). He succeeded Spofforth as leader of Australia’s attack, and reached the milestone of 100 test wickets in just 17 matches.
  11. Ernest Jones (right arm fast). Australia’s first authentic test match quick bowler. He once sent a ball through WG Grace’s beard. Like the later Harold Larwood of England he was a miner before establishing himself as a cricketer.

This side has a powerful top five, an all rounder at six, a keeper who could bat and four formidable front bowlers. The bowling is also very powerful, though it lacks either a left arm seam option or a leg spin option.


Charles Bannerman missed out on an opening slot partly because of being right handed – Trumper had to be picked and I felt that left handed Warren Bardsley was a better foil for him than Bannerman. Two other specialist batters who could not be accommodated were Joe Darling and Syd Gregory, the latter playing more test matches than anyone else whose entire career happened before WWI.

I could have got around the leg spin problem by naming Warwick Armstrong as the all rounder, but I felt that Giffen’s case was unanswerable. Monty Noble was the other candidate for the all rounder’s role and would have been a natural for the captaincy had I gone for him. Frank Tarrant never played test cricket, otherwise he would have been a shoo-in (England toyed with the idea of picking him based on his years at Middlesex but felt that such a move would cause problems with the Aussies, who don’t appear to have ever considered picking him).

There were two other keepers of the era of something approaching comparable stature to Blackham, Jim Kelly and Hanson Carter.

The nearest any left arm bowler who actually played for Australia came to claiming a place were Jack Ferris, Turner’s regular new ball partner, and Jack Saunders, but neither quite did enough.

Frank Laver and Albert ‘Tibby’ Cotter were right arm seam/ pace bowlers who came close.

Australia only had one specialist leg spinner of note before WWI, Herbert Hordern, and his career was brief.


My usual sign off…

Ireland’s Grand Slam

A brief look at Ireland’s achievement in the 2023 Six Nations.

Early yesterday evening the final curtain came down on the 2023 Six Nations rugby tournament. Ireland won a clear victory over England to complete a grand slam.


Ireland did not merely beat all of their opponents this tournament, they won every match by double figure margins. What may lend Ireland’s extraordinary performance extra significance is that 2023 is a world cup year. Although the big beasts of the southern hemisphere, Australia, New Zealand and current holders South Africa will all represent formidable obstacles to Ireland’s ambitions I for one would not count the Irish out – especially given that the legendary Jonny Sexton will be well aware that if he is to add the world cup to his list of wins this will be his last chance to do so – he will not still be an international force by 2027.


This photo gallery features two new bird sightings for 2023, both from today – a Mistle Thrush in The Walks and a Redshank at the mouth of the Nar…

Scotland 2022: Exploring Eigg

Continuing my account of my Scottish holiday with a look at the beautiful and interesting island of Eigg.

I continue my account of my Scottish holiday with a look at our explorations of the island of Eigg, the third of four posts devoted to Friday (see here and here).


There are a cafe and a shop right where the boat drops one on the island of Eigg. Having noted the existence of these establishments we began our explorations. The first point of interest was some information about the island itself:

We then came to a memorial…

Then it was walk uphill, until we came to a footpath that we took. Conscious of time constraints we did not go massively far along the path, though what we saw was very scenic…

There were some more information boards before we got back to the cafe, which we were now ready to patronise. First this, about the geology of the inner Hebrides:

Then this about electricity and green issues:

The cafe proved to be excellent. I ate a bacon bap and drank a reasonably local beer that proved to be of splendid quality.


We did a little more exploring after lunch, before heading back to the boat, which we boarded in good time for the journey back to Arisaig. Eigg was very interesting as well as very scenic, and I enjoyed my visit there.


Here are my remaining pictures from Eigg…

Scotland 2022: Acharacle

Welcome to the next post in my series about my Scottish holiday. This post focusses on Acharacle where we were staying, and the surrounding area. It covers Wednesday evening and Thursday of the week in question.

Birthday Meal

The evening of Wednesday June 1st featured a belated birthday meal at an excellent restaurant. I opted for smoked venison for a starter and steak for the main course, washed down by a rather good local beer.


Thursday had been forecast to be the least good day of the week weatherwise, and it was (although for western Scotland it was far from being bad). During the two periods when the weather was good enough to go out we did first a walk to the village shop, visiting the church on the way back, and then in the late afternoon/ early evening a walk over the Shiel bridge and then part way along one side of the loch that the river turns into in that direction (the Shiel is a very short river). There is a small settlement called Moss, and indeed mosses and lichens grow very luxuriantly in this part of the world.


Here are my photographs taken in and around Acharacle…

Scotland 2022: The Tour of Ardnamurchan Distillery

An account of a tour of the Ardnamurchan Distillery.

Welcome to the latest in my series of posts about my recent Scottish holiday. This post covers the tour of Ardnamurchan Distillery on the day of my birthday, now eight days ago.


The Ardnamurchan distillery was built over the course of 2011 and 2012 and produced its first whisky in 2014. The tour was very comprehensive, taking in the warehouse and every stage of the distilling process. It ended with a sample of the product, which is very distinctive – virtually no smokiness or peatiness to it and sweeter than most whiskies. I rate it very highly myself. I will leave photographs to tell the rest of the story – click on an image to view it full size…

Scotland 2022 Part 1: A More Adventurous Than Expected Journey

I am on holiday in Scotland for a week, staying in a place called Acharacle, a small town on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, the westernmost part of mainland Britain. The cottage (actually a glorified caravan which I would be prepared to bet was moved to its current site on the back of a lorry) has a decent wifi connection, so I will to be able to at least some posting while I am here. This post deals with my travels and travails getting here yesterday.


The plan was that I would travel from King’s Lynn to Fort William, where my parents would collect me. This is not the most straightforward of journeys and the ticket I booked involved four changes – King’s Lynn to Ely, Ely to Peterborough, Peterborough to Edinburgh, Edinburgh to Glasgow, Glasgow to Fort William, and almost exactly 12 hours travel for the public transport leg of the journey. This would have been fine, but as you will see there was a rather major hitch.


I got to King’s Lynn station in very good time for my train (indeed had I really hustled my way through the station I could have been on the earlier train, but decided there was little point). The train reached Ely very promptly, and I had the good fortune to get a quick onward connection to Peterborough (I accepted this piece of good fortune because although it meant more waiting at Peterborough for a train I had to be on, Peterborough like the majority of railway stations is less exposed than Ely). I found my seat on the train to Edinburgh without undue fuss, and enjoyed some excellent views between Newcastle and Edinburgh. Waverley proved not too difficult to negotiate and I was at the platform for my train to Glasgow in very good time.

The run to Glasgow was also smooth, and the train arrived at Glasgow Queen Street (low level) bang on schedule at 6:00, which in theory meant I had 23 minutes to get upstairs to the main station and find the platform for my train to Fort William. Unfortunately this was the cue for…


I scanned the information screens for details of my train (on which I had a pre-booked seat – this leg of the journey was supposed to last three and three quarter hours) and found nothing. I sought assistance as departure time drew closer with no evidence of said train in site, only to discover that the service had been cancelled with no notification. After using my mobile phone to tell my parents about the problem I contacted my sister to see if she could help me find somewhere to stay overnight in Glasgow. As the evening wore on it became clear that that was not an option, and we settled on a taxi ride to Fort William station and a pick up from there by the parents. The taxi arrived in Fort William just after 11PM, and it still was not fully dark. The driver’s card reader failed to function due to how far we were from Glasgow, but my parents and I had enough cash between us to cover the fare (and every intention of getting the money back from Scotrail, the cause of the problem) and we settled up and set off for Acharacle. It was nearer one o’clock than 12 by the time we got there, meaning that I had been travelling for some 15 hours, with the only serious time spent other than on the move being the very antithesis of restful, so unsurprisingly I was exceedingly tired. The taxi windows were not big enough for taking photographs through, so in addition to everything else I was deprived of pictures of the most scenic part of the whole journey.


I do still have some photographs, some from the walk to the station and some from the most scenic sections of the parts of the train journey that actually happened…

Channel Islands 9: The Birds of Alderney

Continuing my account of my recent holiday in the channel islands with a special post dedicated to the birds of Alderney.

I continue my account of my recent visit to the channel islands with a special post dedicated to the birds of Alderney (the island is justly famed for its bird life).


It was too early in the year for boat trips to be running to the island of Burhou, just off the coast of Alderney to the north, and home to puffins (it has no human residents at all), and Wednesday took so much out of me that on the Thursday I was unable to face to fairly steep and fairly rough path that would have started the walk towards a point from which I could view the gannet colony. Here a few maps…


Although I missed two great ornithological sites for different reasons, I still saw a fine range of birds during my few days on Alderney…