Nesting Swans at Waddon Ponds

nest swanEvidence of Spring can be found at Waddon Ponds, where the swan has been busy building its nest. The male will assist in the construction unlike most birds, with the nest being about a metre across and away from land predators. Here the nest is tucked in front of a willow tree. An egg will be laid every 24 hours and as last year they had 10 cygnets this should take about a week and a half (assuming all eggs hatch) when the incubation process will start. Then about six weeks later the cygnets should appear. Ok, I know you can’t wait that long so here is a picture of some of the cygnets from last year.

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Cygnets from last year 2017

I noticed that a Canada Goose had taken residence in one of the man-made nesting boxes usually designed for the smaller coots and moorhens. Canada Geese like swans mate for life and the eggs are incubated by the female for about a month while the gander stays guard outside. When I called the gander was nowhere to be seen but a flock of pigeons seemed to be standing guard nearby. The goslings can swim within 24 hours of being born.

nest goose

Not much headroom for the goose

nest moorhen

No room for the moorhen who is thinking “get out of my box!”

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pigeons standing guard over the resident Canada goose

No signs that the ducks are nesting although they have paired off. I noticed that the drake is protecting his “girl” not only from any lone males but also from other nearby couples!

nest mate

keep clear we are a couple

 

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Conduit lane – What’s in a name?

name lane

Conduit lane (reverse angle)

Conduit lane is located at the junction of Coombe Road and Coombe Lane and is equidistant between Lloyd Park and Coombe Lane tram stops.

As I have mentioned in a previous blog the Coombe Estate covered around two hundred and fifty acres  and the water supply came from Coombe Wood. It was fed by three channels or conduits that ran in the nearby lane, and so it was called Conduit lane. Simple right?

name rest

Coombe House (now the Chateau restaurant)

There were also two large water tanks in the garden of Coombe House that powered a Lewis Church organ . Imagine if you wanted to carry out your ablutions. “Sorry darling you can’t have a bath right now I am playing the organ!”

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Garden nurseries (disused)

Many years later at the end of Conduit Lane the council garden nurseries opened in 1964 . It provided plants for all council parks and gardens for many decades until the service was privatised a few years ago. I made a trip to the end of the lane to photograph the old nurseries.

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a sign of the (old) times

name security

The black and yellow “space hopper” is a force field. Any trespassers that walk past this line break a beam that sends a signal to the remote security team

The section of Coombe Wood Garden that runs next to Conduit Lane and parallel to the old nursery site is very steep. The path was recently cleared and opened to the public.  Please take care around the steep slopes and only proceed if you are sure of foot. I tried to negotiate the inner bend as every athletic fan knows the inside lane is the quickest. However, in my case the gradient on the outer edge is more suitable for passage around this area. It is a bit like floating a stick on the inside bend of a river, it might appear shorter but it often gets stuck with sediment so that water on the outer bend flows quicker.

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Steep section of Coombe Wood Gardens adjacent to the old nurseries and land belonging to Royal Russell School

Running alongside Coombe Woods is the Royal Russell School. It was originally located in Russell Hill Road, Purley about two miles away. The school and the road were named  after their original President the former Prime Minister Lord John Russell  in 1855. The foundation stone was laid by the then Prince of Wales in July 1863, although the school did not add the title of Royal until 1953 its centenary year. The old Purley site became the location of the Thomas Moore School.

Back to the schools current location the whole area was known as The Ballards Plantation after the landowner and this included Heathfield. Ballards Way is the road that runs next to Heathfield and the road into Heathfield House is Riesco Drive named after the last owner of the house.

name horsesAt the end of Riesco Drive is  a private road leading to Heathfield farm. The horses are wearing blankets for the same reasons that we used to in bed, because they may be feeling under the weather. Who could blame them with the extensive rain we have been having. By the way, if you ever thought of getting a horse drunk and why would you, then please do not bother? They are used to eating a large amount of oats so could manage copious amounts of alcohol. Remember that if you are thinking of spending a “night on the hooves!”

 

Coombe Wood Gardens in the snow

snow frontI thought I would revisit my most viewed blog of last year. Little did I expect that it would have snowed recently, transforming the scenery into a winter wonderland for the last time, we hope, this year.

snow pond

snow path conifer

rockery

Coombe Gardens is divided into areas the rockery, the woodland, the pond, the ornamental , summer and winter gardens, plus the snow garden. Ok I made up the last one but the original design was meant to be a garden for all seasons.

snow house

summer-house in need of warmth

snow ornament

sundial in the ornamental garden

The Coombe Estate  stretched from Coombe Road to Park Hill and included Coombe House, Wood,  Farm and Coombe Lodge. As two restaurants now exist on part of the site I was confused over their original locations.  The lodge now a Beefeater would have been separate from the main house in the same way that up the road the lodge is separate to Royal Russel (School) House as the Heathfield lodge is to Heathfield house and the lodge at …well you get the idea.

snow chateau

The Chateau (rear view)

The main Coombe House was built-in 1898 and is now the Chateau restaurant, known locally for years as the Chateau Napoleon. It originally had twenty rooms and an adjoining stable block that was built out of sight in a gravel pit. Croydonians of a certain vintage will remember that after the council bought the property, horses were used by the park rangers to patrol the local area. The stables have long since been disused and they were converted into disabled toilets and storeroom with a cafe at the far end next to the house. Enclosed by high walls it provides a nice sun trap and also renders it difficult to obtain a mobile signal should you wish to frustrate the younger generation.

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overhead view of the cafe

The woodland garden can be reached by following the footpath towards the back. As the sun started to melt the snow the effect was quite dramatic, but please no more snow this year!

snow wood

snow landscape

snow steps

About twelve steps going down

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Wonderland at Waddon Ponds

signThe new widened entrances, signage and gates at Waddon Ponds have been completed. New seats and the ubiquitous cycle stands have also been fitted. The new equipment seems to be enhanced by the snowy scenery.

sign entrancesign seatIt amazes me how birds have the energy to fly in this weather. As birds flap their wings on the downstroke the energy applied is twice the force needed to counteract gravity, whereas on the upstroke no force is exerted. The total effect is to just counteract gravity so that no wasted energy is used to maintain flight. Useful when birds need to conserve energy in this cold weather. The exceptions are seagulls that when cruising act more like aeroplanes. They apply force to their outstretched wings even on the upstroke.

seagull in flight

a cruising seagull

snow duck

snow feet

A coot on one leg

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tracks of a Coot

Water fowl like to keep warm by occasionally lifting one leg up into their feathers. This prevent any incidence of frostbite. As their leg muscles are located higher up in their body and their feet are connected by tendons, they require less heat to keep the foot warm. This prevents the duck from losing body heat through their feet.

snow gull

snow egyptian

Egyptian goose

If you are feeling chilly then this fact may keep you warm : the weather in the Sahara at this time of year is around 24 degrees. You may ask what is the Egyptian goose that hails from just south of the Sahara doing at Waddon Ponds then at this time of year? The Egyptian goose was considered to be a sacred bird but many Europeans who visited the area regarded it as an ornamental bird. Ferrel populations became established in Europe and now the bird can be seen in pairs in our local parks.

snow heron

snow swan

snow house

An abandoned bird house used for breeding can provide refuge in the cold weather

snow gulls group

snow bridge

 

Tree years at Pinewoods

log signAcross from Addington Hills and just above the Sandrock Pub is a narrow entrance to the Pinewoods. A thin tract of land that due to the typography runs alongside the roof tops of the adjacent houses.

log housesAlong the route I met a muzzled dog that seemed to have a particular fascination with me . The lady owner explained he was not interested in me but could smell the deer, apparently at dusk they appear in the pinewoods from the adjacent scouts camp. Perhaps the Does are on a Stag night!

log foggy

The extensive foliage and lake in the grounds provides an ideal setting for the deer. The camp runs many scouting activities and Chief Scout, Bear Grylls, has paid a visit. Please note there is no access to the camp from Pinewoods.

log big

big log

The Pinewoods runs downhill to more open ground where some clearing of dead wood has taken place as you can see from the photograph. It is widely known that the rings on a tree indicates its age. Bear in mind that trees produce a two colored ring in one year. The thinner strip is the phloem that transports the products produced from photosynthesis to the rest of the tree. The thicker strip is the xylem that carries the water around its system. The rings are thicker during warmer years.

log top

How old was this tree? I have no idea but I would guess at least sixty years old! Pine trees on average can live for 100-200 years.

The sign on a footpath was confusing as it seemed to be contradictory: the top part of the sign said access allowed whereas the lower part said no right of way.

log sign

It might be because there is no automatic right of way through the forest but that the footpath outside the woods, that runs at the back of Shirley High School, is a through  route.

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Footpath at the back of Shirley High School

Regardless of the signs meaning, David Wechsler the Chief Executive or Town Clerk of Croydon was in post until 2007 when he retired. His claim to fame was that he brought the trams to Croydon. I suppose if there were no trams there would be no blog according to my strapline.

Sunken garden at Heathfield

liz sunken gardenRaymond Riesco who owned Heathfield until his death, whereupon he bequeathed the grounds to the council, was both a keen gardener and horse owner. In the 1920’s he had a large win on a horse called Arthur’s Choice  and used the money to install oak panel staircase in the house and employ  landscape gardeners to design the sunken and walled gardens around heathfield.

liz sunken long

On an unsually sunny day a visit to Heathfield showed the joys of spring with snowdrops, primroses and other hardy perennials making an appearance.

liz snowdrops

liz pansies Raymond Riesco once planted a cedar tree as a surprise present for his wife’s birthday. I’m not sure I would find a pot big enough but perhaps something smaller might be appropriate!

Liz cedar

The cedar tree in the background

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lavender bushes line the side of the path.

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Entrance to the Orchard and Croydon Ecology Centre. I don’t think the sheep are at home.

liz sheep

Oh yes they are, Sam says hello!

The Queen’s Gardens

queens shrubsIt is unlikely that Prince Harry will be taking his fiancé Meghan Markle to see his grandmother’s gardens in Central Croydon anytime soon. But the origins of the gardens owes more to a disused railway line than any royal patronage.

queens siding

Sunken garden

queens terminate

Site of Central Croydon station

In the late 1800s East Croydon station, today one of the busiest non terminating stations in Southern England, was felt to be too far away from the main Croydon shopping centre. So plans were made to extend the railway line to Central Croydon and the station was built there in January 1868. Unfortunately, this branch line was short-lived and Central Croydon closed in November 1871 to become another disused railway station.

queens pathNevertheless, the building of Croydon Central did bring the land into sole ownership and in 1889 it was decided to build Council offices, a library and a Police station on land around the old railway site. In 1895 the Borough Engineer modified these plans to include gardens at the centre.

queens fairfieldIn the late 1950s the council’s obligations could no longer be accommodated in the existing buildings, so it was decided to relocate the gardens to allow the building of new council offices in Taberner House.  The new building was completed in 1968 and the architect was then tasked to join the original sunken garden as part of the Queen’s Gardens with the new garden in Taberner House, and a fountain as its centre point.

queens fountain

Site of the garden fountains (now filled in) with saffron farm located behind the hoardings.  The Police station, brown building on  far right, used to occupy part of Queen’s garden site.

The construction of the new Queen’s Garden commenced in October 1982 and was completed for the Borough Centenary celebrations. The new gardens were opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 21st June 1983.

queens reflection

Bernard Weatherill House th new council hq

Of course, since then the council has downsized its main central building relocating across the road to new premises at Bernard Weatherill House. Taberner House itself has been demolished and a pop up Saffron farm established until the vacant land has been redeveloped. The farm volunteers planted 20,000 crocuses and after they had flowered the remaining bulbs were given to other parks like the heathfield garden, schools and voluntary gardening projects.

queens safron

Not graffiti but art encouraged by Croydon Council while vacant land is redeveloped.

 

 

Views of Croydon and the City from Addington Viewpoint

view gas works

Croydon Clocktower on the far left was the tallest building in Croydon 100 years ago, opened in 1895 as part of Croydon town hall.

A new year’s resolution was to revisit my most successful blog from a few years ago to see how the view from the Addington Hills has changed. There was no Saffron Square and no “Walkie Talkie” building as you will see later. I took pictures from right to left, covering Croydon first and then moving towards the City.

view altitude

Closed Nestle building being redeveloped into luxury flats, with Altitude 25, right, the tallest building in Croydon until….

view saffron

Saffron square was built

view wembley

Wembley arch

view bbc

BBC transmitter with the Shard in the background

view crystal palace

Crystal Palace sports centre with the “walkie-talkie” building (in the centre background) 20 Fenchurch Street. At the top is the sky garden.

view canary wharf

Canary Wharf and the City.

view 02 dome

O2 Arena and to the immediate right the red poles supporting the Emirates cable cars over the Thames.

White Egret and Albino Squirrel

egret stalkMy new years resolution is to take my camera on even the shortest walk as you never know what you might see. On New years day I was richly rewarded by having the rare opportunity to photograph an albino squirrel and an egret within 500 yards of each other.

egret dipI was walking downstream from Waddon ponds when I spotted an Egret fishing in the shallow waters of the Wandle near to Guy Road, Beddington. Usually they are very shy birds and fly away as soon as they detect any human presence. Perhaps because there were few pedestrians and little traffic on the nearby road, the bird seemed unperturbed and spent at least twenty minutes while i was in the vicnity, sourcing his dinner.

egret ripple

I believe this bird maybe a little egret due to its yellow feet. The little egret is a member of the heron family and was once hunted for its feathers to festoon hats, driving the birds into extinction in Britain. Since the 1950’s thanks to new conservation laws and measures to clean up its habitat, including rivers like the wandle, numbers have increased and are no longer a cause for concern.

squirrel tailOn the other side of Guy Road near to the new footpath heading to Beddington park I saw this Albino Squirrel. This had caused excitement amongst other walkers who had also taken out their cameras and smartphones to grab a picture.

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The chances of an albino squirrel are estimated to be one in a 100,000 although other sightings in Surrey over the last year indicate that they may not be as rare as these figures suggest. Nevertheless this a genuine albino squirrel due to its red eyes, other squirrels may turn white due to a genetic illness, known as leucism, but they keep their black eyes.

squirel treeSadly albino squirrels may not survive for long as they lack the traditional grey camouflage to protect them from predators.

squirrel rear

On my return journey I was pleased to again see the Egret who had continued fishing despite the fading light. Overall a good start to the new year and may I wish my readers a happy and healthy 2018.

Twelve days of Christmas

Here is my take on the 12 days of christmas featuring the plants and animals that I have seen and included in my blog over the last 12 months. I have also provided a link to each post should you like to read more.

One the first day of christmas my true love sent to me..

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one carp in the pond

On the second day..

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two dirty rats

On the third day..

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three shorn sheep

On the fourth day..

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Four seagulls on a post

On the fifth day..

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five wild flowers (and a honey bee!)

On the sixth day..

On the seventh day..

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seven props for an insect play

On the eighth day…

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eight magnolias

On the ninth day…

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nine cygnets and swans

On the tenth day..

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ten trees in the park entrance

On the eleventh day..

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eleven camelias

On the twelfth day..

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twelve by twelve tulips!

And a Happy New Year to all my readers.