The 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.
It 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.
a cruising seagull
A coot on one leg
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.
- 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.
An abandoned bird house used for breeding can provide refuge in the cold weather
Across 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.
Along 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Raymond 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.
On an unsually sunny day a visit to Heathfield showed the joys of spring with snowdrops, primroses and other hardy perennials making an appearance.
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!
The cedar tree in the background
lavender bushes line the side of the path.
Entrance to the Orchard and Croydon Ecology Centre. I don’t think the sheep are at home.
Oh yes they are, Sam says hello!
It 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.
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.
Nevertheless, 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.
In 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.
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.
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.
Not graffiti but art encouraged by Croydon Council while vacant land is redeveloped.
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.
Closed Nestle building being redeveloped into luxury flats, with Altitude 25, right, the tallest building in Croydon until….
BBC transmitter with the Shard in the background
Crystal Palace sports centre with the “walkie-talkie” building (in the centre background) 20 Fenchurch Street. At the top is the sky garden.
Canary Wharf and the City.
O2 Arena and to the immediate right the red poles supporting the Emirates cable cars over the Thames.
My 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.
I 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.
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.
On 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.
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.
Sadly albino squirrels may not survive for long as they lack the traditional grey camouflage to protect them from predators.
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.
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..
one carp in the pond
On the second day..
On the third day..
On the fourth day..
On the fifth day..
five wild flowers (and a honey bee!)
On the sixth day..
On the seventh day..
On the eighth day…
On the ninth day…
On the tenth day..
ten trees in the park entrance
On the eleventh day..
On the twelfth day..
And a Happy New Year to all my readers.
A sunny day in winter is as rare as tickets to the new Star Wars movie . Plus my daughter let me borrow her Canon PowerShot 14x optical zoom ( better than my 5x) so I hot footed it down to Waddon Ponds to capture the action.
When I was small boy my mum told me that the sight of seagulls inland meant there was a storm at sea. All I can say is that most days there must be a storm at sea as there are always gulls at Waddon Ponds. They seem to permanently inhabit the perches meant to guide the Kingfishers through the water channel when hunting for fish. Unfortunately, the idea never took off with the Kingfisher and the only time you will spot him is on the information board.
Swans investigating any food sources
Of course Gulls are such a common sight inland nowadays that they are referred to as urban gulls. They find rich pickings in the discarded food packets that tend to be left behind on our streets and hang about over refuse centres. They nest at the top of office blocks and houses safe from their usual predators like foxes so that more gull chicks survive. It is estimated that there are 100,000 breeding pairs of urban gulls in our towns and cities.
He looked in the water and saw he was a swan
Besides the gulls the swans and the herons were out enjoying the winter sunshine too.
A swan’s feather
Heron in the shade of the setting sun
Heron in color. No sign of his partner that also frequents the ponds
The Croydon Water Tower is a grade 2 listed building built-in 1867 to provide clean water to the expanding population. It stands 125 feet high and was designed by Baldwin Latham, the borough engineer, in a Norman terracotta style.
The tower has a 30 foot diameter and cast iron girders supported a high level tank containing up to 40,00 gallons. A further tank of 94,000 gallons was situated in the basement. The top of the tower was 292 feet above sea level and this provided the necessary gravitational force to provide water to all of Croydon.
The site was discontinued in 1923 and replaced by a new reservoir on higher ground at Addington Hills. Both the tanks in the tower have been removed. There is a plaque marking the site as part of Croydon’s heritage, but it has long since been covered by vegetation. The metal fence keeps out any unwanted visitors.
vegetation obstructing the view of the tower
The Canadian singer Susan Jacks sang about the Tower in 1973, it was called “Build a Tower” with an accompanying video of the Park Hill site. She was married to Terry Jacks who had a worldwide hit with “Seasons in the Sun” in 1974.
To see the Susan Jacks video Build a Tower that shows a clearer view of the Water Tower.
Mini garden at the top of Park Hill
East Croydon entrance to the park
Park Hill itself is located only five minutes from East Croydon tram and rail station and provides an oasis of calm from the hustle and bustle of commuters and shoppers. With the recent announcement that Westfields have had their latest plans approved to build central Croydon’s mega shopping centre, it will be even more important to preserve this area.
Beyond and below the railings is the main rail line into East Croydon station
A recent late trip to Waddon Ponds ponds was undertaken with the light fading fast. As the light dimmed the chatter from the birds in the trees grew exponentially. I knew birds sang in the morning but I wasn’t as aware that they also sang at dusk.
They sing in the late afternoon to tell other birds they are regrouping in the trees at night to sleep, as there is safety in numbers from predators. It is like calling the family together for the evening meal, but not everybody arrives at once so they make many calls to their fellows to say I am here please join me for a soirée.
It is usually the male birds that sing and it can take a lot of energy. So they will often leave the trees for a quick feed and then return in numbers. I tried to capture their flight patterns but with the poor light and only my compact camera the results, as you can see, are not so effective.
Birds roosting in trees at Waddon Ponds include starlings, rooks and the ubiquitous parakeets. Water birds will sleep sitting or standing up in the water, They often stand on one leg to keep warm. If you have been following the progress of the two cygnets then you will be pleased to know they are still with their parents and would now be unlikely to be evicted from the family home before xmas. But come the new year and with the adults swans thinking of nest-building, it will surely be time for cygnets to move out on their own.
I also noticed a large carp or is it a trout in the far pond away from the birds? There was a little more light in this area so I was able to capture the dark black fish against the dark bottom of the pond.
The far pond where the carp was located -see below
The fish seemed to be on its own so how it got there must remain a mystery as there is no friendly fish ladder from further downstream into the ponds. Perhaps a bird took the fish egg and transported it or it might have been a family pet that had outgrown its fish bowl and was surreptitiously deposited into the ponds.
Currently the entrance to the ponds at Mill lane is closed as paths and entrances are being improved. I will of course keep you updated with developments.