Friday, June 18, 2010


A few people have been asking how I’ve been getting on in my quest to record as many Bedfordshire mammals as possible this year. Well, I’m really pleased to have seen 25 separate species…but it could so easily have been more...4 more:

1) On Wednesday I was a second or so away from seeing my first Field Vole of the year. Alan Outen, walking behind me, saw what was almost certainly a Field Vole disappearing into some scrub.

2) Yesterday at 5am I was watching a deer in the distance on the eastern side of Chicksands Wood. All the jizz was crying out ‘Roe Deer’ a species which has only recently started to colonise Bedfordshire, but it was just too far away to make a definite i.d.!

3) I spent yesterday morning with Ian Woiwod, walking his butterfly transect at Potton Wood. Ian had offered to show me the wood in anticipation of a future visit for Fallow Deer. At one point we disturbed a large animal in thick scrub on our right that could be heard heading away with heavy footfalls…it could only have been Fallow Deer, but we couldn’t make it out!

4) And, making my way home, I stopped at the bridge over the River Ivel at New Road, Sandy, hoping for Brown Rat. I approached the rail and just caught something large and brown scurry into the ditch. I know it was a Brown Rat….but can’t count it on that view alone!!

So, 4 probable sightings missed over 2 days….but I have enjoyed some wonderful views of Brown Hare and Red Fox, and my first Grass Snake of the year in the aforementioned ditch. And I went to a local wood last night and got this photo:

It was quite dark, and the shutter seemed to take an age to work, hence the blurry image, but this was one of two delightful and maturing Badger cubs.

Excursus: The grave of Long John Silver & Wendy Darling

Yesterday afternoon, Ian and I walked down to the fascinating 13th century church of St John the Baptist at Cockayne. The interior is amazing with its Flemish monastic woodwork described as the finest in the country (I gather that it was the finest elsewhere but was 'liberated' following the Napoleonic Wars!), but the graveyard had some real interest, too:

This is the grave of W.E. Henley, the author of the famous poem, Invictus. Nelson Mandela had it by his bedside during his 27 years of imprisonment on Robben Island, and it gave its name to the recent blockbuster film charting Mandela’s early years following his release. What I found fascinating was the fact that W.E. Henley, who had one of his legs amputated, became Robert Louis Stevenson’s inspiration for Long John Silver in Treasure Island. And Henley’s young daughter, Margaret Emma – who is also buried in the same plot – was also the inspiration for a literary character. Henley was a friend of the author J.M. Barrie. As one source explains it, Henley used to refer to Barrie as ‘Friend’, a word which Margaret ‘mispronounced as 'fwend' and changed in a childish way to 'fwendy-wendy'. The latter part of this familiar name gave the name of 'Wendy Darling' which later became the Wendy of Peter Pan!’

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