Thursday, 17 April 2014

On the Way to the Museum

One afternoon last week, we spent a few interesting hours at the Russell-Cotes Museum, on the East Cliff at Bournemouth. The museum is the former home of a wealthy Victorian couple, Sir Merton and Lady Annie Russell-Cotes. Sir Merton developed the grand Royal Bath Hotel, which is next door to the house. Together, the Russell-Cotes` travelled widely and collected many strange and interesting objects from around the world. They amassed an Art Collection which includes works by Alfred Munnings, Danti Gabriel Rossetti and numerous other contemporary artists.

This Summer`s Exhibition, The De Morgans and the Sea, highlights the stunning ceramics and paintings of Arts and Crafts artists William and Evelyn De Morgan. We were keen to see this and loved the work that was on show.

These photos were taken on my camera phone as we walked down the sloping clifftop path towards the museum entrance. The cliff`s wild slopes were a mass of bluebells and whitebells in bloom.

Sun shone through the clouds above Poole Bay and the Purbeck Hills.

The Museum, once a home, has bay windows overlooking the sea. In the formal gardens, azaleas flowered among the statues.

Early marigolds..........

......and the path to the grotto.

From the upstairs windows of the house, once the main bedrooms, these must have been  wonderful  views to wake up to in the morning.

The dome shaped roof is that of a new restaurant building at the Royal Bath Hotel. Behind it, the West Cliff of Bournemouth stretches towards Poole Harbour. As we watched the sun beginning to dip in the afternoon sky, rain was falling in the west, over the distant heathland of Purbeck.

More about the Russell-Cotes Museum and its collections is at

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Sunday, 6 April 2014

Tree Watching 2 - Garden Crab Apple on a Wet April Sunday

We had about an hour without rain today. It rained in the night and it has rained for the rest of the day.
During that brief reprieve, I grabbed my camera to record my John Downie Crab Apple for the second month of Tree Following.

There has been a sudden breaking of bud in the last week and new leaves are small but unfurling more every day. The week has been damp but mild and early spring is moving through the garden.

The next photo shows my tree as the small one on the left. On its right are two horse chestnuts and in the border in front of them is another John Downie Crab Apple. Both crab apples are probably the same age, but the second tree is overshadowed by the horse chestnuts and is not such a distinctive shape.

In the background are Jay and the Grey One, eating their morning hay. Behind them is the ancient overgrown hedge, now a line of oaks, beeches, hollies, elders and hawthorns that stretches down along the field boundary.

Almost monochrome, new crab apple leaves open against a grey sky.

The mass of intertwining branches at the centre of the tree, in fresh, new, lime green leaf.

Crab apple branches meet horse chestnut branches........

......where fat sticky buds are breaking open more each day.

Looking the other way, there is a background of weeping willow, well into new leaf, behind the crab apple.

In contrast, old oaks in the hedgerow are still in their bare winter shapes. 

There is loose moss on the lawn in front of the tree. Magpies, jackdaws and a green woodpecker have been pulling moss this week. They may have been looking for food in the soil beneath, but the moss will be perfect lining material for other birds still building their nests.

Other trees and shrubs are in bloom this week. 


...and beneath the tortured willow, the bush form of cherry is full  of delicate pink blossoms.

I love these little daffodils, which look as though they are standing in a wind tunnel with their petals flowing backwards.

The Amelanchier tree is in glorious blossom and just needs a blue sky behind it to look at its best.

The crab apple has been overtaken by a pear tree that grows near the shelter of the house. Its white blossoms are waiting to open in the sun.

Beside the path, an old flower pot is full of forget-me-nots that seeded themselves last year.

 I found a blackbirds nest this morning. The swallows should be home from Africa before next month`s Tree Watching post.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Tree Watching at Lulworth - a Dorset Jurassic Forest

Last summer we had a day out on the Purbeck Coast in Dorset and we visited the Fossil Forest which is just to the east of Lulworth Cove. It had rained that morning so a blustery, dramatic sky was blowing over the sea.

Lulworth Cove is a small, circular bay with a narrow harbour entrance. It is a popular tourist destination, although most people seem to stay at one end of the Cove with their ice creams if they are not venturing east or west along the Dorset Coastal Path.

We walked along the bay to the eastern end, where we scrambled up a cliff path and looked down onto turquoise, shallow waters.

Not far along the clifftop path is a high fence and a gate. The land beyond it belongs to the Ministry of Defence and is an Army firing range. It was requisitioned for training the troops prior to the D Day Landings of WW11. The public only have access on certain days when the red flags are not firing.

Once through the gate, we scrambled down some steep steps onto a wide rocky ledge that overlooked the English Channel. To the west, the Isle of Portland rose out of a silver-grey sea.

Limestone loving marine plants flowered in crevices among the strata and the scree.

On this ledge above the waves, we found one of the world`s best preserved Fossil Forests. We had heard that this was an amazing place and we were not disappointed!

The Fossil Forest shows the petrified remains of trees that grew there in Jurassic times 144 million years ago. Only Jurassic dinosaurs would have witnessed them in their living beauty. Human beings had yet to evolve.

The Forest grew when sea levels dropped and a group of islands formed. When the islands were later flooded under a shallow saline lagoon, the plant remains were preserved, only to be exposed to human eyes by erosion and cliff fall. The cliff behind the fossil remains is friable and still being eroded today.

Great circular shapes in the rock indicated the shapes of tree trunks, thought to be of the Cypress family. These ancient trees have now been named Photocypressinoxylon purbeckensis. For millennia they were trees with no name.

Lichen on limestone 

We walked and scrambled among ancient life forms. We met just one human being - a geologist walking the Coastal Path.

We felt quite overwhelmed by what we had seen as we climbed back to the top of the cliff and found the path down again,  to join the crowds among tea shops and car parks just along the bay.