Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Storton's Pits

I had a couple of hours to kill while the car was having it's annual service so had a wander around Storton's pits. This is a nature reserve directly behind the Sixfields Football stadium managed by the Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust. There are flooded gravel pits over 58 acres and provides a valuable habitat for many winter birds. It is a mixture of woodland, scrub, lakes and reed beds. Reeds have been planted to provide cover for nesting birds in the breeding season, and there have been sightings of the rare bearded tit there too. Unfortunately I didn't see one but I did see a lovely male Reed Bunting along with a couple of Herons. Also Snipe feed on the bare mud and rare water rail are regular winter visitors. The wet meadow is important for butterflies. In the background is the once famous 'Northampton Lighthouse' originally the Express Lifts testing tower and now no longer used. Apparently there is a pair of Peregrine Falcons who have taken up residence on a lofty ledge. I came across this wonderful huge Puff-Ball fungi. Having a ball-shaped fruiting body that when pressed or struck releases the enclosed spores in puffs of dust. Of course I had to give it a little kick just to make sure!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Gozo Trip - Part 3

Good progress was being made with the painting. Peter is seen here applying a final topcoat to one of the exterior bedroom doors. Due to the extreme Summer heat they need a lot of maintenance.


I made the shortish walk to the nearby Gurdan Lighthouse. The Lighthouse rises to approximately 161 metres above sea level and offers spectacular 360 degree views of the island. It was built in 1851 during the British period to monitor and assist maritime traffic in the region.
'Blissful tranquility' is promised ... well not today as it's the hunting season where literally anything that moves is blasted in the sky or on land. Personally I find it sickening and hope that a complete ban is enforced sooner rather than later. Apparently it is traditional and as long as no more than 2 birds are shot then all is OK ... That must be some sort of joke from what I saw.

View from the Lighthouse













Standing in the heart of the Capital Victoria is the fortified City or Castle of the Citadel (The Citadella). It is known to have been first fortified during the Bronze Age 1500 BC.The massive defensive stone walls of the fortifications which rise above the town and were built by the Knights to protect the village communities from foraging Corsair attempting to take slaves and threatening invasion of Moslem forces fighting Christendom. You can actually walk all around the walls if you have a good head for heights and the views are spectacular. The Old Prison is situated in The Citadel, overlooking Cathederal Square. It was built in 1548, to replace an earlier Prison building. It was in use until the beginning of the 20th century. The walls of the cells and corridors in the old prison are covered in graffiti. It is considered the largest collection of historical graffiti in one single place on the Maltese Islands. The representations are often of ships, and date from different periods. There are also hands, carved by illiterate inmates: Crosses, names, dates, games and figures also appear on the limestone walls. Although it was the 23rd April (St Georges Day)actually the third Sunday of July is always festa day. It is Gozo's annual St George's Day. However St George is still the Patron Saint of Gozo. A Programme of Liturgical Celebrations was taking place including a procession, High Mass and culminating with a Brass Band parade from The Basilica of St George which was very entertaining.

Gozo Trip - Part 2

What better way to start a Sunday than with a traditional Gozitan breakfast?
We had gone to the island capital 'Victoria' which was surprisingly busy with many of the roads closed off to traffic. The reason soon became apparent - Trot racing. So far the weather had been sunny if a little breezy. Unfortunately the local fisherman who know about these things said that a front was coming in meaning bad weather for a few days...

 The stunning coastline reminded me of the rugged North Cornwall coast. As we walked toward G─žadira Bay the criss cross grids of the salt pans were visible.
Sea waves fill the crevices of the coastline and slowly dry throughout the summer months, thus allowing the crystallization of salt into particles. The hotter the temperature the quicker salt would be available. The saltpans are still in use to this day for the collection of sea salt. The easy part of the procedure is having them flooded by the sea in rough weather, and then sizzled dry by the sun. The residual salt crystals are then harvested in back-breaking manual labour.  .

Friday, 26 April 2013

Gozo Trip - Part 1

The thought of some early season sunshine was too much to resist after the winter we have had here.A friend of mine asked me to do some work with him on his farmhouse in Gozo before the holiday makers arrive.
 



So a mixture of work and swimming and snorkelling, at least that was the plan.
The work being stripping down the exterior doors, filling and re-painting. We flew in to the capital of Malta 'Valetta' and picked up a hire car at the airport which we took over on the ferry which took about twenty minutes
I have been to Gozo before on a day trip from Malta although I can't recall too much.
Compared to its southeastern neighbour, Gozo is more rural and known for it's scenic hills. It is only about 8 miles long by about 3 with a population of around 31,000.



So a mixture of work and swimming and snorkelling, at least that was the plan.
The work being stripping down the exterior doors, filling and re-painting. We flew in to the capital of Malta 'Valetta' and picked up a hire car at the airport which we took over on the ferry which took about twenty minutes
I have been to Gozo before on a day trip from Malta although I can't recall too much.
Compared to its southeastern neighbour, Gozo is more rural and known for it's scenic hills. It is only about 8 miles long by about 3 with a population of around 31,000.

Azure Window
Our first port of call was the spectacular coastline of Dwejra and the 'Azure Window'.  The arch of the Azure Window is disintegrating, as large pieces of rock keep falling from the arch. It is expected that the arch will completely disappear within just a few years. Looks like I got there just in time then! Several films such as,Clash of the Titans and The Count of Monte Cristo were filmed here.

Fungus Rock (background) is a small islet in the form of a 60 metres high massive lump of limestone at the entrance to an almost circular black lagoon in Dwejra. The Knights Hospitaller apparently discovered what is popularly known as the Malta Fungus on the rock and it is incredibly rare. It is actually not a fungus at all but a plant or tuber. It stinks to high heaven but the Knights used it as a dressing for wounds and a cure for Dyssentry. 

The Inland Sea is a logoon of seawater linked to The Mediterranean Sea through an opening formed by a narrow natural arch. As you exit through the tunnel towards open sea, the floor drops away in a series of shelves to a depth of up to 35 metres on the outside.



Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Sonata Arctica (Neonfly + Pythia) - Birmingham Institute


It has been quiet on the music front so far this year but back with a bang now! Always good to see the Finnish band Sonata Arctica who were touring to after releasing their latest album 'stones Grow Her Name'. Got to the venue nice and early and even had time to have a pint at a posh Brasserie (not my choice I might add). Still managed to get towards the front of the short queue that was forming ensuring getting on the front rails.

Neonfly















The night kicked off with Neonfly. This was my first time seeing them or hearing them, so I had no idea what to expect. Even before they took to the stage the venue was packed with an excited and expectant crowd.Formed in 2008 Neonfly are building a good reputation as a British Metal ban. I was impressed with them actually and in vocalist Willy Norton they have a charismatic frontman.
Emily Ovenden (Pythia)








Next up came fellow Londoners Pythia who I have seen before and were impressed with. I really liked their debut album 'Beneath the Veiled Embrace. They have since followed up with 'The Serpents Curse' which i'm not too familiar with. Have to say I was disappointed with them on the night.Their set lacked energy for me and I find their stage outfits including leather armour strangely incongruent to their music. Maybe it was just a bad night?

Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica)

 Sonata Arctica took to the stage to huge cheers from this capacity crowd. Singer Tony Kakko constantly prowling the stage.
Tonight was one of those gigs where the headliners just make things look easy. They'd packed the place out with their fans, so were always going to go down well, but they still put in everything they had to give the fans the best possible gig. Many of the songs were from the latest album 'Stones Grow her name'. There were also some classics from the archives included; Black Sheep, The Last Amazing Grays, Full Moon, and two of my personal favourites Replica and Don't say a word.


I was really pleased to get not one but two plectrums from guitarist Elias Viljanen, not bad as I reckon he only chucked about six into the crowd.

Elias Viljanen (Sonata Arctica)





  Full Set List
  • Only the Broken Hearts (Make You Beautiful)
    Black Sheep
    Alone In Heaven
    Shitload of Money
    The Gun
    The Day
    I Have a Right
    The Last Amazing Grays
    Broken
    Paid in Full
    Losing My Insanity
    Tallulah
    FullMoon
    Replica
    Cinderblox
    Don't Say a Word