30th/31st July 2011 - Portland, Dorset
When one is in need of a break due to the stresses and struggles of everyday life one hopes so much that when the holiday comes around it will indeed be a cracker. Our 14th visit to the Isle of Portland proved to be just that (again) and we met up with some old friends and made some new ones during 8 days that where blessed with sunshine and unflustered wayward wanderings.
After several days of mooching here and there and general 'chilling out' a trip out to the islands annual Gooseberry Fair was planned with some darn nice people indeed. My good lady Gill and equally fine daughter Katie need no introduction and wherever I wander they are always welcome to join me. Simon and Debbie are two friends we have made during our jaunts to the Portland Bill Bird Observatory and after missing them last year it was more than a little wonderful to catch up with them again. Both charming human beings with their eyes and hearts firmly set on the simple pleasures in life and therefore winning my appreciation for the refusal to be sucked in to that ever-consuming materialistic vortex. Patsy we had only met this time around but what a laid back, amiable lady with a switched off approach to her holiday that was just gloriously infectious. This lass has quite a stressful job and her salvation is found around the coastal areas of Portland where one can turn off, tune in and definitely 'drop out'. Add to this the fact that the keen eyed maiden had spotted a Thresher Shark earlier in the week she was a veritable must addition to the group. Finally enter the irrepressible Captain Bagsy of that well known Captains Blog (well you bloody well should know about it) equipped with his 'click' happy finger and away we were set to go. That Captain is a font of information and many a lifetime would be needed to listen to his tales of travel, prog rock and gulls (yes he has one gull in the entire world left to see - wow). And so the day of the Fair arrived.
Breakfast was a slow affair and made even slower by a bit of wandering around the Obs garden looking at Pine Ladybirds, Gorse Shieldbugs and a few moths from the trap. In charge of the ID routine whilst the warden was away on his jollies was the methodical and highly likeable John ..... Doggedly determined to identify every last lepidopteron teaser a few grand specimens were noted:- Meal Moth; Lychnis; Riband Wave; Marbled Beauty; Dark/Grey Dagger sp; Spectacle; Oncocera semirubella; Phoenix; Garden Carpet; Acleris forsskalleana; Early Thorn; Lilac Beauty; Wormwood; Chinese Character; Snout; Scarce Footman; V-Pug; Brown Line Bright Eye; Twin Spot Carpet; Endotrichia flammealis; Plutella porectella; Epischnia banksiella and Cochylis flaviciliana. Not bad hey?
Mothing - a time consuming art that can sometimes test the patience of a saint
Eventually the time passed and our backsides were eventually moved into the gear that says 'Go' and we made our way to the nearby fields for a look at a few floral specimens and anything else we could lay our scanning eyes upon. No matter how fast or slow we went one or two of the pack lagged behind, enthralled by one of Mother Natures gems.
As soon as we were away from the lighthouse the pace remained slow
It was flowers that kept us most occupied with many species noted. A few of the highlights were:- Strawberry Clover; Bastard Toadflax; Lesser Sea Spurrey; Wild Carrot; Agrimony; Field Bindweed and Squinancywort.
That man Captain Bagsy has a real thirst for all things natural and on many occasion we found ourselves trailing behind.
A bit of a spurt and we'll catch em' up
Eventually we got to the sacred Gooseberry Fair and with trepidation in my heart I followed the flow. In truth the event was bloody well enjoyable with an underlying community spirit working hard and in the main succeeding. Cheer-leading, belly dancing, a bit of jazz (uuurrggggghhhhh), numerous stalls and in a general fun atmosphere the sun shone, the breeze blew gently and the whole effort was a success.
Being a punker I admire anyone who has a get up and have a go spirit - these lasses had just that
A few goes on the Tombola Stall resulted in a haul of about 8 wins with my first effort producing a winning number that got me......wait for it......a bottle of sherry!
Keep up my loves - I am sure there is another Tombola Stall to clean out
At this point the Captain's gambling streak was exposed and money exchanged hands as a win was very much sought. No such luck and as we filled our boots the Captain went away broken and defeated by the cruel hand of numerical chance.
Despite a whipping on the stalls the irrepressible Bagsy won't be stopped from smiling - what a dude!
More pottering and after several hours the party went its separate ways to finish the day with plans to meet up again next day. Sounds good to me and as we strolled back to the lighthouse we contemplated what tomorrow would bring and what species we should seek out. On the way we decided to check out an area for Kidney Spot Ladybird that myself and Ken Dolbear had visited earlier in the week with no success. My eagle eyed daughter found one almost immediately and it really did top off a pleasant day on Portland. Later that day we three moochers met up with Ken at the lighthouse and fell victim to that timeless Law of Sod. 10 Kidney Spot Ladybirds were found in the Obs garden much to the delight of all and just for a bonus 1 pupa and 1 larva were also seen, yeah! Farewells to Ken were had and promises made to catch up next year and keep in touch via the net were also stated - top fella and all being well the promises will hold true.
The rest of the day was spent idling and eating (what a great combo) with a late night wander up the road to find a Glow Worm proving successful as Patsy Keen found one displaying critter in a nearby hedgerow. Top that!
Today was the last day of our trip to Portland this time around and despite going to Sandwich Bay next it was still hard to leave this beloved Isle. Rather than get up and get driving another walk was had with the usual crew in search of two main species. The main prize sought was the Down Shieldbug which we located and enjoyed and thanks again to Ken Dolbear for showing me these gems earlier in the week. These amazing creatures live in short turf usually around the plant Bastard Toadflax from which they suck the sap. Incredible and worth the viewing which no doubt will become an annual pilgrimage.
Yip - there's the Bastard Toadflax and...there is the Down Shieldbug - Result!
Moving on and many flowers were seen with Wild Clary a new one for the week. A Long Winged Conehead posed on a rock and Golden Samphire and Rock Samphire were admired and tasted. The quintessential plants of Portland Bill these two species are a joy to behold and both contrasting well with one another and adding to the special feel the island has.
Next down to a nearby cove in search of the Blue Rayed Limpet.
Well this is the spot - come on everybody get looking
Initially it was down to myself and my daughter to find the target species but no luck was had. Simon soon joined in and despite no success was keen to get a picture of the aptly named Thongweed.
Yes this is Thongweed and no I you can't have a picture of me in a thong
Even though the Limpet eluded us a Shore Crab and Cornish Sucker/Shore Clingfish were enjoyed. After this we decided to pay homage to that Portland speciality, Portland Sea Lavender. This plant can only be found along the islands rocky coastline so with ushered tones did we look upon it and duly respect. Me and my family have seen this beauty many times but it is rather special and one cannot fail to be impressed.
Heading back my wife and daughter decided to do a few cart-wheels - and I wisely opted to just watch as I have things below that are easily damaged. Firstly my grand wife...
Go on lass
and secondly my athletic daughter...
Perfect posing I believe - 10.0, 10.0, 10.0
Alas the time had come to say goodbye and boy was it difficult. The sun had shone from first to last, the company exquisite and we dawdled and dawdled trying to delay the inevitable. Thanks to the lovely people mentioned above and here is to the next time. The drive to Sandwich was a long one but the visit we made was absolutely spot on and it seems we have uncovered another great site. Even so, Portland is a special place for us and I know many who just don't 'get it' but let me tell you one fact before I sign off - we certainly 'get it'.
Oh and here are the delightful Simon and Debbie - thank you for the photo's!
See ya next time