With so little foliage around it is perfectly easy to see lots of birds in Bedford’s country parks. These 10 are the ones which Friends of the Earth recommends that we look out for. More information is available from https://friendsoftheearth.uk/nature/10-winter-birds-spot-uk-towns and the pics are apparently courtesy of iStock Photo.
It may be winter. So the trees are bare and a lot of wildlife is keeping a low profile. But the otters are still frequently seen putting their heads above the parapet at Priory Park. Usually that’s to catch and take chunks out of big fish before caddishly discarding them. Though ironically this may be in the interests of their smaller counterparts. Isn’t nature wonderful?
For anyone who didn’t know this, the otter is part of a family that includes weasels, badgers and pine martens (all native to the UK), mink (which has effectively become native after a number of American mink escaped from fur-farms in decades past), and honey badgers, polecats and wolverines (none of which are native, though there may be the odd escapee out there in the same way that we in the UK have wild wallabies).
Otters are a little prone to being run over. Please remember this when you’re driving near any of the local parks.
Starting in March 2019 Bedford Beekeepers Association is running two ‘Introduction to Beekeeping’ courses; one in Luton and one in Bedford. Each involves 6 indoor theory sessions followed, when they finish and the days are warming up, by outdoor practical sessions.
The cost is £60 a course. But all equipment, including protective clothing, is provided.
Bedford’s theory sessions will be held indoors at Moggerhanger Village Hall for six Tuesday evenings starting on 5th March 2019 and lasting from 7.30pm to 10pm. These will be followed by practical sessions outdoors at Priory Country Park Training Apiary on Sunday mornings from April to September.
Meanwhile Luton’s theory sessions will be held indoors at Stockwood Park Discovery Centre for six Sunday mornings starting on 3rd March 2019 and lasting from 10.30am to 12.30pm. These will be followed by practical sessions outdoors at Stockwood Park Training Apiary on Sunday mornings from April to September.
This course is suitable for complete beginners and new beekeepers who need help. Bedford Beekeepers Association invite anyone interested to book a place on the course by visiting their website at www.bedsbka.org.uk
They meanwhile recommend that newcomers to the course prepare themselves by reading ‘Is Beekeeping for You?’ That’s also on their site.
Interested in hemlock? Not the plant or poison. The morris-dancers.
With midwinter gone the Hemlock Morris team is regularly out and entertaining whilst keeping their earthy pagan traditions alive. On 19th January they will be appearing at the Straw Bear Fair (in Whittlesea near Peterborough; see www.strawbear.org.uk).
Sadly some of the other upcoming bookings are ticket-only and already totally sold out.
But on May 1st (May Day) the group will be celebrating the advent of spring at Ampthill Park. They will meet at 5am (really!) for a 5.30 caper at dawn. Then they’ll sensibly repair to the Queen’s Head for a breakfast and beer.
It’s definitely worth going if knee-slapping together with the waving of handkerchiefs, pigs’ bladders and clubs holds an appeal. If it doesn’t then apparently there is a 2009 mockumentary starring Sir Derek Jacobi and called ‘A Life with Bells On’ that has a cult following. Maybe you should watch it. Then you can get in touch with these guys via their website at http://hemlockmorris.com/
From what I gather the motivation is to keep alive a tradition that’s already endured for 400 years or so. That’s if we’re talking about the dancing. The drinking, which likewise seems to be an intrinsic part of these good-natured get-togethers, dates back to pre-history. But now, abandoning one age-old tradition that is a little anachronous, they actually let girls do it too!
Anyone who regularly visits Bedford’s parks will realise that they’re treasure-troves for those who like to pick fruit, and that’s something which families love to do together.
Anyone foraging in Bedford’s country parks, or anywhere else where it’s legal, should remember some simple rules:
Remember that what looks like an edible mushroom may be poisonous. You need to be an expert to be able to make a positive identification. But avoid those below for starters.
Jon Bishop (Bedford’s Country Park Warden and a man who’s responsible for several sites in the region) is always looking for help from capable volunteers.
Expect hard work that’s certain to burn thousands of calories. So this is a marvellous way to tone up whilst losing some weight. But it’s a bit of a social event too. And it will get you out of the house to make new friends.
If you’re interested in being a Priory Country Park Volunteer (you’ll be amply paid in drinks and biscuits) then you can get hold of Jon Bishop by emailing him using email@example.com. Sessions are usually on either the first or the last Sunday of the month (yet are subject to change, so check first) and the meeting-point is the park ranger’s compound behind the Cloverdale Retreat café. But the next session is due on Sunday 20th January 2019. (That will be followed by Sunday February 17th, Sunday March 17th and Sunday April 14th.) Volunteers will meet at 9.30am for a 10.00am start. And, if you cannot get away on a Sunday or you’re a glutton for punishment, other opportunities are available during the week. Because, as well as the regular Sunday sessions, there are even more regular weekday sessions to get involved. These are every Monday and Thursday.