If you follow me on facebook or instagram, then you'll know that I've been teasing you all week with clues as to where this week's blog post is set. The first picture I posted gave rise to guesses of Crete and Cyprus. Sandy beach, brilliant blue sky, fantastic rock formations. It is, in fact, Marsden Beach, on the north east coast of England, between the mouths of the rivers Tyne and Wear. Given the ridiculous temperatures around the Mediterranean at the moment, it makes sense to stay in England for the summer holiday and leave the Med for a bit of winter sun. Besides, there's a wealth of sea birds to see. Great Cormorants sunning themselves on the rock stack, Black-legged Kittiwakes nesting on the cliffs, gulls and terns a-plenty, and the occasional Guillemot or two.
Human history, as well as natural history, is also well represented, with the Beamish Living History museum. A grand day out for all the family. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing some of Steve's Vintage Collectables in their natural setting, and I learnt a thing or two. Last year, I wrote a series of blogs called Steve's History of Things. I think it's time to resurrect it. (Just follow this blog to get notifications of new posts from both blogs).
Staying with the historical theme for a moment, The National Glass Centre in Sunderland is well worth a visit. Sunderland has been the centre of the British glass making industry ever since Benedict Biscop brought French glaziers over from Gaul in the 7th century to make some stained glass windows for St. Peter's church (which is still standing and is one of the oldest churches in England). Again, I found that there was more to glass than I ever knew, so you can expect an expansion in SVCs Glorious Glass section, as I hunt around for interesting items.
But to return to natural history; my final teasing picture appeared to be a picture of The Acropolis, which I said was taken from Washington. It is Sunderland's Penshaw Monument and the picture was taken from Washington Wetlands, which is where we're off to next. Incidentally, there is not only a Washington in Tyne and Wear (George Washington's ancestral home) but also a Philadelphia and a New York. But back to the wetlands, which is a full day out and, as you would expect there are plenty of waterfowl, both native and non-native species, bird hides from which to view them and a good scattering of information boards, so you know what you're looking at and why. At the furthest point of the reserve, tucked away in a quiet corner, are the amphibian ponds. Here you will find the rarest of Britain's three newt species, The Great Crested Newt. Their numbers have declined drastically in the past fifty years, as their ponds have been filled in, built over, or just polluted.
And finally, a walk around the estate. By which, I mean housing estate. I was greatly impressed by the amount of green spaces around Sunderland. This massive hay meadow, surrounded by houses and tower blocks, provided a wealth of insects from all different orders – Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), Hymenoptera (bees, ants, wasps and sawflies), Hemiptera (true bugs), Diptera (flies) and Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies). Sunderland may not be the first place you think of for a summer holiday, but it certainly shouldn't be the last.
Steve's Vintage Collectables. (click to visit)
Or why not join the 2.5k members of our Naturalists group?
All the best,