A couple of photo galleries to catch up on from various recent travels:
Firstly, we went to an owl sanctuary for my Dad's birthday. Now I'm aware that there is an element of the Alan Partridge about this, but it was actually quite interesting. Dad is a bit of an amateur ornithologist, Nia likes owls, and we didn't bother to solicit Alys' opinion on the matter, so it was all good. And as it happened it was a nice day and they had various other non-owl wildlife on display as well.
The sanctuary in question is here, just up near Kington, an hour or so's drive from my parents' place in Abergavenny. And it pretty much does what it says on the tin in that they have a lot of owls, of a bewildering variety of species. They also have sheep, goats, alpacas, various rodents, tortoises, ducks, geese, the whole nine yards, as well as a picnic area and the inevitable gift shop where we bought Nia a little cuddly snowy owl, which she promptly christened Snowy, in common with probably 99% of snowy owl toys purchased there.
Last weekend we took ourselves off for a bit of a tour of the south coast, starting off by staying a couple of nights in a little cottage in Emsworth which Hazel had found on Airbnb. Emsworth is a town between Portsmouth and Chichester which has several pubs - including the Bluebell where we had a nice fish & chip lunch and a pint of Doom Bar - and a pleasant little harbour area from which you can walk along the edge of Chichester Harbour, the big tidal area between the mainland and Hayling Island. Better still, the cottage we were in, just north of the main town area, was right next to a charming little miniature nature reserve, and, more prosaically but very usefully, a branch of Tesco.
We'd chosen the location as it was handy for the second half of our trip, but also because it was in close proximity to Paulton's Park, home of lots of exciting rollercoaster-y delights à la Alton Towers (only without the crashing and the limb-severing, hopefully) for older children, but also home of Peppa Pig World, where we'd promised we'd take Nia. Luckily it was a weekday outside of the school holidays so the queues were reasonably short. At busy times it must be absolutely hellish. Anyway, Nia had an absolutely brilliant time, which was the main thing, and it was generally very good and very well-run. Needless to say visitors are obliged to exit through the gift shop, but we got away fairly lightly by purchasing a small cuddly George and a story book at a total cost of about twelve quid. Our triumph at this was short-lived, as we promptly lost George during a trip across the nature reserve and had to buy another one off the internet to replace him.
We happened to catch Chichester Harbour at low tide when we went for our walk, so we were able to wander some distance out onto the mudflats and gaze across to Hayling Island. This is the only one of the three islands (Portsea Island, Hayling Island, Thorney Island) in the extended tidal harbour area (technically it's a ria) that's still a "proper" island, the other two being, via various sea-wall construction and land reclamation, pretty much joined to the mainland these days apart from the odd tidal creek.
Interestingly, a feature of all Ordnance Survey maps of the area is the appearance of a footpath taking a curved route across the channel between Hayling Island and the mainland - it's marked on my brand-new Explorer map, for instance. This is the route of an ancient path called the "wadeway", which was once the only foot route onto the island. It's unclear whether the name derives from the same origin as Wade Court Park just to the north, or just from the fact that you'd have to do a certain amount of wading, even at low tide. These days you'd have to do a bit more than that, as it happens, as the navigation channel of the old Portsmouth and Arundel canal cuts across the route (it's the bit marked as "New Cut" on the map picture, and clearly visible here). Even with a bit of silting up you'd probably find yourself needing a snorkel at some point; I assume the Ordnance Survey retain the route as a historical curiosity and in the hope that no-one would be foolish enough to actually attempt to use it. The stumps on the other side of the modern road bridge are the remains of the old railway bridge that carried the Hayling Island Branch Line.
We went on over to Bournemouth to visit some friends on the Friday, via Staunton Country Park just north of Havant. No owls, but some fairly bog-standard petting zoo/wildlife-feeding stuff, plus an interesting hedge maze which Nia did her best to get lost in. As if that wasn't exciting enough we also got to go to the beach at Southbourne (in glorious sunshine, thankfully) and have a thrillingly late night (by Nia's standards) over at Trafalgar School in Downton while watching our friend Mark play the French horn for the Hyde band. Their finale was an impressive rendition of the 1812 Overture accompanied by a firework display.
So: owl pictures can be found here, south coast tour pictures are here.