I’ve been to this zoo a couple of times before, once with Sophie back in 2017 when it had only been been open 2 years, and then in 2019 with a couple of my grandkids.
Since then the zoo has expanded and now has two Arctic Foxes, and even more exciting, 2 snow leopards. They had to be visited of course, (cats R us 😊) so off Sophie and I went.
Firstly we stopped to see the Black Tailed Prairie Dogs which are also new to us. They are herbivorous burrowing rodents native to the grasslands of North America. They look quite cute and comical for big rats!
Next are the Meerkats, small Mongooses, (or should that be Mongeese? Not sure, anyway, Mongoose plural) found in southern Africa.
The aviary is the next stop, and whilst caged birds hurt my soul, they have some beauties here.
I’d photographed the owls etc previously so didn’t spend much time there. We went off to see the ring tailed lemurs but came across the Raccoon section first. Native to North America they are so cute!
The ringtailed lemurs are great to visit as you are allowed to walk through their space. They don’t attack people (which is good of them I think) and they gambol about swinging from trees and generally have a high old time.
Another ratty beasty is a giant rodent from South America called Capybara, they’re semi-aquatic which means they spend a lot of time in water, they even mate under-water. That sounds fun! 😀
The giant tortoises were amazing to see, they look quite pre-historic. The one at the top is a Sulcata tortoise, also known as African Spurred Tortoises, they can grow to be one of the largest reptiles, weighing in at over 90 kilos. The one at the bottom is a Leopard tortoise and they can live to be over 100 years and weigh up to 55 kilos. They are named for their distinctive yellow colouration with black spots, similar to a leopard. Hmm, can’t really see it myself. I didn’t think of leopards when I saw them anyway.
That will do for this time, stay tooned though for next week when we get to the big cats and doggies.
Sophie and I go to Wallington Hall quite often, the grounds are extensive and there’s always lots to point a camera at. I’ve done a few blog posts from there, in 2018 and 19, but missed 20 for obvious reasons.
You can click on the little arrow below to read the history bit if you are interested and it will expand for you. If you are a philistine however, you can just look at the pictures 🤣.
Wallington is a country house and gardens located about 12 miles west of Morpeth, Northumberland, England, near the village of Cambo. It has been owned by the National Trust since 1942 after it was donated complete with the estate and farms by Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan, the first donation of its kind. It is a Grade I listed building.
The estate was originally owned by the Fenwick family back in 1475. The Fenwick Baronetcy, of Fenwick in the County of Northumberland, was a title in the Baronetage of England. It was created on 9 June 1628 for Sir John Fenwick, of Wallington Hall, Northumberland. He sat as Member of Parliament for Northumberland and Cockermouth. The second and third Baronets also represented Northumberland in Parliament. The title became extinct when the third Baronet was executed for treason on 27 January 1697. The third Baronet, also a Sir John, was a Jacobite conspirator. I’m not going into Jacobitism here as it’s a very diverse and quite complicated political movement but basically a whole bunch of Brits aimed to restore the House of Stuart to the thrones of England, Scotland, and Ireland. You can google it for further info. Back to Sir John. He had succeeded his father to become an MP, and also later got to be a Major General in the army in 1688. He was a strong supporter of King James 2nd, the last Roman Catholic King of England, who was deposed in what was called the Glorious Revolution in 1688, and succeeded by William 3rd, or William of Orange, as he was known, a staunch Protestant. Our Sir John remained in England when William came to the throne, but had money troubles which led him to sell Wallington Hall to the Blackett family. Then Sir John decided to plot against William, insulted Williams Missis, Queen Mary, and was involved in a couple of assassination attempts on William. Eventually he was nabbed, and was beheaded in London on 28 January 1697.
So on to the Blacketts. Also given a Baronetcy, they were a wealthy Newcastle family of mine owners and shipping magnates. They shared the Fenwick’s love of parties and Jacobite sympathies, but the Blacketts managed to avoid both financial ruin and treasonable activities. Sir William Blackett (1657-1705) bought Wallington in 1688 as a country retreat from the family’s main home at Anderson place in Newcastle, and knocked down the medieval house and pele tower that the Fenwicks had built, though he converted the ground floor into cellars, which still remain. The new building was quite basic, it consisted of four ranges built around an open central courtyard. The upper floor was reached by ladders and had no internal dividing walls. It wasn’t meant to be a permanent home, but a residence for when the family wanted to have shooting parties for their poshknob pals.
The Fenwicks had also been known for their parties and hospitality, and the Blacketts followed the tradition. Sir William’s son took it to excess and employed six men simply to carry him and his drunken guests to bed after their grand parties. Upon his death he left debts of £77,000 and an illegitimate daughter, Elizabeth Ord. Wallington passed to his nephew Walter Calverley on condition that Walter married Elizabeth and adopted the family name. Walter agreed to this and in 1728 Wallington passed to the 21-year-old Sir Walter Calverley Blackett (1707-77). Surprisingly, and fortunately Sir Walter proved a better household manager than his uncle had.
He had the house completely remodeled, adding staircases and partitioning the upper floor into rooms. The gardens and grounds were extensively redesigned with the introduction of pleasure grounds, the planting of many trees, and the digging of watercourses and ponds. Sir Walter also built the clock tower which dominates Wallington’s courtyard. Amongst the many figures involved in the recreation of Wallington was Capability Brown who may have contributed to the work in the East and West Woods and was certainly responsible for designing the pleasure grounds at Rothley Lake. Sir Walter’s children died before him, so Wallington passed to his sister’s son: Sir John Trevelyan.
The Trevelyans were Baronets as well, and Wallington stayed in their family until 1942. The family includes authors, artists, MP’s and their history is far too long for a little blog post, but also quite fascinating. Sir Charles, the 3rd Baronet was the last to live there. He was first a Liberal and later a Labour MP. He served under H. H. Asquith as Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education between 1908 and 1914, when, as an opponent of British entry into the First World War, he resigned from the government. In 1914, also, he founded the Union of Democratic Control an all-party organisation rallying opposition to the war. In the 1918 general election, he lost his Elland seat, running as an Independent Labour candidate, but won Newcastle Central for Labour in 1922 and held it until 1931. In early 1939, following Stafford Cripps and with Aneurin Bevan among others, Trevelyan was briefly expelled from the Labour Party for persisting with support for a “popular front” (involving co-operation with the Liberal Party and Communist Party) against the National Government. He was the last surviving member of the first British Labour cabinet.
He had 6 kids, the eldest being Sir George, the 4th Baronet. He was effectively disinherited when his Dad gave Wallington to the National Trust.
In 1925, George went to read history at Trinity College, Cambridge, in accordance with family tradition. Whilst there he began his 42-year-long association with the famous ‘Trevelyan Man Hunt’, an extraordinary annual event which involved a chase on foot over the wild Lakeland fells, with human ‘hunters’ hunting after human ‘hares’. This energetic event was started in 1898 by Trevelyan’s historian uncle G. M. Trevelyan and the Wynthrop Youngs, and still continues today, as a kind of hide and seek game without dogs or weapons. He also became an educational pioneer and a founding father of the New Age Movement.
Not sure why Dad didn’t pass on the Hall to George, perhaps George was just too busy to look after the place, another fascinating chap.
After morning rain it turned out to be a lovely Autumnal day, the sun was mostly out and the sky that wintery pallid blue that contrasts so nicely with the greens and oranges of the landscape. We didn’t bother with the hall this time, but instead headed for the lake and the glass house.
Love these Japanese katsura trees, beautiful colours in autumn and their heart shaped leaves.
On the way we walked through woodlands and I got a couple more shots for my mushroom collection.
Always weird to see butterflies in October, this one was on it’s last days I think, missing an antenna thingy and looking a bit ragged
and still quite a few flowers about too, with stupid names.
So that will do for this time round, we’ll get to the lake and the glass house next time so stay tooned!
I should have done this post before Belsay Castle and Bolam Lake as Sophie and I visited here a month earlier, but I forgot I hadn’t done it so here it is.
The History Bit
Wynyard Woodland Park (formerly known as the Castle Eden Walkway) started life as a working railway carrying freight to the ports along the River Tees. There are miles of flat footpaths, (remember that phrase dear reader) and numerous circular walks for trompsing around. And the old railway station is now a visitor centre. Thorpe Thewles was a small country station located on the Stockton and Castle Eden branch of the North East Railway approximately 5 miles north of Stockton-on-Tees and slightly northeast of the village it served. The line was opened for traffic by 1882.
The branch itself was an important part of the railway network, taking pressure off the heavily used routes around the Stockton area. There was never a great potential for passenger revenue, as the communities served were quite small. Around the turn of the nineteenth century Thorpe Thewles itself only had a population of around 300. Nevertheless, in the 1930’s, the branch was provided with 5 trains a day in each direction between Stockton and Wellfield.
The bulk of traffic was coal, together with materials for the regional industries especially shipbuilding. The line connected Teesside with Sunderland and Tyneside. Hay, livestock and clover were the usual goods cargo handled by the station, and there were coal drops to serve the surrounding community.
The line’s final demise even as a bypass route occurred as a result of the Beeching Axe review, closing in stages between 1966 and 1968.
Interesting factoid There was an incident shortly before WW1 when the station master of Wynyard station, Mr G Dodds, discovered the dead body of the station master (name unknown) at Thorpe Thewles who is believed to have been murdered. Apparently his ghost wanders the visitor centre, so there’s that, if you believe in such things.
On with some pictures!
These guys were going to move so that we could take pictures of the sign, but I asked them to stay put and they were all smiley. 😊
We went along one of the circular walks without a map or anything and ended up walking miles not knowing where we were, that happens quite often to us. 🤷♀️
We started out well and came to this wonderful railway bridge with just amazing brickwork.
We came across a sculpture by Colin Wilbourne ~ the Celestial Kitchen. The park is also home to a planetarium and observatory, managed by the Cleveland and Darlington Astronomical Society so it’s to do with that, though we never found the observatory.
Each of the giant kitchen implements has a reference to the stars, the sun or various celestial movements.
You can read more about that on Mr.Wilbourn’s website HERE if you so desire.
On we trundled, I think we did the whole perimeter of the park instead of an actual prescribed walk and it took ages, with not much to photograph other than cows and pylons.
Eventually we got to a kind of junction on the pathway and had a choice of left or right- we chose right, which was also just plain wrong. Do you remember that phrase? Miles of flat footpaths? This stairway might as well have been up the side of Mount Everest, I nearly died before we got to the top. I am sure it is Sophie’s mission in life to make me do hills when we are out on our trips, and only herself would find a bliddy hill when it says miles of flat footpaths. 🥴🤣 I so moan whilst I’m going up.
Eventually we found our way back to the visitor centre and sat outside to have a very nice Panini from their café (we are the Panini Queens) and watch the birdies bobbing for crumbs.
Following on from part 1, we’re still photographing swans, because , well you can’t have enough magnificent swan pictures really. 🙂
The familiar pose with neck curved back and wings half raised, known as busking, is a threat display. Both feet are paddled in unison during this display, resulting in a more jerky movement. The swans may also use the busking posture for wind-assisted transportation over several hundred meters, so-called windsurfing.
The mute swan is one of the heaviest flying birds. In several studies from Great Britain, males (known as cobs) were found to average from about 10.6 to 11.87 kg (23.4 to 26.2 lb), with a weight range of 9.2–14.3 kg (20–32 lb) while the slightly smaller females (known as pens) averaged about 8.5 to 9.67 kg (18.7 to 21.3 lb), with a weight range of 7.6–10.6 kg (17–23 lb). The most familiar sound associated with mute swans is the vibrant throbbing of the wings in flight which is unique to the species, and can be heard from a range of 1 to 2 km (0.6 to 1 mi), indicating its value as a contact sound between birds in flight.
We often come across other people walking around the lake and now and again I can sneak in a people picture, in this case a little people picture’
and two couples, people and swans,
but rarely do we come across people in or on the lake, so this lot gave us a nice surprise.
they were having a grand time!
and swans are not the only birds at the lake though these are in a dead tree.
And that’s about it for Bolam Lake. Next time we’re popping around the corner to revisit St.Andrews Church so stay tooned for that!
Sophie and I were making the best of Autumn and so the weekend after visiting Belsay, we went off to look for more Autumnal colour and to see the swans et al at Bolam Lake. We last visited 4 years ago in September 2017 – ah, the good old pre-plague days! Looking back at those photo’s there was more autumn colours in September 17 than there was in Oct 21 🤷♀️.
Bolam lake was constructed c.1817 for Lord Decies of Bolam. John Dobson was commissioned to lay out the grounds in 1816, including the 25-acre artificial lake and woodland. Northumberland County Council purchased the lake and some of the surrounding woodland in 1972 for use as a Country Park.
The weather was a bit pants, but the swans didn’t seem to care. Bolam has a herd of Mute Swans, though they are not entirely mute, as they’ll hiss or snort if feeling threatened. But they are quiet in comparison with other types of swans, and in spite of that are quite beligerent with the male swans highly territorial. They will threaten intruders, striking an aggressive pose with wings arched over their back, before charging at them to chase them off.
There are many collective nouns for a group of swans, they can be a bevy, a gaggle, a whiteness, or a wedge, but only when in flight. Herd is OK too which suits me fine.
Since the 12th century, the Queen has had the right to claim ownership to all unmarked mute swans in the country swimming in open waters, and there is a traditional swan upping ceremony, an annual ceremony that has taken place for hundreds of years and takes five days. It’s held every July on the river Thames at Caversham. In the ceremony, a flotilla of Thames rowing skiffs, manned by “Swan Uppers” make their way along the river led by The Queen’s Swan Marker, David Barber. The cygnets are marked as being either part of the Vintners or the Dyers livery companies. This is determined by their parentage. All Crown birds are left unmarked. Although it’s a tradition it also helps with conservation. Anyway, it only happens on the Thames and the rest of the country’s Mute swans can go about their business unaware that they are Royal swans, although they always look regal, so maybe they are.
There is more to see than swans though, so let’s move on. The ground was damp, and shady so we came across a few mushrooms and fungi, I love finding ones I haven’t seen before.
my last photo today is of a dear little dog, a collie I think, who was undergoing some training with her owner. I hope it’s a girl dog!
That’s it for this week. As you read this I’ll be driving 250 miles down south, takes about 5 hours, to visit with my son and grandson, so will be late answering comments today.
Stay tooned for next time, there’s more to see at the lake 🙂 .
After doing the rounds of the Castle it was time to walk back through the quarry and avail ourselves of the tearoom located in the original kitchen of the hall. So a few more pictures from this amazing garden and that will be the end of our day out.
The trees on top of the quarry send their roots down over the edge, and the big ones split the rock as they travel down.
We took notice of the little things too
We spotted some autumn colours
and then through the exit and away we go.
So that’s the end of our day out to Belsay. Stay tooned for next time, when we’ll visit Bolam Lake.
The Castle was built as an extension to a manor in 1390, modified in 1614 with a Jacobean range on the west side, with a further wing added in 1711 or thereabouts, and was abandoned in 1817. It’s had it’s ups and downs since then, but English Heritage are looking after it now.
There are stairs up to the roof top of the castle’s tower house, and up we went to see the views..
There is a walled area in front of the castle and it has monkey puzzle trees in it..
and one of the walls of the castle has a carved face in the stonework. 😊
Finally the rear view of the castle with the imposing tower house built in 1391 by John Middleton.
Stay tooned for next time and the return through the Quarry Garden.
The Quarry Garden is a dramatic sheltered garden created out of the quarry from which the stone was extracted in the early 19th century to build the Hall, Castle and grounds. They are now in the care of English Heritage, who restored the Quarry Garden in the mid-1990s to reveal the full height of the quarry cliffs and the monumental rock faces, in line with their original 1830s concept of ‘Awesome Nature’. (That was from the blurb on English Heritage website, not quite sure people in the 1800’s were using ‘awesome’ as a word. Especially not in Northumberland where they speak a kind of English/Viking language so you only make out 1 in 3 words. Anyhoo, I digress…. )
Inspired by Sir Charles Monck’s travels, the Quarry Garden has its own microclimate which means all sorts of exotic plants grow there. Sophie and I love walking through it, there is so much to point our cameras at.
So today’s post is our walk through the Quarry Garden to get to the Castle, and we’ll have another look at it on our way back from the castle too.
Next time we’ll be at the Castle so stay tooned!
All pictures are embiggenable by clickerating on them.