The Garden Diary 2013
September - part 1
1 - 14 September - Well, yet another gap has appeared in the diary despite my determination not to neglect things this year.
The remainder of August seemed to disappear in a blur of activity, with our grandson occupying us for much of the time, and then on the 30th we headed west with him in the back of the car. That night we stayed in a hotel in Exeter and the next morning his dad caught up with us and we headed for our usual hide-away at Pinetrees on the Lizard.
He flew a kite for the first time, went rock-pooling, caught fish and crabs, and thought it quite amusing when grand-dad was distracted for a moment and ended up with an edible crab holding on tightly to my hand with both pincers! Pride was hurt, but there was no blood drawn, and at least the crab had the decency to let go again when I put my hand into a bucket of sea water.
Two days ago there was a crab picture in a book we were looking at and he reminded me about the encounter......
Sadly, son and grandson could only stay for the first week and when they left it was as if they took the good weather with them, and it was all the more grey in their absence. The kayak was on top of the car and remained there all holiday - at least it saved having to wash the wet suit on our return home.
It also meant that we had a lot of time for relaxation (needed after the first week!). I didn't take out a macro lens once during the holiday, and instead pointed my long lens (the Nikon 300mm plus 1.4x converter) out to sea.
This photograph was taken from Coverack on 2 September, and it's only when you look closely at the large fishing boat in the middle that it appears that there is something amiss.
In the week before we set off for Cornwall a French fishing boat called Scuderia set off (28 August) from Roscoff on the French coast. Unfortunately, it seems that the skipper fell asleep when he should have been steering and it ran onto the rocks a few miles west of Coverack.
The picture was taken some two and a half hours after the salvagers managed to free it.
In this picture the fishing boat's list is clear to see. Fortunately the sea was flat clam and it was towed safely into Falmouth.
With Falmouth Bay acting as a refueling (bunkering) stop for shipping, there are often interesting vessels popping in and out.
One such was the Ciudad de Cadiz (City of Cadiz). Seen here on the 7th, it's a roll on - roll off ferry especially modified to carry wings of the Airbus 380 from North Wales (Mostyn) to Pauillac near Bordeaux in South-west France, from where they are transported by barge to the aircraft assembly facility at Toulouse.
Looking at that yacht with six pairs of legs dangling over the side, I can't help comparing it with the craft from New Zealand and the USA competing for the America's Cup at the moment. With their hydrofoils and incredible speed capability they seem a world apart from the sailboats we see in Falmouth Bay.
On this occasion it must have been waiting for something as it was still there two days later when another ship, the Genco Commodus (a bulk carrier) anchored behind it.
This newcomer, at 288m in length is over twice the 125m of the Ciudad de Cadiz, the latter being some 5.75km from us (at Porthallow) while the bulk carrier was 7km away.
A short time before that picture was taken, a mixture of changing tide and wind direction had revealed the St. Anthony's Lighthouse, 9.25km from us.
The small red vessel seen in both pictures is a pilot boat.
Also on the 7th this interesting structure made a brief appearance. It is the Excalibur, a crane barge that can lower its legs in order to work in water up to 40m deep.
Referring to two very useful apps, 'Marine Traffic' and 'Ship Finder', indicated that the tow line was around 500m long.
The destination of the combination was Holyhead, on Anglesey. They arrived there on 10/11 September, and just this morning I see that they have left Holyhead to head for the Walney Wind Farm off the Cumbria coast, one of the biggest wind farms in the world with 102 turbines.
As they left the bay they passed another device designed to harness renewable energy, seen here as a small yellow structure on the horizon (and 7km from us at Porthallow).
This is the Bolt 'Lifesaver' Wave Energy Converter, being tested here since April last year.
It consists of a doughnut shaped structure measuring around 16m across and which, in simple terms, has three 'yo-yo' like devices, each joined to an anchor point on the sea bed by a cable. As the structure moves up and down with the tides and waves these cables turn generators to produce electricity. As it is still at an early experimental stage there are no power cables linking it to the shore.
As usual, it is difficult to get an idea of scale when looking out to sea, but on this occasion that problem was eased when the 'Lifesaver' was visited on 12 September.
Weather conditions were far from good so the image isn't brilliant, but you can see two people standing on the structure.
The 'Lifesaver' really did look small when this 'lump' passed in front of it. The M/V Autosun is a car transporter with a capacity of 2080 vehicles.
It pays frequent visits to the port of Pasajes in northern Spain, possibly collecting cars manufactured in Pamplona.
Several times during the first week of our holiday, when every day was sunny, we spent time amongst the rocks and sand of Kennack Sands, on the south-east corner of the Lizard. It's a great place to introduce small children to gentle rock-pooling, and our grandson had a great time there.
However, it wasn't until the second week that I took these photographs, when the weather was far less pleasant, making the beach look quite dismal.
The objective of this visit was to photograph the diamond-shaped sign that overlooks the beach, warning ship captains against anchoring offshore because of the presence of telephone cables.
And the reason for that mission was out at sea, although misty conditions hid it from sight when I took these pictures.
Earlier in the day visibility had been much better when we were down at Lizard Point, good enough for me to get this picture of the CS Raymond Croze which was some 16km away.
A very sophisticated cable laying ship operated by Orange Marine (hence the orange square on its hull), it remained in more or less the same spot without anchoring for over two days. Look carefully at the mid-ships mast and you may just make out three black shapes. These are a black diamond with black balls above and below it, warning other ships that it is engaged in underwater operations - and is that a cable going down from the bow or is it a cable going to the ship's remotely operated vehicle (ROV)? When on a cable laying task it can store an incredible 3200km of cable
Looking at my out of date chart of the sea area around the Lizard, and taking a bearing to the ship suggested that it could be above one of the cables coming out of Kennack, and this thought was reinforced when we got back to Pinetrees and I accessed 'Ship Finder' to confirm its position.
My chart shows five cables heading away from Kennack. One, to Spain, is no longer in service, and another crosses the English Channel on its way to St Ouen's Bay Jersey. More interesting are the other cables that link the UK to the SEA-ME-WE3 fibre optic link, going all the way from Western Europe to the Middle East and then South-East Asia. One of these heads up the English Channel, linking to Ostend and then the north German coast, the other heading to Penmarche in Brittany. Click here to see a good interactive map showing the World's undersea cable networks.
The position of the ship suggested that it was either inspecting or working on the cable that heads up the Channel. Also, the ship wasn't completely stationary, but on a haphazard path back and forth over a very small area, possibly using what is known as a ROV Follow function by which the ship can automatically follow the path of the ROV.
The holiday came to a gradual end with us doing very little over the last two days before we headed home on Saturday, on the way spending a couple of enjoyable hours in Bristol with our son Tim and his partner.
20 September - The first half of the week saw us enjoying the company of our grandson once more. Then, with drier conditions returning, on Thursday I began the big tidy-up of the garden. That was a big mistake. Within the first ten minutes I did something that caused my back to give up on me, and I've resembled Old Man Time ever since.... At least this evening I can straighten up if I do it slowly.
Anyway, it hasn't stopped me spotting two interesting items to photograph.
The first is this very small fungus that is displaying just a single, grey coloured fruiting body.
It's amongst moss that grows on the log used by solitary wasps,
and the fruiting body measures just 3.25mm across.
By this evening the cap had flopped over, revealing rather thick gills in this lower resolution photograph.
This morning I spotted this rather interesting fruiting body on the ground next to the Rowan. It is not one that I can recall seeing in the garden previously.
It appears to belong to the genus Geastrum and looks very similar to Geastrum rufescens,
and its size fits.
I've collected some of its chocolate brown spores and will try to photograph them when I'm rather more mobile.
22 September - The last two days have been just a little bit painful as the back continues to give me grief.
That consisted of an upturned monopod with a small (and old) 3-way tripod head to support the camera, a light-weight articulated arm to hold a small flash away from the camera, and a wireless remote.
The articulated screen on the camera meant that it was easy to align everything.
Anyway, the result was this shot that shows that the fleshy outer layer of the fruiting body has now curved much more than in the previous photographs, and the spore sac is standing somewhat proud, although any stalk that may be present is not visible.
The colour of the sac and its fringed opening match the description given of Geastrum rufescens in my copy of 'Mushrooms and other fungi of Great Britain and Europe' by Roger Phillips.
Click on images to see larger versions