Waging war on plastic

scott-warman-525481-unsplashGOING GREEN: vegetables without plastic wrapping [PICTURE: Scott Warman, Unsplash]

IT WAS a health scare that started Kathryn Kellogg first thinking about what she was putting in and on her body.

“I had never considered it before; I just assumed everything I was consuming was safe,” she says. “There’s very little regulation and testing for the products we buy. Cleaning companies don’t even have to release the ingredients they use.”

After starting to cook from scratch and starting to make her own cleaning and beauty products, the aspiring actress moved to California as was shocked to see all the litter and plastic in the ocean.

“I knew I had to do something; so, I decided to be the change I wanted to see. I stopped buying plastic and wanted to create a sustainable life. It felt like a really natural progression,” she recalls.

Living in the Bay area and spending her free time hiking and cooking, she worked a 9-5 job and is one of a number of young millennial women responsible for promoting a zero-waste lifestyle revolution that has taken off in a big way.

Kathryn’s blog, Going Zero Waste, was launched in March 2015 and by the time she was profiled in The Guardian a year later, was attracting 10,000 page views a month and had 800 subscribers.

The focus of her Instagram, Facebook and Twitter posts is all about homemade products and simple shopping tips that can help avoid unnecessary waste. The goal is to ensure her trash for the past year – anything that hasn’t been composted or recycled – fits in an 8oz jar.

She’s not alone – over in Chicago, Celia Ristow of Litterless espouses a similar zero waste vibe.

And it’s got to make sense. One of the best things about her blog is her desire to make things accessible and attainable: so that for anyone starting out on the zero waste journey or just wanting to be a little more eco-friendly, her first suggestion is always the ‘Big Four’ simple, easy swaps popularised by Plastic Free July, an initiative which originated in Western Australia but which now involves participants around the world.

Kathryn advises that these four items – plastic bags, straws, single use water bottles and takeaway coffee cups – are easy to avoid and make-up a huge portion of waste in landfills and the ocean.

It’s a great starting point for reducing litter at the point of consumption – and just one of a series of straightforward tips on Kathryn’s website.

heder-neves-177219-unsplashLESS IS BEST: steering clear of plastic [PICTURE: Heder Neves, Unsplash]

In fact, this is just one of more than 300 blog posts full of zero waste tips. For anyone starting out on the journey, Kathryn’s Beginners’ Guide is as good a place as anywhere to start.

Vivid view from the ridge

5tx4w3UP TO THE RIDGE: one of Christine’s AONB landscapes

PLENTY of artists draw their inspiration from the beauty of the Chilterns countryside.

What makes Christine Bass’s contemporary landscapes so unusual is the vividness of her tropical colour schemes, which betray her Trinidadian roots.

More than 30 of the paintings on her website feature extraordinary scenes across the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty from Ivinghoe Beacon to Bledlow Ridge.

Near BledlowNEAR BLEDLOW: original acrylic and mixed media

Her landscapes are characterised by strong lines and shapes, flattened planes and the use of vibrant colour. She grew up in Trinidad and it’s easy to see how the bright light and vivid colours of the tropics still exert an influence in her paintings.

She draws inspiration from the countryside where she lives, on the Buckinghamshire border with Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire – and her work is on show until Sunday June 24 as part of this year’s Bucks Arts Weeks displays.

She is one of nine artists and craft workers currently showing their work in the atmospheric surroundings of St Dunstan’s Church in Monks Risborough.

Track beneath Ivinghoe BeaconFAVOURITE WALK: a track beneath Ivinghoe Beacon

Although other parts of England feature in her paintings too, from the South Coast to Cornwall and the Lake District, the gentle beauty of the Chiltern Hills provides a constant source of pleasure, her pictures capturing the patterns of fields scored by furrows and bounded by hedgerows, the bare trees of winter, the colours of crops and of the seasons.

Christine’s blogsite contains more details about her work and career. The show at St Dunstan’s runs until 5pm on Sunday. Other Bucks Arts Weeks events take place across the county throughout the week, with more than two dozen artists featured on the Princes Risborough Art Trail, which includes venues at Askett and Bledlow.

Peter picks up the baton

Peter_at_BeacondfieldROADSIDE LITTER: Peter Silverman surveys the problem at Beaconsfield

PETER Silverman is a man on a mission.

It wasn’t always like this. But what began as an observation about the apparently worsening tide of litter on roadside verges around his home has turned into something of a crusade.

It was back in 2010 that the retired financial adviser became aware of specific problem areas that seemed to be being ignored by the relevant authorities.

“The amount of stuff on the verges was monumentally worse than it is now,” he recalls. But part of the problem then, as now, was working out which authority was actually responsible.

Highways England and its contractors are responsible for keeping motorways and trunk roads clean, but in counties like Buckinghamshire, although the county council is responsible for highways, litter-picking is a district council function.

It soon became clear to Peter, now 75, that some spots – like slip roads around the Denham roundabout where the A40 meets the M40 – appeared to be slipping through the net and had been totally neglected.

Part of his frustration was that the authorities appeared to be failing to fulfil their duties under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 S89(1) to “ensure that the land under their control is, so far as is practicable, kept clear of litter and refuse”.

Not a motorist to be trifled with, Peter duly issued a Section 91 warning notice under the ‘EPA’ legislation to the transport secretary, prompting a sixfold increase in cleaning activity by the Highways Agency’s contractor, bringing the southern end of the M40 up to an acceptable standard by June of that year.

But of course the problem didn’t stop there. Eight years on, and Peter’s website pays testimony to his ongoing battle with the authorities – a fight which has been picked up by like-minded motorists around the country.

The problem hasn’t gone away, of course. Only this year another litter abatement order was required before Highways England fulfilled its legal responsibilities to clean up slip roads around the Denham roundabout.

Peter’s frustration lies not only with the agencies involved but with the lack of concerted and effective action from central government – exacerbated by funding cutbacks.

To make matters worse, responsibility for litter is “passed around like a hot potato” by government ministers, he maintains. Whereas an ‘important’ job like health secretary has been held by Jeremy Hunt since 2012, litter has not been prioritised in the same way.

“Jeremy Hunt has been in charge of the NHS for years and every year you get more expert,” says Peter. “With litter, the people do it for a year and move on. It’s the same with the people in charge of the Highways Agency.”

Undeterred, Peter’s website has continued to chronicle his mission to get the authorities to fulfil their duty to keep their land clear of litter – and to do far more to deter those who create it in the first place.

“For decades central government has failed to provide the leadership, funding and resolution needed to get to grips with the problem,” he maintains.

No organisation was charged with the task of policing compliance with EPA duties and he fears that the issue is far from being a top government priority, despite the publication of a “litter strategy for England” updated last July.

“In 2015 a Commons select committee concluded that England is a litter-ridden country compared to most of Europe, North America and Japan,” says Peter. “Our main roads and motorways are in the worst state of all. Local authorities pay less heed to through roads where there are usually no residents to complain about their condition.”

But the national litter strategy promises no additional funding for litter collection and fails to adequately tackle any of the key issues, he believes.

“The litter strategy is a total and utter joke,” he says. There are similarly harsh words for Keep Britain Tidy and many of those working for key government agencies, including ministers and civil servants: “We may not have the kind of widespread corruption you see in some countries but we have our own kind of corruption in the form of making life easy for civil servants, for not having the courage to actually deal with problems.”

There has been much talk about forcing councils to remove roadside litter and prosecute offenders, but he believes many council schemes where specialist contractors can issue on-the-spot fines for littering are only ‘token operations’ to show a council is doing something, with most officers instructed not to issue juveniles with such fines because of magistrates’ “reluctance to give a 15-year-old a criminal record for dropping a packet of crisps”.

It’s not just the roadside litter that’s a problem either, he points out, but spillages from skip lorries and bulk waste transporters. Despite evidence that this occurs on a regular basis, the Environment Agency has only prosecuted one such offending company since 2000, he claims – and that was at his instigation.

“Highways England obstinately refuse to accept that they can and should prosecute these offences,” he maintains.

And apart from our filthy motorways, there’s another major problem when it comes to clamping down on fly-tipping: that despite this being a criminal offence punishable by unlimited fines and a five-year jail sentence if convicted in a crown court, the Environment Agency appears to have prosecuted only ONE case involving large-scale fly-tipping in 2017.

The agency is responsible for investigating larger scale fly-tipping, hazardous waste and fly-tipping by organised gangs. But while Defra minister Therese Coffey referred to more than 200 incidents of large-scale flytipping being ‘dealt with’ by the agency in 2017, Peter’s Freedom of Information request asking about the number of prosecutions brought by the EA between 2006 and 2015 showed the number had declined from 96 in 2006 to 26 in 2015.

There’s plenty of tough talking from the EA, which says: “Our specialist crime unit uses intelligence to track and prosecute organised crime gangs involved in illegal waste activity. We are determined to make life hard for criminals.”

But Peter’s research revealed many of the recorded prosecutions were for the mis-management of waste transfer, treatment and storage sites rather than fly-tipping.

Enfield-fly-tipEYESORE: large-scale fly-tipping in Enfield in March 2018 [PICTURE: Peter Silverman]

He explains: “In fact only three of the 30 cases in 2017 were definitely for fly-tipping. Two of these were in effect the same case as two members of the same family were prosecuted for the same incident. Their combined fines were £75,000. In the other case the fine was only £900.

If such statistics sound depressing, the good news is that it means Peter isn’t quite ready yet to stop being a thorn in the side of the authorities – whether that means government ministers and departments, local councils or the Highways Agency.

Sadly, the campaign still has to reach a wider national audience. Despite occasional outings on national TV (he was a guest on BBC Breakfast in April this year), his Youtube broadcast clips (as when he featured on BBC’s Don’t Mess With Me documentary series about littering back in 2014) are still seen by hundreds rather than thousands of viewers.

But there’s clearly huge support for his work nonetheless. The ‘Have Your Say’ section of his website contains hundreds of comments from drivers who share his anger and frustration at the roadside litter scandal – and who realise the battle is one worth fighting.

As contributor John Lindsay wrote in April: “Peter is doing a fantastic job to bring more attention to the litter disease that engulfs our country.

“We all have a choice to either do something about our littered nation or not. We must spread the word to educate our own families, neighbours and friends. By acting together we will leave a better legacy.”

It’s an important message. Peter’s website may testify to the fact that this is so evidently a one-man campaign – but it also reveals that it’s not one he has to fight entirely on his own.

Litter campaign gathers pace

TREE

IT’s exciting to see a dynamic new nationwide campaign being launched by a small group of professionals united by a shared passion for looking after our environment – and growing concerns about litter.

Clean Up Britain (CLUB) has been lobbying hard for a national litter campaign as well as inspiring and enabling communities and businesses to tackle a range of recycling and environmental issues, from reducing single-use plastics to clamping down on fly-tipping and roadside litter.

Founded by John Read, who has extensive experience in campaigning, corporate communications and public affairs, CLUB launched its Litter Kills initiative last month with the following message:

The UK has a serious litter problem. Take a look around you – every village, town, city, beach and roadside is blighted with the lazy leftovers of our daily lives.

We’ve been wrestling hard with how to properly ignite the conversation about litter and the damage it does.

In particular, we need to get to young women and men, age 16-30, who don’t even think about litter. This age group, while outwardly professing a love of the planet, recycling and other green issues, over-indexes on littering compared to other age groups.

It’s been ages since a national anti-litter campaign ran which changed littering behaviours, the topic of littering gets no airtime with this audience, and any wider efforts to prompt thinking and behaviour change has been largely ineffective.

Litter doesn’t really figure on their radar. Yet.

We had seen the RSPCA stats – they get 5,000 calls a year about animals injured by litter. Instinctively, we knew that this must be the tip of the iceberg.

We also knew, from previous research, that talking about hurt and dead animals was one of the only ways to ignite the conversation about litter with our target audience.

And so we began looking hard at the impacts of litter on animals, and with help of  the RSPCA, the British Veterinary Association and the pet charity Blue Cross, we built the bigger, shocking picture. Our campaign ‘Litter Kills’ was born.

CATSDOGS-JPG_For-website

CLUB recognises the images are shocking, but believes that’s necessary:

We need to give people a reason to react strongly to seeing others litter, and make those who do think twice. We have to shift attitudes and behaviour.

We’re supposedly a nation of pet and animal lovers. British households in total host 8.5m dogs and 8m cats. Millions of us care about wildlife and enjoy seeing wild animals where we live, work and play.

Yet our littering habit affects thousands and thousands of animals in a very bad, sometimes fatal, way.

Tragically, the images selected for the campaign are all real, selected from countless case studies of animals injured or poisoned by discarded takeaways, mouldy food or broken glass.

The “litter kills it’s time to act” message is part of CLUBs Now or Never campaign which kicked off in Leamington Spa and received widespread local and national media coverage.

And earlier news releases have focused on issues like fly-tipping, another issue close to our hearts at The Beyonder.

Back in March last year, CLUB warned busy residents not to unwittingly pay rogue traders to dispose of their waste.

The message was simple: make a quick check with the Environment Agency to see if they have a waste carrier permit, rather than risking a huge fine for having the waste disposed of illegally.  Any legitimate trader should be happy to provide their name or registration number. The agency can be contacted by phone on 03708 506 506).

IMG_0748

 

 

 

 

 

Raven Alfie rules the roost

IMG_0662MAKING MISCHIEF: Alfie the raven is determined to play

ALFIE the raven is in mischievous mood during our visit to Corvid Dawn in Berkshire.

This is not at all unusual, it transpires – and to be fair we were given plenty of warning to watch out for one of the more colourful characters looked after by Aimee Wallis at her wild bird rescue sanctuary.

The captive-bred raven flies free around their rural retreat and takes a very close interest in our movements. But then this is a bird who flies and trots along when the ‘family’ goes for a walk and enjoys playing games like ‘fetch’ and hide and seek (as long as he gets to make up the rules).

Alfie’s clearly in his element amid the motley assortment of other animals to be found in Aimee’s sanctuary, and as we embark on a guided tour there are soon plenty of curious onlookers in tow – a trio of dogs, a couple of rescue lambs from Wales and the neighbours’ children, for a start.

Cutest of the new arrivals is Missy the baby duckling, a tiny white mallard found by a couple on a canal, either abandoned by her mother or dropped by a predator.

The RSPB warns people only to interfere with fledglings as a last resort, and says: “Seeing ducklings and other young birds on their own is perfectly normal, so there’s no need to be worried. Just because you cannot see the adult doesn’t mean they are not there.”

IMG_0623BALL OF FLUFF: Aimee and partner Dario with Missy the duckling

But the couple who found Missy could find no trace of mum and looked after her for a couple of days before bringing her to Aimee.

“They did so well, did all the right things, she’s a lucky girl. They’re off back to Australia at some point so couldn’t really take her on,” Aimee explains.

Missy will be in good company here. The rescue lambs are taking a close interest in her welfare as she settles into her paddling pool and there’s a lot of curiosity among the corvids too – the crows, rooks, jackdaws and ravens who are the main focus of attention at the centre.

IMG_0605MAKING A SPLASH: Missy settles into her paddling pool

Yes, there are hens and turkeys here too, but it’s the corvids that are Aimee’s first love and which prompted her to create the sanctuary in the first place. Before all this she had a career in the beauty industry, though that life seems very distant to her now.

It’s a few years since Aimee’s first encounter with corvids, after she and her mother took an injured blackbird to a bird sanctuary and she became intrigued by the intelligence of the crows and ravens who were kept there.

In fact she ended up working at the centre as a volunteer and the love affair was cemented when she first encountered a blind five-week-old crow called Wonder. But as she began to learn more about the birds she also began to realise that she and the owner had very different ideas about how the rescue centre should be run.

She says: “My first question was when will the birds be released, but it was clear they weren’t going to be. He didn’t agree with nature, he thought the birds were better off with him than they would be in the wild.”

IMG_0645FUN AND GAMES: playing with Alfie

It’s clear that there are plenty of unhappy memories associated with that period of her life, but Aimee doesn’t shirk from difficult questions and has publicly spoken out in the press about her experiences at the sanctuary, which was raided by police in 2015, after she had left.

“The former volunteers were all devastated by the outcome,” she says. “When I first went there I noticed that the cages were not in a great state and there wasn’t a lot of water. I just thought they needed some help so I started volunteering.”

Aimee started releasing healthy birds from the aviaries herself and taking ill birds to a local vet, learning a lot about the birds’ welfare in the process. She was allowed to take two birds with her when she left, but dozens of birds were seized in the police raid and a number had to be put down.

The corvid family includes crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaw, jays and magpies – all known for their intelligence – and it was clear to her that she wanted to set up her own rescue centre if at all possible.

After moving back home with her mum for a while she worked in a local pub and was able to keep her birds on land there for a year until the pub got planning permission to expand. By then, word had got around about her rescue work, prompting one farmer she also worked for to offer her the chance of establishing a proper base in the country.

That move in November 2017 provided the perfect opportunity to set up Corvid Dawn as a more spacious sanctuary able to offer a proper rescue and release service.

“We were in desperate need of a new base and the farm is run by a lovely older couple,” says 36-year-old Aimee.

IMG_0603WOOLLY FLOCK: the lambs were too small to thrive on the farm where they were born

It’s a perfect location for her centre and it’s been a busy few months working on new accommodation for the growing family. It’s hard to keep track of exact numbers, though, with new arrivals most weekends. That all adds to a pretty demanding work schedule – not to mention proving a costly exercise, with so many mouths to feed.

The aim, wherever possible, is to rescue and release birds back into the wild, although some of the more badly injured will be longer-term residents, along with cruelty cases who may have been mistreated or neglected.

Eventually, Aimee hopes the centre will also be able to perform an important educational role, introducing school children to the birds through talks and displays at locations like the Nature Discovery Centre in Thatcham, Berkshire.

Her mission is to demonstrate just how intelligent and perceptive birds can be and, by sharing her experiences of rescuing and rearing corvids, promote a better understanding of  British wild birds among pupils.

“They are fantastic judges of character. It’s bizarre – they show jealousy and they have favourite objects,” she chuckles.

IMG_0610SAFE REFUGE: spacious cages provide a home for a variety of rescued birds

Providing sanctuary to her family of animals and birds has involved some rapid cage-building, although one day she would love to have a free-flying flock of rooks.

For now, large cages will have to suffice. But partner Dario, 33, has been a willing worker, even embarking on a carpentry course to hone his woodworking skills.

An Italian with former experience in the military, he came to the UK to improve his English and had a job locally working with horses when they first met.

There are signs of his hard labour everywhere, from the fencing and cage construction to the newly turned over patch which will soon become a vegetable garden.

IMG_0639MENAGERIE MANOR: Dario with the chickens and turkeys

It’s clear that he loves animals too, despite the hard work involved in almost every aspect of their care.

Alfie is looking down from a lofty perch inspecting us as we wander around his territory, a reminder that establishing such a close relationship with him has been no easy task.

Bred in captivity for the pet trade, he was angry and suspicious and it has taken many, many hours of cajoling – and plenty of slashes from his razor-sharp beak – to win his trust and establish the sort of easy rapport that we are able to witness.

IMG_0630RULING THE ROOST: Alfie keeps a beady eye on what’s going on

But despite the tough times – the tales of animal cruelty and the trauma of dealing with ill and injured animals – Aimee finds people’s compassion and kindess a huge compensation.

The weekend after our visit sees an influx of new arrivals: badly injured baby blackbirds mauled by a cat, a jackdaw with an eye infection, an almost paralysed crow hit by a car.

“The saddest was three newborn baby blackbirds that came in,” she posted on the centre’s Facebook page, where some of her 1400 followers are quick to offer their support. “They all died one by one, despite antibiotics and heat.”

Yet almost in the same breath she is posting: “Can I just say what wonderful people I’ve met through these birds this weekend, really kind driving them to meet me or even bringing them here, really touching to see people show such compassion, thank you so much xx”

IMG_0635FEATHERED FRIEND: Aimee with one of the hens

Alfie is far from being the only star of the show, of course – there’s Ratchet the rook grabbing an impossibly large twig for nest building, Dara the one-legged crow recovering from an operation at the vet’s, and a dozen other assorted corvids clamouring for love and attention.

Not to mention the animals too, of course. “We are busy with farm animals – we are suckers for it, to be honest, Aimee admits. “We have two little pigs – that was an emergency thing – and two lambs, and some rescue turkeys. And about 23 birds, mainly corvids.

IMG_0640FEEDING FRENZY: Dario with the pigs

Out here in rural Berkshire, there’s quite a substantial population of wild animals too, including hundreds of rooks, jackdaws and starlings in nearby fields and woods, along with foxes and badgers.

The wild rooks may be a little perplexed by Alfie’s decision not to stray too far from home – but so far the fencing has proved a sufficient deterrent to keep the hens in and the foxes out.

Not that the education process is restricted to children. Many farmers regard crows and pigeons as pests, and dozens of fieldsports videos are dedicated to the merits of different guns and cartridges for disposing of the birds, citing their damage to crops and potential spread of disease as key arguments for pest control.

Aimee doesn’t mind discussing such matters with anyone, as long as they can keep the debate civilised.

IMG_0641HOME FROM HOME: the rescue centre takes shape

“I’m just a normal girl who loves animals,” Aimee insists. Maybe so, but it takes a pretty dedicated individual to lavish this kind of time and attention on such a large and demanding family just for the fun of it.

All the hard work doesn’t go unappreciated, though, judging by the reactions of her feathered friends. And it’s Alfie who has the last word, of course, cackling loudly as we start making moves to leave, and even standing out there on the road to see us off…

For more information about Corvid Dawn, see the centre’s Facebook page.

IMG_0669

Beale Park feels the chill

IMG_0453

WINTER’S TALE: an unseasonal icy blast casts a chill over Beale Park

There could hardly have been a worse time to visit Beale Park. It’s only a few days after unseasonal March snowstorms have been swept across the UK by the “Beast from the East” – there’s ice in the lake water, the wind is bitter and the few animals who are out and about look as if they would much prefer to be somewhere a whole lot warmer.

Despite that it’s still possible to see just what a lovely location this riverside spot would be on a summer’s day. The landscaped gardens between Pangbourne and Lower Basildon in Berkshire have the Thames as a backdrop – and on virtually any other day of the year that in itself would be a major attraction.

Back in 1956 when Gilbert Beale set about transforming 350 acres of private Thames-side farmland into a charitable trust, it was little more than a track and a couple of ponds.

IMG_0459

PEACOCKS ON PARADE: the park’s eccentric founder had a soft spot for the birds

Today the distinctive cry of a peacock is a reminder of just how much the eccentric Gilbert loved the birds – by the time of his death in 1967 at the age of 99 there were over 300 on site. Legend has it that his favourite, a peahen called Laura, followed him everywhere and even rode around the estate in his Rolls-Royce.

Flash forward half a century and nowadays the park boasts three main attractions: the collections of small exotic animals, farm animals and birds; the landscaped gardens and woodlands; and the children’s play areas.

For our chilly March visit it would be easy to be hypercritical. Many of the more appealing creatures are hunkering down out of the chill wind, some of the park is still being renovated ahead of the main season and sections of it feel more like a building site than landscaped gardens.

Icy ripples spread out over the closed paddling pool and everything looks distinctly grey – we are too early for even the bravest flora to be flowering and there’s virtually no colour in the gardens yet.

But that’s more to do with the timing of our visit than any lack of effort on the part of the management and it’s clear that over the years a lot of effort has gone into sympathetically landscaping the surroundings and expanding the range of attractions.

It’s still a family affair – thanks to the involvement of Gilbert’s great-nephew, Richard Howard, and his family, along with a dedicated team of staff, some of whom have been associated with the park from its earliest beginnings.

IMG_0483

ANIMAL MAGIC: the story for Beale Park’s transformation

The main appeal is definitely for parents with younger children – even aside from the animals, the big play area is an obvious attraction and the sand pits and paddling pool must be great fun in summer.

It’s worth checking out the park’s website ahead of your visit if you want to find out a little more about their conservation and education work. It’s possible that display boards were in the process of being refreshed for the main season, but we found relatively little information  explaining what was actually happening on the conservation front. In fact the website doesn’t tell you too much detail either, although there’s a rundown on all the animals you can meet on a visit, with a note about their natural habitat and behaviour.

The “park guide” leaflet contains virtually no information about the attractions, but you do get a handy map at the gate – as well as a free trip on the mile-long narrow-gauge railway which dawdles through the grounds, pulling four open carriages and up to 64 passengers.

MAP

PARK LIFE: Beale Park’s attractions are clearly signposted

Since the trust was formed the bird collection has advanced from a few peacocks to a collection of rare and endangered birds, but again there’s too little information about conservation programmes and what you are actually able to see.

We were captivated by the African grey-crowned cranes, for example, but couldn’t find any information about them on the cage or the website. Luckily a couple of staff were able to help identify them – and the 8,000 followers of the park’s Facebook page may get more regular updates and videos than are available on the website.

IMG_0464

CROWNING GLORY: one of the African grey-crowned cranes

The zoological collection has expanded too in recent years to encompass prairie dogs, coatis and unbearably cute slender-tailed meerkats. The larger paddocks are home to large flightless rheas, alpacas and wallabies, as well as fallow deer, pigs and sheep.

There are bugs, spiders and owls too, although again on the day of our visit everyone seemed to be lying low – and outside it was just too cold to fully enjoy the deer park or spend too long shivering at the lakeside.

IMG_0478

CUTE CUSTOMER: a slender-tailed meerkat

On this, the greyest of wintry days, the younger customers braving the weather still seemed to be having plenty of fun – and a surprisingly wholesome sausage and mash lunch for two in the cafe was the perfect antidote to combat the temperatures outside.

But Beale Park will be a whole lot more appealing when spring has properly sprung, and we pledged to return once the sun starts shining again and  everyone comes out to play.

Full details of attractions, admission prices and other details can be found on the park’s website.

Tree of inspiration

Kevin-Day-Sunlit-Tree

NEW DAWN: the gnarled tree in Langley Park

Those who love an early morning walk in Slough’s Langley Park or Black Park may already be familiar with the work of landscape photographer Kevin Day.

The Slough-based photographer has contributed a number of pictures to the gallery linked from the Friends of Langley Park website – and the story of one major photography project is told in an old profile article in Amateur Photographer.

“I often get up at five or six in the morning and go to the park, which is a ten-minute walk away,” says Kevin in the article. “It’s the light that interests me, and the way it affects the landscape. It’s constantly changing, at different times of the day, different times of year.”

The gnarled tree in Langley Park showed how you can return to the same subject again and again and get a different picture every time. But Kevin goes on to explain how the tree was also a symbol of his photographic renaissance.

Today, his personal work continues to complement his professional output and a selection of his nature pictures reflect this. “It’s more of a little hidden gallery occasionally people stumble across!” he says.

For those who share Kevin’s love of those two local parks, it’s a real treat – with 185 pictures to choose from – and the option to purchase copies too.