As part of London City Airport’s plan to increase the number of daily flights by 35% to meet increased demand (up to 110 extra flight per day), they have graced the perimeter of Southmere Lake in Thamesmead with warnings to completely stop feeding the birds. Perhaps we could all consider putting nature first and use the bus and train more instead? Then we would not have so much aircraft noise to bother us and could continue to enjoy the birdsong…
On Saturday 26 October at 2pm Bhajan Hunjen is leading an art and nature workshop at Thamesmead Library. It will be the Eggman’s pleasure to welcome everyone involved for a tour around the Egg during the course of the afternoon. All visitors will receive a gift of ‘swan food’ and a copy of JD Swann’s Thamesmead Best Beaks poster (please see previous posts).
An orchard for the enjoyment of local people was reportedly planted around twenty years ago on the edge of Crossness Park. However, after two walks in the area, all I could locate was an apple tree beside the Ridgeway Path. Does anyone know the Orchard?
My tree was in abundant fruit with a carpet of apples already on the ground for insects and birds. It tasted a bit like a Granny Smith; tart and acidic with a subtle sweet flavour and crisp, firm white flesh. Perhaps it’s a wilding grown up from a seed from a thrown away core, but not the kind of focused planting I was looking for.
Southmere Lake’s residents swans are in for a treat. On October 26th the Eggman will show local people how to make their own swan and duck feed and to take away free samples for the local ducks and swans.
We have all been encouraged from childhood to feed swans with bread and they have been fed this way for hundreds of years. It makes us feel good to connect with these beautiful creatures in this way, and provides the swans (and ducks) with a source of energy during the winter months when other food is scarce. However, we now know that there can be much better options. Bread has little nutritional value to swans – and seeds, peas, sweetcorn lettuce, rice, sultanas and apples are a much better bet.
Last year the Queen’s official swan marker David Barber, entered the debate and his advice was to feed them bread. But experts are really divided on this. As well as providing the birds with little nutrition, it also contributes to problems with the water, as they defecate more than normal and it contributes to contamination by green algae now present in Southmere Lake. The algae is bad for all the creatures living in the lake (not to mentions dogs if they swim in it) and if the spores get into the birds lungs, it will kill them. By clouding the water and by blocking out the sunlight, the algae prevents growth of the very weeds the swans need to feed on come Spring.
Mouldy bread can kill the birds too and this can be present in the stale bread many of us usually offer as feed (I’m sure I have been guilty myself). It makes the actions of the Thamesmead bread fly tipper all the more horrific. Around 500 rotten loaves (not to mention their plastic wraps) were ‘offed into the water one Saturday morning a few weeks ago and had to be cleared up as a matter of urgency.
So please stop by the Egg from 12 noon to 6pm on Saturday October 26th outside the Lakeside Centre, Bazalgette Way, Thamesmead SE2 9AN. See the food being made and take away a sample as well as a recipe sheet to DIY layer.
At the same time, JD Swann the renowned Ornithological Investigator will new launching his fabulous Thamesmead Best Beaks Poster, the result of research carried out with local people over the Summer. Stop by to collect a free signed poster and your swan food recipe card and sample.
As weirdly wonderful Thamesmead is redeveloped and perhaps grows more prosperous, the litter shows signs of moving upscale too.
When we removed the Egg from Southmere Lake a few weeks ago, there were quite a few comments posted on the local Facebook Group ‘Thamesmead All Stages’. ‘Where has the Egg gone?’ asked someone. ‘It’s been poached!’ was my favourite reply, though it has actually just been repositioned on shore.
I always wanted the Egg to sit underneath the Lime trees where Bazalgette Way runs along the north side of the Lakeside Centre, sheltered beneath their protecting boughs from the hot Summer sun and the worst of the wind and rain. The soon to appear canopy of yellowish leaves will also be a restful counterpoint the reds and browns of the Egg’s mellowed red cedar shell. It feels very at home here.
Next year in Spring, I can expect a sticky mess of honeydew to fall all over the Egg from the millions of aphids that feed on the fresh leaves and blossom. It might even help with waterproofing and will certainly add to the Eggs patina, which can be read like a calendar of its previous journeys (a spattering of guano from Southmere’s gulls has already created a near indelible record of its time on the lake).
This tree also produces sweet nectar so potent that it gets bees high, and people can also drink its flowers in a soothing floral tea – I intend offering a high (Lime) tea event in the Egg next Spring.
In advance of the leaves themselves, the ground this week continues to be covered in the bracts which carry the seed to earth. Late in August I watched little showers of them in twirled descent as I spent an afternoon sweeping them up from the concrete paving; maintaining a clearing that would soon be reclaimed by nature without the action of broom and refuse sacks. This truly abundant tree, like the Egg itself, is associated with fertility. All life of course comes from the Egg – and the seed its evolutionally cousin.
Though a native to the UK since the last ice age, the Lime, or Linden (Tila) as it is also known, is uncommon across the border in Scotland for example, since it needs hot weather to make the pollen viable and for seed to set. It is widely seen and respected across Europe though, often planted for ornamental and civic purpose. Across the lands which later became Germany, communities not only met to dance and celebrate beneath the Linden, but courts also met there to dispense justice. Until the 18th Century, verdicts in rural areas were often handed down as sub tilia (Unter der Linden).
Whilst living in Slovakia in 2012, I visited the famous Lime tree of King Matthias in Bojnice (1458 – 1490) which was reputedly planted in 1301. King Matthias loved to stay in Bojnice and held great dinner parties and even state meetings under the crown of the tree that was then 36 metres in diameter and 28 metres tall. Over the next few months, somewhat more modest celebrations might occur under the Limes beside the Egg; one local man a few weeks ago suggesting an eggnog night as we approach the Winter Solstice… As our lives become more urban it’s too easy to become divorced from nature and such seasonal actions that enrich the spirit and draw us all together.
Reusing the fallen bracts and seeds, I am making some very fragile Egglets in memory of this time and place. It will take a lot of luck and a huge amount of care if they are to approach the longevity of the trees own average of 400 years.
The importance of a tree, of our deep rooted connection to nature, is my message for today.
JD Swann’s second ornithological gathering (two more to come) exploring the diversity of avian life in Thamesmead, took place inside the Exbury Egg last Saturday. Many new species were both conceived and hatched – including seven year old Olly’s ‘Fishosaurus’. Please do stop by the Lakeside Centre in Thamesmead on Saturday 31st August between 12 – 6pm to explore the Egg and add your own creation to Mr Swann’s flourishing flock of feathered friends.
A fairy ring of fungi appeared yesterday on the north shore of Southmere Lake. According to legend it marks the path in the grass made by fairies dancing. There is a small school of thought suggesting that if you dance inside the circle, under the moon, that you may become lost in time and space forever…
The Algae has arrived on Southmere Lake and all access has been stopped for four months. If the Egg had still been on the water, it could not have been removed until December. A cyanobacteria, it is particularly toxic to dogs and can also cause skin rash, sickness and liver damage in people – especially children.