Tuesday, 8 February 2011


I could happily say 'Don't come back', to this one! I was late getting going this morning and dressing by the upstairs window I spotted this bird on the path, eyeing up the goldfish. But the heron deterrent and the tangle of soft netting (put round the pond in the summer to stop the young cat across the road fishing for his supper and flattened somewhat by the heavy snow) put the kybosh on that idea!

I pattered downstairs to get the camera and puffed up again by which time he'd walked this far down the path and was about to disappear behind the trellis, so only one chance for a shot.
Then he flew onto the fence, sitting in the sun, warming his feathers and keeping an eye on the world. He was there for some time gazing around. I went down, hoping to make him fly away, which he duly did, but low down so no chance of getting a flying shot.

I have an interesting book by Francesca Greenoak called 'All the Birds of the Air - The names, lore and literature of British Birds.' It came from a charity shop for next to nothing because it's one of those paperbacks which 'breaks' into sections the minute you use it so lives with an elastic band round its middle.
The piece on herons says they have been with us since well before historical times, maybe about 400,000 years. The word Heron is Norman French and they were considered as prey for hawking. The birds were also used at banquets in the Middle Ages. Interestingly the local names for a heron seem to be in counties from the Midlands 'up' and plenty in Scotland. Only two 'southern' names, Ern in Somerset and Jack Hern in Sussex.

Bernard has put a piece on his blog about snowdrops in Great Missenden churchyard last year so I looked to see how Stone's snowdrops were doing this year. Nothing like the amount in Missenden's churchyard but enough. Like so many churchyards
ours is much higher inside than the ground outside but there's a special reason for ours being like this apart from hundreds of years of burials.

A Lunatic Asylum was built in Stone, opening in 1853 and meant to serve the whole county. With the mental health knowledge of the time it was expected that patients would stay for a few weeks, be 'cured' and go home. As the patients died they were brought to the village churchyard to be buried - there was nowhere else to take them, unless relatives took them home. In 18 years almost 400 patients had been buried in the village's ground and there had been some unease
for some years that there wouldn't be room for the villagers when their time came.

Eventually, in 1871, an Asylum cemetery was opened, for patients and workers, if the latter wished. It was across a large field opposite the Asylum gates to a small space which is now surrounded by trees; it was enlarged in later years. No headstones were allowed and records are closed under a 100 Year Rule though earlier information can be found in the Record Office. One of the most frequently asked questions we get at Bucks Family History Open Day is - Do you have any information on so-and-so who died in the Hospital in the 1920s (or1930s)?.You can get an idea of the height of the ground from the road in this photo. Why are snowdrops en masse so hard to photograph effectively. They seem to melt away and end up like a layer of frost!


marigold jam said...

Lovely pictures of the heron and the snowdrops. Snowdrops are a bit like bluebells aren't they the photo is never as good as the real thing seen with the human eye. Perhaps because we know what they are like and can see in our mind's ey the individual flowers rather than the carpet the camera sees.


Kath said...

Fab photo Silve, herons don't seem to mind you getting close,do they? That always surprises me here, where we have 3 resident herons on the Brue.
Very interesting about the Asylum, I never knew aything about it, although I passed by often.

Sylve said...

Hallo Jane, this year I mean to get bluebell photos. I started blogging in August so it wasn't relevant last year.
Hi Kath - the Asylum was sold off to developers for housing, only the Chapel remains.

Dutch Duo said...

Hi Mum...Herons look very prehistoric when they fly, neck tucked up and over thier back and legs out stretched,we have them all the time here you see them sitting by ditches at the side of the road, or by the man made lakes.

Bernard said...

A trip wire round the ponds is all that is needed.
(so I'm told).
Herons will not land in water. They always walk in from the side, and for some reason will not step over a wire 8" off the ground.
I'm not sure I'd risk it myself. (although all my ponds now only contain frogs).
I believe if you have an automatic camera, it will focus on the nearest object, unless you tell it not to. (not sure how). Technically it is called "depth of field". I knew how to do that will my old film camera, but these digitals make everything so much more complicated.
Cheers......Bernard. :)
ps I may bore you all will more 'snowdrop-snaps' soon! :(

Sylve said...

Hi Teresa, you read my blog!!!
Hallo Bernard, I have a heron wire round the pond and so far, touch wood, I haven't lost any fish recently. Famous last words..
I wish I had some frogs but they disappeared some time ago. Perhaps the grass snake ate them all. Ugh! To hear the frog shriek as it was caught by the snake....