Busy as We Like it

Over one busy weekend Nick and I spread ourselves about.  We attended a meeting of the Conchological Society at the Natural History Museum in Cromwell Road.  We heard an interesting talk on some work that is being carried out on the land snails of the Galapagos Islands.  At the end of the meeting we drove to Godalming to catch up with Ted and his parents.  We went to dinner at The Withies which still manages to please after all these forty years since we bought our house in Pep Road.  Nick and I would go there for a very occasional meal and blow the budget for an expensive treat.

On Sunday morning there was just time to eat a bacon sandwich with the Perrymans before it was necessary to load up and drive to Sutton, to the home of a former friend and colleague in conchology.  It was Phil’ Palmer who first drew me into science, causing me to shift from an enthusiastic dabbler in shell collecting  to an aspiring scientist with an every-growing passion for British marine shells.  I owe Phil’ much and encounters with his like surely altered the course of my life.16265715_1841127292832959_5561275612268152045_n

And after that we had an important date in Oxfordshire.  Our eldest grandchild is going to be sixteen, for goodness sake.  Where did that childhood go?!  He’s a star and we spent a very happy moment at the tea party his mother had arranged for the rellies.

And then it was time to drive home and prepare for my forthcoming week on the road.

 

 

 

A Village Week, a Falling Star and a Plethora of Shells

Arriving back in the UK on Tuesday, we drove back to our village where Book Group would be meeting in the afternoon at our usual venue, The Greyhound pub.  We discussed Driving Over Lemons, a rather lack-lustre read for me.  I was not engaged by the author, former Genesis drummer Chris Stewart, at all.  Generally his genre, sort of travel books, is not my cup of tea.  A few wasted hours then, but in the interests of village involvement I stick with it.  Bridge the following evening was altogether more stimulating and on Thursday I factored in a yoga lesson, a visit on Friday to see Mum and on Friday evening the McGoverns and Cadecs came for a curry supper.  What with the village walk on Saturday I felt back on track with village activities.  We walked in wind, rain and cold but it didn’t matter.  A decent pub lunch followed.  An optional extra on Sunday was a SSAFA curry lunch at Bryanston School.

The week that followed was largely spent out of the county.  On Monday I drove there and back to see my dear friend Stella Maris, who is a fading star.  She has been a leading light in my adventures with shells.  Now, in her 90s, she is a tired lady, destined before long to become stardust.  How lovely that she knows me, smiles with pleasure as she recognises my name, my voice.  It is just a whirlwind of a visit to the Camborne area.  I meet Pam at the cottage so we can sort out some of Stella’s collections that need to be rehomed.  This is a job she started as much as 15 years ago, perhaps longer.  In the interval she has assiduously sought out people and institutions to whom she could pass on useful objects and books.  Once Pam and I have completed our task I take her, Rose and Andrew to lunch.  We return to Shang-ri La to await the arrival of Dave Fenwick who is coming to collect some shells and after tea round table in the parlour I head for Dorset with some boxes of this and that including a small collection of Drift Seeds and Sea Beans.

On Wednesday Nick and I slip down to Clifford Bridge to say with our very good friends, Bas and Rosemary.  Bas and I have plans to work through his shelly queries, gleanings from the hauls of seabed sediment that were taken during boatwork which took place during the field trip to North Wales.  I took three of these dredged samples back to The Old Workshop to process, sieve, sort, identify.  I think Bas must have worked through at least ten such hauls.  There are lots of specimens to look at because Bas is nothing if not meticulous.  This is a man for whom the maxim that ‘the best is the enemy of the good’ could be a blessing and a curse!

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During our visit we give a day to walking the land around Haytor, taking in the famous granite tramway and some exceptional Hut circles in the neighbourhood of Hound Tor.  It is quite a long trek, intermittently uphill and downalong and we feel virtuous when we return to Mill House for lunch and a short nap for me and Rosemary.  Our treat is to eat at the very special Old Inn at Drewsteignton.

On Friday morning we cannot tarry for long.  There is just time for me to spend an hour or so working through a few more of Bas’ samples before we have to leave for Winterborne K because I have a special family party to prepare for on Sunday 21st.

 

Golfing Greens and Sea Grass Beds

With the late arrival, on Saturday night, of our Marine Recorder, Simon Taylor, we are nine in residence at Bryn Engan.  Before we head for our shore of the day the five conchologists in our number have time to set up stations in the ‘dry lab’,  Blog-DryLaba small weatherproof outbuilding which harbours a small pool table around which we erect temporary work benches to accommodate our microscopes and associated paraphernalia.

There is also a wet lab of sorts, a larger stable with a ping pong table, which is served by the outside tap where we must sieve our samples.  It works.  We just lack sea water on tap and late on Sunday evening an excursion to a local beach is made to fill the two large plastic containers which Ian Smith has brought.   Blog-PhotoStudioIan needs to set up his photographic equipment and eventually settles on the front porch!

On Sunday our shore of the day is Porth Dinllaen, a stretch of coast which has been surveyed on previous Conch Soc field trips under the auspices of Tom Clifton the former area recorder for Anglesey and the Lleyn.

Porth Dinllaen at Morfa Nefyn, is a rocky peninsula projecting northwards with a small harbour of east side and more craggy and less accessible coast on the west.MorfaNefynInternet  With special dispensation we park at the golf club there and walk the tarmacked right of way that crosses the greens and more than once to the shout of ‘Fore’ we duck because misguided golf balls are heading our way.  To our left as we walk north there is a string of pocket beaches which look promising, if difficult of access.  Some of our number head for the tip of the small peninsula.

I decide to work the east harbour,porthdinllaenInternet and as we are on the shore well ahead of low tide, I focus on the upper shore noting Littorina compressa to be common.  LittorinaCompressa1

Despite careful searching none of us on that shore finds Melarhaphe neritoides nor much else in the way of upper shore crevice dwelling molluscs, although I do later obtain Lasaea adansoni from my Lichina sample.  Blog-2JanZosteraReally I am waiting to see if the ebbing tide will reveal the extensive Zostera beds I recall from previous visits.  Zostera is otherwise known as eelgrass (which is a good name) or seawrack which is a bad name as Zostera is a grass, a flowering plant, not an alga or seaweed.   (At Studland in Dorset there are now seahorses breeding amongst the Zostera there).  ZosteraInternet1Sure enough as more of the sand flats are revealed, so also is the green turf, which losing its buoyancy in the water, flops onto the silty sands losing its grace and mobility, which are features to enjoy when wading Zostera beds in shallow water.  I am stymied for sampling as I have slipped up by forgetting to bring a sieve of suitable mesh size in order to sieve some sediments associated with the sea grass, taking sand from small bare patches where the roots of the sea grass are not disturbed.  Even so I might have expected to see a scattering of shells of the species that inhabit this particular biotope.

We do find valves and fragments of the showy venerid clam Callista chione.CallistaChioneInternet2  This is a large bivalve with a handsome polished shell.  It is also edible although you would be wise to cook Callista first as attempts to swallow it raw and whole may be met with resistance from the large muscular foot.   Unlike the passive and hapless oyster!  My species list for the site is otherwise paltry.  With the law of diminishing returns in force we decide to take our paltry haul of specimens back to the ‘lab’ leaving our stalward Marine Recorder working the little pocket beaches we passed on our way to the shore. Blog-SimonPorthDinllaen

Who ate all the pies?  Well, we did; our evening meal being contributed by Peter whose local butcher makes fine meat pies.  Followed by his blackberry and apple crumbles we are replete and can settle to sorting our samples.