18 Dec 2011

WuFuV’s Xmas Party in the Big Shed in the Woods

Our second annual WuFuV Xmas Party took place once again at Cherry's Cafe at the Green Wood Centre with fine seasonal fayre provided by Polly and her very able team. So much to eat and so little time!

Last year saw 10 of us for our first criggy get-together and this year we filled the hall with 40 of us which included a posse from The Friends of The Earth all adding to make a truly atmospheric and enjoyable evening.

After stuffing ourselves silly and drinking ourselves into nearby oblivion (or was that only me?) we had our entertainers take to the stage.

Graham treated us to an excellent poem which took the rise somewhat out of many members of the Wrekin Forest Volunteers and then Margaret & Steve did a similar one and I think we all recognised who they were referring to.

I thought both poems were so good they were worthy of repeating so below is Margaret & Steve’s offering…

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The Motley Crew
By Margaret E Mitchell 

All hail to our great leader,
He tries his best, but well
To keep control of this motley crew
He hasn’t a hope in hell. 

There’s always somebody missing
When it’s time to be back on the bus.
Fossicking, bimbling about
It could be any of us. 

It’s most likely the one over yonder,
In his shorts, scrambling round on his knees
Shaking the bushes for insects
With his white sheet under the trees. 

Or is it the one up The Wrekin?
Bashing the bracken, fair cruel
With his trusty stick, he slashes about
Like d’Artagnan fighting a duel. 

It might be the one who hates ivy
With a passion that’s fiery red.
He cuts through the stems in a frenzy
“Take that!” he screams, “You’re dead!” 

There’s one who keeps us all smiling,
He merrily cuts with a swish.
He jokes and laughs while he’s working
Singing, “I know a song about this!” 

We’ve got our very own ‘hawk eyes’
No creature too small will she miss
You’ll see her off in the distance
With a ladybird sat on her wrist. 

We’ve also got a ‘Town Crier’
Who is usually so gentle and mild,
But when he cries “Oyez-oyez!”
He is suddenly scary and wild. 

There’s one who goes missing from time to time,
He likes to wander off piste.
Once he returned, he was waving a bone
Saying “A-Ah! Gnawed by the Ercall Beast.” 

The Bicker Twins are joined at the hip,
On descriptions they never agree.
“Look! I can see two spots on the wing,”
“Let me see, that’s not two, that’s three!” 

There are some who like insects and moths
Some love spiders the most
Or fungi or rocks or Yorkshire Fog
There’s a lot to keep us engrossed. 

Some plod quietly onwards
Others are ever so clever.
We’re intrepid and bold and brave
And turn out whatever the weather. 

No task is too hard; we’ll chop anything down
Our code is ‘Never say never’
Are we zany, eccentric and totally mad?
Yes, but hey,
We just have the best Fridays ever.

Thanks Margaret - brilliant poem! Says it all really doesn’t it?! Unfortunately, the pic I took of The Bicker Twins didn’t turn out but hey… you got the most space in this blog post!

Graham was going to send me his poem but he’s sooooo busy at the moment he’s missed the post but hopefully, we’ll get another chance to hear it at some point in the future.

Rob treated us to an expose of life in the North East with an accent so broad it left some of us bewildered (or was that the drink again?). But through the Sunderland mist came many hilarious gems and pearls of wonderful wisdom. Well done Rob!

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Penny and Nigel, dressed in traditional WuFuV garb, then gave us a very funny rendition of Henry and Liza’s ‘There’s a Hole In My Bucket’ ending with Nigel’s foot stuck firmly in the bucket!

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I left my spot till last, hoping that everyone would forget, but alas they didn’t, so I did a little thing with paper balls and packs of cards called The Malone Mystery, a journey into mind manipulation which surprisingly, and despite several attempts to mug the results, actually worked!

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Anyway… it was an excellent night with so much to talk about, so much to eat & drink, with a great time had by one and all. Thanks to everyone who attended to make this a very special party.

7 Dec 2011

Nature Notes from Pete Lambert - December 2011

The kaleidoscope of autumn lasted for so long but finally the gold, yellows and reds mellowed into the muted tints of winter. The last few months have eased past with a seasonal drift of memory stirring moments. We exchanged a smile, a father and grandfather, I popping conkers into my jacket pockets, he filling a bulging carrier bag with the rotund glossy chestnut finds. I recalled that my own grandfather used to deliver  the same weighty bag of knuckle cracking globes. The largest I selected as potential champions, and then proceeded to eliminate  all chances of success by cork screwing the crudest hole for my bootlace!

 Little used curtains are brought into to service now, shutting out the cold dark and revealing snuggled queen wasps in their folds. One large specimen turned out to be a German wasp, one of about half a dozen social wasps found in Britain. Their delicate paper nests will disintegrate over the next few months, the numerous workers die and a solitary mated female will sit out the winter ready to initiate a new colony in the spring. Its wings were neatly folded longitudinally along it s body and as I studied the striping I noticed that between its large eyes were three tiny ocelli. Ocelli are very simple eyes and can be found on many members of the ant, wasp and bee order, the Hymenoptera. In fact I went back to the three red tailed bumble bees I have found in the yard, and though hard to see amongst the black hairs of the head there were the three ocelli. I had earlier tried to identify their  ‘pollen baskets’ mentioned in the guide book. Thinking that I would reveal  a wicker structure on the bees back, it took a while to realise that the two lines of in-curved hairs on the rear legs would do the job of carrying the important food source back home.

It was not only the wasp and bees making for shelter at this time of year, our much loved seven spot ladybird has been found in profusion. Snuggled into dry cavities, hollowed plant stems and potting shed frameworks, our ladybirds do like a bit of company for the long winter hibernation. The brightly coloured hemispherical beetles have short, retractable legs  and my favourite is the little Kidney spot ladybird with its black background and two crimson spots, found invariably but not exclusively in the forks of ash trees.

I have filled all the feeders, and joined the local network of feeding stations for the jumpy flocks of sparrow, goldfinch, chaffinch, coal, blue  and great tit, jackdaws, woodpeckers  and collared doves, eager to drop in at our back garden fuel stops. I still have not expanded my stock to include sunflower hearts and niger seed, but think I will, seems to work elsewhere in the village. We too are not immune to the visits of the sparrow hawk,  this time powering past the gap in the hedge. The song birds habit of forming large flocks is a deliberate attempt to counter this threat, extra safety gained by extra eyes, most of the times this works but sometimes a sacrifice is made.

We have a garden corner given over to lost pets and other creatures. The most recent internment being a song thrush, the size and dart patterning on its chest distinguishing it from its larger relative the Mistle thrush. The Mistle, alive and well turned up a few days later to feed on the holly berries and let us all know who owned the tree. Our winter thrush visitors are also in the neighbourhood, Redwings and Field fares have flown in from the continent, to now move around the rough grasslands of the area, noisy and distinctive. Lapwing are also about, a lovely wobbly winged group took to the air to flash their white ‘armpits’ at me as I flushed them from their wet sward just below the canal.

The weather remains mild and maybe the harsh freezes of the recent years might be avoided, all the same nature will do its best to sleep, eat and above all survive the stark challenge of a British winter. For us the logs are in, woollies pulled out from deeper recesses of the wardrobe and our boots are ready by the back door.

Happy wildlife spotting and seasons greetings,  Pete Lambert.