The great advantage of visiting Skegness, from my point of view, good though the Seal Sanctuary was, was the opportunity it presented to pop to the nearby Wildlife Trust reserve at Gibraltar Point.
Despite the blue skies it was bitterly cold, although I did see my first swallow and hear my first chiff-chaff of the year during the visit, and, as you can see above, the blackthorn was flowering which hadn’t happened yet at home, so it did feel a little like spring.
The principal phenomena I shall remember from this visit were the tattered rags of tissue paper and burst teabags apparently hanging in the branches of the sea buckthorn which grows abundantly along the edge of the low dunes.
Except they were neither tissue paper nor teabags, but the nests of brown-tail moth caterpillars…
The moths have overwintered together in these communal nests and were probably just emerging when we saw them, since the sea-buckthorn had abundant buds but no leaves yet.
Apparently, these moths are considered to be a pest, although I can’t decide if that’s because of their unusually catholic tastes – they’ll live on a wide variety of plants (called polyphagia* I learn) and presumably strip them bare – or because the hairs on their bodies are extremely irritating and can cause a nasty rash, headaches and breathing difficulties. Neither traits are particularly endearing I suppose.
A pied-wagtail again!
*Polyphagia, it transpires, has two meanings:
an insatiable appetite for food
the habit on the part of some animals of feeding on many different types of food
Both of which might equally well be applied to the caterpillars and to me.
Laurence Sterne, in The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, conveys his narrator’s grief following the death of the clergyman Yorick with an entirely black page. It’s tempting today to post something similar, to reflect my black mood after last night’s calamity. Instead, I shall take a deep breath and attempt to attain the inner peace seemingly enjoyed by this seal pup, one of several that we saw at the Skegness Seal Sanctuary.
The other raffle prize my parents came away with, not from their bowling club, as I erroneously reported yesterday, but from a patient’s association raffle at their local surgery – even better! – I can see the headlines now in the Daily Hate: “Pensioner’s Prescribed Horse-Riding on NHS”, what with the hacks at the Hate Mail not letting the truth stand in the way of propaganda, anyway, the other raffle prize my parents won, was a family ticket to said sanctuary.
The seals are the main attraction, especially this show-off which was effortlessly lapping one of the pools whilst upside down, but the charity which run the sanctuary have turned it into a very small zoo – presumably to bring in more visitors and hence fund their seal rescues – approaching 700 seals, both common and grey, have been treated and returned to the wild since the sanctuary opened in 1966. There are meerkats and penguins, owls, a small but quite impressive aquarium, lizards too, but best of all, in my opinion, a hothouse with colourful birds and lots of large and bright butterflies…
This one had just emerged from its chrysalis…..
There. I feel much calmer already. Now…
Om mani padme hum
Om mani padme hum
In short: my Mum and Dad won some raffle prizes. I think they said that it was at their local bowling club. I might get some tickets next year: the quality of the rewards on offer was impressive – judging by the two my parents won, anyway.
One of those prizes was riding lessons at Rednil Farm Riding Stables. Obviously, bowling is a sport renowned for the thrill-seeking nature of the demographic it attracts. No doubt bungee-jumping, parascending and cave-diving sessions were also up for grabs.
Curiously, my Mum and Dad opted to pass on their winnings to their Grandchildren (I think my Dad is holding out for a year’s pass to Sundown Adventureland)
I think it’s fair to say that the kids really enjoyed the experience.
….who was concentrating too hard to manage a smile.