Tuesday 27 June 2023

Skippers Everywhere!

 At the moment in the long and gloriously unkempt un-mowed grass verges at work, it is almost impossible to look at any patch of ragwort or creeping thistle without seeing a little splash of golden brown sitting on top, nectaring happily with a ridiculously long tongue.

These are the campus small skippers, which even on dull and slightly damp days, seem to be everywhere.

Their strange wings are unlike most other butterflies, looking almost like little orange dart flights, or for the more science fiction minded Star Wars X-Wing fighters. They are also a lot more confiding than the other high summer grass land species, allowing close up photography unlike the skittish meadow browns which seem frightened of their own shadow let alone mine. 

As ever, just spending five minutes watching out for life in the long grass is wonderfully distracting, a mental palate cleanser from the of the odder things the autistic or tourettic mind can get fixated on. 

The campus curry plant is very much coming into its stinky own, and seven spot ladybirds are absolutely loving it. Rather more than I do...


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 27.03.23

Thursday 22 June 2023

Mimics and Skippers

 I am conscious of the fact I'm not posting the amount of nature content I'd like at the moment - being a cricket captain takes up a lot of time as trying to get a team of eleven together is the proverbial herding cats kind of experience. 

But believe me, I am still doing my bit. I've been promoting 30 Days Wild Wild, The Wildlife Trusts' annual campaign to get people going outside and taking some interest in what is around them. I always highlight the mental health benefits of it, because when I patrol our un-mowed verges for five minutes I am fully focussed on observing what is there, and all stresses to do with work, life, and the daily challenges caused by Tourettes and Autism disappear. 

There is, of course, the chance that you might find something new, although I didn't think I had when I saw what appeared to be perhaps a tree bumblebee settling to feed on bramble flowers. However, closer inspection revealed that the eyes were far too large to be that of a bee, and that this was actually a fly. 

A bee mimic hoverfly in fact! 

This is the first time I've seen such an insect, although I'm sure they are pretty much common as mud. Not as spectacular as the hornet mimic hoverfly, it is still a striking creature, 

Also making their first appearances of the young summer recently, are the warm weather grassland butterflies the meadow brown and ringlet, and also our numerous workplace small skippers. 

They are easier to photograph than the other species, although you have to be very careful in approaching them, and I managed to find an obliging specimen nectaring from creeping thistle.

I hope you enjoy the content!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 22.06.23

Monday 19 June 2023

Sherwood Forest Cricket

 This weekend's game for our as yet unbeaten, despite me, Sunday side, took us to play Edwinstowe, a once big time club that now only plays friendlies due to the fact that the local area is saturated with big time cricket clubs associated with the old collieries like Clipstone and Thoresby Colliery.

The setting for the ground was utterly stunning, a natural amphitheatre at the edge of Sherwood Forest. The visitor centre and cafe was at one end of the ground, with the "Major Oak Festival" taking place just beyond, explaining why there were people dressed as Mayde Marian and various outlaws wandering around the boundary at times. 

Of our opponents, I knew little. Research indicated that sometimes they were very good, and sometimes rather less so. Their captain told me, as I was losing the toss as usual, that he'd had to scrape up a team of ten, and yes please, he'd very much like to bat first.

As always, my team-mates upon hearing that they were going to have to field first, told me I was a disgustingly useless captain, while I apologised for not being able to use the force to manipulate the coin as it span through the air. 

With a mixed ability side under my, ahem, "command", I opened the bowling with one of our second team openers, and a new player to the club who had seemed like a decent bowler at Thursday nets, and I was absolutely delighted that he took a wicket fairly early on. The other batter however, the left handed Edwinstowe skipper, was playing some very elegant big shots, and their number three, while more of an utter hacker, was also able to give the ball a fair old smack.

Trying to be tactically inspired, I brought on our first team bowler with the instruction that I wanted their skippers wicket on a silver platter, which he duly delivered in his second over thanks to a brilliant catch on the boundary. With the chairman now asking politely for a bowl, I tossed him the ball and he duly delivered two wickets in his first over, as young kids and obviously rather less able players began to appear at the crease. The first teamer, his job done, volunteered to drop out of the attack, and I brought myself on. 

I'm getting better, but I'm still dropping one ball an over onto leg stump enabling even fairly hopeless batters to belt me for four. But I still beat the outside edge with flight and bounce, bowled one batter with one I pushed through, before getting another left hander caught at mid off. Two for sixteen in four overs. 

Time to take myself off and give someone else a go. 

Trouble was, at this stage in proceedings I let my captaincy slip, as rather than keep an eye on what was actually happening in the match, I was probably a bit more concerned with trying to get everyone into the game, especially those batting down the order. I got a bit lost with setting a field, and forgot that with thunder forecast we needed to try and get the game over a bit more ruthlessly than is my normal approach for Sunday friendlies. 

However, we did get the job done, and bowled out Edwinstowe for 115. Shout out to our novice keeper, who did a fine job, apart from a bit of a mess up at the end. No shout out for my fielding, which was so terrible I banished myself from mid-off. No confidence when the hall is hit hard at me any more. 

The sky was getting very dark now. It had been horrendously humid all afternoon, and the odd spot of rain had fallen. Thunder was expected. I sent out our opening batsman with instructions to keep things ticking over. 

Well, I think I did.

In any case, they were completely up to the task, and got to 57 with some excellent stroke play off the opening bowlers until the first teamer, not wanting to seem like a bully to a young lad who had come on to bowl, got bowled. But the other opener kept it going until almost the end, cutting the bowlers to death until he dragged on at 48, accompanied by the novice wicket keeper who scored almost entirely in boundaries.

We won by a comfortable 7 wickets, fifty minutes before the grey heavens opened.

Thanks to all who played, and our umpire who kept telling me my backside was in the way.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 19.06.23

Monday 12 June 2023

Nearly Stuffing it up

 Sunday saw the visit of Attenborough to our ground - the Nottingham suburb rather than the naturalist - and they had got me in a quandary before the match had even started.

They had told me earlier in the week that they were bringing a side with four adults, and seven juniors. On paper, we had quite a strong side, and so I had been working out in my mind how I was going to approach this to ensure a decent contest.

Would I only be able to use slower bowlers?

Would I have to tell our bats to go easy on any very miniture bowlers? 

If we batted first, would I have to declare rather than let our batters go mad and post 300 plus?

When the opponents turned up, may of them barely taller than the stumps, these thoughts returned. As it turned out most of them were moot, as they won the toss and batted first on a blisteringly hot and humid day. 

I opened the bowling with what I would thing of as being medium intensity medium pacers, firstly to see how well the youngsters were going to handle the bowling, and also because our two quickest bowlers were late and we only had nine fielders to start with.

Stellar capataincy and organisation from me there. 

One our openers had a couple of early wickets caught at mid off and in the covers, and then ran a very young lad out off his fingertips, an appeal I immediately and generously withdrew, thinking myself a very sporing captain. "No little kid is getting run out like that in a Sunday game on my watch" I thought smugly. 

Of course, he turned out to be their best bat, and very competently spanked boundaries, leading me to realise I could turn the bowling up a bit, with some first and second team bowling that prised out a couple of wickets with some lovely left arm swing in the heavy air, pregnant with a thunderstorm that never happened. 

I even brought myself on, and found that remembering to really keep my left arm high and active meant that I could bowl accurately and beat the bat, even if I was barely turning the ball. Got a wicket with a short ball dollied to mid wicket, before castling a young'un in my 5th over.

Five overs one maiden, two for fifteen. I quit while the going was good.

Now, there was a different kind of problem. I had managed the game well, getting different and unusual bowlers on, trying to give everyone a go, but we were still taking too many wickets and they weren't scoring enough runs. In a friendly, you don't want to kill the game, you want the opponents to get a reasonable score so it gives your batters a chance to have a reasonable game. They were about 70 for 7 at this point.

So, I allowed the chairman and third team captain to swap the keepers gloves with the first team captain - hilariously, I was captaining captains - so he could bowl some sort of googly variant that he only "unleashes" on Sundays, and brought on a leggie at the other end just as a chunkily built Kiwi came out to bat for Attenborough.

He proceeded to wallop some big old sixes, but the leg spinner was taking wickets when he wasn't batting, and after they had got to 128, I decided enough was enough and decided to bring back the opening bowler, who promptly took one ball to shut down their innings. 

Now, with our batting line up, we ought to have chased that total down fairly easily against a young bowling attack, and indeed I wasn't too worried about our batting line up and even though we had the first team opener in the side who had taken a wicket earlier on, I sent out the first and second team opening bowlers, who both normally bat a number 10 in their league sides to give them a chance to score some runs.

Right decision too, as they made it to 60 without loss with some good strokeplay, as ever making me completely envious of anyone who has any kind of batting ability whatsoever. However, in the twelfth over right on the stroke of drinks, one of them looped a catch up.

I now took a stint at square leg, and watched as our team seemed marooned in the 60s for what seemed like ten overs while losing wickets. Number three lobbed up a caught and bowled, number four was lbw off the bottom of his bat and the third team captain looked purposeful before spooning up a caught and bowled. 

So, umpiring stint over, back into the shade of the pavilion but wickets continued to fall, however at least a few more boundaries were being hit. For our first team captain and chief ship steadier was still out there after a sticky start as the wicket, which had been a belter most of the match, began to slow up and misbehave a little bit after it had about 600 runs scored on it over the weekend. 

We crept nearer the total, wickets still fell. But thanks to the ship steadier, we just got over the line 8 wickets down, with the unwelcome sight of me padded up and waiting to bat on the pavilion steps. 

Still, both teams got a lot out the game, players got a chance to do things they don't normally do, and our Sunday side remains unbeaten.

Good day all round really!

All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 12.06.23

Tuesday 6 June 2023

The Great Southwell Orchid Hunt

 Many many years ago, I decided to do a very stupid thing and walk to Southwell, town of my Alma Mater. I was interested then in visiting the Potwell Grasslands nature reserve, but frankly when I arrived after a two and a half hour trek through fields of intimidating cows, it had all turned out to be a bit of a disappointment.

I had arrived too early in spring - indeed it snowed that day - and there was nothing much to see.

This time, with more research having been done, I waited until early June, because this is when I had read there might be a few orchids about in the uncut meadows. This time, I wasn't going to wear shoe leather; I took the £2 bus.

As ever, when I arrived I marveled at how much had gone since my school days. Like, my entire school. A collection of fairly unattractive 60s buildings next to the Minster, all that remained was a green field, beneath which lies a large Roman villa with a temple complex thrown in. Once at risk of being developed for housing, the owner of the land granted it to the town in perpetuity so that the ruins would be preserved.

The Potwell itself is a weed choked beck which I was once pushed into when I had glandular fever, and the grasslands lie on the other side from the old school site. After a preliminary trot through a field which once housed the school cricket nets I entered the reserve proper, and it didn't take me too long to find what I was in quest of; a flower spike topped with pinky-purple blooms. 

A southern marsh orchid, as it turned out, a flower I've seen before once in my life, a solitary specimen in Beacon Hill Park. But here, there wasn't just the one, I could see several growing in the long grass. 

But this was nothing compared to what awaited me in the next field. 

In this field, they were everywhere you looked. Hundreds of them, nestled down beneath the taller buttercups that have put on such a show this spring. I never though I'd find such an orchard menu anywhere near here; yet here it was.

I think when it comes to nature writing, it is very easy to get horribly pretentious, and over-write like mad, and as an autistic person to be moved emotionally by a field or a building isn't really going to happen very much.

But even I knew this was a special sight, one I hope will be repeated in this corner of the world for many years. I even needed a quick beer afterwards.

That's how good it was!

All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 06.06.23

Friday 2 June 2023

Remember the Library Gardens?

 I wonder if you remember my post about the Library Garden, how it was saved by the "Stop the Chop" protests and then earmarked as a community garden space. 

I posted about the protests, and also about how the garden looked in winter and early spring. I thought it all looked a little sparse and wondered how it would all pan out.

This is what it looks like now.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 02.06.23