Alma Mater - UEA and Norwich - Day Two

 Day two of our Norwich trip began at Norwich Railway Station just a stone's throw (literally) from our digs ...

Photo 1: Norwich Railway Station (Credit)

With our Senior Railcards (⅓ discount), a day return to Cromer was only £6.85 per person for the 45 minute each-way scenic journey. And who doesn't like a trip to the seaside?

Unfortunately, the bright sunshine we experienced on the journey from Norwich turned to sea mist on arrival at Cromer. The English always enjoy a day at the beach no matter the weather - though I didn't ask the family huddled under their shelter exactly how much fun they were having!

Photo 2: Cromer Beach & Pier (May 2024)

There were times when the mist cleared sufficiently to see people on the pier. I'm guessing enjoying themselves but possibly just hurrying along to the various food establishments serving hot drinks and soup!

Photo 3: One of the Clearer Views of Cromer Pier (May 2024)

But when the sea mist rolls in ...

Photo 4: Cromer Beach (May 2024)

... the pier (almost) disappears from view ...

Photo 5: Misty-eyed View of Cromer Pier (May 2024)

Photo 6 sums up the stoic/stiff upper lip attitude of the English Seasider -  Enjoy no matter what the weather throws at you.

Photo 6: Enjoying a Visit to the Seaside
After a stroll along the promenade (including a fossil hunt) and then the pier, visits to an art exhibition and the North Norfolk Visitor Centre (housing the Deep History Coast exhibition) followed by lunch at Hatters Tea Shop (tasty soup), it was time to head back to the railway station.

We arrived back in Norwich mid-to-late afternoon, where the weather was certainly more clement. We had booked tickets for an evening performance of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night at The Maddermarket Theatre. Before that, time for a leisurely walk along the river path towards the cathedral, passing Cow Tower (an artillery blockhouse built around 1400 CE) ...

Photo 7: Outside of Cow Tower (May 2024)

Photo 8: Inside of Cow Tower (May 2024)

... and stopping at a local Wetherspoons, The Glass House, for a meal and liquid refreshments.

Across the road from the pub is Elm Hill, an historic cobbled street lined with Tudor buildings such as this one called Paston House (see here if you want to read what the Blue Plaque says) ...

Photo 9: Paston House, Elm Hill, Norwich (May 2024)

The Paston dynasty (about 1400 to 1730 CE) was a well-known Norfolk family that owned considerable amounts of property. in the city and the county. They are best known for the Paston Letters, a large collection of letters, papers and correspondence, written between 1422 and 1509 CE, describing the life and times of the Norfolk gentry during the Wars of the Roses.

During our time in Norwich (1971 - 1977), a large elm tree stood in the small square at the top of Elm Hill. Unfortunately, that tree succumbed to Dutch elm disease and was felled in 1979. It was replaced with a London Plane which seems to be doing very nicely, thank you ...

Photo 10: London Plane at the Top of Elm Hill (May 2024)

Time to hurry onto The Maddermarket Theatre for our evening entertainment of Twelfth Night (modern costume with the Bard's original words). Excellent performances all round!

Alma Mater - UEA and Norwich - Day One

Mary & I first met as undergraduates at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in 1971. Mary was studying for her BSc (Hons) in Biological Sciences ...

Photo 1: Mary Outside the School of Biological Sciences (May 2024)

... whereas my degree subject was in Chemical Sciences. The original School of Chemical Sciences has been renamed as the School of Chemistry and now shares the building with the School of Pharmacy ...

Photo 2: Ian Outside the School of Chemistry (May 2024)

I left UEA 47 years ago so I wasn't expecting to see any current faculty members I remembered. I did, however, spot a few emeritus professors/associate professors that taught me during the time I was there (1971-1977): Mike Cook, Roger Grinter, and Alan Haines.

I also did my PhD at UEA while Mary kept us solvent by working at the John Innes Institute.

We thoroughly enjoyed our six years in Norwich and might have stayed there if it hadn't been necessary to get a job!

Having revisited Norwich a number of times in the 1970s and 1980s, our return in 2024 was the first time in more than 30 years. Since finishing our first degrees in 1974, both the university and the city of Norwich have increased in size. UEA had around 3000 full time students in 1974 and now has over 17,000. In the 1971 census, Norwich city had a population of 122,000 which had increased to nearly 145,000 by the 2021 census. An even bigger increase in population has occurred when taking into account the wider metropolitan area.

We travelled by train from Hereford to Norwich via Birmingham and Peterborough - a five to six hour journey. If I remember correctly, it was a similar journey time in the 1970s when we were travelling from Manchester to Norwich. We had booked accommodation next door to Norwich station so we could quickly dump our bags and have a stroll by the River Wensum in the early evening sunshine. Invigorated by the strong smell of cannabis along the river path, we made our way into the city centre, passing the Cathedral on the way.

Photo 3: Pull's Ferry (May 2024)

Photo 4: Norwich Cathedral (May 2024)

Photo 5: Norwich Cathedral (May 2024)

Photo 6: Norwich Cathedral (May 2024)

One final landmark of interest, before heading back to our accommodation, was The Assembly Rooms ...

Photo 7: The Assembly House, Norwich (May 2024)

Along with Just John's (Photo 8)**, the Assembly Rooms was a favourite haunt of students. A great selection of cakes (the meringues were especially memorable) and the largest pots of tea you could imagine (at least 5 cups each); did I mention the excellent value as well.

[**filled baguette sandwiches and baked cheesecake along with freshly-brewed coffee. Yum Yum] 

Photo 8: Just John Delicatique (aka Just John's) - Credit acknowledged

Now renamed The Assembly House, the tea room has moved upmarket and, I would imagine, outside the price range of the ordinary student except for special occasions. 

On the way home we passed the National Centre for Writing housed in Dragon's Hall (built around 1430 CE) ...

Photo 9: Dragon's Hall, Norwich (May 2024)

... an archetypal building for Norwich.

Cathedrals and Peregrines

On  a recent visit to our old university stamping ground (University of East Anglia, Norwich), we were walking by Norwich Cathedral when Mary spotted a peregrine falcon perched on the spire ...

Photo 1: Norwich Cathedral (with perched peregrine)

I think you would agree that that was a particularly impressive spot considering she hadn't seen it land!! What gave away the falcon was one of the many decorative (?) stones traversing up the spire had a slightly different shape. Perhaps you can spot the falcon in this close-up (x5 zoom) captured on my Pixel Pro 7 ...

Photo 2: Close-up of Norwich Cathedral Spire

I suppose I should also mention that we had heard there were resident peregrine falcons - hence the presence of the Hawk and Owl Trust display unit nearby (see Photo 1). In case you didn't spot the falcon in Photo 2, I've highlighted it in Photo 3.

Photo 3: Peregrine on Norwich Cathedral

At full x30 digital zoom on the Pixel 7 Pro, the falcon is clearly discernible ...

Photo 4: Peregrine, Norwich Cathedral (22/5/24)

You can see a live stream of the Norwich Cathedral Peregrines (courtesy of the Hawk and Owl Trust) here.

Peregrine falcons seem to have taken a particular liking to English Cathedrals. The reasons are fairly obvious: tall inaccessible structures, akin to their natural cliff and mountainside habitat, where they can safely nest and there is a ready supply of feral pigeons for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The following cathedrals, in addition to Norwich, have resident peregrines - most, if not all, now have webcams operating:

ABC of Early Seasonal Vegetables

 A for Asparagus, B for Bean Sprouts, C for Cucumber. OK, bean sprouts are a bit of a cheat but Mary has sprouted beans on the kitchen windowsill this year.

The first Asparagus spear popped its head above ground on the 25th March ...

Photo 1: First Sighting of Asparagus (25th March 2024)

... though it was a couple of weeks later before we were able to enjoy our first taste of the season.

It is now the beginning of June and the asparagus season is very nearly finished (in our garden anyway).

Need evidence for the power of a vegetarian diet? Well, stand back in awe at the strength of these two asparagus spears as they defy gravity by forcing their way through the brick path adjacent to the asparagus bed.

Photo 2: Asparagus Spears in a Test of Strength (28/5/24)

They provided a tasty (and not at all tough) meal accompaniment the following day ...

Photo 3: Ready for the Chop (29/5/24)

Asparagus is an early season vegetable that is low in calories yet a good source of Vitamins (A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, C, E & K) and Minerals (Iron, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, Phosphorus, Manganese, & Zinc).

Our small asparagus bed (less than a metre square) yielded at a minimum of 120 spears this year - approximate value £40.

If we ignore the bean sprouts, which can be 'grown' at any time of the year, then our next seasonal vegetable to appear is the cucumber (closely followed by chard). I grow the Passandra F1 variety, a mini-cucumber (15 cm/6 inches long) and of excellent flavour, in my polytunnel using the Quadgrow system. At £0.45 per seed, this variety may seem expensive until you work out that you will be paying less than £0.05 per cucumber. The first cucumber was picked on 2nd June 2024 and was delicious sliced on sandwiches or cut into sticks with a houmous dip.

Photo 4: First Cuke of 2024 (2/6/24)

Cucumbers provide a useful source of vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, C & K) and minerals (Calcium Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium & Zinc) though levels are generally lower than asparagus due to the high water content (95%) of cucumbers. 

Malvern Spring Show 2024


Photo 1: Malvern Spring Show 2024

We had an exceedingly pleasant day out with Mary's sister and husband (up from Devon) at the 2024 RHS Malvern Spring Festival on Sunday 12th May. As always, the show was held at the Three Counties Showground, Great Malvern. The weather was warm and sunny except for a heavy thundery downpour towards the end of the day.

The display gardens produced by schools from Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire (the Three Counties) are always fun (Photos 2 - 6)...

Photo 2

Photo 3

Photo 4

Photo 5

Photo 6

We heard a couple of excellent talks from Adam Frost & Mark Diacono (Cooking up a Feast) and Jonathan Moseley (Making the most of your cut flowers) and admired the many displays from expert growers such as these carnivorous pitcher plants ...

Photo 7: Sarracenia (Pitcher Plant) Display at Malvern Spring Festival (2024)

We did buy a sundew (drosera) plant for our bog garden ...

Photo 8: Our Bog Garden with recently-added Sundew (centre)

... plus a few bargains at the end where the two sisters managed to cram goodness knows how many plants into a medium-sized plastic bag in an end-of-show offer (£5 for an empty plastic bag and help yourself to as many plants as you could fit in).

A great day out finished off with dinner at the Bunch of Carrots near Hereford on the way home.

The Malvern Spring Festival 2024 was covered in this episode of Gardeners' World ...

Slugging it out

 In previous years, I have been a regular user of Nemaslug to keep the kitchen garden's resident slug population under control. See, for example, this post where I discuss biological (nematodes) and non-biological methods of slug control.

Photo 1: Nemaslug 2.0

It is a couple of years since I last applied this product and I may not have bothered this year except Mary was keen to try a similar nematode product for vine weevils; these little critters continue to wipe out a significant number of our outdoor pot plants. Based on the previous success of Nemaslug, I suggested we give this Nemasys product a go.

Photo 2: Nemasys Vine Weevil Killer

I will report at a later date as to whether the above vine weevil treatment was successful or not.

Back to the job in hand - repelling the slug onslaught in the battle for the kitchen garden (⚔ 2024). A recent article suggested we should learn to love slugs a little more than I we do. Love seems a rather strange emotion to direct towards these molluscs though I definitely have some respect for their eating capabilities & capacity. Importantly, by using nematodes, I am only trying to control their population during the early growing season when the plants are young and tender. For the remaining 9 months of the year, slugs and snails can get on with their lives with little or no interference on my part. We are not trying to eliminate slugs, just control their population for a short period.

Nematodes are applied to the soil surface as a suspension in water; the soil should be damp before application and the nematodes should be watered in after application. The length of time taken to perform this task is considerably shortened by carrying it out after overnight rain, or between showers, or during light rain because steps 3 and 5 below can be omitted. Soil temperatures must be above 5 ℃ which is why April is the usual month for the first application.

First of all, I collect all the necessary equipment together: 10-litre and 5-litre watering cans, a coarse rose for the 5-litre can, a two-litre measuring jug, a plastic spoon (or similar), a stirring stick and a hose with spray adaptor (Photo 3). Note: you can buy a coarse rose specifically for this job or just drill some larger holes in an existing rose as I did.

Photo 3: Equipment for Nemaslugging

  1. Transfer the nematodes (sufficient for 100 square metres) to the two-litre plastic jug with the plastic spoon. Add water to the jug and pour into the 10-litre watering can. Continue to rinse out the jug and transfer the washings to the watering can until it is full.
  2. Give the contents of the 10-litre can a good stir with a stick and measure out 500 ml into the two-litre jug (use a pen or piece of tape to indicate the 500 ml volume mark). Transfer the jug contents to a 5-litre watering using additional washings until the 5-litre can is full.
  3. Pre-wet the soil, if necessary, using the hosepipe with spray adaptor (alternatively, use a watering can).
  4. Fit a coarse rose to the 5-litre can, giving the contents a brief stir, and apply to wet soil covering an  area of approximately 5 square metres (e.g. a 1 metre by 5 metre strip).
  5. Water in the nematode suspension using the hosepipe with spray adaptor (alternatively, use a watering can).
Ideally, the Nemaslug treatment should be applied about a week before planting out your precious vegetable/flower seedlings so that the nematodes have sufficient time to 'clear' the ground of slugs. The nematodes can also be applied after planting as was the case this year with my potato and sweetcorn plot (Photo 4). Note that for the sweetcorn seedlings, I took the precaution of using both a physical slug barrier (Hosta Halos) and organic ferric sulfate pellets (blue dots in Photo 4) to provide protection prior to applying the nematodes.

Photo 4: The Potato/Sweetcorn Plot after Nemaslugging

Each Nemaslug treatment offers some (not 100%) protection from slugs for about 6 weeks. The initial application was on the 18th May 2024. At the beginning of July, I will make a decision on whether to carry out a repeat application. It may not be necessary if I'm no longer planting out tender seedlings.

Northern Lights

The Northern Lights (aka the aurora borealis) were visible in much of the United Kingdom on Friday 10th and Saturday 11th May 2024. Of course, a clear dark sky and minimal light pollution were necessary for a good display. Our son sent this photograph from near Bicester ...

Photo 1: Northern Lights from near Bicester (10/5/24)

... while our daughter-in-law sent this picture from Leek, Derbyshire ...

Photo 2: Northern Lights from Leek, Derbyshire (10/5/24)

See here for an explanation of the different colours (tl;dr ionization of gas molecules by solar particles).

Sod's Law (aka Murphy' Law) states that if something can go wrong, it will. Its corollary (Finagles' Law) states that if something is going to go wrong, it will happen at the worst possible time. Sure enough, in spite of clear skies during the day in Hereford, the clouds gathered during the evening. Consequently, the Northern Lights were a no show from our Hereford home (light pollution may have played a part too). 

I did manage to create our own version of the Northern Lights using a conveniently situated street lamp ...

Photo 3: "Aurora Borealis" Hereford-style

We may have a repeat performance in about two weeks. This BBC article gives a good simplified explanation of the aurora phenomenon and also explains some of the downsides (e.g. its effect on global communications, internet, GPS, etc).

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