Watch out for the cute beetles in Blackheath

A few years ago, while walking across Blackheath, I thought someone had started throwing popcorn at me. It turned out to be Summer Chafer (similar to cockchafer beetles but a bit smaller) in flight. These sleep underground and then in the late afternoon / twilight pop out of the ground and buzz around the tops of trees to meet other beetles, make friends, mate, lay eggs, that sort of thing. There are a variety of cockchafer beetles, and other beetles known as ‘June bugs’ (or in some places ‘May bugs’).

I’m pretty sure the ones we get in Blackheath are the summer cockchafers (they go by the name Amphimallon solstitiale (I’ve also seen it spelled solstitiale but this is apparently incorrect terminology)) which look like little mint humbugs and persistently ‘attack’ you if they think you might be a tree. They’re actually utterly harmless but the Daily Mail has singled them out as something to be frightened of1.

Here’s a pic of one from 30 June 2010, sitting on my hat (original Twitpic), three segments (four stitched lines) is about an inch. In flight they remind me of the Golden Snitch in the Harry Potter books/films.

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Below you can just make out the blurry image of the beetle in flight above the tree.

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And here a beetle obligingly landed on a bit of the same tree.

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Here’s me talking (sorry for the windy recording, taken while on the heath), exactly 7 years ago today on 30 June 2010, about my growing fascination for the small beetles.

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Yesterday, while walking across the heath I spotted lots of birds (I think they’re either swifts or swallows, I’m not knowledgeable about birds) which are a very good marker at this time of year for the beetles being out and about swarming the trees. The birds were up by Hare and Billet pond so I headed over there and sure enough, it was full of beetles. The pictures above (except the one on the hat) and below were taken there on 29 June 2017.

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(Above) Hare and Billet pond at dusk. Isn’t it lovely. The only birds visible in this picture are a duck and his / her duckling on the water. Just out of view of this picture, on the grass to the right is a moorhen (probably).

The video below is a not entirely successful attempt at videoing the birds, in slow motion, to see if I can work out what they are.

Update 30 June – I popped back there this evening and there were loads on the walk over from the heath, persistently buzzing and divebombing me. When I arrived at the pond one of the larger trees was surrounded, a very health crop of Summer Chafers this year, hooray. The tweet right at the top was taken after one landed on my bag while I was trying to take a photo of another one that had ‘attacked’ me. I had to swat them away with a bit of card haha.

1. see [warning: Daily Mail link. Click cautiously as the Mail is surely far more terrifying than beetles] “The chubby insects terrorising Britain’s backyards: The plague of fat, flying beetles found in your garden (and your home)

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Pilot yourself around London’s canals with @GoBoatLDN

The tl;dr version:– GoBoat London will let you hire small boats, from Paddington basin, that you can ‘drive’ (yourself, with a quick bit of training) around London’s canals (£75 for 2 hours for up to 8 people, 6 hrs is £200). Boat has massive picnic table in it, can bring own food or order a picnic. Looks lovely. You can go West to Kensal Green, or East to Camden Lock. [Website] [About] [FAQ] [Routemap] [Twitter]

Earlier in the week, on something like Gardeners’ Question Time, I heard mention of the  new ‘Paddington Pocket Park’ which is a garden floating on a pontoon in the Paddington Basin at Merchant Square* and parked that in my mind as something to visit.

Yesterday, after another lovely visit to Lewisham Shopping Centre’s pop up maritime museum I decided to head into Camden and ‘do’ one of those water bus journeys from Camden Lock. Checking the details (where to pick up the boats, where they actually go and so on) while sitting on the 24 bus from Charing Cross to Camden Lock I realised that the boat goes to Little Venice which is conveniently close to Paddington Basin, so I ended up visiting the pocket park too.

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Pic credit: Me! @JoBrodie (boat in pic is unrelated to the boats mentioned in the post).

The Water Bus from Camden Lock to Little Venice was lovely and I’ll post up some pictures from that separately, but this post is about the little silver-grey ‘GoBoat’ boats I kept seeing in the canals. They’re small boats that seat eight and you and up to seven friends can hire one and pilot yourself around London’s waterways. I didn’t really know what I was seeing at first – it looked like a table boat, literally a boat with a table in it and I assumed it must be a quirky one-off miniature floating restaurant, then I saw another couple of them and realised it must be a ‘thing’.

Apparently these GoBoat boats launched in London in May, and their terminal is in Merchant Place… where the floating garden is!

I believe the company’s from Copenhagen (one tweeter described them rather nicely as a floating picnic table) and the aim is to make waterways accessible to more people – “The mission of GoBoat London is  to make the canal waters accessible to all, in a sociable and sustainable manner.  … Our boats allow guests to comfortably face each other, whilst enjoying food and drink on a large picnic table in the middle of the boat.

I’m now telling my friends about this so that I can try this out!

*One way to get to Paddington Basin is via an entrance just to the left of the Tesco Metro on South Wharf Road, which is near Edgware Road station and links to Praed Street and Paddington Station. As I was coming from Little Venice mooring point I walked up towards the blue bridge and turned left past the Waterside Cafe, down Westbourne Terrace Road and onto the A404, picked up the 18 bus (stop on the right hand side) and took it two stops to the Police station, then walked back a little to take the underpass to the other side. I used the Citymapper app to get me there.

A couple more pics from me below, including info about what’s happening

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Some adverts below over which I have no control. I hope they’re not too wretched…