Mycenae House’s PARKSfest 2017

I popped into Mycenae House after a visit to Blackheath’s M&S for yesterday’s ParksFest and failed to take any photographs as my phone was charging at home, oops. Fortunately other people brought their cameras and tweeted some stuff (below). Looks like it was a really enjoyable day. I was surprised to discover how large the Mycenae Gardens are and amazed to see a large redwood tree, among some other pretty interesting trees. I signed up to become a ‘friend of’ the gardens and was given a leaflet on the gardens history.

Mycenae House (built in 1776) Gardens were created by someone whose name – Angerstein – I had heard of only in the context of freight trains shuttling between Angerstein Wharf and Bardon Hill quarry in Leicester. He filled the garden with some trees that have been there for over 200 years (a lovely old plane tree is still there) and after his death his collection of paintings also kicked off the National Gallery. Angerstein actually lived in ‘Woodlands’ (now a Steiner School) next door to Mycenae House.

The friends of the Garden had a couple of good tree quizzes – it turns out I’m better at recognising a species from its leaf than from a picture of the tree.

A few years ago I saw Shaun of the Dead in the gardens thanks to Pop Up Screens, it was fab though I got bitten by midges 😉 I don’t think they’re doing any screenings at Mycenae House but they do have films in Greenwich Peninsula in August (also Lee / Hither Green which is nearby).

Mycenae House (What’s On) – http://www.mycenaehouse.co.uk/whatson.html
Friends of Mycenae Gardens – https://mycenaegardens.org.uk/about/
Westcombe (Park) Society – http://www.westcombesociety.org/
Blackheath Society – http://www.blackheath.org/
Charlton Society – https://charltonsociety.org/

I enjoyed the bunting seen in the tweet above.

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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)