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.

amphimallon chafer.png

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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Blackheath recommendation – Richard (carpenter / handyman / electrics) #SE3

I needed some lightbulbs changed in fiddly and inaccessible places in my flat (high ceilings, fear of ladders) and so asked my lightbulb-seller if he could recommend someone. He did and Richard has done a fabulous job of restoring light to the darker bits of my home. I asked him if he had a website where I could leave feedback and say nice things about him but he doesn’t, so I’ll say it here.

Richard got the first bulb done in moments and while up the ladder asked if I had a cloth so he could give it a bit of a dust, then he found out what was wrong with a more complicated light fitting in my kitchen – the 3 amp fuse had gone, fortunately (amazingly!) I had spares. He pottered around the house fixing things that hadn’t worked properly (it turned out that one of my fittings is officially broken so that’s why it hadn’t been working well) and was helpful and amiable.

He even fixed my shower rail which had collapsed (don’t hang wet t-shirts to dry from them folks) and it all came to £40. Seconds later he emailed me my invoice / receipt 🙂

Richard’s number’s 07989 962 483 and I’d happily have him back to fix things in my Blackheath home. Very happy for him to use this as a recommendation on his own site if he creates one too.

Jo Brodie

Christmas shopping in #Blackheath – pt 2, Royal Standard, #SE3

Recently I spotted an edition of The Resident, a local magazine (with separate magazines for various segments of London including Blackheath / Greenwich), which had lots of information about where you could buy Christmas presents. Unfortunately none of the shops mentioned seemed to be local and Blackheath is a fantastic place to go Christmas shopping so I thought I’d see what I could find.


By the way, on Saturday 6 December 2014 it’s the inaugural Blackheath Village Day with events and lantern-making, Santa’s grotto and our local horses trotting parade-ly around the village. There’s a big switch-on of the Christmas lights by Nick Ferrari at 4.30pm.

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Getting here
Rail: Westcombe Park | Blackheath | Charlton | Maze Hill
Buses: 53, 54, 89 (within walking distance) 108, 202, 286, 380, 386, 422

Blackheath Royal Standard shops
Homepage for Blackheath Standard / Royal Standard shops
• Shops in Old Dover Road
• Shops in Stratheden Parade – Section 1 | Section 2
• Shops in Westcombe Hill – Section 1 | Section 2
• Shops in Vanbrugh Park
• Shops in Station Crescent (refers to Westcombe Park station)
• Shops in Humber Road

This part of Blackheath has a Marks and Spencer and a big library as well as lots of smaller local shops.

Whenever I’m in the area I usually try and pop in to Blackheath Cooks as this place is a bit of a treat and I’ve done a couple of their evening cookery classes here. There are plenty of fun things in the shop bit at the front for children and adults as well as classes in the spacious kitchen at the back.

Obviously the shop has lots of cookery sets, some aimed at children like this dinosaur cookie cutter kit and there are nice little aprons. I’m not sure how much children enjoy jam making but their selection of jam jars at the front is great. The thing that I was really smitten with though were the colour-in kits from Eggnogg and I bought a few of them for various nieces and nephews. The Christmas colour-in table cloth is lovely and visitors to the shop can colour a bit in themselves.

I got some colour-in bunting for myself. In the lower two pictures above you can see a range of Growing Gifts boxes, including Pizza Chef and Veg Patch.

I’ve never been in Ottie and the Bea before but it turned out to be the perfect place for little pull back friction-vehicles (the ones you roll on the ground and they carry on rolling) – I got a lovely little metallic aircraft and car. They also sell copies of Okido science magazine for 3-8 year olds (here’s their Tumblr) and lots of these kits and games (picture below) from Djeco (switch sound off before clicking).

Pegga Stores
This is a lovely shop (here’s what the Greenwich Phantom had to say about it in 2007) which is packed full of greeting cards and diaries, I picked up a couple of festive-themed gift bags, an ‘old fashioned’ style Advent calendar (my ‘primary’ Advent calendar is of course this colour-in one from @MooseAllain) and a couple of notebooks, which are rather lovely.

See Part One
Christmas shopping in #Blackheath – pt 1, Blackheath Village, #SE3

 

Christmas shopping in #Blackheath – pt 1, Blackheath Village, #SE3

Recently I spotted an edition of The Resident, a local magazine (with separate magazines for various segments of London including Blackheath / Greenwich), which had lots of information about where you could buy Christmas presents. Unfortunately none of the shops mentioned seemed to be local and Blackheath is a fantastic place to go Christmas shopping so I thought I’d see what I could find.

Pootling around Blackheath Village is not always that fun on a Saturday afternoon as the pavements are narrow and the shoppers are numerous (a lot of prams) so I spent a bit of time in shops I’d not usually associate with ‘Christmas shopping’ as well as the more obvious ones. There are quite a few I missed out so I’ll have to make an excuse to do this again.


By the way, on Saturday 6 December 2014 it’s the inaugural Blackheath Village Day with events and lantern-making, Santa’s grotto and our local horses trotting parade-ly around the village. There’s a big switch-on of the Christmas lights by Nick Ferrari at 4.30pm.

2014-11-29 15.28.58


Getting here
Blackheath rail: live departures & arrivals
Buses: 54, 89, 108, 202, 380

Blackheath Village shops
Landing page for Blackheath Village shops
A. Tranquil ValeSection 1 | Section 2 | Section 3
B. Montpelier ValeSection 1 | Section 2
C. Blackheath Village Section 1
D.
Royal Parade Section 1
E.
Lee RoadSection 1
F. Blackheath Grove Section 1
G.
Montpelier Row Section 1
H.
Hare And Billet Road Section 1
I.
Lawn Terrace Section 1
J.
Cresswell Park Section 1
K.
Tranquil PassageSection 1

Fergus Noone Photography has lots of gorgeous prints of local things and a spectacular Greenwich 2015 calendar. He has some lovely pics of Greenwich Park in the mist and snow, his website’s well worth a look. I also spotted some PiP Studio china items and soft fluffy lambswool Avoca throws.

Hortus is a magical place (I took loads of photos) though not generally of much relevance to me as I’m not a gardener but it does have plenty of other things for the home, including cucumber-scented candles (a new one to me, very cucumbery) and plenty of Christmas decorations and Christmas trees. It also has a nice selection of toys including a sparkly-looking balloon modelling kit and grow-your-own plants kits, including Foodie Garden items. They also sell A London Village Cookbook and lots of ‘Gifts in a Tin‘ items from Apple to Pears, including Build Your Own Microscope (website says it’s not available until Feb 2015 but I beg to differ as they had them in the shop – see the picture with coloured tins, it’s the dark blue one).

I didn’t go into Fat Face but it’s probably a good place to go if you’re in need of snuggly jumpers and fleeces.

Rymans has a good range of basic necessities such as wrapping paper, cards, sellotape etc as well as a good range of coloured pencils and pens (I am a sucker for a full set of coloured pencils – also for a tenner they have a complete range of those Sharpies pens which have become.. trendy? We used to use them in the lab to mark glassware, I think they only came in four colours then. Anyway they’re great and I might treat myself). Also batteries! And, strangely, a thing called a ‘Nutribullet’ which seems to macerate food for you to help you extract nutrients and energy. To be honest, thanks to evolution coming up with chewing, stomach motility and enzymes, your digestive system will do the same job at no cost but if you can’t chew well I suppose it’s ideal. And they had those plastic geography globes that tell you where everything is.

I was particularly taken by the fact that McColl’s newsagents has, right at the back, a pretty decent selection of ready-to-go plastic gift cards. To be honest I’d have thought they’d want to advertise this fact a bit more at the front of the shop – surely everyone would want to know that they have a range of flat credit-card sized gifts from £10 to £50. Anyway they had Amazon, Waterstone’s, iTunes and App Store, Google Play, Primark, Debenham’s, Claire’s Accessories and B&Q gift cards. They also had one month or six month subscriptions for Moshi Monsters and the usual things like chocolate advent calendars, gift cards and crackers. And Lindor chocolates.

Lindor chocolates also featured in Shepherd’s Foods along with walls of other chocolate-y items including Charbonnel et Walker (glorious packaging) and Pfeffernusse which might be an essential festive item in my household. They also have Bendicks Mints, Guylian, Lindt and stollen as well as a massive range of fairly obscure jams and preserves (I don’t really know the difference to be honest, but they’ve got everything you might ever want to put on your toast). I spotted a Gruffalo advent calendar (and proper old-fashioned chocolate-free advent calendars) and a Ninjabread Cookie Kit from In the Mix for £5.99.

Blackbird has lots of nice-looking clothes and a very blue window display, liked the bag with stars on it, though I’ve not much use for it myself.

2014-11-29 15.52.28Cookery Nook always has fun themed coasters (eg Dr Who), also a large Dr Who mug with a dalek on it. They have everything any cook or food fan might want including cake tins and those little things to rest spoons on as well as ‘I heart Blackheath’ mugs and tea-towels with local maps on them, eg Kidbrooke. Presumably if someone’s cooking they’ll need to wash it down with some plonk, fortunately Oddbins is but a short stagger away.

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Age Exchange: an interesting twist on the aeroplane kit concept – the one in pink is a flying fairy.

I also popped into Cancer Research UK where you can find Christmas cards and Christmas crackers as well as decorations (possibly these are second-hand). Then I had a nice cup of tea and a lemon bun in the Age Exchange where I picked up some little painted wooden vehicles (for little hands) but they have a few other stocking-filler type items as well (see pic above).

See Part Two
Christmas shopping in #Blackheath – pt 2, Royal Standard, #SE3