Blackberries are starting to ripen in sunny locations at Finsley Gate Boatyard. I picked the first ‘punnet’ today and I will freeze them as a contribution toward our first Burnley Wood Jam. The moment was captured by photographer Andrea Holt who was documenting time, change and history around the site as part of an Exbury Egg Photographers Group project.

The Eggman picking blackberries at Finsley Gate




The neighbourhood notice board beside the canal bridge at Finsley Gate Boatyard is now home to a series of changing exhibitions featuring activities at the Exbury Egg and work by locally based photographers. Many thanks to Sam Walsh (here with daughter Romilly) for documenting the Summer Solstice Supper that was supported by so many local Burnley Wood people.


I do not ever remember seeing Himalayan Balsam before yesterday when I encountered it behind the tow path wall almost adjacent to the Egg and went off to look it up. I was surprised to discover that this splash of gorgeous colour is seen by many as an invasive occupying force, that has spread rapidly since its escape from confinement in Victorian gardens where it was first introduced from central Asia in 1839.

It is the largest annual plant in Britain, growing up to 2.5m high from seed in a single season. It spreads quickly by propelling seeds up to four metres from truly explosive little pods and they often drop into the water and further contaminate land and riverbanks further downstream (though I am not sure how this is an issue in the slow moving confines of a canal). It is widely regarded as a menace that would cost £300 million to remove nationwide. However, as fast as one group of people dig it up and burn it, others collect the seeds and post them to friends to plant. It is well loved by many and Birmingham Botanical Gardens even once sold the seeds as a novelty gift for children as ‘Mr Noisy’s Exploding Plant’ I aim to spend a sunny afternoon next week with a cup of tea waiting for the popping of the seeds if anyone would care to join the fun.

I have to say that the local sticky grass seems like more than a match, as it twists its way up and around the lancet leaves and blooms of the Balsam. I do not think I will ever become a Balsam basher.

The following link is to an interesting 15 minutes of radio on the subject: Mabey, Richard; Produced by Susan Marling (Broadcast 25 July 2011) http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b012qnl4#synopsis

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I met Gav and Andy fishing on the canal bank yesterday morning at 10.35. Gav does a lot of sketching and said he’d like to come round to the Egg one day to look at my work and at the boatyard site.  His keep net had a few roach, but the days biggest catch was a fledgling pigeon, fished out after it ditched in the canal.

This morning I saw another floundering in the water and had to hurry to fish it out myself. I anticipate a few more rescues in the days ahead, as more young attempt first flight from our local ‘Kitty Hawk’ bridge.






The Sticky Grass (aka Goose Grass & Cleavers) is a common flora at Finsley Gate

The guides and brownies of the 52nd St Andrews Burnley Group and the 5th Burnley Cub Scouts visited the Egg between June 27th and July 18th following a talk I gave about the nature of the Egg at their HQ. Marshmallows were popular around the camp fire (though no marsh mallow was growing nearby) and small groups took it in turns to see inside the Egg itself. Each trip had its own unique attributes. The guides had a sing song, the brownies took my equipment and did a lot of their own photography and sound recording while the cubs really explored the physical structure and took interest in the Bee Aware campaign in support of our yellow and black bodied neighbours.  I hope to welcome the Burnley Wood groups when their new year begins in September.

The surviving swan with his two cygnets came over to the Egg to say hello, just as Ruth and I were leaving after an afternoon of near constant rain. They were clearly extremely hungry and all we could find was a packet or two of oatcakes, that once softened in the puddles of rain water, seemed to be acceptable fodder.

They have never walked right up close like this before and I think an empty stomach provided the drive. The rain and cool weather kept away many people who might otherwise have been to feed them.




Our pen was taken away yesterday by the RSPCA. As we can see in the following film, the officer said that he thought the cob would look after the cygnets, but to keep a keen watch for the next week to make sure. If the cygnets are left alone for more than a few hours, we should ring the RSPCA again. They are not at Finsley Gate at the moment. I could not see them along the Straight Mile either, so I can’t provide any current information. I will be on location at the egg all afternoon and keep eyes open. I know a lot of you will be on the lookout.

Please do watch the film if you wish though the sound quality is not good and it contains a quite gruesome moment showing the extent of the swan’s injured right wing.

Large yellow cranes of the family flavus gruidae appear to be nesting on the site of the former Lambert Howarth factory just across the canal from the Egg, and which is in the process of demolition. They appear to prefer the open areas of rubble, to the remains of the breeze block, brick and stone edifice still standing a few yards away. Their actions bear some resemblance to the mute swans that are my neighbours.