Thursday, 25 April 2013

Arachnid Massacre

We stumbled out of the woods and into this scene of carnage.

They’re plants, stems bent and broken by winter snows and countless frosts, leaves dried and crumpled like old rags.

But for us they were so much more.

Here lie the remains of the arachnid hoard, cut down on the battlefield and left to bleach in the winter sun; legs broken at angles, brown bodies cold in their slaughter.

They lie just outside a rather fine gothic pile – and we decided they must have attacked in the dead of night, creeping in the moonlight out of the forest and over lawns, sweeping and trimmed.

But who thwarted their attack?

Was it the gargoyles and grotesques that line the roof - watching - protecting the house from invaders? Or was it something else?

And there, in the dining room, lying on a table between the cutlery and candelabra - a clue…. A sonic screwdriver!

Monday, 15 April 2013

The Big Cat Mystery

Okay, so this is a picture of a very small cat, and that is because I have never been fortunate enough to spot one of the famous Dorset Big cats. But there are plenty of people who claim they have.

In fact there was a sighting only a couple of weeks ago where one was spotted in a field near Dorchester by a passing lorry driver.

Dorset is by no means the only place where big cats have been seen – we’ve all heard of the Best of Bodmin – and there have been sightings in many other places too.

Now it’s very easy to dismiss these sightings as mis-observation, especially after the Essex Lion turned out to be a rather large tomcat. But the fact remains that many people have seen something out of the ordinary – so unusual in fact that they have risked ridicule in order to report it.

When we visited Exmoor Zoo we saw black panthers and the keeper spoke to us about the big cat observations on the moor. There was no doubt in his mind that big cats were living and breeding wild in the UK. Where they came from though is the question.

There is one line of thought that when the Dangerous Wild Animals Act came into force in 1976 people who did not wish to hand their pets in, or have them destroyed, let them loose. And these were the ancestors of the big cats that are seen today.

There is another line of thought that they are creatures from the spirit world that pass across occasionally into ours; the rationale behind this theory being that the cats described by witnesses are so variable in appearance.

This in itself is interesting. Maybe there is more than one species of big cat living wild in our countryside, or maybe it’s down to the way we perceive and our minds interpret the unusual. And these witnesses certainly saw something unusual.

I find this whole thing fascinating. It seems unfeasible that a whole sub species of big cat could be living among us and yet be unknown. But at the same time it would be wrong to dismiss what perfectly rational people believe they have seen.

Panthers or demons? What do you think?

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The Greenland Vikings

We think of Greenland as an inhospitable place – a land of ice and rock. The only inhabitants are the Inuit (their lifestyle finely tuned to their environment), men who plunder the land for valuable resources such as rare minerals, and explorers and scientists braving those icy wastes for the greater good.

But once there were settlements and farms. And these settlers were Vikings.

Greenland was discovered by Eric the Red back in the 10th century. He named the place Greenland to make it sound lush and encouraged his countrymen to move there and settle. There were a number of settlements, all located in the South.

It seems strange now, to think that anyone could survive there, let alone make a living from farming. But this was a time when the climate was warmer than it is now. This was known as the Medieval Warm Period. In Britain vines flourished, and here in Greenland farming was feasible. The settlements thrived and the population grew to 3,000 - 5,000 people.

But it was not to last.

The Medieval Warm Period gave way to the Little Ice Age. In Britain the Thames froze solid. Here in Greenland the crops failed and the trade routes were cut off by ice. In the 14th century the colony went into decline. The last written record is a wedding solemnised in 1408, but after that – nothing.

And so the Greenland Vikings became victims of climate change.