Not Quite The Everglades

Posted on May 27, 2013 by

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Thumbs Down to Pinewood Nurseries (Wexham, Slough, Berkshire). To spoil someone’s day is tantamount to crime. Its website promises ‘a relaxed and homely atmosphere’. Don’t believe a word of it. The staff are mean spirited. Less than feeble at customer relations, they clearly have a penchant for shooting themselves in the foot.

We had driven miles to Slough Hospital to visit a family member in the Emergency Cardiac Unit. With an hour to go before Visiting, we had a bite to eat at the Prop House Café (in the Nursery). As it was a lovely, warm, sunny day, we left our wheels in the very large, very empty, car park and walked over the road to the hospital where, to our immense relief, we found our loved one slightly better. Happier than we had been since he was ambulanced in, we wandered back to the Nursery for afternoon tea and to fill the car with groceries from the farm shop. Or not. Stuck on the windscreen was a sheet of A4 threatening us with clamping if we parked there again. Gobsmacked we looked around for No Parking signs. None. Even if there were Customers Only we would have parked because – er – we were customers. Upset doesn’t begin to describe how we felt. We spent £50 there in two days and was about to part with another £50. What is it about this country?

Minus our afternoon tea, very downhearted, we made our way to Slimbridge (entrance fee a whopping £11.60). Anticipating the promised wet lands we pull on our boots and head for the caff. Now very hungry indeed we plump for the meat balls. Our verdict in the Comments Box?  ‘Meat balls. Cannon balls. We’ve eaten better school dinners’. We import French electricity (EDF) why can not we import Les Relais Routiers?

Words such as ‘wild fowl’ and ‘wetland’ conjure up images of nature do they not? They do not conjure up images of concrete paths wide enough to accommodate mobility scooters. Or signs saying Discovery Trail (the whole of Britain is now Blue Peter) and No Entry Beyond This Point. Where were the ‘great spectacles…beautiful landscapes’ as promised on the website? Wild means wild does it not? Apparently not. Moses was a boy when these ringed birds last saw the wilds.

The Lesser Spotted Mobilty (should that not be immobility) Scooter is a common species at Slimbridge. Waddling along the path was Jemima Puddleduck, offspring following behind in single file. Purring alongside, one behind the other, came The Obese Family, pa, ma and daughter, all scootered up waiting for gastric bands on the NHS. What is it about this country? Does no-one have any shame any more?

All in all, Slimbridge is more of a bird museum than a nature reserve. Still, the ducks with bright blue bills are impressive as are the avocets and what a treat to see a Bewick Swan. Wanted to see one of those ever since researching Thomas Bewick for Essential Islington: From Boadicea to Blair. At least we think it was a Bewick. The website says not, they had already hot winged it to Russia.   Bewick moved to Islington in London from Newcastle. Apart from Westminster Abbey, he didn’t like London. Although much in demand, never out of work and earning a lot of money he went back home saying he: ‘would rather herd sheep in Newcastle for five shillings a week than stay in London’. His zoologist friend William Yarrell named Bewick’s Swan after him. Yarrell wrote A History of British Birds years after Bewick’s book of the same name. It was Yarrell who described Bewick’s Swan in 1830, distinguishing it from the larger Whooper Swan.

We followed the hordes to gawp at a kingfisher so far away it was almost invisible to the naked eye. Just as we were about to witness something extraordinary – a bird actually flying – it was chucking out time. 5.30! Why? It doesn’t get dark until late; we could have seen birds looking for supper.

We left this sanitised, concrete, bird land feeling home sick for Paxton Pits a proper Nature Reserve near Cambridge. Entrance is free. It also has a pub with food to knock the socks of Slimbridge and Pinewood Nurseries. We even heard a nightingale there. Last time we went, we ended up wandering ten miles by accident. ‘ Seen any herons? ‘I yell to a pair of joggers. ‘Near the weir’, came the reply. The joy of Paxton Pits is that those joggers were the only sign of human life that day. We set off, innocent of how far away the weir is from civilisation. Practically in the next county. We never did see a heron but did pass two nesting swans on the river bank. Paxton Pits is how Peter Scott imagined Slimbridge would look. A wetland with wildlife.

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