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LINKS AND NEWSLETTERS
SURREY PREHISTORIC NEWS
Rose Hooker, Secretary of the Prehistoric Group of the Surrey Archaeological Society, has kindly allowed us access to recent issues of their new fortnightly newsletter Surrey Prehistoric News:
ACCESSING OLD MAPS ONLINE
Online maps can be very useful for local history studies if used within the website’s term and conditions. Some examples:
From the Library of Congress website: William Faden 1790 The country twenty-five miles round London: planned to a scale of one mile to an inch
National Library of Scotland maps: Ordnance Survey maps up to the 1930s/1940s
FROM THE ENTOMOLOGY SECTION 16 July 2020
A THYMELY REDISCOVERY … PART 2
A Patch of Basil Thyme at Wontford Road Green. (c) Graham Collins
Jovita Kaunang has already reported on the rediscovery of the rare plant Basil Thyme Clinopodium acinos at Wontford Road Green (click here) The site is a grassy area between two diverging roads, forming a triangle, and on a considerable slope. It has been proposed for Local Greenspace designation and, apart from its aesthetic value to local residents, also has considerable potential as conservation grassland. We have recorded a number of interesting plants together with some uncommon insects, such as the Nationally Scarce mining bee Andrena humilis. Of course, the entomological interest is only present if the plants are allowed to grow, flower and set seed. Sadly, despite numerous requests from residents and from us, both verbal and written, not to cut, the council sent in a mowing team in late June and almost the whole area was shorn.
On our first visit, which was at the end of May, we found a single plant of Basil Thyme. Ann Sankey, of Surrey Botanical Society, commented that this was a bit early, so we had been planning a return visit. News that the area had been trashed was devastating, but we eventually decided that we had to go back. When the mowers came, local residents begged them not to continue but to no avail. A glimmer of hope was that the area where the Basil Thyme had been found was on a steeper slope, unsuitable for a tractor mower, and was due to be strimmed. Fortunately, the strimmer operator was persuaded to leave this small area. So when we returned on the 8th July, we were delighted to find a mass of Basil Thyme, perhaps 30-40 plants. A week on, many of them had set seed and so the hope of a new generation next year was sown.
The potential Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis, mentioned by Jovita, had been lost to the machines, as had nearly all of the Field Scabious Knautia arvensis on which we had hoped to find an even rarer mining bee known to occur in that area (Andrena hattorfiana).
It is reasonable that roadside verges need to be cut where vegetation is causing an obstruction or danger to traffic, but the pointless mowing of flower-rich verges that provide delight to local people and are home to rare species is something that should have been consigned to an earlier age, especially when local councils are so short of money.
FROM THE MUSEUM 26 June 2020
TWO MESOLITHIC TRANCHE AXES
Two Mesolithic tranche axes – one from Thames, one from Wanstead
FROM THE ENTOMOLOGY SECTION 17 June 2020
GONE TO POT BUT STILL PRETTY AS A PICTURE (-WINGED FLY), JUNE 2020
The picture-winged fly Tephritis praecox. (c) Graham Collins
Those of you who came to the Entomology Section meeting on 17th July 2019 may recall my seedling Pot Marigolds (Calendula officinalis) needing new homes. I sowed these on 9th June, and with all the seeds germinating, had more than I could cope with. Eventually, my Marigolds were dispersed widely across Croydon, and in several places in Sutton and Merton. Seven were planted at an allotment in Merton between 13th August and 30th September. Later on, I received a comment from one recipient that “they did nothing”. However, by the Spring of this year, the plants in my care started flowering, so I hoped the complainant hadn’t dug his up – I haven’t felt able to ask!
Graham presented me with a bouquet of cut Calendula from the Merton allotment, which remained in a vase on his kitchen window sill. Recently, on 6th June, Graham found a picture-winged fly (Diptera: Tephritidae) inside the kitchen window. He identified it by means of the British key as Tephritis praecox – an insect that neither of us had seen before. Interestingly, Marigolds are one of the main Composite plants that this attractive insect breeds on. The following is Graham’s understanding of how this picture-winged fly came to be in his kitchen.
There seemed to be two possible options. Firstly, the fly occurs in my garden and was attracted to the scent of the Marigolds. Secondly, the fly had bred in and subsequently emerged from the flowers and probably originated on the allotment. Tephritis species overwinter in the adult stage and the larvae feed up in the summer. This life-cycle allowed either possibility. The specimen was a male, so had not come into the house looking to lay eggs. However, freshly emerged females would hang around their host plant and he may have been looking to mate. So, the plants were sacrificed, dissected under the binocular microscope. Several puparia (a special type of pupa unique to Diptera) were found in the flower head, surprisingly in two forms. One was short and squat and had already hatched, the other longer and thinner and appeared intact. I suspect that the latter had been parasitised by a small wasp – hopefully they will reveal their contents in due course. Thus, it would seem most likely that the fly originated from Merton parents, the eggs laid on flowers in the allotment and the adult emerging in South Croydon. In any case it would seem to be the first recorded occurrence in Surrey.
Jovita Kaunang and Graham Collins
A THYMELY REDISCOVERY OF A RARE PLANT 12 June 2020
FROM JOVITA KAUNANG
Basil Thyme Clinopodium acinos. (c) Graham Collins
After an enquiry was made recently by residents to CNHSS for conservation advice of Wontford Road Green, Graham and I decided to take a look. Fortunately, this open area in the vicinity of Purley and Kenley had not been mown, and we were impressed with both the entomological and floral diversity of this grassland slope. Although this was our first visit, we realised it lies close to Dollypers Hill Surrey Wildlife Trust reserve, which of course is well known to us at CNHSS due to the long involvement of Malcolm Jennings and Jane McLauchlin. There is currently a planning application on this site which has been nominated for Local Greenspace designation. I asked Ann Sankey of Surrey Botanical Society if she had any records for the site, and indeed Gwyneth Fookes had surveyed it in 2017. Ann was quick to bring Gwyneth’s Basil Thyme (Clinopodium acinos) record to my attention. This is a key plant of conservation concern for Croydon, and features on the noticeboards for Croham Hurst SSSI. With all the recent hot weather, I was keen for us to return to Wontford Road Green in case any flowering plants were already going over. So we visited again on Sunday 31st May, and I am delighted to report that Graham found Basil Thyme in flower and Ann Sankey has confirmed the determination by means of Graham’s photographs. Unfortunately, the ‘Biodiversity and Survey Report’ that accompanies this planning application does not include this plant, which is a shame as not only is it important for Croydon, but has the UK conservation status of ‘Vulnerable’ (considered at high risk of extinction in the wild). No doubt habitat loss is one of the contributing factors. Incidentally, there was an orchid, not yet fully open, growing nearby in the grass verge of the pavement, which I suspect is a Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis).
FROM THE ORNITHOLOGY GROUP 31 May 2020
MURDER IN THE GARDEN
On 15th May, in the early morning, about 5am, I was awoken by a terrible din going on outside somewhere. I knew it was birds making the din and thought perhaps they were seeing off a bird of prey. Magpies were chittering and crows were cawing all at the tops of their voices. Really ‘shouting’. I was so sleepy that I just couldn’t get out of bed to see what it was and later, when I did get up, peered out of the window and saw the remains of magpie on my grass. Eventually when I steeled myself to clear up the mess I was surprised to find TWO magpie heads! Also, one foot and one wing and odd feathers. Not much left of their bodies if two magpies had been killed. Now, I’d been looking at Twitter and following the RSPB and knew that black kites had been seen recently in the country. I’ve seen loads of these in France, but only once before in England and that was at Dover. Someone on Twitter had posted a map of where they had been seen recently in Britain and it was all over the place really.
I sent emails to my bird watching lot, plus John Birkett of Croydon RSPB describing what had happened and mentioned that I had seen on Twitter that there were black kites in the country and vaguely had thought of that. John responded politely, saying black kite would have been great but magpies and crows ‘shout’ at any raptor (bird of prey), which they do. So, I thought no more about it really, but knew it had to be something large or maybe there were two of whatever it was.
On 20th May, I was doing the washing up about 7.30pm. Clear blue sky, good visibility. Who should fly into my field of vision but three black kites. I saw these large birds approaching, and kept expecting them to turn into geese as they got nearer, but no they were not geese or crows? Too big for crows and then the penny dropped. Of course, black kites! Horrid looking things really, like giant crows is the best I can describe them. Anyway emailed everyone again, and John replied saying I should report it to the county recorder; he then sent me a form to do this, so I did, and it went to Surrey Bird Club and Surrey Recorder and a copy to John.
So, what happens is, they need to believe you. I had no one else to back it up, and could only answer the questions and describe what I saw as clearly as I could because people do get mixed up sometimes and say it’s a black kite when in fact it’s a cormorant. Cormorants have long thin necks which stick out when they are flying; but these were very chunky birds much bigger than cormorants and their necks were hardly visible really. Anyway I wouldn’t mix them up having seen lots in France, as I say. So, who ate the magpies? I wouldn’t mind betting!
I was half expecting to be cross- questioned about it but I’ve heard from the Surrey Recorder now who said thank you for reporting it.
FROM THE MUSEUM 21 May 2020
Barbed & tanged arrowhead, flint. Found in Chaldon Churchyard. Bronze Age.
FROM THE ENTOMOLOGY SECTION 20 May 2020
CUCKOO IN THE NEST, MAY 2020
The kleptoparasitic wasp Sapyga quinquepunctata . (c) Graham Collins
Most species of bee, and indeed wasp, are, as the old adage goes ‘busy’. They make their nests and provide food for their larvae. However, a small number of species have developed a habit of taking over other species nests and avoiding all that hard work. These are generally known as ‘cuckoos’ or, more technically, kleptoparasites, because they steal both the host’s nest and its larva’s food supply. Worse than this, because the food supply can only support a single larva, they also kill the immature stages of the host. Often their egg hatches before that of the host and the young larva, equipped with fearsome jaws, devours the host egg.
These kleptoparasites are often specially adapted. For example, bees in the genera Nomada and Sphecodes (which parasitise Andrena and Lasioglossum bees respectively), because they don’t need to collect their own pollen are rather hairless and often have coloured bodies thus resembling wasps. In another bee, Coelioxys, the females have blade like segments on the rear end which are used to cut through the cell wall of their host.
Our pictures shows a wasp, Sapyga quinquepunctata, which is a kleptoparasite of solitary bees of the genera Osmia and Chelostoma (see ‘Bees in a South Croydon garden’, April 2020). It is found throughout England and Wales and is local in Surrey (Baldock, 2010, Wasps of Surrey). We have only found it on five occasions, three of these in my South Croydon garden in each of the last three years. The example photographed was found by Jovita clinging to a blade of long grass in our meadow.
Graham Collins & Jovita Kaunang.
MEMBER’S ENQUIRY – NORBURY BROOK 9 MAY 2020
Member A.S. asked about Norbury Book, referred to in the c1950s sixth edition of Croydon The Official Guide: ‘On page 81 there is a photograph of the Triangle, Pollards Hill, below which is a description of Norbury including the following, “The older Norbury, about London Road, has as its northern boundary, Norbury Brook, a small stream which has its source nearly four miles away at Woodbury Close in Addiscombe Road and flows on from here towards the river Wandle.” We should very much like to locate this spring and would be interested to know whether you have any information about it.’
John Hickman replied: I have been in touch with a CNHSS colleague who has confirmed the source of Norbury Brook as being a spring feeding a very small pond in the immediate vicinity of Woodbury Close, Addiscombe. This was researched a while ago, and I gather the geology appropriately supports this finding. The brook is now largely culverted, although in places (as is the case opposite Selhurst Station) it runs in a concrete gully on its passage to Norbury.
FROM THE JOHN GENT COLLECTION: 1945 PEACE CELEBRATIONS AT KENNARDS 8 MAY 2020
As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day this postcard from the John Gent collection shows how Kennards of Croydon marked the end of World War Two in 1945. Kennards was already preparing to celebrate its 93rd birthday in that May, with visits such as by radio stars and actresses Beryl Orde and Mabel Constanduros, and with tea dances, window displays and birthday offers. In early May when it became evident that VE Day was imminent it became a double event to also celebrate peace. Exhibits included reminders of the horrors of the war years with fire-fighting exhibits and photographs, and the first official photographs from the concentration camps.
FROM PAUL SOWAN 21 April 2020
Thoughts from one “locked down” 10 April 2020
John Hickman has suggested I might like to make use of ‘social media’ to assure members that I am my usual self, in unusual circumstances.
Seeing and making use of opportunities resulting from adversity has always seemed to me to be the best reaction. The coronavirus pandemic is as well timed as could be, with longer daylight hours and warmer and sunnier weather. This is written from my ‘desk’ in my garden … “lockdown” in the winter would have been different.
What am I doing all day? Addressing the accumulation of 60 years worth of books, magazines and news cuttings, almost ‘floor to ceiling’, in every room in the house. Catching up with the filing of CNHSS library materials, and my own personal papers and library. Having no television and no Internet connection means no distractions!
A little material goes into the paper recycling box. More is destined to be “re-homed” to more appropriate owners. Years worth of accumulated notes are being organised with a view to writing up researches for the CNHSS Bulletin and the like. Topics such as charcoal burning in the ‘Great North Wood’ and the textile bleaching and printing industries at Croydon Palace, for example. Primary local sources are scarce or non-existent. But there are useful details of practicalities in published works from Evelyn’s ‘Sylva’ onwards (for charcoal) and the rivers Irwell and Wandle published by Oxford Archaeology (2012) and the Merton Historical Society (1992). Interestingly, local charcoal burning and textile technology both failed to keep up with technological developments. Another line of research concerns ‘barrow runs’ in railway earthworks construction – famously depicted by J.C. Bourne in his volume on the London and Birmingham Railway. I know of only one further example (recorded by an artist at the time), on the London and Brighton line c.1841 at (what became) Haywards Heath.
In terms of mundane necessities, I go out every two or three days to shop for food. I have not needed to take up the offer of four neighbours to help with shopping. Shopping for a vegetarian might be challenging! No meat, no fish, no chicken, no milk, no tea… most of my meals are essentially freshly cooked vegetables. Almost 80 years as a vegetarian has left me evidently well and healthy!
Regards to all –
FROM THE ENTOMOLOGY SECTION 15 April 2020
BEES IN A SOUTH CROYDON GARDEN, APRIL 2020
The solitary bee Osmia bicornis – mating pair, South Croydon, 12th April 2020. (c) Graham Collins
When talking about ‘bees’ many people think no further than one species, the honey bee Apis mellifera. In fact, there are in excess of 270 species of bee in Britain, most of them solitary. Spring-flying species can proliferate in domestic gardens – we have recorded 18 species already this year in my South Croydon garden – and so make good subjects to study in the current situation. The photo shows a mating pair of the mason bee Osmia bicornis. Linnaeus described this species twice, as rufa (referring to its red colour) and again as bicornis (referring to the horns on the face of the female). Taxonomists have decided that we should use the latter name. Females nest in a variety of existing cavities and collect wet mud to plaster and eventually close the nesting cells, using the jaws to transport it and the horns to shape it. You can just see these on the face of the lower bee. Suitable mud is often in short supply, so Jovita had the idea to place a tray of wet top soil, hopefully with enough clay content, to attract them and, if lucky, obtain video footage. Mating in bees usually doesn’t last long and when Jovita spotted this pair I was fortunate that they remained in place long enough allowing me to photograph them.
Graham Collins & Jovita Kaunang.
FROM THE MUSEUM 6 April 2020
ABOUT OUR MUSEUM
Our museum houses a large number of archaeological and geological artefacts, many donated by Walter Hellyer Bennett 1892-1971, a mining engineer whose known travels included to Gran Canaria, Morocco and Nigeria.
A cardboard cut-out of Walter Hellyer Bennett guards delicate items in the Museum during its Open Day 7th July 2019
This example item from the Museum collection is a ‘Desert Rose’ mineral cluster of gypsum.
For other artefacts from the Museum’s collection see the Museum page at https://cnhss.co.uk/museum/.
FROM THE ORNITHOLOGY GROUP 3 Apr 2020
BIRDWATCHING IN THE GARDEN IN EARLY APRIL
In my garden I often see a pair of robins. Today they were both at the bird feeder, but whereas the male was getting food out of the feeder the female perched on the bar at the top of the feeder pole and the male fed her. I’ve noticed this before. My guess is that being early April she is sitting on eggs and he has been bringing her food and continues to feed her when she gets off the nest for a stretch and a bit of exercise. (We can sympathise with that at the moment).
(c) Mavis Barber
ANOTHER WEEK IN SELF-ISOLATION, BY OUR COMPANY SECRETARY IAN PAYNE AND HIS WIFE PAULINE 3 April 2020
Hi CNHSS Members from Ian and Pauline (Payne).
We’re incarcerated at home, haven’t been out for two weeks. Still got a good supply in the larder and are experimenting with new ways to get deliveries. Waitrose has no delivery slots and now that they only deliver to people on the NHS at risk list, there’s no chance at all of a slot. Our son and family in Streatham are self-isolating and our other son and family in Abu Dhabi are self-isolating.
Now, we here in Coulsdon are retired, so you’d think we’ve not much to do. Not true. I’ve re-started writing my book and Pauline is digging for victory. But we’re both also working for Friends of Farthing Downs. I’ve just written a contract for renewing the Nature Trail and Pauline has written a Newsletter and we’re both updating the website. Then there’s what I’m doing for Coulsdon Probus and what we’re both doing for CNHSS. Here’s a picture of us in fancy dress ready for the AGM that’s now been postponed.
Both Richard and Clair are working from home in Streatham, but fortunately, Thea (14) and Iris (12) are capable of doing their own home-learning with only minimal supervision.
Not so in Abu Dhabi. Christopher and Nadia are both working from home and Christopher has an important time-limited project. So home-schooling Faris (7), Hala (5) and Cyrus (4) is difficult – in fact Christopher is at his wits end as to how to juggle his responsibilities. So he had a brilliant idea – why don’t we in Coulsdon do some home-schooling. So here we are, video-conferencing with Zoom, Oxford Owl app open and being showered with three children’s curricula and daily ‘what to do’ papers from school. Our first week has gone well. They’ve just announced that the schools in Abu Dhabi are to close for the rest of the academic year – help!
AND HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO THE GRAND THEATRE TOO 6 April 2020
We’re not the only ones celebrating an anniversary on 6th April – the former Grand Theatre of Croydon is too. It opened in the High Street Croydon next to Wrencote on 6th April 1896, with a performance of Trilby from the Haymarket Theatre, with Herbert (later Sir Herbert) Beerbohm Tree as Svengali and Dorothea Baird as Trilby. Dorothea would later return to the Grand for other performances, alongside her husband H.B. Irving, son of Sir Henry Irving.
The Grand Theatre in 1896, advertising the opening performance, Trilby. Own postcard
Herbert Beerbohm Tree as Svengali and Dorothea Baird as Trilby. Illustrated London News
A MESSAGE FROM OUR PRESIDENT ON OUR 150TH ANNIVERSARY 6 April 2020
I hope all is well with you, your family and friends.
Today marks the 150th anniversary of Croydon Natural History & Scientific Society. Unfortunately because of the crisis in the country caused by Covid-19 we are unable to celebrate our birthday as planned.
As those of you who have seen the latest programme will know, we organised a range of talks, walks, visits and activities to last until the close of October. This programme of events will not be curtailed, but postponed until such a time as the coronavirus infection has abated and circumstances allow us to resume what we do.
In some respects we were fortunate insofar as the planned approach to our anniversary – the exhibition Croydon through the lens of Charles Harrison Price, in Croydon Clocktower – was able to run for 42 days. During that time over 300 people made complimentary entries in the visitors’ book thereby demonstrating its success.
We may also be heartened by the sentiment expressed in an email recently received by Carole Roberts (Chair of the 150th Anniversary Celebrations Sub-committee) from Steve Reed MP in response to our being overtaken by present events. In it he says, ‘I would like to send congratulations to everyone at the Croydon Natural History & Scientific Society on your 150th Anniversary Year. What an achievement. It is so important that our heritage is kept alive for generations to come. I therefore applaud the work of the CNHSS and wish you all success for the future.’
In his 1960 Presidential address to the Society the civil engineer and historian Stanley Baines Hamilton said, ‘Another activity that a local society, and no other, can effectively perform, is to provide a place where people of kindred interests can bring (or make) friends who have a common interest.’ Although we cannot presently meet, we can still come together and we propose to do this through the new Members’ Page on our website being introduced today. To promote this let us recall the words of John Gent who when talking of the Society in his 1973 address said, ‘[our Society] has given many of you hours of pleasure and instruction, not least from the effort you yourselves have put into it’. With this in mind, please feel free to join us as and when you are able – to simply browse a while, or to perhaps contribute an article of interest or photograph to the Members’ Page until such a time as we may enjoy a return to our normal activities.
In the meantime, I wish you all the very best, and please take care to stay safe.
6th April 2020.
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