Expectancy Theory


Why Expectancy Theory is still a relevant management tool in business today

Lyman Porter and Edward Lawler were management theorists who devised an expectancy theory model in 1968. They concluded that an individual’s motivation to complete a task is affected by the reward they expect to receive!

On the one hand, Porter and Lawler developed a model that addressed two main things: factors influencing effort put into a job and factors connecting effort to performance on that job. For example, they decided that things like the value of rewards (or the probability that rewards depend on effort, or ability, or role perceptions) were all highly relevant variables that related to performance in the workplace; thus, their model assumes that people act upon a basis of perception and how they actually perceive their work related situations. Effort – Performance – Reward is the way their model works (in that order). Thus, Porter and Lawler were arguing that reward follows performance, which follows initial effort.

There was a perception among workers of how an increase in effort, would somehow lead to more effective performance; better performance, would, in turn, lead to greater rewards and this understandably acts as a motivational force to employees. Gerald Cole provides a simplified model of expectancy theory (based on Porter & Lawler) and he ‘indicates clearly how effort is determined by individual perception of the work situation.’

Performance levels at work then, relate to things like how much ability each worker thinks he or she has; or how a worker understands the requirements of their job role; or how constraints (such as company policy, supervisory pressures, work group pressures or limitations of knowledge) can hold that worker back. These factors may all affect the level of effort put into the job by an employee to a lesser or greater degree. Thus Porter and Lawler’s model is still used as a management tool today, because the reward system of motivation is a rational explanation for individual decision-making and the theory has a predictive value, meaning managers can often get the desired behaviour from an individual at work.

On the other hand, Porter and Lawler extended ideas on individual behaviour in the workplace and introduced additional aspects to the theory of expectancy – a concept which did, of course, exist before them. For instance, they categorised the reward section of their model as both intrinsic and extrinsic: intrinsic rewards are the positive feelings experienced from completing a task (such as satisfaction or a sense of achievement); extrinsic rewards are rewards emanating from outside the individual (such as their bonus, their commission or an increase in their pay). If effort is positively correlated to performance, an experienced office clerk who believes she or he can increase the number of words typed per minute, by exerting greater effort, has a high effort / performance expectancy or E – P. A less experience typist may realize that no matter how much effort is put in to typing, her performance is fixed at a low-level and this latter clerk has a low E – P expectancy.

According to Fudge and Schlacter, expectancy theory ‘predicts that the person with the high E – P expectancy will be more motivated to perform than will the person with low E – P expectancy.’ Thus, a combination of these intrinsic and extrinsic rewards are at play when trying to manage motivation in the workplace – it is down to the management team to get the balance right and the above example does show the theory is flexible enough to use on different members of staff.

However, the above example does also show that Porter and Lawler’s model doesn’t necessarily always work well as a motivating force in every case (the worker with the low E – P), so there are criticisms. It has been suggested that an individual’s view regarding the attractiveness and fairness of the rewards will affect motivation. For instance, when a promotion provides someone with higher status, this may be seen as desirable, but if the responsibility then requires longer hours and more commitment, it may act as a deterrent to an employee who values his or her free time. Another example, is when a pay increase pushes an employee into a higher tax bracket.

Porter and Lawler’s model unfortunately doesn’t take the emotional state of the individual into consideration, thus things like personality and past experience are factors affecting this perception-based model. Hence it can also be difficult to implement with groups or teams and implementation of anything new at work is often met with resistance anyhow. Porter and Lawler’s contribution though, is still highly recognised (according to Fudge and Schlacter) because expectancy theory – having been here for around fifty years – has now been subjected to ‘rigorous academic testing and has been shown to have strong support.’

Thus, expectancy theory is a popular theory of motivation, possibly because it is straightforward and easily understood even though it is still criticised for its simplicity. It should work well if managers set realistic goals for their employees and then link the reward to the goal, while not exaggerating the reward in comparison to the effort an employee would need to express. Rewards don’t have to be of monetary value and by emphasizing the reward system, you may promote a positive work environment and it is widely thought that rewards hold their motivational value for longer than any punishment. Many firms also like expectancy theory because it isn’t just limited to a simple equation of hard work and productivity equalling financial reward. Hence the theory is ‘complex enough to suggest a number of strategies an organization can employ to encourage ethical behaviour from its employees’ which is of course important, because business ethics are now increasingly pertinent to the world of management!

In summary, part of the beauty of Porter and Lawler’s motivational theory, is that it is cyclical, thus more effort will increase performance and gain rewards; these rewards then motivate the worker to put even more effort in the next time around and gain even greater reward and so it continues (raising the standards) developing the worker professionally with better pay, better conditions or job satisfaction – this is part of the reason why expectancy theory has lasted the test of time and become fundamental to modern management – though is the whole reward system not just a glorified version of the old adage of bribery?


Whistle Blowing


Why management ethics is increasingly more important today 

“A person who alleges misconduct”

“Someone who reveals wrongdoing within an organization to the public or to those in a position of authority”

“An employee who has inside knowledge of illegal activities occurring within his or her organization and reports to public”

“Exposure of fraud and abuse by an employee”

BLOWING THE WHISTLE: The police in England traditionally carried whistles in order to alert danger when blown! Business uses the metaphor of whistle blowing to mean all of the above.


These days a more auspicious and favorable climate for whistle blowing is presented. The advantages can be freedom of information, honesty, justice, fairness and equality. If lives can be saved it is surely the RIGHT thing to do.

Consumer and employee health can be protected. For example, the case of asbestos manufacturing, which directly related to lung disease as far back as the 1920’s, was actively suppressed by company officials for fifty years.

Internal whistle blowing is appealing to superiors inside the organization and you may be seen as a savior. Green business is big business these days and a selling point.

Increasing communication is usually a positive if it raises the standards. Employees may feel more comfortable at work if they are free to raise their concerns. Modern day organizations often have clear whistle blowing policies, accessible to everyone in order to abide by the law.


You may be seen as a grass or snitch, face reprisals, hostility, alienation and victimization at work and be more closely supervised as a result.

In the old days, you were expected to be loyal or be fired. The lack of protection meant problems were usually concealed rather than solved. Management would famously say, “you cannot bite the hand that feeds you and insist on staying on for the banquet.”

External whistle blowing is going public and one famous example when somebody should have is Firestone Tires in 1972. Warnings internally were ignored about a faulty tire, which resulted in death and serious injury with blowouts. This could have been avoided.


By the time the whistle is blown, unfortunately much of the damage has already been done! According to Karen Jennings of Unison, speaking in 2009 about health workers, “It is essential for staff to be able to raise concerns about standards of patient care or staff safety, without the fear of reprisals.”


For an entertaining insight to the concept of blowing the whistle, watch The Insider (1999) which is the story of Jeffrey Wigand and his Big Tobacco exposure.

Russell Crowe receives severe personal consequences including death threats against his family, loss of income, divorce, and the threat of litigation for breach of confidentiality relating to Al Pacino’s suing for reimbursement of funds to pay for smoking related diseases.

My suggestion is this. Encourage INTERNAL whistle blowing to avoid the need to blow the whistle EXTERNALLY. This has the advantage of bringing unethical practice to the forefront without leaking outside and damaging the organization. The company then has the chance to rectify the problem. If they don’t, then go public!





Where star gazing became free and easy to do

Astronomy is the scientific study of celestial objects: stars, planets, comets, nebulae, star clusters and galaxies!

It is a natural science astronomy – the study of these objects – and astrophysics is the study of their behaviour.

Prehistoric cultures like those at Stonehenge made the place an astronomical artefact but it wasn’t until the telescope that helped astronomy develop into a modern science. It is one of the few sciences where amateurs can play an active role. “Astro” means star and “nomy” means law in Greek.

Beginning as a measurement of time for crop planting purposes, astronomy was done from vantage points like high ground in order to map the stars.

Galileo’s sketches of the moon were the first to show its surface was actually mountainous and Newton’s laws explained the motion of the planets. With his telescopes Newton discovered Jupiter’s moons.

The Milky Way is Earth’s galaxy and the sky is free for us all to see with binoculars the most common instrument used in astronomy. Amateurs star gaze while professionals use computers in the office.

Some stars orbit in pairs, others differ in brightness. Jupiter has a black spot, which is the shadow of its moon and the Great Red Spot. Our moon has mountains and craters.

Most telescopes are refracting telescopes with a large lens at the front and a smaller one near the eye while reflecting telescopes use mirrors.

Greek astronomer Ptolemy thought the Sun, the Moon and the Planets and Stars all revolved around the Earth.

Stars are moving though they appear to be stationary. Foucault’s pendulum experiment proves that the swinging weight changes path and the Earth behaves in a similar manner.

Orion is a group of seven stars like four points of a square with three in the middle and by midwinter the Sun appears opposite Orion in the sky and the constellation is well placed for midnight viewing.

Our star is the Sun and has always been used as the basic timekeeper. On most sundials the gnomon that casts the shadow is parallel to the Earth’s axis and the difference between GMT and sundial time and Apparent Solar Time is known as the equation of time.

If you plant a stick in the ground its shadow will point exactly north (or south in the southern hemisphere) at noon and if you mark the points every day it forms the analemma and to make a proper sundial you need the latitude of your location to angle the gnomon – I used a chopstick when I did it in Seoul and they are at 37 degrees latitude.


Rhododendron (ferrugineum)


When it was that this amazing plant got its name

According to the International Rhododendron Registry, which is held by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), there are over 28,000 cultivars of the Rhododendron species.

Rhododendrons have been extensively cultivated in the UK and natural hybrids have now appeared in areas where different ranges of species overlap, and many types of Rhododendron are now bred for their flowers, ornamental leaves, bark and stem quality!

Genus is a biological classification, thus, there is an ongoing realignment within horticulture meaning the original “Ledum genus” should now be reclassified to the subgenus of Rhododendron. Occurring mostly in the northern hemisphere, Asia and Australia; there are no species of Rhododendron native to South America and Africa.

Azaleas are a subgenus of Rhododendron; both of which are either shrubs or small trees, thus the leaves of these wonderfully sounding, beautifully looking pieces of nature are spirally arranged and they are often noted for their many clusters of large flowers.

Alpine species are usually much smaller and some other species of Rhododendron in the UK are invasive which means there is a preservation and restoration process required for their protection.

As many species of Rhododendron are introduced plants, spreading in woodland areas and replacing the natural understory, it has become an ecological management issue. The problem being the roots are difficult to eradicate especially if the Rhododendrons make new shoots.

There are a number of insects that either target Rhododendrons or will opportunistically attack them. Many borers, various weevils and caterpillars have become major pests attacking the species and spoiling their beauty.

Rhododendron species are always used as food plants by many butterflies and moths though major disease such as root rot, stem and twig fungus does affect various kinds and sadly they can easily be suffocated by other plants.

Extensively used for ornamental landscaping, many Rhododendron species are now commercially grown and in India, flowers from the Rhododendron have been used to make popular fruit and flower wines; Rhododendron is the national flower of Nepal and is often pickled or added to fish curry in the belief that it will soften the bones!

Luckily, the plant does have anti-inflammatory and other medicinal potential, though some Rhododendron species are poisonous because of the toxin in the pollen and nectar; people have been known to become ill from eating honey made by bees feeding on this plant.

Rhodon means “rose” in Ancient Greek, dendron means “tree” and rhododendron ponticum is the scientific name used by horticulturalists at the RHS.

Aren’t these purpley flowers just the most beautifully arranged part of the local park?


Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica)


Why the world’s most famous tree house is an Atlas Cedar

Outbreaks of fungus-like ramorum disease have been known to affect cedar trees. Once a tree is infected, its needles wilt and turn grey or blackish before dying followed possibly by the death of the entire tree in a matter of months; the only way to contain the disease is to fell the surrounding plants within an area of 15 to 20 hectares, otherwise the spread of disease can become a major concern.

Many horticulturalists treat the Atlas Cedar as a subspecies of the Lebanon Cedar; all cedars have layered evergreen foliage though the needles of the Atlas are slightly greyer than the Lebanon which also has level branches.

Phytophthora ramorum was first noted in the UK in 2002 and has since affected many plants, trees and horticulture; aerial survey teams have been used to help the Forestry Commission pinpoint the spread of this killer disease.

Atlas Cedars form forests at an altitude of between one and two–thousand metres. They provide the habitat for the endangered Barbary Macaque often referred to as a “Barbary Ape” because of the small population in Gibraltar, though they are definitely monkeys not apes.

Common in parks and gardens in the UK, the most likely seen variety of this tree has greyish, blue needles that are shorter than those of the Lebanon. Both trees however, still grow clumps of rosettes and have an upright male flower.

Atlas cedars are frequently found in Britain, thus they were introduced to the UK in 1841, some two-hundred years after the Cedar of Lebanon; both of which have similar height and the cedar trees are conifers meaning they are cone-bearing.

To identify an Atlas Cedar try looking at the direction in which the branches grow: Atlas’s branches ascend, Lebanon branches are level and Deodar droop.

All cedar trees flourish in hot dry conditions like many conifers but can survive in wet, cold and even polluted environments; after 150 years of age the branches rot, become more susceptible for disease and fall without warning so the trees do need replacing. Doesn’t the appearance of these large, almost exotic wonders of nature, look quite unmistakable?

There is a healthy Atlas Cedar growing above the old fashioned red telephone box at the lower end of Crystal Palace Park in South-East London and another in the grounds of the White House where Jimmy Carter had a tree house built for his daughter. Designed by the President himself, this infamous Atlas Cedar thankfully is self-supporting and not causing the tree any damage!


Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa)


What properties the fruit of this tree contains

The chestnut tree belongs to the same family as the oak and the beech and there are four main species: European, Chinese, Japanese and American. They are magnificent trees!

Chestnuts are a genus of eight or nine species of deciduous trees and shrubs native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, thus, the name also refers to the tasty, edible nuts they produce.

European Chestnuts are known as “Sweet Chestnut” or “Spanish Chestnut” and this species was successfully introduced to the Himalayas and other temperate parts of Asia, though chestnuts should not be confused with Horse Chestnuts, which are completely unrelated. The nuts of the Horse Chestnut are of similar appearance but nowhere near as edible and neither should they be confused with the Water Chestnut, which again is something completely different. Also unrelated and commonly mistaken for the Chestnut Tree is the American Beech.

With a growth-rate of moderate to fast, their mature heights vary from the littlest of chinquapins (which are deciduous shrubs) and shrubbery to a giant 60m. The Japanese version averages 10 metres; the Chinese Chestnuts are usually 15m and the European is roughly 30m high.

Chinese and Japanese chestnut trees are much wider-spread than the European species while the American version tends to grow very upright and erect, especially when planted with other trees.

The actual edible sweet-chestnuts that are roastedupon the side of street were originally called the “Sardian nut” because they were introduced into Europe from Sardis which was an ancient city in Turkey. People ate this staple food in mountainous Mediterranean regions when cereals didn’t grow so well and weren’t so widely available.

Ancient Greek and Roman soldiers planted chestnut trees across Europe and survived many a battle due to stacks of nutritious chestnuts; these sugary tasting things have been noted ever since for their medicinal properties. Symbolic of chastity and pre-dating the potato, this fruit from the chestnut-tree was for many Christians the main source of carbohydrates.

Chestnut tree forests have existed since prehistoric times. Having been well-established for agricultural purposes because the fruit – or nut – has excellent nutritional properties, these chestnuts were an important part of the traditional diet, although nowadays, they really are seen as a luxury ingredient in many foods.

Harvesting begins in the UK around mid-October for these wonderful and natural things, ready for stuffingthat Thanksgiving turkey; would Christmas really be the same without a few roasted chestnuts to be eaten while buying those pressies?


Pansy (Viola tricolor)


Who it was that came up with the name for this beautiful flower 

Pansies are hybrid plants that have been cultivated as garden flowers. Particularly colourful, they are derived from the Viola species!

Just two to three inches across, Pansy flowers have slightly overlapping upper petals. There are usually two side petals and often a single one at the bottom with a slight beard emanating from the flower’s centre.

This plant may grow to nine inches if given plenty of sunlight and moist well-draining soil, thus, modern Pansies are cultivated with horticulturists having developed the following wide range of colors: yellow, gold, orange, purple, violet, red, white and even black or very dark purple.

Pansies are biennials which means they are a flowering plant that takes two years to complete its biological lifecycle. In the first year the plant grows leaves, stems and roots before entering a period of dormancy over the winter.

Surviving freezing temperatures even during their blooming season, this species will grow well in sunny or partially sunny positions. Nowadays, due to selective human breeding, most garden Pansies bloom the first year with some in as little as nine weeks after sowing and aren’t they just beautiful to look at?

Usually purchased as six-packs of young plants from garden centers and planted directly into the garden soil, Pansies are treated as annuals by the home gardener meaning they will germinate, flower and die in one year or season even though they are biennials.

In hotter climates, Pansies may re-seed themselves and return the next year though usually they are not very heat-tolerant. Hot temperatures inhibit blooming and warm air causes rot and death.

Sadly, when Pansies are subjected to devastation by snails and slugs they pick up several diseases, most of which are fungal.

Pansies are happiest in zones with moderate temperatures and equal amounts of mild rainfall and sunshine which is perhaps why they are so popular in the UK. Needing watering thoroughly once a week, plant food should be used every other week to maximise blooming, thus, regular deadheading can extend the blossoming period.

Pansy is a word derived from the French for “thought” and it resembles a child‘s face, often showing facial marks. This beautiful flower has attracted the attention of poets and artists, thus, wild Pansies have been noted in herbal folklore medicine being attributed with many properties; falling in love as a Pansy property was probably the invention of William Shakespeare in Midsummer Night’s Dream!


Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica)


Where these wonderful trees are most often found in the UK

Cedrus atlantica, is a cedar tree native to the Atlas Mountains of Algeria and Morocco.

Fully grown, the Atlas Cedar is a large tree of 30-35 m with a trunk 2 m wide and it is very similar to other cedars regarding cone and leaf size.

Nowadays, the Atlas Cedar is being cultivated as an ornamental tree in temperate climates because it is more tolerant of tropical conditions than most conifers. Many horticulturalists treat the Atlas Cedar as a subspecies of the Lebanon Cedar; all cedars have layered evergreen foliage though the needles of the Atlas are slightly greyer than the Lebanon which also has level branches.

Atlas Cedars form forests at an altitude of between one and two–thousand metres. They provide the habitat for the endangered Barbary Macaque often referred to as a “Barbary Ape” because of the small population in Gibraltar, though they are definitely monkeys not apes.

Bluish foliage, downy shoots and the ascending branches are typical of cultivated cedar trees, thus many Cedar plantations have now been established in France for timber production!

Common in parks and gardens in the UK, the most likely seen variety of this tree has greyish, blue needles that are shorter than those of the Lebanon. Both trees however, still grow clumps of rosettes and have an upright male flower.

Atlas cedars are frequently found in Britain, thus they were introduced to the UK in 1841, some two-hundred years after the Cedar of Lebanon; both of which have similar height and the cedar trees are conifers meaning they are cone-bearing.

To identify an Atlas Cedar try looking at the direction in which the branches grow: Atlas branches ascend, Lebanon branches are level and Deodar droop.

All cedar trees flourish in hot dry conditions like many conifers, but can survive in wet, cold and even polluted environments; after 150 years of age the branches rot and fall without warning so the trees do need replacing though doesn’t the appearance of these large, almost exotic wonders of nature, look quite unmistakeable?

There is an Atlas Cedar growing above the old fashioned red telephone box at the lower end of Crystal Palace Park in South-East London and another in the grounds of the White House where Jimmy Carter had a tree house built for his daughter. Designed by the President himself, this infamous Atlas Cedar thankfully is self-supporting and not causing the tree any damage.


Turkish Hazel (Corylus colurna)


When the leaves and flowers appear on this lovely tree

Scientifically known as Corylus Colurna, the Turkish Hazel has been widely cultivated as an ornamental tree in Europe and America.

The Turkish Hazel is native to the more southern parts of Europe and it is the largest species from the Hazel family reaching up to 25 m in height; the bark is pale and grey with a thick corky texture while the leaves are deciduous and rounded, usually up to 15 cm long, though they change from green in the spring and summer to brown in the autumn.

Tolerant of difficult growing conditions and urban pollution, the Turkish Hazel is often used in civic planting schemes though because the hard nuts are so small with a very thick shell, they have no commercial value; Turkish Hazel nuts are the poor relation of the Common Hazel regarding this but if you can get to one they are still just as edible!

Because the Turkish Hazel does not sucker – meaning there is no shoot growing from it giving rise to a new plant – it is ideal rootstock (with a healthy stump) on which to graft the much more nut-bearing Common Hazel cultivars and this has been done with a great deal of success in the UK providing us all with lovely nibbles at Christmas time.

The flowers come early in Spring before the leaves and they have single-sex catkins meaning wind will carry the pollen to female flowers, thus, the fruit of the Turkish Hazel is a nut enclosed by a shell concealing all but the tip and they are borne in tight clusters of 3-8 that are largely eaten by the Grey Squirrel in the UK.

Between Blackfriars railway bridge in London and the road bridge on its north side, there is one beautiful Turkish Hazel tree and another marvellous example in Gresham Street plus there are two quite unmistakable Turkish Hazels on either side of the path in Crystal Palace Park at post five on their fascinating tree trail – once you have identified this tree, you’ll remember it for the rest of your life!

Wood from the Turkish Hazel tree is used to make furniture and architecturally, the tree is very useful to the carpenter because it is of low maintenance and many urban agricultural schemes will use this manageable Turkish Hazel species too.

A delight to keep domestically, the Turkish Hazel is an attractive addition to any garden guaranteed to stand strong for many years, thus it is perennial and deciduous with yellow flowers blossoming in early Spring giving us the best quality wood, but only if it grows in the semi-shade with a little direct sun and medium levels of water.


Common Lime Tree (Tilia)


Why the ancient town of Canterbury is famous for this tree

Tilia is a genus of about 30 species of lime tree native throughout most of the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere.

Lime is a large deciduous species of horticulture towering up to 40 metres in height and there are no citrus fruits growing on it! The Common Lime is frequent in towns and parks with its popularity dating back to the seventeenth-century thus giving it the name now used!

Common Limes (tilias) are broadleaf and deciduous – losing their leaves in autumn – trees with shiny pale green leaves that are flimsy and waxy. Heart-shaped and triangular, the leaves of the lime become a dull yellow in autumn, thus, the leaf bud is small and red, looking a little like a boxing glove.

On the leaf there is a long stalk and the leaf arrangement is alternate with the flowers being a clustered group that blossom in July, thus the fruit ripens changing from green to brown in late summer and the bark is pale, grey-browny in colour with irregular ridges; characteristic large burrs and covered in leaf shoots at the base of the tree, this is the typical appearance of the great many Common Limes seen in parks and nature reserves across the UK.

With slender twigs and brown in colour, the brushwood tends to turn more red in the sun and can easily be confused with the Large Leaved and the Small Leaved, Lime. The Common Lime is native to Britain, though many of these trees are now horticulturally cultivated and would be considered non-native to many scientists.

Tolerating a wide variety of conditions, these trees are often planted in streets, parks or as a landscape tree, thus, the conservation status is actually common too meaning like other limes the tree is not under threat. The Common Lime can be coppiced and the wood is used as fuel, hop-poles, bean-shafts, ladles, bowls and for Morris Dancing sticks!

The leaves of these unmistakable trees were also useful as fodder for livestock and the very young leaves were even part of a tasty sandwich filling many years ago; however, the blossom was regularly used to make a certain type of tea during the war with its mild sedative properties.

Kent County Cricket Club had a famous lime tree for more than 200 years actually inside the boundary. Sadly, in 2005, their tree (which had been in ill health for some time) was knocked over by a strong gust of wind and pieces of the dead tree were sold off to fans. The ground was built around this infamous tree in 1847 and the rules state that if the ball hit Canterbury’s Lime Tree it would count as four runs. Luckily, a replacement tree was planted outside the playing area in 1999 and moved within the boundary to take over from its 200 year old predecessor in anticipation of this fatal event. Apparently, it is in good health – hopefully it will remain that way!

Always remember not to park your car under a lime tree though; the wax can be really awkward to clean off!


London Plane (Platanus × acerifolia)


Who it was that may have appreciated this functional trees

Platanus is a genus comprising a small number of tree species native to the Northern Hemisphere, commonly called Planes!

Members of the Platanus species are tall trees, reaching 30 to 50 meters in height. Tall and thin they tolerate severe weather conditions well meaning the hybrid London Plane has proved to be particularly useful for pollution control in urbanized conditions.

Often known in English simply as “Planes” these trees have become the quintessential tree of the London streets, however the London Plane isn’t native to the UK. Widely planted in urban environments these trees thrive in the towns and cities that others cannot cope with.

Platanus has a generic name of Plane and it is a broadleaf rather than a conifer thus it does lose its leaves in autumn because it is deciduous. The thick,leathery leaves generally have five triangular lobes, with each lobe having at least three teeth on each side.

Deep green in colour the flowering season of the London Plane is May-June, the fruit is golden-brown when ripe and the bark is olive greeny-grey with hand sized scaly plates which are often lost to reveal a creamy bark underneath.

London Planes can easily be confused with Maple Trees, however Maples have opposite leaves though both species tolerate a wide range of soils and conditions and the reason they can thrive in major (often polluted) cities is because they are able to withstand the compacted soil.The London Plane has a British conservation status of Common meaning the tree is not a threatened species though the pollen from the seeds and flower can be an irritant to some people. Remember, most London streets contain some of these tall, attractive trees but aren’t they just as common in other cities across the UK?

One of the easiest trees to identify, the London Plane has a camouflage pattern bark and hanging pom-pom fruits in winter; just take a look around to notice this resilient tree with its air of authority and magnificence like a giraffe overlooking our city streets.

Now so dominant in London the plane tree has become part of the urban landscape ever since it first appeared in the UK in the seventeenth-century when it was planted for ornamental reasons.

All trees breathe through pores in the bark but none shed their bark quite like the London plane revealing the fresh wood beneath and meaning all the nastiness that attacks them is quickly removed keeping the trunk nice and healthy.

As well as this self-cleaning process, Platanus x hispanica proves how well-suited it is to the urban world by being resistant to drought, amenable to regular pruning and unbothered by impacted soil and these factors are all common features of life in London.

Take a look at the Grand Central Walk in Crystal Palace Park where the London Planes form a wonderful archway across the pathway; a pathway which originally lead up to Queen Victoria’s Great Exhibition!


Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo)


What time of year it is best to plant this tree

Arbutus Unedo is an evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean regions of Portugal and France, though it now has a presence in Ireland; ever since 1835, the red-flowered variant was discovered growing wild there!

Strawberry Trees were described by Carl Linnaeus in his Species Plantarum of 1753 which has been the bible of classification ever since. Growing 5-10 metres in height with a trunk diameter of up to 80 cm, the leaves of the Strawberry Tree are dark green and glossy with a serrated margin and their bell-shaped flowers are hermaphrodite.

Delightfully coloured white or pale pink, the flower of this species is pollinated by bees and the fruit of the Strawberry Tree isn’t a strawberry at all but it is still a red berry with a rough surface!

Still edible (just), this fruit unfortunately isn’t particularly tasty like its delicious namesake suggests; however, the fruit of the Strawberry Tree does serve as food for birds. Some countries do make jam or liqueurs from it too; Portuguese “medronho” is a kind of strong brandy and is apparently quite tasty!

According to the cultivation experts, this species is one that grows well in limy soils and best planted in a sheltered position because it flowers so late in the year. Arbutus Unedo has naturally adapted to dry summers though they also grow well in the cool, wet summers of western Ireland and have become very popular in American gardens especially with the Californian climate.

Strawberry Trees (and this is quite obvious when seen) have also been cultivated for their attractive peeling bark. Colourful and elegant the tree has clearly been sun-kissed by its native Mediterranean habitat though they should not be planted where bees are kept; the bitterness imparts to honey.

Strawberry Trees are best planted young in Spring which will allow the plant several months to acclimatise before winter sets in. For the first few winters, you must cosset the young plant by covering it with a fleece liner in extremely cold weather to protect it.

As it matures, it will become more tolerant and regular pruning will prevent the fruit setting as they are formed from the previous year’s flowers.

English gardens were lucky enough in the sixteenth-century to have the Strawberry Tree imported and this species now makes up part of the coat of arms of the City of Madrid too with a bear munching this fruit.

Strawberry Trees are a timeless piece of horticulture; to have been mentioned by the Roman poet Ovid, in the first book of Metamorphoses means they will surely live forever!


Hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli)


Why these leaves are so imporant

Hawthorns are a large genus of small trees and shrubs from the rose family. Scientifically known as “Crataegus” the Cockspur Thorn is native to temperate regions of the northern-hemisphere.

Identifying species is never easy. Firstly, the leaves of the Cockspur are alternate in arrangement, meaning they are not divided into leaflets and they are deciduous meaning the leaves fall in autumn; secondly, the leaves of this tree are toothed with flowers and the fruits number around 10, usually clustering on the stems of the thorny twigs and spiny twigs twiglets.

Mostly growing 5-15 metres in height, this species can reach up to 20 metres and evidently this large bush has a great many branches. The thorns are sharp-tipped (about 1-3 cm long) and the bark of this tree is smooth with narrow ridges while the leaves grow spirally; they are conveniently arranged with serrate margins that are often irregular or slightly oval in their shape.

Bearing a small fruit – the haw – similar to a berry and known as a pome this fruit contains from 1 to 5 pyrenes that resemble the “stones” of plums. The fruit is a drupaceous fruit with a fleshy part surrounding the pip and when ripe they are almost pear shaped; bright red in colour, they can remain on their twigs (those that aren‘t eaten by the birds) throughout the winter.

Hawthorns provide food and shelter for many species of birds and mammals as well as the flowers being important for a great many nectar-feeding insects. Winter wildlife depend on the haws – particularly thrushes and waxwings – and these birds eat and disperse the seeds in their droppings. Foraging around on the tree branches for insects when looking for food, many of these species use the Cockspur Hawthorn to provide excellent protection at this time of the year!

Many species and hybrids of the Cockspur Hawthorn are used ornamentally, either as street trees or for hedge planting and furthermore, many have been selected for their pink or red blossom in flower shows across the UK, not to mention often being used for water conservation in the management of landscapes.

On Hampstead Heath during the spring and summer, there are many layered hedges of hawthorn, blackthorn and maple bursting into life, thus expecting the return of her summer migrants such as blackcap and whitethroat; oddly enough, the hawthorn leaves have often been nibbled by youngsters or added to their packed-lunch sandwiches because of the unique nutritional quality.

Documented in “Lark Rise to Candleford” the Cockspur Hawthorn definitely has a claim to fame and many of these leaves are even included in “wild food” salad recipes or even added to hot soup!


Chrysanthemum indicum


When these flowers begin to flower

Nicknamed “mums” or “chrysanths” the Chrysanthemum species is from the genus consisting of approximately 30 perennial flowering plants.

From the Asteraceae family, Chrysanthemums are native to Asia and the north-eastern part of Europe thus “mums” flower in late autumn; these plants need plenty of protection because by the time they are in bloom the wind and rain can easily damage their delicate petals at this time of year.

The name Chrysanthemum is derived from a combination of the Greek word for “gold” and “flower”. The genus of the chrysanthemum once included a great many more species, however, its list was split up to put the increasingly financially important florist’s “chrysanths” into a different group, making them one of the most popular flowers around in the UK these days!

Chrysanthemums were first cultivated in Asia as long ago as 150 BC by the Chinese. As a flowering herb, they are renowned as one of the “Four Gentlemen in East Asian Art” thus, the Emperor adopted this beautiful flower as his official seal in Japan; ever since, there has been an annual celebration of its amazing beauty!

Modern chrysanthemums are much more glitzy than their wild relatives and occur in various forms: they can be daisy-like, decorative, pompons or buttons. Having been developed to contain many hybrids for horticultural purposes, there are thousands of cultivars of chrysanthemums including the traditional yellow, white, purple and lovely red ones.

Yellow or white chrysanthemum flowers are sometimes boiled to make a sweet tea drink in some parts of Asia and they have many medicinal uses too. For example, “mums” are used as a remedy for influenza.

Korean people drink a flavoured rice wine called “gukhwaju” with this flower included in the production and the leaves are steamed like vegetables in some Chinese restaurants in the Far East where the petals are often mixed with snake-meat to make a flavoursome aromatic soup.

Oddly enough, this beautiful flower is symbolic of death in many European countries and they are used at funerals in China, Japan and Korea with the white ones meaning lamentation and grief. The brilliant white colour portrays truth and honesty to many and they do provide a freshness to any funeral tribute.

Americans have often believed in the past that the chrysanthemum represents honesty, positivity and cheerfulness. The true chrysanthemum is for everyone in the world and the actual word “chrysanthemum” is one people have all heard many times but can any of you be sure you really know one when you see one?


Sweet Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis)


Where bay leaves date back to originally

Also known as Sweet Bay Laurel, this species is aromatic and evergreen: a large shrub-type tree with glossy leaves the Bay Laurel is scientifically known as Laurus nobilis and native to the Mediterranean.

Bay leaves are the ones found in your Bolognese sauce to add flavour and spice to your meal, thus the odor of the leaf is instantly recognizable when rubbed. Sacred to Apollo in ancient Greece, the Bay Laurel tree was a symbol of the highest status; crowns of laurel leaves were traditionally offered to poets in honour of their achievements and this represents the origin of the Queen’s Poet Laureate.

Laurus nobilis is a broad-leafed species of tree that can reach up to 18 metres in height. Its laurel leaf is 6-12 cm long and up to 4 cm wide, thus, the world famous Bay Leaf has a finely-serrated and wrinkled margin. The fruit of the tree is a small, shiny black berry – a favourite of the mistle thrush in Springtime.

Having gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit, the Bay Laurel really has made its mark – the oil of the leaf also has skin care properties with the main ingredient in Aleppo soap coming from the Bay leaf!

Being the source of several popular spices and seasonings, the bay leaf is used in a wide variety of recipes, but most commonly, these aromatic leaves are found in Italian pasta sauces. The leaf should always be removed before consumption but does add flavour to your meal.

Ground bay leaves are often added to a Bloody Mary because they can then be ingested safely, thus the powder is also used in soups and stocks while the berries have been manufactured into candles and perfumes. The wood of the tree has also been used as fuel for smoking food; the bay laurel has a great many functions.

Aqueous extracts of the bay laurel can also be utilized for medicinal purposes such as astringents and salve which may be applied to an open wound or as an aid with homeopathy in massage therapy. The tree’s essential oil is reputed to alleviate arthritis and rheumatism, while in aromatherapy, it has successfully been tried and tested as a treatment for earaches and high blood pressure.

Properties of the Bay Laurel mentioned above largely stem from traditional folk remedies used for rashes caused by poison ivy and stinging nettles passed down through the ages; a poultice soaked in boiled bay leaves did the trick for many and now we have a-hundred-and-one ways to utilize the Sweet Bay Laurel!


Corsican Pine (Pinus nigra)


Who it was that prevented the planting of these trees

Scientifically known as Pinus-nigra, the European black-pine occurs right across the Mediterranean including parts of Asia and the Maghreb Mountains of North Africa too.

Most popular in the Turkish woodlands, this tree – Corsican Pine – is also found in parts of Italy; regions of Sicily and the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. A large, coniferous, evergreen growing up to 55 metres tall, the Corsican Pine has a wonderful yellowy-brown coloured, flaky bark that peels off with age.

The timber of the Corsican Pine can be used for many things: general construction, fuel and paper manufacture are but a few. The Pinus-nigra has proved to be a valuable resource to the British economy for many years; its resistance to the spray from road de-icing salt during the winter has meant this species of pine tree is ideal for town planning and urban environmental schemes as well.

Being relatively drought tolerant, many pine trees have been planted in the busy streets of Britain’s towns and cities, though more often than not the Corsican Pine is seen in gardens or parks and can quite often be spotted as a windbreak at the sea-side.

The leaves (or pine-needles) are thinner and more flexible on the Europe trees than in North Africa, thus, the oval pine-cones appear in May. Up to 100 mm long with rounded scales, these cones ripen and change colour slowly from green to gray before finally becoming yellow in late summer approximately 18 months after pollination.

Moderately fast growing at around 50ish cm per year, Pinus-nigra has been known to live up to 500 years or more but the species does require full sunlight, thus this strong piece of horticulture is snow and ice resistant too!

Corsican pines are a light-demanding species growing best in areas of low summer rainfall on freely-draining, sandy-soils and can really take the heat – the tree is most comfortable at home in the Mediterranean!

Seeds will usually ripen in December and are sown the following Spring when the ground is much warmer; clearly the best seed sources are from the Island of Corsica herself, hence the Roman name of this amazing tree.

Sadly, the Forestry Commission in the UK had to suspend the planting of Corsican Pines in 2007 because of the dreaded “red band needle blight,” meaning quarantine controls had to be enforced requiring infected trees to be destroyed. The fungus causing this deadly disease, seriously reduces growth; consequently the UK’s timber yield was beginning to be affected; however, after five years the suspension was lifted and tree planting is thankfully back to normal levels.

Don’t the pine trees just look wonderful here in the Thetford Forest of East Anglia?


Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus)


What helicopters falling from this tree really are

Acer pseudoplatanus is a broadleaf tree that is large and deciduous reaching 35 metres and can often have the most beautiful domed crown!

Sycamore maples – Acers – have smooth, grey bark that gets gradually rougher and much coarser; it breaks up into scales before peeling off and leaves a paler coloured, inner bark underneath.

Maple leaves have five rounded, serrated lobes that are a rusty-reddish colour. Native to Asia and first introduced as a shade tree in the UK because of the spreading canopy, the sycamore maple provides respite from the sun in many parks and gardens!

Acer, as a species however, is non-native but naturalized, thus, the trees have a long history in Europe. Managing to tolerate the hazards of both urban and coastal environmental conditions, the timber of the sycamore is as strong as that of an oak.

Not as long lasting as oak wood, maple is used for making toys for three main reasons: it is easily dyed, it lacks any sticky weeping resin and it is very manageable for the “chippie” in the workshop.

Typically, the leaves of the sycamore tree are begin a dark green and have five lobes with toothed edges. The leathery texture of the leaf with its thick veins protruding on the underside are unmistakable, though the black spots often seen on the surface of the leaves are caused by a fungus (rhytisma acerinum) which luckily doesn’t affect the long-term health of the tree; it is just cosmetic and can be controlled with sanitation methods.

Noted for its tolerance of wind as well as urban pollution including salt spray, the sycamore species is a popular tree for planting in towns and cities, especially along roads that are treated with de-icing salt in the winter or in coastal localities.

Mainly planted for timber production and manufacture, the wood of the sycamore is white with a silky lustre and very hard-wearing that can be used for a great many things: sycamore wood is popular for making musical instruments, making furniture, for wood flooring and parquetry.

Occasionally, some trees produce wood with a wavy grain that greatly increases its value when used for decorative veneers and is traditionally the wood of the back, neck and scroll of a violin.

The winged seeds of the sycamore – commonly known as helicopters – have been used by children for centuries to play games and are quite fun to watch falling to the ground!


Cork Oak (Quercus suber)


Why this tree has a unique value to it

Evergreen and ornamental, the Quercus suber is stripped for its thick, corky bark every 10-12 years.

Medium-sized for an oak tree, this species is the primary source of wine bottle stoppers and cork-flooring making use of its spongy, breathable quality. Harvesting the cork in Spring and Summer doesn’t harm the tree; it is replaced soon after with a new layer.

Harvesting is a process that actually improves the health and vigor of the tree-trunk which tends to flourish with regeneration, thus, even today cork is still harvested entirely without machinery; it is a skill delicately performed by hand using traditional techniques with a special cork-stripping axe designed for the job.

One key factor regarding the cork harvest is that the tree has to be in full growth at the correct time of season and this will not damage the cork material or the tree – isn’t it odd that manual labour is still the cleanest, quickest and most efficient method available?

Cork oaks are trees that can live up to 250 years or more. The first harvest must be no sooner than 25 years to give the material a chance to mature and then the tree goes on a 12 year harvesting cycle; the cork is removed maybe a dozen times in the lifetime of a strong tree.

Forests of this type – cork oak – can support diverse ecosystems such as the Barbary Macaque in North Africa and the endangered Iberian Lynx which is on the protected species list in Western Europe; cork oak forests keep a great many insect species as well as birds that live in the canopy.

30 million years in the making, this marvelous oak tree is responsible for the ingenious device attached to the top of your bottle of wine; cork has been used for thousands of years dating back to ancient Egypt where it was used for insulation and in China (originally) to fish with!

Nowadays, this oak tree is a national treasure to the Portuguese who are the world’s largest manufacturer of cork; the lightweight and elastic property of this unique material can be used for flooring, manufacture of furniture and in many forms of footwear.

Forest mosaics often have cork oaks near other oak species such as pines and even wild olive trees in areas of great species diversity which extends to animal life and many plants.

Kew Gardens has over 60 samples of cork oak including artifacts. In Britain however, the tree is not commercially grown and used simply for the ornamental value; the main novelty value of this oak tree is the year round display of leaves that our native oaks do not have!


Redwood (Sequoioideae)


When this tree first came to the UK

Sequoiadendron giganteum is the scientific name for the amazing Redwood species of tree in America now known as “Wellingtonia” in the UK.

Ancient giants like the Wellingtonia can grow to 100 metres, with some trees having been around for more than 2000 years, and this wonderful part of horticulture actually descended from the primordial Redwoods in the age of the dinosaurs!

Occurring naturally in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, Wellingtonias are coniferous trees and the world’s largest living organism; they have the greatest girth of around 80 feet and are quite marvelous to look at.

Wellingtonias were first planted here in the UK in 1869 in Hampshire on an estate belonging to the Iron Duke of Wellington and the tree was named in his honour soon after his death.

In 1968, the Redwood National Park was created in the US to protect and conserve this rare ecosystem from nearly a hundred years of clear-cut logging and providing  longevity for glorious Redwoods and Wellingtonias alike.

The scientific name – Sequoia – means “living forever,” and these tall Redwoods are cone-bearing conifers that will never become extinct, thus, they keep their green needles all year round and some look like giant Christmas trees from a distance!

Anyone who walks into a Redwood forest is to enter one of nature’s cathedrals, where needles form a dense floor mat, limiting the understory plants and other tree growth and “hogging“ large areas, especially in a mature woodland.

Redwood tree trunks tower upward, reaching for the light far above the forest canopy and the shroud below. In such a spectacular environment, it is not hard to imagine the misty primeval forests of old – sheltering those dinosaurs – when these skyward trees were to seek the pure light of the Sun.

The needles of the Redwood also reflect this polarity of dark-green below and light-green above, thus, the lower needles are broad and long, breathing the moist cool air.

Just 15 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Muir Woods, San Francisco, is the Giant Redwood Grove, where Madeleine contemplates the past and considers suicide in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Now a huge tourist attraction, there are sections of the tree trunk where dates from history are recorded and the life of the tree has passed through!

Dawn Redwoods are the species that were once thought to be extinct and were rediscovered in a remote Chinese valley in 1944. A popular ornamental, the tree is a fast-growing deciduous and the smallest of the three species of conifers known in the US as Redwoods – Dawn Redwoods grow to just 60 metres.

Redwood represents long-life and strength, and that is why the Wellingtonia Redwood Sequoia is symbolic of the Redwood State – California!


Lebanon Cedar (Cedrus libani)

cedar of Lebanon against blue sky

Where these trees are mostly found

Cedrus libani is a mountainous species of cedar tree that is native to the Mediterranean regions of the Middle East.

Evergreen and coniferous, the Cedar of Lebanon can grow up to 40 metres in height with its large trunk nearly three metres wide; the characteristic level branches of this tree are unmistakable and the needle-like leaves that cluster in groups of around 30 are a bluey-green colour, with cones being produced every second year.

Lebanon itself has her “cedrus libani” occurring mostly at an altitude of between one and two thousand metres in both pure and mixed forests. Sadly, deforestation and desertification have been particularly severe in recent times. However, extensive reforestation has been carried out; thus, over 50 million young cedars are now being planted annually in Turkey!

Historically, the timber from the Lebanese cedar was used by the Phoenicians for construction: They built ships, designed houses and furnished palaces. Also, the resin from the coarse bark of the tree has many qualities and dates back to mummification in ancient Egypt.

More recently, the cedar of Lebanon has been widely planted as an ornamental tree in parks and large gardens, often being used as a focal point. The most prominent landscaping feature in Highgate Cemetery near the tomb of Karl Marx, for example, is the “Circle of Lebanon.”

The Addington Palace Cedar of Lebanon is officially recognised as one of London’s Great Trees and stood strong outside the residence of six successive archbishops of Canterbury, which is fitting really as the species is referenced many times in the Bible!

From the mid-eighteenth century onward, Lebanese cedars became a fashionable accessory on many London estates. Majestic as it is, the sheer enormity of Addington’s most marvellous piece of horticulture means there are ropes keeping people out for their own protection; snow has unfortunately damaged some branches and made areas unsafe.

Currently on the list of threatened endangered species, in Lebanon herself there are now just a few cedar forests left because many have been wiped out either by forest fires or for timber.

Unfortunately, there is also a difficulty with propagation because the cedar of Lebanon needs female cone seeds to initiate germination, and producing these cones can take up to 30 years; not to mention that cuttings are almost impossible to root with this species giving horticulturalist experts a real dilemma.

Lebanon’s national emblem and very own cedar tree is displayed on their flag, as well as being the logo on the aircraft of Middle East Airlines; cedar truly is something for Lebanon to be proud of.

Sports and Leisure

Saint Andrews


Who it was that was responsible for creating this Scottish town

St Andrews Old Course began 600 years ago. Since Prestwick in 1860 The Open has been held 27 times there. The Challenge Belt became the property of the champion after winning it three times in succession and the Claret Jug has been used ever since.

Officially, the ‘jug’ is the Golf Champion Trophy and a replica is used nowadays. The original is with the Challenge Belt in the Royal & Ancient Golf Clubhouse.

Winners keep a gold medal but the trophy must be returned. In 1929, the victor stopped paying for his medal, which was deducted from prize money. The silver medal goes to the leading amateur and the bronze to all amateurs left on the final day.

It is the 150th anniversary this year and Tiger Woods has won the last two Opens at St Andrews. Shepherds in the 12th century used to knock pebbles into rabbit holes and 1457 was when King James II outlawed golf for taking men away from archery practice.

In 1552 the Archbishop of St Andrews, Jon Hamilton was able to retain possession of the rabbits on the course and the town’s right to play golf on the links was officially established.

The course used to be 11 out 11 back but in 17 ‘hundred and something or other’ The Society of St Andrews became the R & A and 22 holes became 18. 1832 began 2 holes on double greens (still apparent today), with a left hand loop following inland holes, returning on the sea half. 1873 saw the favoured loop become the right hand loop which remains that way today.

St Andrew himself was an apostle whose relics were brought to the town in the 4th century. The place has been important to Scotland as a religious capital, a seat of parliament, a centre of education and the home of golf.

Their 11th century cathedral was Scotland’s largest structure attracting pilgrims from all over the world before destruction in the Reformation. St Andrew’s Castle was built for Scotland’s leading Bishop.

Mainly lyme grass and marram make up the dune ridges with many birds like the Goldfinch and Yellowhammer living there. Even seals can sometimes be seen on the sandbanks at the Eden Estuary end.

The UN has mentioned, in this International Year of Diversity, rising sea levels and storm surges threatening the area as a consequence of climate change. In fact, the West Sands dune system has been restored following damage earlier this year.

The university – 1413 – is the 3rd oldest seat of learning after Oxford and Cambridge. In the early 1800’s students disappeared, the harbour went bankrupt and religion all but vanished. Golf brought it all back and St Andrews is the now quite possibly, the most remarkable small town in the world.


Park Ji Sung


What it was that inspired this player the most

Park Ji Sung is noted as a football player with an exceptional fitness level, work ethic, team discipline and great movement whenever he plays at home in South Korea or on his travels, thus Park’s professional career began in the year 2000.

On the one hand, it was a real shame that Park Ji Sung was ignored by many Korean clubs growing up (due probably to his small stature) and had to be noticed by Japanese rivals Kyoto Purple, thus Park lead them to win their first ever Emperor’s Cup and is legendary in Japan as well.

On the other hand, Park Ji Sung is credited as a goal scorer for his country – South Korea – in three consecutive World Cup tournaments and became the very first Asian player to make the European Champions League Final. Even now there is still a lack of Asian footballers in the top flight football leagues around the world, meaning Park is Asia’s most successful player ever! Park Ji Sung even became the first ever Asian to captain Manchester United when Ryan Giggs passed him the armband during a substitution; Park then helped United win three consecutive Premier Leagues and with a Champions League winners medal his folk hero status was cemented in his native country.

However, it really was with the help of the new national team coach – Gus Hiddink – who moved Park further out in the midfield and forward as an attacking player (almost on the wing) that made Park Ji Sung Korea’s most iconic sports personality thus, he scored in Korea’s opening game against Poland in the 2002 World Cup and then scored a goal late in the game against Portugal to put the South Koreans through to the elimination round for the first time in their country’s history. After stunning upsets against Italy and Spain, South Korea made it to the Semi Finals of the World Cup which was played in Seoul, thus in Park Ji Sung the country had found their new leader, and the world had found a new star.

In summary, Park Ji Sung hardly needed to be coached to get the best out of him and he will forever occupy a special place in the lore of Asian sport; he is expected to go on to become a great South Korean football coach and team manager that will emulate the national success of 2002.


Arsenal Football Club


Why this team has been so successful 

Arsenal Football Club has won 10 FA Cup titles and are the only side to have gone through the whole season without a defeat.

Founded in 1886 as part of the Woolwich Arsenal war machine they moved north of the River Thames in 1913 due to the oncoming First World War and their isolated location, which meant attendances were particularly low. The effect being that they have had a long-standing rivalry with neighbours Tottenham Hotspur ever since.

Valued at over a billion dollars as one of the worlds richest clubs, Arsenal are regularly criticised for not investing enough money in the team, hence the lack of European trophies.

Becoming a limited company in 1893, it wasn’t until the 1930’s that Arsenal dominated English football, with the tube station Gillespie Road given the clubs name. With continued success after the Second World War, AFC have always since been there or thereabouts, however with the appointment of Frenchman Arsene Wenger in 1996 the club reached new heights by winning trophies almost immediately (something unheard of in English football) and they acquired a new stadium soon after.

The addition of some cheap but valuable foreign players who contributed to the ‘Invincibles’ nickname when the club never lost a game in the 2003/4 football season has kept the team in the higher echelons of European football and Wenger is widely recognised as on of the world’s top football managers.

Now in their third location, the club is about to celebrate their 125th anniversary and the crest will be altered to a modified version. It will be all white surrounded by 15 oak leaves to the right and 15 laurel leaves to the left. The oak leaves are the 15 founding members of the club who met at the Royal Oak pub all those years ago and the laurel leaves represent the design on the sixpences paid to establish the club by the founding fathers.

With the fans known as the ‘Gooners’ derived from the official team nickname ‘Gunners’ the home games are virtual sell outs every time with supporters coming from across every class division including the highest proportion of non-white fans attending games of any club.

Fanzines published by the supporters club include The Gooner, Highbury High, Gunflash and Up the Arse and have thankfully lost the ‘Boring, Boring Arsenal’ chant which was replaced with ‘Scoring, Scoring Arsenal’ when Ian Wright followed by Tierry Henri started knocking so many in.

The club has been portrayed in popular culture with the book Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby being made into a successful film and their ‘flat back four’ defensive line was used to great amusement in the blockbuster English low budget movie The Full Monty.

Arsenal truly is one of the great, traditional English football clubs.


World Cup Rugby


When rugby comes into its own 

8 years have passed since England won the Rugby World Cup. Jonny Wilkinson in extra-time was the most spectacular sporting moment of the 21st century, and the fly-half is about to embark on his fourth and final world cup.

With four groups of five teams and New Zealand once again strongly tipped as favourites on home soil, England will only meet them in either the quarters or the finals.

New Zealand are in Pool A with France and Graham Henry is their coach having been reappointed in 2007 after failing to deliver the honours. England are in Pool B with Scotland and after winning in 2003 and narrowly missing out 4 years ago our competition form is still better than the All Blacks – both teams have won the tournament only once.

The England side, so impressive in the 6 Nations to begin with earlier this year and coached by Martin Johnson will probably use Ben Youngs or Richard Wigglesworth at scrum half, Jonny Wilkinson at fly-half, Tuilagi and Tindall in the centre with Chris Ashton and Cueto on the wings. Ben Foden will be the first choice full-back.

In the scrum you can expect Steve Thompson as hooker with Dan Cole and Andrew Sheridan as props. Lewis Moody, the captain will miss the first game injured so Mike Tindall will step in and James Haskell will play open side with Tom Wood on the blind side. In the second row of the first choice 15 there will probably be Lawes and Palmer with Nick Easter at number 8.

Officials are likely to crack down harder on ruck offences so England’s first game against Argentina (who have only played one test in 11 months) should be good, though our build up form has been a little erratic.

Jonno is likely to take the World Cup game by game because the pressure of the competition means teams often forget how they’ve played for the last 3 years. In 2003, England were ten nil down against Wales after ten minutes and in 2008 people wrote off any chance of them reaching the final, proving how cup competitions often bring out the best in a team, especially seeing as the rest of the world seems to step up a gear they can’t find when they play New Zealand.

NZ All Blacks captain Richie McCaw is arguably the best captain in the world, and home surely is an advantage – after all they won in 87 on home soil, though the most intriguing question is whether New Zealand will miss out for a sixth successive tournament.

England coach Martin Johnson has returned with his current squad to where his rugby education began at 19 and where he met his wife, Kay. Back then, when he arrived the All Blacks had recently won the inaugural World Cup two years earlier, in 1987. Johnson in the King Country played for the province against teams like Auckland AND in 1990 a touring Argentina funnily enough, who won the game.

Now Jonno will be prepared to settle that score and every supporter has to get up for England as the game kicks off at 9.30 am Saturday morning.

A Rugby World Cup in New Zealand has to be an emotive thing for everyone involved.


Fox Hunting


Where this blood sport came to an end

Fox hunting is often considered immoral and a bad sport.

In the UK its practice has made the sport a source of great controversy because of the nature of it which includes the killing of the quarry animal and the strong association with tradition and social class.

The Burns Inquiry established by the British Government in 1999 examined hunting with dogs and how any ban would be implemented, plus its consequences. There seemed to be a moral objection to hunting and people gaining pleasure from causing unnecessary suffering, thus the very representation of a divisive social class system made it a bad sport.

Other people resent the trespassing aspect on their land and the difficulty of moving around the roads where they live on hunt days, plus the damage to the countryside and other animals beside foxes such as badgers and otters.

Anti-hunting activists have monitored hunts for cruelty and illegal activity which includes the RSPCA and they took high court action in 2001 to prevent pro-hunt activists joining in large numbers in order to change the society’s policy in opposing hunting.

Many activists preferred to sabotage the hunt which has been undertaken since the 1500s because hunting foxes, mink, hare-coursing and deer-hunting involves cruelty to animals according to many as they are not recognised as proper sports but are blood sports which should be banned because it is wrong and bad.

There is an alternative practice of drag-hunting, where you follow a trail rather than follow a fox which if the hunters refuse to move to just proves that it isn’t the thrill of the chase, of riding through the countryside but the thrill of the kill and that is barbaric and must be stopped.

A small number of jobs may vanish with the abolition of fox-hunting but the economy is vibrant and flexible enough to absorb this and such an argument no way counters or balances the unethical practise of chasing a terrified animal and then killing it savagely.

Quarry animals such as the red fox is normal prey for hunts in the US and the UK; it is active around twighlight and can run up to 30 miles per hour. American red foxes are larger than their European counterparts but are less cunning in the chase.

One of the most notable social rituals was the act of blooding. This ceremony would smear blood of the fox onto a new hunt follower, often a young child.

Other rituals including bringing a trophy home (like a tail) helped to give this so called “sport” its VERY BAD NAME.

Style and Fashion

Health Resorts


Why these places are really recommended


Dudes need pampering too and there are just as many ways to relax at the spa for men as there are for women.

In the old days, the girls would go for spa treatment while the guys would play golf. The stigma has now gone and men are rejuvenating themselves with manicures to mud baths.

Everybody needs to recharge those batteries after a hectic working schedule to keep physically and mentally strong and estimates suggest twice as many men signed up for spa treatment in 2008 compared to five years before.

The word “spa” refers to water treatment and comes from the Roman bath town of Spa in Belgium. It possibly comes from the Latin word “spagere” meaning sprinkle or moisten.

Ireland and Italy are the most popular destinations in Europe with California topping the list in the US. Thailand, Mexico and the Caribbean are the best places worldwide.

Resorts are increasingly offering side-by-side treatments to respond to the growing demand for males For example they are constructing barbershops, selling cleansing products designed for men and using pool tables, leather sofas and offering robes and slippers to make the guys feel comfortable.

Standard treatments include:

Scalp, neck and shoulder massage. Facial. Sea-salt scrub. Hot stone foot ritual. Sauna. Jacuzzi. Manicure. Pedicure. Hair cut. Hot shave. Deep tissue massage. Thai massage. Swedish massage. Sports massage. Solarium and steam room.

Proven medical benefits are increased blood flow with massage and reflexology, which helps lower blood pressure, boost circulation and alleviate aches, pains and arthritis.

Psychiatrists say calm surroundings and relaxation help release more endorphins, which are brain chemicals, related to happiness.

Alternative therapies may include:

Muscle-melt back massage. Hot stone massage. Aromatherapy. Shiaku and herbal remedy massage. Aqua-hydro jet therapy treatments. Alexander Technique massage. Meditation treatment. Hydrotherapy and a detox body wrap.

The Canyon Ranch Health Resort in Tuscan, Arizona is like a health spa hospital with doctors, nurses, psychologists, nutritionists and physiologists who conduct medical exams, lab work, stress tests and bone density tests. It is the Ferrari of all spa resorts!

The next market apparently, is KIDS! The Hyatt Regency has reportedly been overwhelmed by demand for children requesting facials at $40 per session.

Personally, I believe these children may think that instead of looking after themselves someone else can do it for them. At their age, they need education about healthy living. Diet and exercise will alleviate their problems far easier than an expensive health resort or spa!


Vidal Sassoon


What this artist really did in London 

Vidal Sassoon was born in 1928 and is credited with creating a simple geometric hair style called the “bob”.

Sassoon is a celebrity hairdresser who “changed the world with a pair of scissors” as he managed to revolutionize the art of hairstyling, turning his craft into exactly that – ART.

Turning to the business potential of his new found creation, with his styles renowned as emblematic of freedom and good health. With this growing popularity, it allowed him to cash in and open the world’s first chain of hair styling salons incorporated with his own brand of hair care products.

Sassoon’s television commercials in the 1960s were a huge success, helping him generate huge profits and more recently a biopic movie was released in 2010.

In his early life, Vidal Sassoon grew up in Hammersmith in London as part of a Jewish orphanage because his father left the family when he was three; his father was Greek and his mother was from Spain. She was only allowed to visit him and his brother once a month and never allowed to take them out.

Returning from evacuation, Sassoon quit school at 14 and became the youngest member of a Jewish underground organisation, fighting anti-semitism by breaking up Fascist meetings in East London.

At the age of 20 he fought for Israel against the Arabs in the 1948 war claiming it to be the best experience of his life.

Sassoon’s work as a stylist was all modern cuts and low-maintenance using geometric shapes and he has been a key force in the commercial planning of the hair styling industry. When the marketing giants Procter and Gamble bought the Sassoon name and putt it towards their shampoos and conditioners it launched him in the United States.

In 1982 he began a research centre devoted to information gathering about antisemitism, then having sold all his business interests in retirement, he allowed the Sassoon name to continue to be used but no longer associated directly to him.

Now holding a CBE and having written several books, a feature-length documentary about his influence on fashion and culture was premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York in 2010.

When his wife Elaine Wood left Sassoon for British water-skiing champion David Nations in 1958 he was devastated. With his second wife Beverly the couple had four children and divorced in 1980 and his third wife he divorced in 1983, thus marrying a fourth time in 1992.

Vidal Sassoon will leave a legacy from the twentieth-century blending style, art, culture and business that has reinvented the world of cutting hair.

Travelling Around

St Brides Church


Why this church had a guest of honour 

St Brides Church off Fleet Street in London was designed in the Baroque style by architect Christopher Wren in 1672, and St Brides is part of the Church of England denomination.

On the east side of central London, St Brides Church has a varied and interesting history. For example, St Brides has a long association with media because of the Fleet Street location, and there was even an embryonic version of the printing press next door in the year 1500 suggesting that this ‘Cathedral of Fleet Street’ is more than just a church.

St Brides has a relatively modern church spire – perhaps the most iconic of all – that is distinctive on London’s skyline, although the main building dates back originally to the seventh-century with the patron saint of the church being St Bridget of Ireland.

Virginia Dare was apparently the very first English child born in America and she is still commemorated near the font of St Brides Church, thus her parents were married in St Brides. Tradition holds that the church was one of the first in London to practice the Christian faith – King John held his 1210 parliament here, and the church has been steeped in history ever since.

Unfortunately, disaster has struck St Brides many times over the years. For example, in 1665 the Great Plague of London killed 238 parishioners in a single week and in 1666, just the following year, the church was completely destroyed thanks to the Great Fire.

After the Great Fire of London, the old church was replaced by an entirely new building designed by Christopher Wren who went on to design many in London, and would eventually become knighted. Although the famous spire was added later, it was subsequently struck by lightening in 1764 adding to the infamy of this great place.

The church was gutted by fire-bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe during the London Blitz of World War II, thus it was the night of 29 December 1940 (dubbed the Second Great Fire of London) that such an enormous amount of damage was caused.

After the war, St Bride’s was rebuilt at the expense of newspaper proprietors and journalists, hence one fortunate and unintended consequence of the bombing was the excavation of the church’s original sixth-century Saxon foundations, and all of its contributions to art history came to light.

Today, the crypt at St Brides is known as the Museum of Fleet Street and it is open to the public, thus this crypt contains a number of ancient relics including Roman coins and medieval stained glass making it a real treat to see, and the interior of the church was designated a Grade I listed building on January 4, 1950 proving how precious it is.

The church has a place in sport, as the world table tennis men’s singles champion is always awarded theSt Bride Vase and the wonderful tiered spire is said to have been the inspiration for the design of modern tiered wedding cakes meaning St Brides are very proud of their function in society!

This is a culturally significant church because it still has links with local economy especially journalism, even though Fleet Street has changed dramatically in that area in recent years. For further reference the St Brides Church has a library with archives and the crypt has a small museum dedicated to the publishing business; lets hope the restored spire brings a new lease of life into one of London’s great churches.

In summary, back in November 2007 the Queen of England was the guest of honour at a service to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the restoration work necessary after World War II, thus St Brides is truly one of London’s great buildings.



Hastings beach at tide

When this place was immortalised by Turner 

Hastings is the home of television  because John Logie Baird lived at 21 Linton Crescent.

Historically, there was a royal mint established in AD 928 during the reign of Athelstan and more recently the ‘Bathing Pool’ area as it is known, was where an Olympic size pool was built in the 1930’s with the best open air and diving complex in Europe.

Marine Court at St. Leonard’s is Art Deco in style and said to represent an ocean liner. Fifty years ago Hastings was England’s third tourist resort and the beach launched fishing fleet, based at the Stade remains Europe’s largest having been around for almost 600 years.

Unfortunately, much of the Castle has been lost and cliff top houses in Fairlight are in danger from coastal erosion, though the three sites of special scientific interest – Marine Valley Woods, Combe Haven and Hastings Cliffs at Pett Beach – are all kept in good condition.

Culturally, the Hastings International Chess Congress started in 1882 and the Hastings Writers Group is one of the oldest in the country. Who knows what the ‘Jack in the Green’ festival on May Day is for but I bet it‘s worth a look at?

Crazy Golf World Championships are held on the seafront course every summer. The seafood and wine festival in the Old Town and the beer festival in Alexandra Park are two popular annual events as is Hastings Week in October when they hold a huge firework display.

Hastings Museum and Art Gallery now has one of JMW Turner’s most famous watercolours in their collection, ’Hastings: Fish Market on the Sands Early Morning’ which shows the castle in the distance. Painted in 1824, it includes two figures in Greek costume – a reference to British support in the Greek War of Independence at that time.

Discover three great attractions on one fantastic family day out. The smugglers adventure at St Clements caves, the undersea safari at the Blue Reef aquarium and capture the 1066 story using the West Hill railway, which is one of the oldest funiculars in the country. Then there is Bodiam Castle which was besieged by the House of York, from the House of Lancaster in the War of the Roses.

Gareth Barry, Jo Brand, John Digweed, Desmond Llewelyn, Suggs, Paul Merton, Spike Milligan, Razor Ruddock, Screaming Lord Such and Paula Yates were all from Hastings and everyone will be familiar with these names if they have a television in their home.




Who else is from this famous area 

The River Darent flows through Westerham which powered her three watermills. Ham means village or hamlet in old English so Westerham means “westerly village” and the Roman presence is evident at Tower Woods, south of the main village.

The tower there is thought to have been where Anne Boleyn was kept on her way to London before her trial and execution. This manner was once run by Harold who was the last Saxon king of England and good old Henry III granted Westerham as a market charter for trading cattle which actually survived until 1961.

St Mary’s Church dates back to the 13th century though it was much altered in Victorian times. Protestant martyr John Frith was born in 1503 in Westerham and the Warde family’s Squerryes Court is a tourist attraction where Emma in 2009 for the BBC was shot. General James Wolfe was born there with a statue in the town square commemorating him alongside another statue of Sir Winston Churchill.

Alice Liddell, the little girl immortalised by Lewis Carroll in the book ’Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ was born in Westerham and lived there until she died in 1934. Her rectory is Brian Higgins HQ for Xenomani, the people behind Girls Aloud, Kylie Minogue, Sugababes, Pet Shop Boys, Texand and Franz Ferdinand. John Lennon bought an antique poster in Westerham inspiring the Mr Kite song while filming Strawberry Fields in Sevenoaks in 1967.

Black Eagle Brewery was taken over by Taylor Walker and then Ind Coope, thus, yeast was preserved and is now used by Westerham Brewery established in 2004; British Bulldog being their most famous beer.

Winston Churchill bought Chartwell Manor in 1922 and lived there for the rest of his life which is now administered by the National Trust and Tito provided the stone for his statue stand from Yugoslavia. The Prime Minister loved the magnificent views over the Weald of Kent and drew a great deal of inspiration from this lovely property where the rooms remain the same with many possessions still there. Churchill loved the landscape and nature in the hillside gardens with the lake he created and also loved his wife, Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden. Winston was a great lover of art and many of his own paintings remain in his personal studio, thus, there is a year round events programme with free talks and tours of the house and studio which includes children’s trails, activities and a dog walking facility.

The South Eastern Railway used to run there for nearly 100 years, until 1961, and this quintessential English town in the Garden of England, truly is one of Kent’s most famous.


The River Thames


What function this famous river provides 

“The course of true love never did run smooth” is a line from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream. William Shakespeare apparently compares romance to a river in the only play that was a complete figment of his own imagination, even though he was likely referring to the River Thames.

The River Thames begins at source near Thames Head in Gloucestershire. It flows east and finishes in the Thames Estuary, leading out to the North Sea, thus the Thames snakes and winds through Oxford, Reading and Windsor, and the river is tidal up to a place in London called Teddington Lock.

20 tributaries feed the river and it has 80 islands supporting wildlife of both sea and freshwater varieties. Essentially, the big concern with any river’s vitality, is the world’s most important resource, and this is of course water.

Generally speaking, a river is a natural stream of water of considerable volume, and clean water is usually a key factor in every ecosystem. The positive and negative health of a river such as the Thames in London is an environmental issue, and the River Thames is in relatively good shape these days. However, this has not always been the case; for example, The Great Stink as it was called back in 1858 was when untreated sewage polluted central London.

For 250 years up until 1822, waterwheels pumped water from the River Thames all around London, and house-waste was allowed via the sewers into the river, meaning human waste was then pumped back to the same households for domestic use.

Cesspits, factory and slaughterhouse waste were all discarded into the river water. The final straw came in 1858, which had a roasting summer where bacteria thrived and helped stink out the city. As with the waterborne outbreak of cholera in London that year, sanitation and sewage reform became a huge priority, and unfortunately, history is repeating itself on other parts of the globe.

For example, in Indonesia the River Citarum flows through Jakarta and today makes an interesting comparison to the Thames in the 1800s. They could learn something out there from Victorian England because the water is barely visible due to the trash often seen floating on it.

Aquatic life did return to the Thames because of the decline in manufacturing and the increase in sewage treatment with a massive clean up from the filthy days of the 19th and 20th centuries; this thankfully is something that has now been maintained. Many birds feed and nest on the River Thames: swans, geese, ducks, herons and kingfishers all depend upon the water in the river for their health and well-being. There was even a bottle-nosed whale up near Westminster in 2006, but this was not normal!

The vitality of the region surrounding a river like the River Thames is such that from source to mouth, the water has serviced humans for centuries. For instance, habitation with house boats at Henley.

Water from the River Thames is used for many things: power (hydro electric, wind and other renewable energy resources); food (oysters from Whitstable in the Thames Estuary are world famous); drink (Fullers Brewery was built on the banks of the River Thames at Chiswick).

The River Thames has always been the main artery for international trading in England. Locally, it joins with the country’s canal system meaning goods and services could make their way from the East End of London, around Great Britain, before the introduction of the railways.

More recently in the life cycle of the Thames, the water has revitalized many sections along it with recreation. For instance, there has been an increase in tourist pleasure cruising and water sports, including the world famous Oxford versus Cambridge boat race.

Writers throughout history have managed to reflect the Thames River and its position in the arts. For example, Charles Dickens wrote, “Our Mutual Friend”; and Kenneth Graham, “Wind in the Willows.” Turner and Monet have painted the river and “The Water Music” by Handel, is wonderful to listen to.

The rain that falls on the flood plain of the River Thames is spread across much of the territory along it. It goes towards evaporation, plant transpiration, river flow, supporting natural environment, navigation as well as supplying the population in the south and west of England regarding homes, industry, and agriculture.

On the negative side, much of the vitality of the river in London was set back by the Industrial Revolution. Too much development economically meant London did prosper in the Victorian era with jobs and business attracted to the river, but this required a huge clean up to bring the place to the standard we have today, which attracts just as much revenue in tourism as any factory made before!

Health affects everyone’s life as it does with that of a river system. Poor health is a problem which needs resolving and rich health is desirable needing maintaining, thus the River Thames health affected the vitality of London. When the “The Great Stink” hit, it provoked a great clean up and this was partly because the Members of Parliament in Westminster planned to move to Windsor from the House of Commons for health reasons.

Reform was the response and the problem was then solved by putting sewage channels and drainage down opposite sides of the riverbanks. The effect produced was the return of wildlife as the condition of the river improved and parliament stayed in Westminster, hence the River Thames is now among the cleanest metropolitan rivers in the world.

Fatal flooding in 1928 and 1953 meant that London needed to be protected from future North Sea tides and the iconic Thames Flood Barrier was built at Woolwich; it took ten years, cost 500 million pounds and was opened in 1983. This marvelous piece of engineering was costly but how many lives must it now have saved and how much disruption has it prevented?

The vitality of London has been maintained as a result of the Thames Barrier. However, the more often the barrier is raised the greater the ecological damage and disruption to river life, especially the riverbed; hence it was needed once or twice a year before 1990 and is needed four or five times a year now!

Salmon swam in the Thames as a fresh and seawater fish but were completely lost due to the level of pollution. For instance, in 1800 it was estimated that around 3000 salmon per year were sold in London’s markets (fished out of the River Thames) and the last one was recorded in 1837.

In 1974, the first salmon detected for 150 years meant that the fish had returned. These creatures havefastidious requirements, which make them an excellent indicator of environmental quality. If London’s Thames River was the open running sewer it used to be, would it be one of leading cities in the world?

The Environment Agency and Thames Water Utilities use two vessels – The Thames Bubbler and The Thames Vitality – to inject oxygen bubbles into the river when levels fall too low; this has been a huge success and the river is now one of the cleanest metropolitan rivers in the world. However, it may look dirty because it is tidal and the pull on the riverbed mixes all the sediment with the water, stirring all the minerals and nutrients up for birds and such like to take advantage of.

The Thames Guardian is a patrol boat used by scientists to monitor water quality and WaterAid is an international charity which has used research from the UK in providing cleaner water to the third world, thus the wider implications spread far beyond the Thames Valley. Part of WaterAid’s mission is to access water for everyone and reduce the destruction of water for everything’s longevity; hence we have a responsibility to future generations to provide clean water.

We must learn from the past and share our knowledge globally; after all, one of the biggest factors in child mortality is waterborne diseases. Water is also big business; any restaurant, bar or supermarket will tell you that.

It is possible that Shakespeare alludes to the long-term health of a good relationship never being easy, like the healthiness of a river such as the Thames having not always been at optimum levels from source to mouth throughout the ages. You must work at and manage relationships, rivers and water, and each stakeholder to that bit of water is a part of the development of that district. Usually we see that the cleaner the water in a river becomes, the more vibrant that region becomes!

As with true love having its difficulties, the greater the strength of the relationship over time should only positively influence the couple to develop as people. This in turn should positively affect their children, friends and family, just like the fit well-being of a river should only positively influence its locality.


Rock Pool Ecosystems


Why we can learn so much from rock pools

Ecology today is a much publicised word. It means the science of relationships between organisms and their environment, whereas biology is the science which concerns living organisms and the laws governing the behaviour of these beings. The ecological system or ecosystems biology is what we call ecology.

A rock-pool for example, is where water, air and land are in contact. Such a system is not isolated since its existence depends on the presence of water which is supplied by wave action and tidal movements. The world (on a larger scale to put things into perspective) is part of a solar system and its position is evident from tidal action. Sadly, marine ecosystems are under threat.

The rock-pool is a microcosm of the world and has a present, a past and a future. For example, the tide goes down leaving a small amount of salt water which cannot escape since it is held back by a rocky barrier.

The organisms clearly differ in the water to the edge of the pool, so it is obvious that a fixed organism out of the water can support a lack of water or just sea spray. Only these organisms will develop and multiply which can tolerate simultaneously or successively the organisation of the three systems. For example, barnacles require humidity to respire and can exist several hours in the air.

Crustaceans in the pool can stand immersion by the water for several hours and the rock is covered with flora, algae and lichens; fed upon by whelks, mollusks and other carnivores.

The rock-pool ecosystem is made up of tidal rhythm and a double exchange of energy provoked by the solar cycle and understanding it helps man more suitably plan his interventions toward ecology. That change forced upon natural systems will result in a disturbed equilibrium involving an energy loss by the ecosystem and eventually for man himself.

This little pool of water has taught us certain other lessons as well. For example, the reproduction cycle and behaviour patterns which give us a better understanding of our planet; following the study of hundreds of examples of rock-pool ecosystems throughout the world, many solutions to the problems and threats concerning marine systems have been found.

However, the most common threat to the rock-pool ecosystem is man himself. Harmful effects of chemicals and particles from industrial, agricultural and residential waste can result from their unwanted entry into the ocean.

When tiny particles are taken in by plankton and concentrated upward through the ocean food-chain, contamination destroys flora and fauna, thus pollution has become one of the great ecological debates and is currently a major threat to the rock-pool, marine ecosystem.


Hildebrandt’s Francolin


When the wonderful creature was discovered 

This species of bird was first discovered by Johannes Hildebrandt who collected specimens in Kenya. It lives in dense bush, woodland, forest edges and rocky ground above 1000 meters, mostly in central Africa and feeds on tubers, seeds, bulbs, insects and insect larvae.

In Lake Nakuru National Park the francolin is numerous and easily identifiable. This bird is a member of the taxonomic family that includes the grouse, pheasants and partridges. Of the 41 species, 36 are found only in Africa and are noticeable by the spur on the male’s legs.

Francolins are terrestrial birds but not flightless with a hooked upper beak and tails with fourteen feathers and several species have been introduced to other parts of the world such as Hawaii and the Caribbean.

The global population size is unset for francolins but thought to be stable in the absence of any declines or substantial threats and of least concern for conservation which is an IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) category meaning it does not qualify as threatened, near threatened or conservation dependent. To be lucky enough to be given assignment of Least Concern the species must have had their population status evaluated and adequate information obtained to assess its risk of extinction based on its distribution or population status.

Johannes Maria Hildebrandt was a nineteenth-century German explorer who started the Berlin Botanical Garden in 1869. On various expeditions to East Africa he collected a large number of botanical and zoological specimens also discovering a number of new species. He gave his name to Hildebrandt’s Starling as well which is a migratory species ranging from Ethiopia and Somalia to Kenya and neither bird is on the red list.

Francolinus Pternistis Hildebrandti 1878 Cabanis is the binomial name and part of a formal system for naming species of living things in Latin. The Latin name has two parts with the first part the genus, the second the species.

From the Phasianidae family of birds the francolin is alongside jungle fowl, Old World Quail, monals and peafowl. It is a large family which often includes guinea fowls, chickens and turkeys and the earliest fossil records date back 30 million years.

These birds have a varied diet with vegetarian seeds, leaves and fruits to small animals, insects and even reptiles. Most either specialise in feeding on plant matter or are predatory, although the chicks of most species are insectivorous.

There is considerable variation in breeding strategies thus with most birds being monogamous, francolins are largely polygamous. Nesting usually occurs on the ground though some nest higher up in stumps of bushes and as many as 18 eggs can be laid at once. Incubation is almost always performed by the female only and can last up to 30 days.


Greater Spotted Woodpecker


Where you are likely to find this species

About the size of a starling or a blackbird, this species of Woodpecker, thankfully, is not considered to be threatened. Populations appear to be stable, thus these birds are re-colonising parts of Ireland of their own accord.

The Great Spotted Woodpecker from the Picidae family has a distinctive black and white coloured plumage with a crimson red abdomen and under tail. They cling to trees and behave exactly as you would expect them to; hammering on the thick trunk to hollow out a nest hole. They also make this mechanical noise to attract the opposite sex, as well as to chisel away at the bark with their beaks in order to forage for food.

37,000 pairs of the Greater Spotted Woodpecker are estimated to be breeding in the UK, many of which are now found in parks and gardens where they can feed on insects, seeds and nuts though usually they nest in coniferous woodland. Females tend to lay five, six or even seven eggs in late May which are creamy-white in colour.

Juveniles have a unique red crown. They also drill and drum on the trunks of trees and have long sticky tongues to extract food. Their tongues have bristles on as an aid for grabbing and extracting insects deep within the hole of a tree.

Woodpeckers can spear grubs and wrap theirtongues around their prey before pulling them out. Their bills are kept sharp – similar in appearance to a small chisel – by the continuous pecking action.

Drumming and hammering rhythmically, the bills of a Great Spotter would inevitably lead to brain damage of the bird but to prevent this happening woodpeckers have evolved over the centuries in such a way that their skulls protect their brains. Their eyes close a millisecond before contact with the wood.

Woodpeckers can walk vertically up a tree trunk because they have strong claws, strong feet and short legs. Their tails are stiffened and work as a balancing device so when searching for food this creature usually works upwards and from side to side, tapping the bark as he ascends, prising off the fragments and extracting food with the tip of its tongue. It jerks and hops rather than climbs and tries to avoid observation.

Interestingly, the Great Spotted Woodpecker largely feeds on insects during the spring and summer, but in the autumn and winter, the birds like fruit, berries, seeds and nuts.


St James’s Park


Who the most famous residents of this park really are

St James’s Park of nearly 60 acres is the oldest Royal Park in London. With Buckingham Palace, the Queens official residence to the west; Horse Guards Parade, the sight of Trooping the Colour to the east; Birdcage Walk (named after the Royal Menagerie and Aviary) to the south and St James’s Palace to the North, the whole area is steeped in history!

Famous for the resident colony of pelicans, these large water birds have been a feature of St James’s Parkever since they were given as a gift by the Russian ambassador in 1664.

This wonderful park has a small lake with two islands – West Island and Duck Island – and the pelicans are among a great deal of ornithology available to the avid birder to observe.

Living (funnily enough) near Duck Island, are the Queens most famous neighbours which can often be seen basking on their favourite rocks and getting fed fresh fish; pelicans are unmistakeable to spot with their long beaks.

Just as much a part of this royal park’s tourist attraction as the ravens at the Tower the pelicans add a great deal of value to your day out in St James’s Park and lobbing a few breadcrumbs in the water never did anyone that much harm.

Along with the much expected blackbirds, pigeons and crows, the waterfowl here also include beautiful red-crested pochards, coots, mallards, moorhens, mute swans, Canadian geese and lots of different varieties of gull – plus the occasional rarity of course!

One of the most amazing things about twitching is the hidden agenda – go spot waterfowl on the pond in the park and come home with another story; one great example is the floral crown sculpted out of a bush in many different colours for the Queen’s jubilee and doesn’t it just look pretty amazing?

As well as binoculars always take a notepad and pen to document not just the ornithology but everything of interest that you see – it may be kids with remote controlled cars or a skateboarding OAP – all of this adds up to your day out and every time there will be a different story to tell!

Take the 148 bus (travelling right the way through the centre of London 24 hours a day which is essential at 4 am) to New Scotland Yard near the Albert pub in Victoria and a short walk through the back streets brings you right to this beautifully kept royal park.

If you “bird” in the morning and deserve a pub lunch, try the Buckingham Arms on Petty France near St James’s Park tube station; welcoming and relaxed with a bow-windowed front this place does perhaps the best sausage-roll known to man, reasonably priced ale and has heaps of cockney character!

The best place to type up your field notes after lunch is Victoria library on Buckingham Palace Road. Near the coach station, it is just a short walk from the pub – this completes your trip and with diary notes saved on email you have something to reminisce over for ever more.