Shad does the Arundel Wetland Centre

Arundel Wetland Centre

The deepest of greens, the brightest of blues and richest of browns, birds come in a stunning variety of sizes and colours.   They chirp, twitter, chirrup and cheap, squawk, croak and whistle.  If there was a prize for the species with the widest ranges of noises, surely they’d win hands down!  Or beaks up!  I was so excited when John’s daughter Natasha pitched up at the house and we bundled into the car on this cloudy grey day to visit the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust site in Arundel, West Sussex.  The Trust has spent many years protecting the wetland landscapes and conserving the thousands of species who rely on it or live in it.  Like the Whirligig Beetle who looks like a shiny black opal that gyrates around the surface of the water looking for aquatic insects to feed on.  If you think the word Whirligig is amusing, there are lots of funny named creatures in the wetlands.  See if you can spot the Taiga Bean Goose in the photos, a speckled brown bird with striped wings and an orange patch on her beak.

Surges of adrenalin coursed through my veins every time I saw the flicker of a wing or heard the splash of water but I knew to keep my distance from the vibrant wildlife given my appearance as a sleek black predator.  If only the birds and mice knew that I’m a sophisticated feline who jointly runs a photography business and has an active interest in the caring for all things nature.  As I hopped over the gaps in the wooden slats of the walkway and headed towards the thatched hide, a pair of Brent Geese floated regally by on the water, their reflections perfectly captured in the shallows beneath.  I peeked through the thick pallid winter reeds to spy on a lapwing cruising towards the bank with his fabulous feathered crown standing proudly at the back of his black head.  Suddenly John whispered to me to look up and there a Canada Goose hurtled towards me from the skies above.  I ducked my head down and ran away as she landed on the water with an enormous splash, quickly regaining her composure before gliding off with relative grace.

The handsome Kingfisher is one of my favourite birds, smartly dressed in blue and orange and contrasting with the pair of Shoveler Ducks with their shovel-like bills that were drifting elegantly by.  A Curlew paddled across the sandy wet terrain looking for worms and seeds to eat whilst a pair of Mallards with their characteristic blue stripe on their sides headed towards the long dry grass in search of a cosy corner to spend the night.  The trees and bushes provided camouflage for many perching birds like the Blue Tits who weigh a tiny 10g and somehow don’t get blown away by the winds.  The slightly larger Great Tit was staring at the freckled Dunnock who had spotted a bug crawling along the branch below and I felt like there was going to be a rumble!  Meanwhile a Chaffinch puffed its pale pink-beige chest out in envy at the Long-tailed Tit who had found a yummy piece of suet just seconds before.  The red, yellow and brown Goldfinch kept his beady eyes on the log mound decorated with 3 giant Stag Beetle replicas.  I sat by the log mound for a rest and started chatting to a delightful little bank vole who told me she scampers to the back of the kitchens every night for crumbs and morsels of food which set me thinking about supper.  Natasha has incredible stamina and could have gone around the Centre one more time but John and I voted for home via an eating establishment after a wonderful day out.

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Shad does Arundel Castle and Gardens

I wonder what life was like for a black cat like me in the 12th Century Norman Period in a place like Arundel Castle.  I would hopefully have been part of the Royal Court, being hand-fed haddock or loitering outside the kitchen, hoping for some scraps of pheasant from the roasting spit, while watching battled-scarred young men put on their armour and prepare to leave for the perilous Crusades.  Outside the Castle, life was hard on the streets for both humans and cats, and medieval people were superstitious about cats and persecuted them.  In fact, cats have taken a bad rap throughout history, particularly in Europe, where they were associated with witchcraft.  Yet around the same time in Egypt, cats were kept to control rat populations and protect food stores, and gradually became members of Egyptian households and were even worshipped.  It wasn’t long before the cat craze spread to India, China and other Asian countries and now I like to think they we are highly regarded pets.

Arundel Castle overlooks the River Arun in West Sussex and has a 1,000 year history spanning from the reign of King Henry I (1068-1135) to being passed to the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for over 850 years.  It has been at the forefront of English history and displays a unique and priceless collection of fine furniture, tapestries and clocks dating from the 16th Century.  John and I, and a couple of other friends, wandered around the corridors and rooms, mouths open in awe at the shiny polished silverware, the grandeur of the paintings and the skilled craftsmanship evident throughout the castle.

We also took a stroll through the peaceful grounds and the meticulously kept gardens.  The gardens are divided into formal courts and have a central canal pond with water fountain, an ideal place to dip my paws and freshen up.  The gardens are imaginatively planted and managed in an eco-friendly way and there were various gateways to walk through and pavilions with seats based in oak where we could rest.  I enjoyed chasing the insects in the peach house and vinery, hiding in the herbaceous borders and taking a nap under the palm trees.  Altogether, the gardens were lovely and had a rustic charm.