Sunday, August 26, 2007


Yesterday was very hot and I was treated to lunch and beer here by friend and occasional client, Colin. The last time I went to the Woolpack in Brookland was in 1978 on the occasion of Colin's brother Patrick's 17th birthday. I didn't really know Colin at that time but this post tells the story of our re-acquaintance. Back in the 70s The Woolpack was a proper marsh pub and the back bar was a plain (and cold in November) room with distempered walls and a single long and ancient table. They didn't seem to mind a large and mostly under-aged rabble sitting round it, either. Now it's prettier with hanging baskets outside and festoons of very old and dry hops just ready to relinquish their spider population into your hair as you duck under the very low beams. They also do exceedingly good fish and chips and splendid beer, especially this one on cask. Nothing special about going to a pub for lunch except for the fact that we actually managed to sit outside in the sun. It was very pleasant.

Today I found a hornet's nest. I thought I saw a hornet the other day but it disappeared very quickly. Today I saw several entering and leaving an old woodpecker's hole in a cherry tree. Five yards away is this greengage tree.
We've had a bumper crop off it this year but the recent rains managed to split most of the remainder of the fruit so now it's the insect equivalent of a running buffet and the hornets are the greediest customers. Plenty of wasps, flies and butterflies in it too, so much so that despite there being no wind, the tree appeared to be moving. Also present were a squadron of around 30 dragonflies picking off the smaller flies on the wing. Nature's bounty.

Also nearby is a plum tree that has managed to deposit much of its cargo into a trailer parked beneath it where it is now fermenting. The abundance of rain this year hasn't done the soft fruit any favours and it's often dropped before it can be picked. Shame. Walk by though and it smells like a bar. There was a crow in the trailer earlier and I swear it was pissed. Back to the hornets.

There were actually two entrances into the nest and I stood watching them for a few minutes. Contrary to popular belief, hornets aren't particularly aggressive so I wondered if I could get some pictures. I got hold of Dad's monopod, stuck my cheapo camera on the end and set it on timer. I held the monopod at arm's length, pointing into the nest and took a picture. It didn't quite work. Look! A cloud.

I heard a very loud buzzing noise by my left ear and instinctively scarpered just as the shutter clicked. Hornet nests always have a sentry and I was there at changing of the guard, the incoming one deciding to show who was in charge. I wasn't arguing. As I said though, they're not aggressive and they soon got used to me sticking a camera into their doorways and never bothered me again. I daresay I wouldn't necessarily have been too bothered either if I was out of it on plum brandy. Try as I might, I couldn't quite get the shot dead centre but I did manage the couple below. You can see the nest quite clearly and if you look closely on the right, an inhabitant.

6 Vegetable peelings:

Blogger Tennessee Jed said...

That is some brave photography! I don't know about European hornets, but the American ones would have eaten you alive that close to the nest.

2:31 am  
Blogger Tennessee Jed said...

By the way that pub looks so exotic from my American point of view. Thanks for sharing!

2:33 am  
Blogger Vicus Scurra said...

Bugger me, you've turned into Richard Attenborough.

9:35 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Jed, these are the European hornets and fairly benign unless you really piss them off. The insects invariably called hornets in the US aren't usually true hornets but are more aggressive and will attack anything they perceive as a threat, even if it's friendly. There may be a sub-text there. It's illegal to kill a hornet in Germany.

Vicus, are you sure you don't mean David? I'll pass on the invitation though, if you don't mind.

7:14 pm  
Blogger Rol Hirst said...

That was a gorgeous blue sky.

Which country are you living in this week?

10:21 am  
Anonymous Sharon J said...

Fish and chips, eh? Better than the dried up slithers they're serving up in Crewe these days so you're not missing much there!

3:47 pm  

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