A hole in the wall…

Drunk with the sudden success of my Skyfall nature blog, I’m back with another update.

newer spawn; still little dots.

nascent tadpoles

As I’m kidding myself that some of you are interested in my nature musings, I’ll start with amphibian news. The cold spell has banished the amorous frogs back from whence they came, so it’s all quiet in the pond. The spawn is developing nicely though, and it’s quite interesting to see the different stages of the developing eggs/tadpoles, according to when they were laid. The newer clumps are still just dots, whereas the clumps that were spawned in the first rush – late Feb – are looking very definitely like little taddies now.

Despite the cooler weather, it still feels as though spring has sprung. There are spring flowers everywhere now, and there’s new green growth around the bases of a lot of perennial plants in the garden. We had some interesting visitors to the bird feeders;  at first glance I thought they were linnets, but actually they’re redpolls. There are several types, or species, and I think these ones are common, or ‘mealy’ redpolls, which winter here and return to more northern countries to breed in the summer. Our native type, the lesser redpoll, are smaller (around the size of a blue tit), and live here year round. They are members of the finch family, hence their appearance on the niger seed feeder; the only birds that use this are the gold and green finches. The redpolls have lovely little scarlet caps, and I got a really good look at them as they stayed for ages. Goldfinches tend to do this, too, sitting at the feeder for sometimes ten minutes or more, constantly scanning all around between pecking at the seeds. Very different behaviour to the tits, which shoot in, grab a seed and shoot off again to eat it in the tree.

JAMES BOND SPOILER ALERT – please stop reading if information about the film set and plot would affect your enjoyment of Skyfall.

I’ve been to Hankley a couple of times, so I’ve some more photos to share here. We walked at sunset on Monday, so although there’s not much detail of the sets, the sky was just beautiful. Surrey is a bit of dichotomy; on the one hand, it’s the most densely wooded county in England; on the other, it’s one of the most populous, and seen by many as just a commuter satellite for London. Unless you live here, most people don’t associate Surrey with gorgeous countryside, but in my area at least, that’s exactly what we have. Hankley is a fantastic example of heathland, an ancient man-made landscape that supports an array of habitat-specific flora and fauna. Heathland is declining across the UK and needs careful management to avoid silver birch and gorse turning it into scrub. Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset host the majority of the remainder of this endangered habitat – Scotland hosts a lot more, obviously.

I don’t suppose the filming is doing a lot for the heathland, but I’d imagine the money paid to the M.O.D. will help with the costs of managing and maintaining it, so I reckon it’s all good in the long run. Yesterday afternoon the site was a buzzing hive of activity; there’s obviously a push on to finish the set. Fluorescent-jacketed workmen were swarming over the main lodge and there were vehicles constantly up and down the access road. I went around the back of the lodge to have a look at what I thought was a garden set and discovered several new things.

Firstly, it isn’t a garden set, I don’t think – it’s actually a couple of portacabins disguised as a big hedge or something, which are camouflaged with netting and lots of little pine trees stuck there by a ‘living props’ company. Don’t know what they’re for… Storage? Office? Hiding Daniel in an emergency situation involving rampantly hormonal dog walkers?

Secondly, there appear to be several picturesque dead trees that have suddenly appeared in the heath area between the lodge and the chapel. Unless my mind is failing me (this certainly can’t be ruled out), these were not there before. You can see one in the pic of the chapel below. Must be very heavy, surely, to get a whole dead tree (think lightning-struck) out there and then make it stand up?

Thirdly, and most interestingly, the side of the lodge that I’ve never looked at before, contains two holes – a large and a small – that are built in. The big one is the kind of hole that might be left by, for instance, a car crashing through it. Whereas the little hole… well I’ve no idea, tbh. I’m intrigued now (you Bond fans have affected me with your appetite for detail), and it makes me wonder how they’ll use the hole. Will they film a vehicle smashing through a wall, then film the next scene with the ready-made hole? I’m still fascinated by the juxtaposition of the finished fake – that looks so real – and the little details of what’s underneath; the roof shot that’s mainly tiled and capped with stone, until you see the plywood bit still raw in the middle.

The site guys seem slightly bemused by my interest. Two in particular are very photogenic (I hope they don’t mind appearing on here, but they did spontaneously pose, after all…), while another walked past me on the path, gave me a big grin and said

“It’s just a load of bollocks, really, isn’t it?”

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2 thoughts on “A hole in the wall…

  1. Hi,

    Yup – I’m here for SkyFall too but, to be sure your nature photography and your write ups are superb.

    Very interesting.


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