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Sunday, 29 July 2012

Lullingstone Trip.

This is our round up of our trip out to the World Garden in Lullingstone, Kent.  Noted for its castle and roman villa as well as the world garden, Lullingstone is one of the nicer parts of Kent, along with Eynsford and its duck house, and Swanley which you could get to by bus from Plumstead common when I was little.

It was proposed at our last club meeting that there would be a trip out to Lullingstone to see the world garden and the grounds.  We put our details down and hoped that there would be a pick up, as you see, I can't drive and have no inclination to do so. 

Cut to Friday and there are still no word on pick up and just a date and a sense of foreboding.  We called up our branch Secretary Jim and after a muted discussion he said to come down to his place in Eltham and he'll take us down.  So we did just that, and managed to get there in time for pick up.  He offered for me to look around his collection and led us down to a lean to on the back of his house.  Every conceiveable surface was stuffed with cacti and succulents of varying degrees of tenderness and rarity, to say it was jaw dropping would be an understatement, these plants were all in perfect condition and of exceptional size.  There was a small greenhouse leading off of this, that made me feel like I was stuffed in a box, so cramped with plants and staging.  For a cactophile it was the closest thing to heaven on earth save for a trip to the Richtersveld.

Anyway we picked up a few more people and gradually made our way down to Lullingstone passed the now covered over Roman ruins and down alongside a stream to the main gatehouse.  After meeting up with the rest of our club we waited for Tom, to lead us inside.

Cloud Garden, pond area, complete with Bulrushes and smoke
Tom is of course Tom Hart Dyke, noted botanist, creator of the world garden, and the twentieth generation of Hart Dyke to live on site.  Possibly the only person where passionate is entirely accurate when describing his love of plants, he's got a manic enthusiasm that will inspire anyone to get growing.   I'm not sure how he and Jim met but he's given some talks to us down at Eltham as well as Jim donating a lot of plants to the Hot and Spikey cactus house more of which later.

Our first stop was the Cloud Garden, a polytunnel area devoted to half hardy jungle planting, complete with small water area and goldfish.  It was all lush and overgrown just like a real jungle.
Eucalyptus, already reaching for the stars.

Our next area, was a small storage area meant to keep tender stuff in over the winter (unlike London with its warmth of the bricks Lullingstone acutally lies in a frost pocket, which is problematic if you grow tender tropical species.).  That half hardy red gum is a permanent visitor along with some more bizarre and obscure specimens from australasia, and is currently in dire need of a good clipping to stop it going through the roof.

We did a brief tour of the world garden before moving onto the Hot and Spikey greenhouse.  This also contains the Moroccan room at the end by the Volcano (which works by remote control). 
A selection Succulent flora.

Its divided into three areas the first part being South Africa (with parts of East Africa thrown in for good measure).  Devoted to mesembryanthemums and Stapeliads along with some of the more amenable Euphorbias.
Opuntia Invicta in bud.

The middle part is Mexico which is largely all cacti and included some flowering Opuntias which is a rare bonus in this country as they are often reluctant to flower.  The back wall has a mural painted on it and holds both south and north american cacti collections.   These are mainly large cerei and bunny ear style Prickly pear Opuntias. The final bed is of course Macronesia.  Devoted to the mainly Canarian flora and with some from Madeira and Cape Verde Islands, these are mainly Aeonium species but with other stuff as well including a new Sarcostemma.
Morocco garden with Hippeastrum in the foreground.
The Morocccan garden is devoted to bulbs with various lillies and Amaryllis types in flower and a decent morning glory which you can see in the left of the picture above.

You finally exit to the gift shop with plants for sale and our notice board detailling our society and its aims. Though this is a major bone of contention with Jim and Tom.  We got an Aeonium Zwartkopf to replace an old specimen that died ages ago.  Tom also pointed out a massive specimen which had flowered and had thrown up offsets on the inflorescence of the newly doomed plant (Aeoniums along with Agave are terminal flowerers, they'll go out in a blaze of glory) which we didn't know it did.

Beaky's return.
We snuck a peek into some other greenhouses and saw some other plants lying around including more Opuntias and a nice Pleiospilos with seed pods.  We took in the world garden with its metal baobab and noted the sheer number of Damselflies flying around including a mating pair.  Before making our way home.
This was the best Damselfly we saw but there were loads around.
We'll leave you with a few more shots of the world garden to go out with.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Olympic Bootsale fest 2012.

Because this is an Olympic year and because its turning out to be in my eyes one of the most hateful things ever,  I'm going to describe our trip to a small bootsale next to our main Olympic venue.


The torch relay came through our town on the Saturday which meant Woolwich was packed with people for once.  Don't worry by the time we got there it was all over leaving the surreal site of some police dancing to reggae being played on a trumpet.  Our final destination was of course Charlton Meridian Sports ground right in the bastard heart of the Olympics.  For the uninitiated its situated close to the army barracks and directly on Woolwich common which has been commandeered for small arms shooting events and I think archery.  There is a proper boss looking arena up there that looks like a Yakult pack designed by mental patients.

Left Yakult Right Yakult on drugs.

All this meant the bastard roads were closed due to the Fucking Olympics, and we had to take a massive detour to reach our destination.  We finally got there and paid 50P to get in we had a good look around, there still are massive amounts of Africans and gypsies selling pirate and a few old food dealers, but our interest was piqued by a few reggae greats.  One stall had Homophobic classic Boom Bye Bye by Buju Bumchum (Banton).  Not sure what they wanted for this but as I despise dancehall and ragga it didn't come home with us.   There was a massive amount of synthetic trance for sale at one stall including Prodigy Charly
(which we have and of course is old hardcore).  But though I'm dance, we really can't take too much pounding trance so we gave up after the third box. 

We had much better luck at an africans stall, we picked up a few records there including the excellently titled Clusterfunk Do Me Right, a Doris Norton EP, Direct Drive (Synth pop and not house) and best of all Cosmic Force Uncompromised EP.  Oh yeah baby they had Clone / Creme Org stuff (and a load of reggae.) which due to the stall holders dodgy maths cost me £6 rather than £8 a result. 

We decided to walk back past the Yakult Center and over the common down to Woolwich.  We passed by a Nun walking up the street and back passed the big screen in General Gordon place which by this time had gotten rid of its Reggae police and had a dancing builder (I kid you not).  Walking through Woolwich we saw weird Christian groups including street preachers (always there) an african singing with a small dog and a group also singing from the Potter ministeries (not Harry).  We stopped off in Cex which has taken the place of our Gamestation, thanks to Games near bankruptcy, and came across gold. 

We've been looking on and off for Shin Megami Tensei Devil Survivor for a while now, we had the rom up and running in DesMuMe (You'll need to fiddle with the screen outputs to get the text legible) but in all honesty what we wanted was the real deal running on our DS.   So imagine our surprise when scanning the shelves for stuff we spotted this amongst all the dog poking / pretend teacher sims.  For the princely sum of £12 it comes home with us.  All in all a brilliant end to a excellent day.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

A few updates.

We have a few updates to certain things.  We finally got our scanner working again so we can give you the official Botanicactus leaflet.

Botanicactus with pertinent information in 4 languages.
A Map of the grounds.
Some rather nice artwork and a layout that reminds me of the old cactus park in Tenerife.  We did have a leaflet for that ages ago but it is of course closed down now.

OUYA not quite my fantasy phone.

We got news of this from the message boards up on RHDN and thought it looked cool.  Its an open source android based console that anyone can develop for.   Openly hackable and customisable, it should allow the tech savvy to play their way so to speak.   There is a nice video presented by an American Shirley Carter lookalike on the main site and a begging button, so you can donate cash to them.  Now how about a handheld version of that running android and letting you play phone games as well as emulation.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Holiday Highlights.

This is a quick update giving a quick thumbs up / thumbs down guide to our recent holiday. We detailed Botanicactus in our last post though it'll get on here simply for having an eyed hawkmoth.

OK Here goes.

Various calas around our resort.  Its catalan or possibly Spanish for bay, Platja/ playa being beach in both, they were rather nice little beaches with the smaller bay having a massive pine tree for shade and good amount of sea life for snorkelling. 

General wildlife. 
Our balcony had house martins nesting in the beams, so you could see the young poke their heads out of the nest and the adults barrel in and feed them or if you got too close abort at the last second and fly away.  They would wheel around and do all sorts of insane acrobatics.  They reminded me of little spitfires crossed with jets and their aeronautic abilities were incredible.  Sadly due to some bullshit by the hotel, we had  to change rooms on the wednesday so we never saw the little guy fledge.
So were's me grub then?
Other stuff we saw was a scorpion in our shower, not sure if its poisonous or what but most are and a wall gecko, though this was only in the last week or so.

Plantwise. There was plenty of cacti for us and tubs full of little Aloes including some of the Littoralis types and what looked like Melalucea in flower / seed.  Incidentally this was the first time I've ever seen red flowered platyopuntia, your archetypal flat pad prickly pear.  There was plenty of the original yellow flowered versions as well.
So red and spiny.

Finally we saw a sea hare but was not sure if it was alive or dead.

Cover acts.
They had a load of cover acts with varying degrees of badness.  We have a Rod Stewart that looked like Keith Chegwin, a Whitney Houston that looked like a gorilla in a dress and a duo that covered everything from Creedence to Sam and Dave (sic) as well as Usher.  Best of all was walking along the street and coming across a bar covering Love and Happiness by Ron Hardy (though they played the Al Green original  rather than the proper house beat we know and love)


Our hotel was nice and we got an upgrade to an suite room, however on the Monday before we went home we had a letter posted on our door saying we had to move and come to reception.  We did and they gave us some cock about a leak from our room.  There was no leak and we saw them later putting in a minibar, they did give us two new rooms and a packed lunch but it was the principle of the thing rather then being cocking deceitful about it.

Even worse was to come. We missed our flight home due to them Thomson being bellends about the coach home.  A coach pulled up and they didn't call out and when we did query the name they said no.  Of course this was our coach and they pulled off.  We had to get a cab to the airport and fuck about getting new flights as Thomson were of course no use.  We can do you tomorrow, cough.  So we took our trade to Easyjet who took our cash and got us flights home a mere two hours later.

Yeah we are putting in a complaint for them dicking us around.

El Mejor sito de Musica Libre Electronica
Oh and in unrelated news we'll be putting up a music blog soon its called RobotNuncaVisto and heres the header for it. We listen to a lot of music so we'll share the joy of this with any good stuff heard.  If its made.

Sunday, 1 July 2012


This will be a series of posts from our holiday in Cala D'Or, Mallorca, but this one is a special as there is no real information in English, on this destination and what there is is heavily Engrished on its main site.
Es Llombards square.

Botanicactus is a botanical garden situated about a kilometer outside of Ses Salines, in the south of the island, we had previously seen an old article in the BCSS journal detailing a trip there, but untill we saw an excursion for this on the Saga Holiday noticeboard we had forgotten entirely that it was there.

On the Friday we decided to take a trip out on our own to see if we could make it there by bus, not having a hire car.  Two words, Big mistake.  First of all these are country buses, they rarely run on time and if you miss one its quite a wait for the next bus. (incidentally if you are in the north east this is a worthwile trip to undertake Son Baulo and its shorefront prehistoric site is definitely one to take in especially for nature lovers).

Anyway we took the Palma bus and got off at Santanyi, the main administration center of the area, we found that

A: it would be a 90 minute wait for the next bus (more like 2 hours) and
B: spending 90 minutes in Santanyi would be 90 minutes far too long. 

We're not saying it was a one horse town, more like one and a half, typically Spanish and if there are any foriegners they are much more likely to be Germans than English. It was really twisty and for extra weirdness we kept seeing leaflets stuck up for the memorial of a 103 year old woman who looked creepy as fuck (sorry no photos of that).

Santanyi outside the church.

With that, and the reassurance that it would be like closer to Es Llombards a village further up (about 3km away but more like a mile down the hardtop). We decided to walk.  If you are fit and able you can do this easily, bear in mind its outside Ses Salines rather than Es Llombards its more like a 4 mile trip than anything else, and is only really advised for the hardcore and the sporty.
The first thing we noticed walking down the strip is that there are a few barren farms out there with sheep and chickens, the other thing is that the side strips are littered with dead birds.  Every few hundred yards we would come across some unidentified mass of feathers lying on the roadside (though we found a dead partridge on one occasion) and sometimes what we thought was a flat hedgehog.
We made it to Es Llombards before caving in and taking a local bar for a drink.  Es Llombards is even smaller than Santanyi (a one pony town), but the people there was nice, we got directions from the lady behind the bar, and I got to try out my ropey Spanish.

Suitably directed up we set off on the longer leg of our trip and following the road round we finally made it to Botanicactus.

Our first impressions is that it kind of reminds me of the old cactus park outside Los Christianos / Playa de las Americas in Tenerife but with the added bonus of not being closed.   There are a few Yuccas and some big Cerei outside and a faded mascot billboard in a sombrero leading the way inside.  But first this is what Wikipedia has to say (we actually translated this ourselves with about 20% help from Google translate)

Botanicactus is a 150,000M Square botanical garden specialising in Cacti and other succulents.  A private garden situated outside Ses Salines, Mallorca.

It took two years work to transform the landscape into the Botanicactus gardens, utilising the local hills to give protection from the wind, and digging out the artificial lakes which doubles up as a source of clean water.  The garden was opened on the 20th May 1989 and is not affiliated with any organisation or institution.


The site is home to 1000 species and 15000 specimens of which 12000 are cacti,  These are grouped into 3 sections.

Tropical species. (50000 m2)
Cacti from Arizona with a Saguaro that is over 300 years old* 40000m2
Native Mallorcan flora, Represented by Olives, Almonds, Pomegranate, Cypress, Pine and Eucalyptus? 25000m2

Also included is the biggest navigable lake in the Balearics, situated in the tropical zone with reed banks, bamboos and tropical plants.
* we didn't see this actually, though Arizona is pushing it with the species I saw its more like South America with an extended stay in Mexico.

At a pinch those Yucca could be from Phoenix

Reality is far more different, there are three zones, one is a tropical zone with some planting including Jacaranda, locust beans (Carob) and day lillies, its not too bad and had a massive rill leading up the hill toward the main desert zone.  This is actually very impressive a little heavy on Echinocactus Grusonii (not the nicest of cacti) but with plenty of mature Agaves and big stands of Aloe Melanacantha and Arborescens and
yuccas galore too.  Occasionally you'd get a big silver torch cactus or something different just to break it up, its set on a sloping hill allowing you to walk around and looks the business too.

The last zone is of course the lakes, there is a small lily pond home to a few wandering coots along with red and blue dragonflies.  The main lakes are surrounded with large reeds and had more coots swimming on the lake as well as some stilts confined to the edges.  Walking around there are two islands one Duck island is not accessible whereas the lake island is allowing you to walk out onto the bridge and see the lake.  Whilst walking past duck isle we happened across a massive moth which is probably a Eyed Hawkmoth which had nestled into a palm and was reluctant to fly. 

Walking back we took a few more snaps and had a look at the gift shop (small selection of cacti with some postcards and snacks for sale) before heading back to Ses Salines to catch the bus.  We didn't see much of Ses Salines as we bumped into the lady from the bar in Es Llombards who graciously gave us a lift back to Santanyi and called us a taxi taking us back to Cala D'Or.  We noted that the bus we should have taken from Ses Salines came in a good ten minutes after the adjoining bus had left for Cala D'or.

Overall that is Botanicactus. Situated outside Ses Salines, Mallorca

Admission price E8, 50 Adults E4.40 kids.
Travel advice.  If you can make it in one bus trip do so, otherwise a hire car is the only way especially if you are up in the northern end.  We'll leave you with some photos of the place.

Big Cerei.
Mascot surrounded by Aloes
Little lake with waterlillies
Aloes, we saw a lot in flower here.