Ms Markontour and I have been enjoying a blissful bank holiday weekend at Knepp Wildland Safari in southern England. We’ve been wanting to visit since reading Isabella Tree’s ‘Wilding’ a few years ago – an account of how she and her husband, Charlie Burrell, decided to see what happened if nature was permitted to manage itself on their 3,000 acre loss-making farm. The result is the most exhilarating nature site in Britain. A place that echoes all day and night to bird-song, has welcomed back multiple species that were on the brink of extinction in Britain from the Turtle Dove to the Nightingale, and where bramble and scrub have proven to be the catalyst for abundance, variety and beauty, rather than a nuisance to be cleared away. I could have happily stayed forever.
The Museum of Broadway made for educative departure-day lunch break after a busy week in New York. Charting the genesis of the world’s most famous theatre district, on what an opening frame recognises as Lenape land, the museum takes the visitor on a chronological entertainment journey filled with song, costume and, less expectedly, mirrors.
Swansea’s Dylan Thomas Centre pays fitting homage to the unique talent of Wales’ greatest writer. While the exhibition space is modest in comparison to the depth of Thomas’ literary contribution, it is so wonderfully curated, with Thomas’ sonorous voice regaling visitors with excerpts of his poems, letters and plays at every turn, that a full afternoon was necessary for our visit.
Cranes, large white wetland birds, standing 1.3 metres tall with flamboyant tail-feathers that bob about as they graze, were hunted to extinction in Britain four hundred years ago. But last weekend we went to visit a now thriving resident population at the Slimbridge Wetland Centre on the Severn Estuary near Bristol. It was a magical and uplifting experience, and it turned out that the Cranes shared the billing with an astonishing cast of other beautiful wildfowl.
Five thousand years ago the people living in what is now the Brecon Beacons National Park, the area of Wales where markontour currently resides, were into megaliths, big time. This much we know because over thirty of them survive to this day, still marking out the valley roads and high passes in this lush, undulating landscape. They are extraordinary things to get out and see in situ, stubbornly remaining on the spot they have inhabited through so many human generations, and in many cases accessible enough to be able to get right up close and touch.
“To begin at the beginning” – there’s really no other way to start a blog about Laughrne, the small former cockle-fishing town on the Carmarthenshire coast which I visited this week to pay homage to its most famous son, Dylan Thomas.
Some might question why an atheistic internationalist has chosen to write a blog about a day of national religious celebration, but St David (Dewi Sant in the Welsh) was a vegetarian who spent some time at Glastonbury and established his first hermitage in Llanthony, a few miles down the road from where I sit writing this blog. Moreover, it’s an excuse to make use of my shelf of Welsh history books and then pretend I know something about it.
I have long intended to start a blog site dedicated to reviews of planetariums and observatories. It would have been even more niche than markontour’s usual output, so perhaps it’s just as well it never happened. But if I were to start such a stargazers blog, the Griffith Observatory and park in Los Angeles, which I visited this weekend, would have to be the first entry.
I wonder if Brandon Yoshizawa knew that the exhaust plume of a Falcon 9 rocket would take on the shape of a flower as its hot discharge made contact with colder air of the upper atmosphere? He was certainly in the right place at the right time and with the requisite skill to capture an extraordinary image. The result, Flower Power, is a perfect example of the blend of art and science that makes the annual Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Greenwich National Maritime Museum so special.
In a vital and captivating free new exhibition the Museum of London is celebrating forty-years since the release of London Calling by The Clash. It’s an album that is both precisely of its time and yet timeless, a spirit that the curators (working with the surviving members of the band) have managed to capture perfectly. Markontour has visited twice already in its first week and I’m sure I will be back a few more times before it closes in April.