Plunkett, Eden Project Vegetable Garden - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties

The View From Outside Eden

Can you believe it? Paddy and Plunkett are still exploring the Eden Project! I always thought that the main draw of this awesome place was the exotic plant communities that live inside the biomes, but WOW was I wrong! It turns out that there’s a lot to see outside those bubble-like domes too. And, to Plunkett’s relief, there don’t appear to be any jaguars lurking in the undergrowth this time around. Let’s take a closer look!

First stop – the vegetable garden. This is definitely Plunkett’s cup of tea!
Plunkett Enjoys the Eden Vegetable Garden - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesAnd after “borrowing” a light lunch of green salad – much better than the picnic Paddy had planned – he also enjoyed the beautifully laid out wildflower beds.
Wild Flower Beds at the Eden Project - H Crawfor/CrawCrafts BeastiesAnd although Paddy thought he’d found a quicker way to get around the outdoor gardens…
Paddy's Equine Friend - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties… This incredible life-sized driftwood horse sculpture by local artist Heather Jansch proved no match for a set of wheels. Paddy even let Plunkett drive!
Plunkett Takes the Wheel - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesAnd they discovered all kinds of treasures on their way! First up, a willow dome with honeysuckle growing around the branches…
Willow Dome in the Eden Project Grounds - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesI bet this place smells AMAZING on summer evenings! They also met an elegant reclining lady in the forest.
Clay Sculpture at the Eden Project - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesPaddy was particularly impressed with her hairdo, but she remained close-lipped about who her stylist is. He didn’t mind though, because he caught sight of this around the next corner.
Industrial Plant Sculpture, Eden Project - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties“Plunkett! What is THAT?”
Paddy, Plunkett and the Industrial Flame Plant - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties“Ha! It’s an industrial plant!”

An Industrial Flame Plant, to be exact. This striking sculpture is surrounded by thickets of plants that can be grown and burned as biomass, a means of energy production that is renewable, carbon-neutral and provides a viable alternative to fossil fuels.

And look at Plunkett, standing right next to a “danger” sign! Could it be that he’s feeling a shade more daring than usual?

Well, maybe… But he still let Paddy forge a path through the heather forest that they visited next!
Paddy and Plunkett in the Heather Bank - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesThe sun-warmed heather perfumed the air, and the boys were surrounded by drifts of pink, purple and white flowers… Which were buzzing with hundreds of busy bees.
The Heather Bank at the Eden Project - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesAnd further along, they discovered just how important this bee restaurant could be!
Helping the Bees - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesBut then, the honeybee hum suddenly seemed to get a bit louder.
“Paddy, do you hear that?”
A Giant Bee at the Eden Project! H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesGlancing over his shoulder, Paddy realised that Plunkett probably wouldn’t take particularly well to the giant bee that had just landed behind them.

“Ah, it’s nothing. Let’s go and see what other adventures the English Riviera has in store for us!”

Join the lads again in a couple of weeks, when they’ll be stopping off in some of the peaceful towns that make this part of the world such a lovely place to visit! Meanwhile, we’ll be back on Friday with the latest news from Beastie Towers!

See you then!

Paddy in the Dugout Canoe - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties

Beasties in the Bronze Age

The boys are stepping back in time again this week – and a little further than usual, too! Today finds them exploring Flag Fen in Cambridgeshire, which had its heyday 3,300 years ago!

What was this place, a harbour?
Plunkett at Flag Fen - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesWell, not exactly. A fen is an area of marshy ground, and they’re pretty prone to flooding. While many of the fens in this super-flat part of eastern England were drained to create extra farmland in the 17th century, in the Bronze Age these places would have been tricky enough to navigate. Too wet to walk, too shallow for a boat… GAAAAAAAH! What to do?

Answer – you build a raised walkway over it, and strut across in style without getting your paws wet! And that’s what these timbers are – the remains of a trackway that led to a huge platform out in the fen. It’s kept nice and damp to help to preserve the ancient wood…
The Timber Remains at Flag Fen - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties… And what Plunkett is looking at in the first photo is only a fraction of what is actually there. The whole causeway is more than a kilometre long, and the platform is the size of Wembley Stadium!

Building something on this scale, in this location, at that time would have been a huge undertaking – so why is it here? Unfortunately, our Bronze Age friends weren’t much for writing things down, so we can really only speculate (wildly, in Paddy’s case) about what this place was used for. However, the archaeologists who excavated the site back in the 1980s found way more of this kind of thing than they expected…
Finds! H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesThese bronze finds – mostly weapons – intriguingly show signs of having been deliberately damaged, and their positioning in the silty ground suggests that they were intentionally dropped there, rather than carelessly chucked away because they were broken. This implies that the causeway was a place of ritual significance, as well as (possibly) being a handy way of getting across Flag Fen!

There’s plenty of opportunity for you to get in touch with your Bronze Age roots around here too… Plunkett took a stroll into this reconstructed roundhouse, built on the site where a real one was excavated!
Plunkett at the Roundhouse - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesMeanwhile, Paddy was trying on some wooden beakers for size… Because, well, that’s what Paddy does.
Paddy tries out the Tableware - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesThe lads also rested their weary paws on this rather spectacular chair – we think it might be made of bog oak, preserved timber that has been coloured and hardened by years of sitting in the acidic water of the marshes!
Paddy, Plunkett and the Bog Oak Chair - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesUnfortunately, Paddy had less success with this replica dugout canoe…
Paddy in the Dugout Canoe - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties“Row faster, Plunkett! It feels like we’re not moving at all!

This is a copy of one of the boats that was unearthed at Must Farm, just down the road. The real ones are still undergoing preservation work and some of them are really enormous!

Now, what’s been missing from this trip so far? That’s right – SHEEP! This visitor centre is home to a herd of lively Soay sheep, the closest living thing to the kind of sheep that you would have seen trotting around here in the Bronze Age.
Soay Sheep! H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesWhile Paddy attempted to make friends with some of those lambs, Plunkett took a moment to enjoy a last look out over the site.
Plunkett takes a last look at Flag Fen - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesIt’s really been quite a trip!

Paddy and Plunkett will have their paws back on comparatively dry land when they rejoin us in a couple of weeks. And next Tuesday, I hope to have some exciting new BeastieBlog developments to share with you all! See you then!

The Jade VIne - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties

Paddy, Plunkett and Some Plants!

Plunkett has been in architectural heaven since the lads headed to Cambridge a few weeks back…Plunkett Loves Architecture - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties… And he’d happily continue on in this vein indefinitely.The Round Church, Cambridge - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties“Oooh, look! It’s the Norman doorway of the famous Round Church. Paddy, did you know that it’s one of four mediaeval round churches that are still in use in England todaaaaa…”

“No way, Plunkett! It’s my turn to decide what we’re doing! Come on, we’re off to…Paddy's Choice - The Botanic Garden! H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties… The Botanic Garden! Mad plants ahoy!”Paddy, In His Element - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesThere are over 8,000 species of plants crammed into this 40 acre garden, from every imaginable habitat. Deserts, bogland, jungle… You name it, it’s here! And of course, Paddy was determined to see (and climb) as many of them as possible. This photo was taken just as he spotted something good. Seconds later, only a Paddy-shaped dust cloud remained.Paddy and Plunkett in the Botanic Garden - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesBut Plunkett takes things at a more sedate pace. That has its rewards too… Look what he found!Plunkett's Lucky Find -H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesThis is a jade vine, which hails from Indonesia. If you can believe it, this crazy-looking hanging plant is a member of the legume family – it’s a long way from your average runner bean though!The Jade VIne - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesIn the wild, the jade vine is pollinated by bats, which up until recently has stopped it from producing any seeds. However, thanks to one devoted research student getting stuck in and pollinating the flowers by hand, the vine has set seed for the first time. Now seeds are being sent to other botanic gardens around the UK – maybe even one near some of you!

Meanwhile, Plunkett finally caught up with Paddy…Catching Up With Paddy at the Lake - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties… Just in time to take the stepping stone path across the bog garden’s lake!Beasties on the Stepping Stones - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesAnd on the other side, they were first plunged into the cool green depths of a bamboo forest…Beastie-Sized Bamboo Forest - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties… Before emerging in the arboretum!A Tree WIth a Wall - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties“Hey look, Plunkett! This tree has a wall in it!”

“Hmmm… I wonder why?”

Later research revealed that this wild pear tree had split, and the brickwork is there ‚Äčto keep it together. The tree doesn’t appear to mind though – it certainly seems to be doing just fine!

And further down the road in the pinetum, Paddy found ample fodder for some really terrible puns!Don't Needle Paddy! H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesPaddy Pining Away - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesResin D'etre - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesUh-oh! He’s had enough, and scarpered to The Mount to check out the view. Fortunately, he’s still happy to share the chair he found here with his old buddy – as long as Paddy promises to keep quiet!
The View From The Mount - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesHave you had any horticultural adventures recently? If so, please be sure to leaf a comment below! Or feel free to share your worst plant-based pun… Paddy’s always on the lookout for new material.

Here’s wishing you all a super week, catch you next Tuesday!