A medieval castle in the midlands

Warwick Castle has a rich and varied history

Place: Warwick Castle, Warwick, England.
Date: February 28, 2011.
Camera: Panasonic DMC-TZ3.

Warwick Castle was home to William the Conqueror, who built the medieval castle as a fortification in 1068.

Since then the castle has gone through many transformations — and many owners — and today it is a major tourist attraction which bills itself as the “ultimate castle”.

The photograph shows the main accommodation block, on the left, and Ethelfleda’s Mound, on the right.

You can find out more about the castle via the official (and tacky) tourist website.

A showy peacock struts his stuff

A peacock putting on a display to attract a peahen

Place: The Peacock Garden, Warwick Castle, Warwick, England.
Date: February 28, 2011.
Camera: Panasonic DMC-TZ3.

There can be few male birds that are as majestic and stunning to look at as the Indian peafowl.

And when the peacocks strut their stuff, fanning out their elongated tail coverts in a dramatic display, they are even more impressive.

This show of feathers is a courtship ritual that only occurs when the male (peacock) wants to put on a dazzling display for the drab-coloured female (peahen).

It’s exciting to watch, but when I spied this peacock shaking his boot at a peahen, she looked at him as if to say ‘what a show off’, then turned her back and walked in the other direction. Perhaps he’s the local Lothario…

Richmond Park: deer on a Spring morning

More than 600 wild deer live in Richmond Park

Place: Richmond Park, London.
Date: April 7, 2007.
Camera: Sony Cybershot DSC-W1.

Richmond Park, the largest park in London, is home to more than 600 free-roaming deer.

According to the official website, there are 300 red deer and 350 fallow deer in the park.

It was King Charles I who first introduced deer to the park. He had moved to Richmond Palace in 1625, to flee the plague in central London, and then, two years later, he turned the park into a hunting ground by building an eight-mile wall around the site and introducing 2,000 deer.

Since then the deer have played an important role in shaping the landscape of the park by grazing the pasture and keeping the grassland “open”.

Almost four centuries later they remain a wonderful — and distinctive — addition to Richmond Park’s beautiful grounds.

How sweet! Giant jelly babies spotted in London!

The Jelly Baby Family will remain on display until April 2011

Place: Marble Arch, London.
Date: February 23, 2011.
Camera: BlackBerry Curve 8900 smartphone.

The Jelly Baby Family is a 10.5ft high sculpture temporarily on display in Marble Arch, London.

Designed by sculptor Mauro Perucchetti, it will remain in place until April as part of Westminster City Council’s ‘City of Sculpture Festival’.

The family, which comprises seven members, is a real delight to see. The rainbow of colours certainly brightens up the dull grey London weather at this time of year!

You can find out more about the artist by visiting his official website.

Shanghai skyline: a symbol of China’s rapid economic development

The distinctive Shanghai skyline, looking across the Huangpu River towards Pudong

Place: Looking towards the Pudong area of Shanghai, China.
Date: December 2, 2010.
Camera: Panasonic DMC-TZ3.

It’s hard to believe that just 20 years ago the Pudong area of Shanghai was mainly farmland and countryside.

Today it comprises a series of amazing skyscrapers that huddle together to provide Shanghai with its distinctive skyline.

As a symbol of China’s rapid economic and commercial development, it is a beacon to big business and tourists alike. But if you’re an architecture buff, it’s the equivalent of a small child walking into a sweet shop.

Some of the key buildings in this location include the Oriental Pearl Tower, the Jin Mao Building, the Shanghai World Financial Center and the Shanghai Tower.

Cycling the Great Southern Rail Trail

The rail trail, looking towards Leongatha

Place: The Great Southern Rail Trail, South Gippsland, Victoria, Australia.
Date: February 3, 2011.
Camera: Panasonic DMC-TZ3.

The Great Southern Rail Trail is a 49km stretch of trail following the route of the former South Gippsland railway line between Leongatha and Foster.

The trail is gently undulating with a wide and well-graded gravel surface, making it ideal for cycling. (It’s also ideal for walking and horse riding.)

It traverses a wide range of landscapes, including open farmland, native bushland and the foothills of the Hoddle Ranges.

And if you want to make a day of it, there are even public toilets, picnic tables and park benches dotted along the route.

Syon House under a February sky

Syon House sits in 200 acres of parkland and is bordered by the Thames River

Place: Syon Park, London.
Date: February 11, 2011.
Camera: BlackBerry Curve 8900 smartphone.

Syon House is the London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland.

It sits in 200 acres of parkland and faces the world famous Kew Gardens, on the other side of the Thames.

I took this snap part way through a ridiculously long, but leisurely, bicycle ride to Richmond along the Thames Path. The sky had turned a murderous black, and the house looked like something out of a Gothic horror novel.

You can read all about the history of the house via the official website.

Peeking inside the Bird’s Nest stadium, Beijing

The Bird's Nest Stadium, Beijing

Place: Beijing, China.
Date: December 11, 2010.
Camera: Panasonic DMC-TZ3.

The world’s eyes were on Beijing’s National Stadium when it hosted the Olympic opening ceremony in 2008.

Today the structure, designed by Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron, is a tourist attraction in its own right.

Commonly referred to as the ‘Bird’s Nest’, it costs just 50RMB (about £5) to take a look inside — it is definitely worth a peek, if only to see the lattice-work structure at close quarters.

You can find out more via the official website (in English).

Shanghai’s Bund Centre building at night

Crowning glory: the crown emits a golden light at night

Place: Shanghai, China.
Date: December 2, 2010.
Camera: Panasonic DMC-TZ3.

The Bund Centre Building is a 198m tall tower in Shanghai with a distinctive crown in the shape of a lotus flower.

It was designed by the American architectural firm John Portman & Associates.

The 45-storey building is used primarily as commercial office space, but it also features a luxury hotel.

But what makes this skyscraper such a unique part of the Shanghai skyline, particularly at night, is its crowning glory. As soon as the sun goes down it emits a soft golden light, almost as if the lotus flower has been gilded by the fading sun. Gorgeous.

The might of the Three Gorges Dam

The Three Gorges Dam

Place: The Three Gorges Dam, China.
Date: December 1, 2010.
Camera: Panasonic DMC-TZ3.

The Three Gorges Dam is one of the world’s biggest engineering projects. It is also one of the most controversial.

The dam, which spans the Yangtze River and was completed in 2008, generates around 18,200 MW. This is roughly 3 per cent of China’s current electricity needs.

Its construction involved the displacement of 1.3 million people as well as the flooding of countless cultural and archaeological sites along the Yangtze River.

But despite this, it is hard not to be impressed by the sheer scale of the project.

According to wikipedia, the dam is 2,335m long, 185m high and contains 39.3km3 of water. Its construction involved the removal of about 102,600,000m3 of earth and the use of  200,000m3of concrete (mainly for the dam wall) and 463,000 tonnes of steel.

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