Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The View from the top!

FEW people get a chance to see Weymouth from on high, so The View had no hesitation in snapping up a bird’s eye view of the town.

Merlin Entertainments held an official ground-breaking event for its giant new viewing tower being built near the Pavilion and there was an enthusiastic jumble of press and guests keen for a crane to hoist them aloft in a cage for a taste of the views the tower would eventually offer.

However, chilly conditions and a stiff breeze turned a simple lift into something of a Bear Grylls survival exercise.

Pinched faces, stamping feet and shivering became the norm as a long wait developed to get clearance to go aloft in the tricky conditions, a delay which even included the crane driver’s credentials being checked. Very reassuring!

By the time three frozen Olympic sailing girls went up in the first hoist with tower boss Craig Dunkerley – who is terrified of heights – the rest of us were focussing on something far more important, namely who got to stand in the lee of the crane where there was a bit of shelter if not warmth.

By the time my turn came to go up everyone was hallucinating about hot coffee although I was still aware enough of my surroundings to notice the deep grooves in the cage railings caused by Craig digging his fingernails in for dear life.

Aloft the views were quite spectacular, more so since conditions meant the crane could only hoist us about 130ft, well short of the tower’s eventual height of 174ft, so the views from that will be even better.

Movement to get those views had to carefully orchestrated as everyone was wearing a safety harness and any careless wandering about snarled eight people up in a tangle of ropes.
Back on the ground people stumbled off in search of hot drinks and food, finding it difficult to equate the bitter conditions with the sunshine likely to greet the tower’s first users this summer - maybe.

Newspapers - the new personal accessory

IT is strictly a matter of personal choice which national newspaper a person reads, but some of the choices can be bizarre.

For instance, there is the famous comedy definition of who reads what paper with lines such as: “The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country ...”

But a stroll through Weymouth town centre recently revealed that some people may buy a national newspaper for reasons other than views on how the country is being run.

The person in question was a young woman with friends who was cradling in her arms a large national edition of a broadsheet.

No crime there, even a few plaudits for one so young being found with a heavyweight newspaper instead of gum and an MP3 player.

However, I was forced to temper my opinions as she brightly exchanged chit-chat with her friends and said: “I look really intelligent carrying this!”

I doubt she’d actually bought the paper just to achieve that effect, but it just goes to show that you can never really make snap judgements about people. That reminds me, I must collect my copy of Home Brewers’ Monthly.

Know your birds!

RSPB staff at Weymouth Wetlands are calling on people to take part in the world’s largest wildlife survey when the Big Garden Birdwatch is held at the end of January.

Last year more than 11,000 people took part across the county to help build up a snapshot of what’s happening to some favourite birds particularly in light of recent hard winters.

Organisers are hoping for an even bigger survey this year and Weymouth Wetlands will be running a special free event on Saturday, January 28th from 10am-noon to help those new to birdwatching tell their dunnocks from their house sparrows.

Weymouth Wetlands information officer Luke Phillips said: “You don’t have to be a member of the RSPB to come along. You don’t even need binoculars or bird books because we’ll provide all the gear for you.

“Identifying and counting birds in your garden can be the start of a lifelong passion for wildlife, so people of all age groups and of course children are particularly welcome.

“As well as being a fun family activity, the Big Garden Birdwatch is also a very important conservation tool.

“It’s a great way for us to find out what’s happening to many different species of birds and it couldn’t be easier to get involved. All you have to do is look out at your garden, playground or local park for one hour on either Saturday, January 28th or Sunday, January 29th and note the different species of birds you see, record the highest number of each species you see at any one time and give us your results.

“And if you come along to our free event on Saturday from 10am to 12 noon you can be more certain of which birds you’re seeing.”

Special survey forms, complete with bird ID photos, will be available on the day.

There is another walk being held at Weymouth Wetlands the weekend before, on Saturday, January 21st from 2.30pm to 4.30pm to look for the elusive bittern and other herons.

Loving life on a beautiful day

DONKEYS are lovely creatures, but winter isn’t really their time.

So I can only guess at the pleasure several of Weymouth’s beach donkeys got when the ramp on their lorry dropped and they walked down on to the sands in brilliant Sunday sunshine.

It was difficult to imagine weather more inappropriate to winter because temperatures were high and there was almost no wind at all - so the donkeys took full advantage of it.

Staff kept hold of lead ropes but stepped briskly out of the way as donkey after donkey rolled over on to their backs and, with a wiggle of pure pleasure, proceeded to give their backs a good scrubbing on the sand.

Watching children loved it and more than one of them could be seen imitating the donkeys, rubbing their own backs against railings on the seafront.

The whole scene was one of those snapshot memories we are sometimes lucky enough to get.

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