Whipsnade Zoo

I went to Whipsnade Zoo this summer with my sister and her family. It’s partnered with London Zoo I visited a few years ago. Whipsnade Zoo is huge so we started from one side and made our way round.

The animals are sectioned according to the continent they came from, so we started with Africa. The first animals we saw were chimpanzees. They were a bit far away but I liked that they had a lot of space to move around. We then moved onto the penguins which again I was pleased to see had a huge space and also a great view of the English landscape.

As we made our way along the path we suddenly spotted an animal that was outside like us! After a closer look we saw it was a wallaby hiding in the long grass. Did it escape?! Turns out no; there’s wallabies and Maras (like giant Guinea pigs) that are allowed to roams free. My 2 year old niece had fun chasing after the Maras, much to our amusement.

Getting over our surprise we next visited other animals typically found in Africa; rhinos, giraffes (my favourite), lions, ostriches, meerkats and zebras. Lions apparently sleep up to 20 hours a day so I didn’t hold much hope in seeing them running around. There was a cheetah too but they were hard to spot sleeping in the tall grass.

Walking along leaving the Africa section we turned a corner to see sudden bright pops of pink! Flamingoes!

Their pink feathers looked so lovely against the greeny water. There were flamingo chicks, their feathers stull grey, pelicans and herons all surrounding the same pond.

After stopping for lunch and a rest we made our way to the next section, the Asian continent. Here we saw elephants and tigers. The tigers were also pretty sleepy, making little movement. Nearby was an area dedicated to dinosaurs. There were various shaped and sizes, some growling and moving. My niece of 7 enjoyed making scared faces at them and digging for fossils.

Next we ventured into the aquarium and butterfly house. The kids enjoyed seeing the various fish and it was nice to go at a slower pace. By the time we reached the butterfly house my youngest niece was fast asleep and the older one didn’t like butterflies so didn’t stick around. I’m not fond of flying insects in closed spaces myself but I did manage to take some nice close up photos of some of the calmer butterflies.

Last stop was the farm, here they had a striking long haired Poitiven donkey, cows, ponies, alpacas, hens, rabbits and my little niece’s favourite baby goats! Feeling refreshed after her nap she spent her time petting, chasing after and hugging them.

I always feel conflicted when visiting zoos as I feel sad that animals are kept in smaller spaces than they would be in the wild. But the truth is that zoos can play an important part in conservation and survival of some animals. Seeing them in large, open spaces in nice and I’m glad that they seem to be well looked after at Whipsnade.

Eid-ul-Adha 2021/1442

Eid-ul-Adha has visited us again. All restrictions have been eased here in England but we still need to be careful as the pandemic isn’t over yet, not for us, not for the world. The pilgrimage (hajj) in Saudi Arabia was limited to just residents again this year, but we can all mark the days as special wherever we are. I pray that the pandemic eases for everyone, that we cherish the time we have with our loved ones and Allah has mercy and bestows forgiveness on us all. A reminder to also think of those in hardship across the world and hope that their prayers are answered.
Eid Mubarak everyone, I hope you all enjoy this blessed day wherever you are. Taqabbal Allahu Minna Wa Minkum (May Allah accept it from you and us).

RHS Garden Hyde Hall

It was really hot and sunny in the UK recently so to make the most of it my family and I wanted a day out. The place we chose was RHS Garden Hyde Hall, which is an outdoor space with various types of gardens.

There were so many different types of plants and flowers, some I’d never seen before and most that I’d never be able to name. We started off looking at a little garden that had a variety of flowers, my favourites were the huge, eye catching, red poppies. I’ve never seen them that size before.

We then walked down to the fish pond that also had water lilies.

As it getting quite hot, we stopped for ice cream and a little rest. Nearby was a dry garden that overlooked the far reaching green hills below.

We walked on and saw beautiful flowers wherever we looked. It was amazing to see such a variety of flowers in every shape and colour you could imagine. Although I seem to be drawn to the purple ones the most.

I also spotted some light pink poppies, again I’d never seen this colour before and never in this size (they were about the size of a melon). Maybe there’s something in the water here.

We then took a path that led us to the Sky Meadow. Curious as to what this could be we came to a field full of wildflowers and a lovely calming view. I imagine the name comes from the fact that the sky meets the meadow and that’s all you see.

After resting for a while we made our way past a huge lake and a lovely green expanse which was lined neatly with tall trees and an interesting sycamore structure in the middle. The kids wanted to play so we headed in the direction of the play area that also had some fun animal structures .

The last part we saw was the Winter garden which consisted of foliage that would keep growing and survive the cold. There were some figures of leaves, showing stages of decay as you walked along, that I really liked. Nearby was also a pathway lined with hundreds of foxgloves.

We then made our way to the shop, where we picked up some lovely plants for my mum. My favourite being these Galaxy sky petunias that were quite striking.

The visit to RHS Garden Hyde Hall was a really nice one, there was so much to see and so many winding pathways that lead to unexpected spots. I felt a little rushed on this visit and the heat tired us out too, but I’d like to come back again in another season, see what else is growing and hopefully take it a little slower.

Colours of Spring

Spring is in full swing here in London so went to our local parks and into my garden to see what kinds of flowers I could spot.

The earliest flowers to be seen are the daffodils and croci. There were swathes of bright yellow daffodils in some parks that I visited, which was always pleasant to see. The flowers blooming early in my garden was a huge camellia tree with vibrant perfect looking pink flowers and magnolias. These magnolias were on a huge tree I spotted in someone’s front garden. It was quite a magnificent sight.

Later the flowers that opened up were varied and some I haven’t seen before like Blue Pasque flowers which I thought were quite fascinating. And as always a tree full of blossoms is a sure sign that Spring is here.

I’m lucky to have a few parks where I live and am able to go for long walks with lots of visual stimulus to enjoy. I always find myself stopping to tale a closer look at flowers I come across, each that brings it’s own beauty and joy.

Blue poppy

I haven’t taken any macro photos in a while, so when I bought my mum some flowers there were some lovely rich violet anemones also known as blue poppies that I thought were stunning and deserved a closer look.

I love the detail and texture of the petals and the indigo pollen that has fallen on to some of them. The small cluster of stamen in the centre create a balance against the smooth simple petals. And the yellow stigma is a nice contrast to the violet.

Even before fully open the petals seem to look like they are hiding a treasure in the centre.

These flowers are a real joy to look at and were a real pleasure to photograph. I hope to do take some more macro photos soon.

Pops of Colour

With the recent cold snap here in London it’s nice to see early signs of colourful life emerging. I love seeing pops of colour unexpectedly appearing, something that always brings a smile to my face. Here are some lovely flowers I came across not so long ago. I hope they cheer you up as much as they did when I spotted them.

Goodbye to 2020

Today is the last day of 2020, a year that was unexpected and tough for so many. The coronavirus pandemic has impacted almost every person in the world this year, and I’m no exception. There have been times that I have felt I could take things in my stride and others when I felt stressed, anxious and alone. But I always like to think that even in the worst of things, there’s always a silver lining and I think I tried to convey some of these in my photos this year, whether it was making the most of places being quieter and tourist free or just being grateful for the fact that we had long hot summer which is unusual for the UK. I was also happy to have ticked a few places off my bucket list which I didn’t expect like visiting Chatsworth House, the Lake District, and the confetti flower fields. My favourite photos of the year are shared below.

With several vaccines now available, I hope and pray that 2021 will be a better one for all of us, that with a little more patience and caution we will get through this once in a lifetime difficult, but shared experience and come out stronger together. I hope that all of our loved ones are safe and that we can enjoy each others’ company once again soon, very soon. Take care everyone and I wish you all a happy, healthy amazing year ahead.

Scotland Trip – part 2

The fourth day into our trip we decided to spend seeing parts of what Scotland was well known for. We had a good plan for the day but as the day went on we ended up doing all sorts of other things instead.

We were up early to go to some local markets. We made our way to one nearby only to find that it was closed. We then had to circle round to another one we found further away. This market wasn’t great but it was good to look around and see what was on offer. I ended up buying a blue stone necklace for my little niece as it was her birthday. It caught her eye and I couldn’t say no.

After spending half an hour or so at the market we were still on schedule, so the next stop was going to the Kelingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

Walking up to the entrance we were told that due to the pandemic we had to pre-book and that they had no slots for walk ins! Helpfully though the staff told us that there was another museum nearby that we could go to that did have free slots. We booked our places online and made our way to the Royal College of Surgeons where the Hunterian Museum is based. It was a steep walk up but the building and the view from the top was stunning.

We also found this iconic view, I love the symmetry and elegance of the arches.

We located the entrance to the Hunterian Museum and made our way up the beautiful yellow staircase.

The museum itself was lovely, high ceilings and lots of light. I also really liked the exposed wood beams in the ceiling. Inside there was an array of beautiful and strange objects. I only took photos of artefacts that were attractive or interesting to me but there were lots of jars with eyeballs, and other odd animal parts in that I didn’t take to too well.

After walking around the museum we headed back to the car to drive into town to find something to eat. There was some cool street art around although I wasn’t able to have a proper look around for them.

As we had to find food that was suitable for a halal diet we found restaurants were closed either permanently or due to the pandemic, so it took a lot longer than expected. After finding our patience frayed we finally found a restaurant and then headed back to the hotel to freshen up.

Beautiful Peonies

I decided to treat myself to some peonies having seen some in the shops. Peonies are one of my favourites flowers, so I couldn’t resist. I waited a few days for the flowers to open up and for the the lush, full bodied petals to unfold. What always surprises me about this flower is that the buds are so tight and small but there’s so many petals all folded within it.

The dramatic look and volume of the petals look amazing and the smell of the pink peonies was sweet and really fragrant. I thought the pink tinge on the petals tips of the white peonies, looked lovely, adding just a touch of colour.

I love the texture of the petals too. and how the pollen inside the flower is tucked away like a secret.

Sadly peonies don’t last very long but they brightened up my day whenever I caught sight of them or picked up the scent. Sometimes you really do just need to stop and smell the roses, as life would be a lot less beautiful without them.

Springtime Park Visit

Things have changed a lot here in London over the last few weeks as I’m sure it has around the world. Before they did though I did spend a few days out and about. One sunny day I spent in a local park, taking in the blossoming trees and interacting with the wildlife, just as Spring was beginning to spring.

The sky was bright blue and the clouds were light and fluffy creating great reflections on the lake.

As I walked through the park I spotted lots of flowers already blooming or that had been planted to bring in some colour.

There was a smaller garden that I passed by which has a carved owl statue and some pretty gates. Nearby was a small stream where ducks and geese were soaking up the sunshine.

Further along were some huge vibrant green fields, the product of all the rain we’ve had recently. There were also lots of curious, friendly squirrels that were brave enough to come close enough for food. I eventually gave in and gave this cheeky little one some food I had in my bag, which it took straight out of my hand.

There were other little spots tucked away around the park which had some lovely flowers blooming too.

I enjoyed my walk around the park, always find it calming to be in nature and just to be able to switch off from the world for a while.

As things develop at a rapid and unsettling pace around the world, I hope you all are staying safe and well and that we all get through these unpredictable times. I pray that our loved ones are safe too and that this pandemic that has struck the world so suddenly disappears as quickly as it came.