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The nautilus (Nautilus pompilius) is a remarkable creature that is regarded as a “living fossil” because it closely resembles animals that lived in the oceans between 400 and 65 million years ago. Six species of nautilus have survived to the present day, with that in the photo living in the western Pacific Ocean and in […] More

Box jellyfish

You would not want to get too close to a box jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri). It is thought to be one of the most venomous creatures to exist in the oceans and it can kill a person in only a few minutes. Fortunately for most of us, it is mainly confined to waters to the north […] More

Wild liquorice

Wild liquorice (Astragalus glycyphyllos )has the alternative name of milk-vetch, from the former commonly held belief that goats that ate the plant would yield more milk. It grows in scattered location in Great Britain, in rough grassy places on chalk and limestone, but is absent from Ireland. It is a temperate plant that is also […] More

Alfred Stevens – a largely forgotten Victorian artist

Alfred George Stevens, Victorian painter and sculptor, might have been far better known if he had managed to be more skillful as a businessman. He must go down as a failed genius because of his inability to finish much of his work, this being due largely to the exacting standards that he set for himself.  […] More


When the Great Exhibition was staged in London’s Hyde Park in 1851, the enormous glass pavilion, which became known as the Crystal Palace, enclosed several large trees. These were home to a large number of sparrows and other small birds that caused a nuisance as they flew about and deposited their droppings. Before the exhibition […] More

Could a giant ship sink a ship?

In 2003 Olivier de Kersauson was skipper of a 34-metre trimaran sailing across the Atlantic when it suddenly came to a juddering halt. When he looked through a porthole he saw a massive tentacle, thicker than a human leg, wrapping itself round the boat’s rudder. Fortunately, the owner of the tentacle soon thought better of […] More

The Battle of Marathon

The Battle of Marathon took place in August or September 490 BC, the combatants being the city-state of Athens and the Persian Empire under King Darius. The details are quite well known thanks to the Greek historian Herodotus, although the battle happened several years before he was born. That said, the reason why the battle […] More

The memorial to Sir Arthur Sullivan

Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900) was the composer half of “Gilbert and Sullivan” who wrote a series of comic operas in the late 19thcentury that have been performed to great acclaim ever since. Sullivan was also a composer of note in other fields, particularly choral church music. His best-known contribution in this genre was probably the […] More

Shore lark

The shore lark (Eremophila alpestris) breeds in the high Arctic but moves south in the winter, which is when it can be seen on the east coast of England between October/November and March. Other populations are found in south-east Europe, Asia and North America.  At 14-17 cm (7 inches) the shore lark is smaller than […] More

Crossbow pages

In medieval times it was common for aristocrats to employ boys as young as seven in their households. These were often the sons of other nobles, and the practice of passing one’s son on to a neighbouring lord would be a means of establishing friendly relationships or maybe of discharging a debt. The boys would […] More