Saturday, 16 June 2012

Peacocks and Tortoises.

My last post concerning the 60th anniversary of Holland Park had at least one glaring omission. I failed to mention the park’s most distinguished residents. You can often hear them before you see them. Sometimes you see them watching from the tops of walls, or roosting in the trees but more often you see them strutting around as if they own the place, which in a manner of speaking, they do!

I suspect that there have been peafowl  living here since the earliest days of the estate. They have always been valued for their decorative qualities, as well as occasionally ending up on the dinner table. Originating in India, it has been suggested that they were brought to Europe by Alexander the Great. Who knows, but what is certain is that they were to be seen on the great estates well before the Tudor period.

There have been other exotic birds in the park. A few years ago we had crowned cranes, an emu and even a very bolshie turkey, who huffed and puffed around, inflating his wattles and flushing from an almost blue white to bright red in an effort to show  that he was the top bird around there! Sadly, all of those are long gone, leaving the peacocks to rule the roost, but let’s face it, if you want a living breathing show of colour and arrogance, a peacock is hard to beat. You just have to love them!

Something that had passed me by until quite recently is the fact that the offspring of a peacock and a peahen is known as a peachick. Logical if you think about it, but funny all the same!

However, there is something else lurking in a far corner of the park. A little off the beaten track and probably missed by the majority of park visitors there are a pair of giant tortoises. Admittedly, they are cast in bronze rather than living flesh, but they are no less impressive for that. Created as part of a giant sundial titled Tortoises with Triangle and Time (2000), they were sculpted by Wendy Taylor (who is also responsible for Timepiece, the sundial by Tower Bridge) and were commissioned to mark the new millenium. You will find them on the western edge of the park, adjacent to Abbotsbury Rd.

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