Country Life Today: Planting a tree? Leave that to me, says The Queen, aged 93

The Queen shows she's still capable of wielding a spade, why gorillas throw parties, bad news for Britain's most famous alpaca and why the government is acting like Dad's Army on climate change.

‘I’m still perfectly capable of planting a tree’

She may be 93, but Her Majesty is still perfectly capable of doing a spot of gardening — and she made a point of showing it on Tuesday, during a visit to the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridgeshire. When the NIAB’s chairman Jim Godfrey stepped in to plant a sapling on her behalf, Her Majesty put him straight: ‘No, no,’ she said. ‘I’m still perfectly capable of planting a tree.’

HM Queen Elizabeth II plants a tree during a visit to the NIAB, (National Institute of Agricultural Botany) on July 9, 2019 in Cambridge. Credit: Chris Jackson/Getty

HM Queen Elizabeth II plants a tree during a visit to the NIAB, (National Institute of Agricultural Botany) on July 9, 2019 in Cambridge. Credit: Chris Jackson/Getty

‘As she strode over to the sapling, already half-planted on the lawn, she showed she meant business by giving her black Launer handbag to a lady-in-waiting,’ reports The Evening Standard.

‘Once said tree was officially planted, she even leant on the spade like an allotment pro before her equerry Major Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah discreetly spirited away the implement.’

Full story (Evening Standard)


How not to get bitten by mosquitoes

It seems that every year we get more and more mosquitoes in Britain – perhaps it’s the hot, wet weather so far this summer. Anyway, the Telegraph has some tips on how not to get bitten that are worth a look if you’re one of those people that these nasty little bugs target.

Full story (Daily Telegraph)


Britain’s ‘most celebrated alpaca’ loses fight against death sentence

The Times reports on the impending fate of Geronimo, who now seems certain to be slaughtered having twice tested positive for bovine tuberculosis. His owner, Helen Macdonald, claims that the tests were false positives based on faulty tests, and insists that DEFRA is ‘relying doggedly on flawed science.’

The High Court has now ruled in favour of DEFRA, however: ‘The judge acknowledged that the government accepted that ‘it is possible that Ms Macdonald is correct that the… test results are false positives… Nonetheless, the two positive results provide strong evidence, to a high degree of certainty, that he is so infected.’

Full story (The Times — subscription required)


On This Day in 1553: Lady Jane Grey becomes queen

Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days' Queen, reigned from the deth of Edward VI on 10 July until 19 July 1553 when she was deposed in favour of Queen Mary.

Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days’ Queen, reigned from the deth of Edward VI on 10 July until 19 July 1553 when she was deposed in favour of Queen Mary.

We’ll check back in nine days time for a new ‘On This Day’ about how she was removed again.

Read more (Britannica)


British government ‘acting like Dad’s Army’ over climate change

‘Right then, men — it’s time to cut our CO2 emissions!’

Several high-profile members of the Committee on Climate Change have accused the government of dragging their heels over climate change. Baroness Brown, the CCC’s deputy chair, told the BBC that ‘there’s an increasing sense of frustration that the government knows what it has to do – but it’s just not doing it.’

But the pithiest quote came from committee chairman Lord Deben, the former agriculture minister John Gummer: ‘The whole thing is really run by the government like a Dad’s Army. We can’t go on with this ramshackle system.’

Read more (BBC) and then read Lord Deben’s article for Country Life on climate change


And finally… Why gorillas throw parties and cockatoos know how to dance

Mankind seems less and less exceptional every day. On Tuesday, an email arrived in my inbox with a video of a cockatoo who can dance to a beat — the first proven example of any animal except a human doing so:

And this morning Cambridge University unveils research about how gorillas throw parties to get together with old friends.

Dr Robin Morrison’s research — using information put together over decades — reveals all manner of hitherto-unreported intricacy within gorillas’ groups of family, extended family and friends.

A baby gorilla at Virunga National Park in Congo, the oldest national park in Africa.

A baby gorilla at Virunga National Park in Congo, the oldest national park in Africa.

Perhaps the most striking though is how they come back together once in a while to celebrate a sort of fruit festival, timed to coincide with the arrival of a particularly rare fruit crop somewhere within the region that they live. Different groups travel long distances to come together.

‘Our findings provide yet more evidence that these endangered animals are deeply intelligent and sophisticated,’ says Dr Morrison.

Full story (ITV)