A new heritage and arts complex in Plymouth, Devon, due to be opened next spring, will include a collection of 19th-century restored wooden figureheads from British naval warships, reports The Guardian.

The 14 figureheads, some of which were so badly water-damaged that their insides had turned into a soggy mulch, are to be suspended from the ceiling of The Box gallery and museum.

They include a two tonne, 4 metre-high (13ft) figure of William IV carved in Devonport, Plymouth in 1833, that once stood at the prow of the ship HMS Royal William, and a depiction of a bearded river god inspired by the River Tamar, the traditional border between Devon and Cornwall.

Three specialist conservation teams in Devon, Cornwall and London, led by Orbis Conservation, have spent more than two years restoring the figureheads.

Maxwell Malden, the organisation’s co-founder and director said: “In terms of scale and complexity, this project has been one of the most challenging that the team has ever encountered… Our analysis of both the surface paint layers and the structural integrity of the figureheads allowed us to develop a treatment methodology that saved the original carved surface and the figurehead itself.  Throughout this project we have uncovered the previously obscured craftsmanship and virtuoso carving of these formidable figures, which otherwise might have been lost to future generations.”

There is an interesting new role for actor Andy Serkis, who provided the motion capture movements and voice for the CGI character Sméagol / Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films, says The Guardian,

A short animated film aimed at highlighting the damaging impact of addiction to wet wipes and calling for the public to dispose of them responsibly, stars Serkis as a talking anus!

The new campaign attempts to warn us against flushing wet wipes down the toilet, and points out that the “fatbergs” clogging up city sewers actually consist of just 0.5% fat and 93% wet wipes.

“All across the news we are seeing people take a stand to look after our planet. It’s only one tiny change we can all make which goes a long way in protecting our oceans,” said Andy.

According to a new survey, 1880 was a very good year for Brits.

The Independent takes a look at a study carried out by researchers at the University of Warwick which suggests we really were happier in the “good old days”.

“It’s difficult to say why, because there’s a lot of things that have changed since the 1880s,” said one of the authors of the study, Professor Thomas Hills.“The number of women writing for example, the different styles and the changes in language.  The people that were writing then would have probably been rich and educated, and life might have been like a basket of cherries for those people. It’s the age of empire for Britain, it’s very proud of itself and that might be reflected in the writing as well.”

An article in The Independent warns that sightings have been made on beaches all over Cornwall, including Penzance, Widemouth Bay near Bude and Praa Sands of what the paper describes as ‘venomous’ Portuguese man-of-war creatures, often mistaken for jellyfish.

Apparently Portuguese man-of-war can vary greatly in size – particularly in the length of their poisonous tendrils which can reach 165 feet below the air filled sack which keeps the main body of the animal floating on or near the surface of the water.  These poisonous strands are used to paralyse and kill fish and other small animals.

The good news is that for humans a sting from a man-of-war is usually very painful, but rarely deadly.

The BBC informs us that the water level of Loch Vaa, near Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands dropped to its lowest in at least 750 years in May this year.

Archaeologists were asked to check for any impact on a crannog, an ancient fortified settlement, in the loch after it began mysteriously losing water since September last year.

Just below the water’s surface they found pieces of the wood that had survived since the 13th Century.

The water level has since returned to normal and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency suggested the loch had suffered due to a “relatively dry” winter.

Reference list

  • The BBC
  • The Guardian
  • The Independent