Moving with the Tide

At dawn, the tide is out and the birds are dispersed across the wide mudflats that stretch north from Shellness past Leysdown-on-Sea to Warden Point. This is some 5 square kilometres of sands filled with worms and molluscs. There are perhaps a 1,000 birds out there; mostly black-headed gulls, oystercatchers and black-tailed godwits with smallerContinue reading “Moving with the Tide”

Hatfield Forest’s fritillaries

The little, flint church at Bush End was built in the 1850s; a medieval pastiche that has aged well under magnificent trees full of noisy jackdaws. The church was constructed at the edge of the perfectly preserved Royal Hunting Forest established nearly a thousand years ago. Hatfield Forest is part ancient wood pasture and partContinue reading “Hatfield Forest’s fritillaries”

Corn buntings and the barley harvest

On the downs between Wilmington and Hextable, a small population of perhaps five or more pairs of corn buntings nest in the barley fields and feed in the boundaries and weedy fallow fields; strips of which are periodically turned into immaculately tilled and planted rows of spring onions and garlic. Males sit on the barleyContinue reading “Corn buntings and the barley harvest”

The carnival of the insects

The weather has been grey-clouded with storms threatening but not fulfilling their promise, providing a steel backdrop to the downland. Fackenden Down is bone dry after a long dry summer and the flowers are going over fast; the butterflies are are no longer thick on the ground, just a single marbled white and a handfulContinue reading “The carnival of the insects”

Somewhere on the Downs above Postling

The downs are driven by a fierce westerly. The dry valleys built of soft Cretaceous chalk are a kaleidoscope of greens and yellows as the sun catches the grasslands and trees. Water is whipped from the eyes; ears deafened by the roar. From the crest of the escarpment there is a dim view of DungenessContinue reading “Somewhere on the Downs above Postling”

Knepp Estate’s Emperors and Empresses

A bridleway from the village of Shipley runs past a white wooden windmill that in the grey light of a grey dawn appears forbidding. The well worn path runs down over a slow-moving stream that is the River Adur, on between great old oak and ash trees to emerge on Countryman Lane; a quick dogContinue reading “Knepp Estate’s Emperors and Empresses”

Blooming Dungeness

On the bare shingle ridge, fishing boats are hauled up well above the highest tides. The stark shapes puncture the smooth lines of the foreland. Inland and the first vegetation is sea kale, yellow horned-poppy and prostrate broom. Further inland and the vegetation is more established in increasingly large patches and swathes; there is aContinue reading “Blooming Dungeness”

Admirals and damsels

Dene Park to the north of Tonbridge is a good place to find woodland butterflies; in late June the purple emperors and hairstreaks should be flying but always seem difficult to find. On a cloudless evening and then again on a sunny morning, there is just a glimpse of a hairstreak in an oak withContinue reading “Admirals and damsels”

Ashdown Forest in late June

First light exposes the tall pines on the ridge; dawn is warm with no mist in the valleys that run down off the high heathland plateau or dew drenching the purple moor grass, heather and bracken. Midsummer arrives to the sound of churring nightjars and fluting song thrushes. A cock pheasant is caught in theContinue reading “Ashdown Forest in late June”