Abri d’art

The art of the gardens at Boisjarzeau in August are the dying borders of Allium, Rudbeckia, Gaura and Agapanthus and a host of others with forgotten names; tall sunflowers in orange and yellow, exuberant vegetable beds, laden fruit trees and raspberry canes, three blue beehives and four fat chickens in a run. The autumn golds…

The earth

Morning light mellows, cold mist flattens the hilltops. Fields of sunflowers the colours of the earth; a farmhouse built of white stone with rufous clay tiles and sea green shutters that are shut. Late evening light picks out a silver tractor harrowing a fallow field. The day closes on a closing day and the land…

The last empress

Yesterday, at the small stream below Boisjarzeau, the last empress sat in the morning sunshine with tattered wings outspread before feeding on a cluster of overripe blackberries; her great age could not mask her elegance; she soon flew and was quickly lost high in the trees. The final act in a long and rich summer,…

Agrimony, fleabane, purple loosestrife and water mint

The South Charente bakes then drowns in August. The hay meadows have been cut and collected and the Parthenais cattle have small calves. The flowers are restricted to wet ditches and damp corners except for the road and railsides. Many butterflies seek the water mint and the loosestrife; the coppers are often on the fleabane….

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 smaller…

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 part…

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 barley…

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 handful…

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 Dungeness…