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 the…

Ashdown Forest

The electric fencing below Gills Lap holds in a handful of Exmoor ponies that have heads deep in great gorse bushes; their mouths are wide and blunt, toughened to browse the rough grasses, rushes and even the spiky gorse. They are in immaculate health in their thick tan brown and white coats and gold-flecked dark…

A Gloomy Place

Gills Lap on Ashdown Forest is beaten with rain and low cloud hugs the hills; the ground is black, waterlogged and cold.  There is no wintering great grey shrike sitting high on a lookout, just a handful of fieldfares laughing in its place then drifting across the heath.  A passing peregrine sends the chaffinches into a…

Early Spring Days

At the bottom of the slope in Hilly Wood, the cyclamen-flowered daffodils are specks of mustard yellow above avocado green leaves; the carpet spreads between the bare, silver birch coppice under a dull pearl sky. Below, the streamside alders are knobbly, like varicosed legs, and two trunks enjoy a prolonged, puckered kiss. In the pale sunshine at Bough Beech,…