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 dog…

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…

Hit and miss hairstreaks

The footpath into Hadleigh Country Park at the end of St Mary’s Road descends steeply into scrubby woodland. The path meets a wide grass ride that runs east through an avenue of elms. On a hot day in the late afternoon, the white-letter hairstreaks descend to nectar on the abundant bramble that remains in the…

South Downs Dawn

The dawn is cold and the east wind adds an edge. A corn bunting sings from a fence post and then flies its fat body on short wings with legs dangling low over the tall meadow to drop into a well-hidden nest of woven grass. A yellowhammer adds another familiar rhythm from the top of…

Rye Harbour heatwave

19th April The hot sun warms the sea air to a haze. The gulls, terns and avocets are a whirl of brilliant white under the clear blue sky and there is endless noise; it creates a confusing, bustling scene; birds are chasing and are chivied, others are building nests or displaying and mating in a frenzied flap….

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,…

Great Dixter

Great Dixter on a grey afternoon in May with rain threatening. The old manor sinks into the gentle hillside under steep-pitched roofs and tall chimneys; an Elizabethan galleon on a sea of meadows and woodlands that flow across this quiet corner of the Weald. The fields are full of buttercups and orchids but behind the high walls of neat-clipped yew Taxus baccata…

Bayham Abbey

Bayham Abbey is a fine example of 16th century destruction in an age of religious intolerance, grotesque public execution and profiteering. Today, it is a quiet place of crumbling sandstone set amongst beautiful and ancient trees at the base of a valley. The ruins sit next to an assortment of more recent buildings built by various belted earls, including…