Fowlmere

The chalk aquifer bursts to the surface at Fowlmere on the edge of a low escarpment of arable land to the south of Cambridge. The island of wet woodland, reedbed and chalk grassland is an RSPB nature reserve with wooden hides and winding boardwalk.  Here in the summer, small brown trout swim in the fast…

Ashdown Forest in February

The view at dawn from the high ridge near Gills Lap looks down over Eeyore’s gloomy place to rivers of mist that fill the Wealden clay valleys below. The land is quiet in February; a cock pheasant runs whilst crouching across the track muddied by winter clearance of swathes of old, leggy gorse. The gorse…

The Crouch Estuary at Wallasea Island

The Crouch Estuary is on the edge of a coastal wilderness of saltmarsh and muddy creeks. Hereabouts, the water and the wind run the schedules and the regiments of moored yachts must hustle, like cars on a crowded motorway, to win the battle for both on summer weekends.  Today at low tide, there is no…

A tale of two tails

Furnace Pond near Horsmonden was created by an old, dam with a high, cascading stone weir in the corner. The large pond provided a head of water to power an iron foundry in the days when the Weald was the centre of the industry. The stream below the weir is a short section of ghyll woodland; ghylls are relic…

Leiosoma troglodytes lives on

My old friend Adrian Fowles wrote recently from Ynys Môn after a week’s holiday (well, as a National Weevil Recorder it was a weevil hunt) on the downs and woodlands of East Kent, which included a day out together in the great swathe of woodlands at Denge near Chilham… The Denge weevil was indeed Leiosoma troglodytes, which…

Changing Hartnips Wood

In two weeks, the delicate, green and white, wood anemone carpet of early April has given way to a swathes of deep blue bluebells under a high shade of hornbeam. By mid-May the bluebells are fading; there is no further colourful succession, just the shade and silence of a summer woodland. Goldilocks buttercup, a tall but understated Ranunculus species,…

Postcard from the Suffolk Coast

On a fine day, the narrow, shingle edge that shelters the great reed bed in the wide valley between the villages of Dunwich and Walberswick is one of the great coastal walks. There is a distant view of Southwold to the north across the bay. To the south, beyond the pretty houses and abbey ruins of…

Fackenden Views

The cold air of mid April sweeps the down but the sun warms the sheltered pockets behind dense thickets of dogwood, hazel, hawthorn, blackthorn, bramble and whitebeam topped by fresh strands of clematis and honeysuckle. The whitebeam is coming into leaf and trees are lit with fat candles under the blue sky. Flowering plants are few in the…

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,…