Coppice and wood pasture

The coppice woodlands of west Kent are distinctive with their densely woven blanket of sweet chestnuts dotted with ‘mother’ oak trees. Birch and pine are also present and the autumn sunlight creates rich mosaics of greens, orange and yellows. Sweet chestnut coppice is managed on an approximate 15 year rotation and for the first few…

Blackwater tides

On a bright day the high tide has flooded the saltmarshes, the wind is quiet and the waterbirds wait for the water to drop; a black-headed gull finds the tip of a rock and claims it, waits and then finally drops on to the exposed causeway to Northey Island. Turnstones arrive and work the seaweed-covered…

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…

Postcard from Tollesbury

Tollesbury sits near the mouth of the Blackwater estuary and is famed for producing great sailors during the golden age of the America’s Cup, reputedly because the testing onshore winds and biting cold made for the right stuff. The dilapidated, wooden granary at the edge of Woodrolfe Creek is a tangible reminder of a time…

January in the Clavering Hundred

In the very west of Essex, on the arable fields above the small village of Manuden with its distinctive church spire that appears half buried in the hills, the dawn is quiet, clouded and cold; new red-roofed houses huddle together in the valley. Undaunted, a song thrush sings its distinctive double tap from the edge…

The Walls

The Stour Estuary is a long straight body of water barely contained in the low hills of the Essex and Suffolk border; the land appears to be gently sinking into the sea. There is a scattering of moored yachts in the centre of the inner estuary; dinghies or perhaps canoes are crudely sheeted and bound…

Heybridge Basin

16th July 2019 A warm July evening with a light breeze is made for a pint at the Old Ship overlooking the great expanse of water and mud that is the Blackwater Estuary. The pub sits at the of a pretty terrace of small fishermen’s houses and overlooks the sea lock that, at low tide,…

Winter woodland

Christmas Eve morning is layered with fog with a heavy dew dripping off the dead leaves. A solitary woodcock lifts from a muddy fallow. The wind is gone and the woodlands at Elsenham are alive with small birds: goldcrests chase through the low branches of a hazel laden with catkins, great tits call like bicycle…

Blackwater dawn

The dawn appears slowly in the still air turning the horizon from deepest blue to dirty magenta, then split by a thin slice of electric orange. The black saltmarsh emerges olive green; the water in the narrow channels and open estuary is lit like smoked glass, catching every reflection.  The sun rises and briefly turns…