Adders on the meadow

There are just a handful of traditional lowland hay meadows left in Southern England. On a land use map of Kent, Marden Meadow looks like a short line of postage stamps stuck on a large, white envelope; a remnant from a time when the only implements to work the land were scythes, carts and barrowsContinue reading “Adders on the meadow”

February light

In early February, the cherry plum throws out the first blossom in random bursts of dazzling white along the dark lanes. At Bough Beech in late February, a pair of Egyptian geese have a brood of young goslings that are paraded along the edge of the concrete dam. Garden birds are foraging intently at theContinue reading “February light”

Devil’s bit

The early September colours across the downland slope are golden brown. The devil’s bit scabious is out in brilliant blue; the small pincushion flowers on slender stalks light the dying sward. A spider hides beneath a flower head and waits; a solitary bee lands and busily works the florets; the spider climbs up and thenContinue reading “Devil’s bit”

Park Gate Down’s orchid collection

Chalk and limestone landscapes in southern Britain today are predominantly huge, hedgeless fields of intensively farmed arable crops. Turning the turf with a plough in order to feed the country during the Second World War was the end of the last great expanses of species rich lowland grassland. Many of the UK’s 56 orchid speciesContinue reading “Park Gate Down’s orchid collection”

Autumn Arrivals at Bough Beech

The woodland-fringed wetland north of the causeway is drained down by the end of the long dry summer and migrating waders feed in the shallows.  Green sandpipers are expected, a wayward black-tailed godwit less so.  The best is a grey phalarope, which is in winter plumage with elegant steel-grey feathers that appear at a distanceContinue reading “Autumn Arrivals at Bough Beech”

Fackenden in July

Six hobbies hunt insects across the long slope of the down under grey clouds on a warm, humid evening. A sparrowhawk rushes to the woodland with hurried flaps and glides and the evening turns to a quiet dusk. A male yellowhammer sits on the top of the bushes and rattles.  A female dashes up fromContinue reading “Fackenden in July”

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 theContinue reading “Fackenden Views”

Winter Sun

Oare Marshes, North Kent, December 14th 2016 The sun shines low in the sky and the few high clouds pay scant attention to the stretched blue canvas. The wind warms from the south, and the drying day is a break from the blanket of brooding drizzle. The familiar view of church and brewery in distant Faversham sitsContinue reading “Winter Sun”

Bonaparte’s Gull at Oare Marshes

14th July 2016 Bonaparte’s Gull Chroicocephalus philadelphia, as its scientific name testifies, is a North American species, and as ubiquitous as the similar black-headed gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus is here in Western Europe. A single Bonaparte’s turns up at Oare Marshes, and immediately the record is run out as an alert online; rarity is prized by many and, like many stormblown ‘Yankees’, theContinue reading “Bonaparte’s Gull at Oare Marshes”