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 edgeContinue reading “January in the Clavering Hundred”

L’ancien et le nouveau chez Bois Jarzeau

The hot weather of August produces great storms that travel from the west and on one day monumental clouds rise up over the hameau.   The hameau, like many hereabouts, is part old and part new as homes are created in the ancient limestone buildings. On the old well (le puits) at Bois Jarzeau there isContinue reading “L’ancien et le nouveau chez Bois Jarzeau”

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 gorseContinue reading “Ashdown Forest in February”

Karapinar and Ereğli Bird Surveys

The ongoing Turkey Breeding Bird Atlas project involves two visits, one in spring and a second in summer, to a chequer board sample of 50km-squares across the country within which records are kept of all bird species observed or heard during the course of a day. Within two 10-km squares, two 1-km squares are selected and aContinue reading “Karapinar and Ereğli Bird Surveys”

Rye Harbour and Camber Castle

The sun shines all day with lines of puffy clouds to the north; the wind blows steadily from the south. Walkers and an assortment of dogs crowd the tarmac path that runs from the car park by the small harbour along the straight channel that is the river Rother to the sea passing weather-beaten, oldContinue reading “Rye Harbour and Camber Castle”

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 ofContinue reading “Postcard from the Suffolk Coast”

Life and Death in Late Winter

The view from the old, stone castle or Ankara Kalesi stretches beyond the houses, tower blocks and mosques to the empty white mountains. The capital city has been exploding from a small town of some 50,000 in 1945 to a city of 5 million today. Young people continue to leave the harsh demands of the distant countrysideContinue reading “Life and Death in Late Winter”

Winter windfalls

Adrift in the North Downs, the small village of Eastling sleeps in the early morning sun. The great yews bury much of the churchyard in deep-frozen shade. A goldcrest briefly emerges from the dense needles in its hunt for tiny prey. Goldfinches sing their light, liquid trickle from high, hidden places. A chaffinch bursts into its plain, spring song butContinue reading “Winter windfalls”

On the Konya Plain

The ancient city of Konya, which sits at the southern end of the vast Central Anatolian plateau, has a rich history: visited by St Paul; the former capital of the Seljuk Turks; and home, in the 13th century, to the most famous Sufi poet, known simply as Rumi. In the old centre, a mosque has beenContinue reading “On the Konya Plain”