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 theContinue reading “Ashdown Forest in late June”

A Gloomy Place

Gills Lap on Ashdown Forest is beaten with rain and low cloud hugs the hills; the ground is black, waterlogged and cold.  There is no wintering great grey shrike sitting high on a lookout, just a handful of fieldfares laughing in its place then drifting across the heath.  A passing peregrine sends the chaffinches into aContinue reading “A Gloomy Place”

Ash Ranges

The firing range and military training ground near Pirbright is the largest patch of heathland remaining in Surrey and under a heavy mist in late May it is not the usual tinderbox of summer. Today, a perimeter fence bars entry except on days when the red flags are not hoisted up the white-painted poles. NearlyContinue reading “Ash Ranges”

May songs and shades

In early May, the dew-drenched mornings are song-filled; the winter silence is drowned by a competition of attraction, much heavy dissuasion and possibly a little distraction.  On a patch of long abandoned heathland, linnets sit atop tall brambles and spin out a breathless jingle; warblers scratch and whistle from the spring green birches. Male songContinue reading “May songs and shades”

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”