Autumn at Chalk Cottage

The sun is out at lunchtime lighting up the hedgerows; the autumn insects are feeding on the abundant ivy and there is a surprising diversity of wasps, flies and hoverflies. In the evening, the lanes are in deep shadow but the sun hangs bright low over the downs until a huge grey cloud inches across…

By Tom Loft’s Wood

The walk from Great Buckland runs across a wide valley called the Bowling Alley up through vineyards and chalk grasslands with a view of the ancient woodlands that make up part of Rochester Forest, past a mob of rooks and jackdaws that sit in the top of Tom Loft’s Wood and descend to forage in…

Corn buntings and the barley harvest

On the downs between Wilmington and Hextable, a small population of perhaps five or more pairs of corn buntings nest in the barley fields and feed in the boundaries and weedy fallow fields; strips of which are periodically turned into immaculately tilled and planted rows of spring onions and garlic. Males sit on the barley…

The barley field

The back garden runs round a small section of a large field of barley. The crop this year looks in perfect condition after the wet spring and hot dry summer. The cow parsley has come and gone and now hemlock, poppies and common mallow with tussocks of false oat-grass provide a backdrop to the vegetable…

Conserving Crookhorn Wood

To the west of the Medway gap in Kent, an untidy patchwork of woodlands between Cuxton and Trottiscliffe covers the steep, downland slopes and plateaus; much is designated as one large Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and select parts as one half of the North Downs Woodlands Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The latter…

Spring butterflies

The early butterflies are nearly all widespread species including orange tips, brimstones and ‘cabbage whites’, the exception in southern England is the Duke of Burgundy fritillary and the nearest colony is near Canterbury. Peacocks and small tortoiseshells are also out and both common this year. The hedge garlic and lady’s smock are the host plant…

Early Spring woodland flowers

Spring in the ancient oak, ash, beech and hornbeam woodlands of the North Downs is announced by wood anemones, sweet violets and celandine but quickly followed by a flurry of others. Moschatel, colloquially known as townhall clock or five-faced bishop is a diminutive and uncommon plant found in small colonies amongst the much showier swathes…

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 then…

September’s Flowers of the Chalk

2nd September 2018 There is not a cloud all day and the evening is blue and clear; the low sun blinds the walk west and cuts cool shadows behind great beeches and bushes in equal measure.  The green turf is a dulled, uniform olive and the swathes of bright yellow and pink flowers of summer…