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…

Oare Creek

The November sunshine is uncomfortably warm. The air is clear, the light bright and wind dead. The boats that line the narrow creek are a picture, most wrapped up for the winter. Redshanks and egrets forage on the mudflats; house sparrows in the pathside hips and haws along with blackbirds and reed buntings. On the…

Heybridge Basin and Northey Island

Brent geese form a tight flock in the pasture field next to the sea wall and small flocks fly in from the estuary. All are alert with heads up and much chuntering, then they are up in the air, perhaps because of a dog walker, only to circle in the strong northerly and return.  These…

Elmley Marshes

The pewter grey sky hangs heavy and deadens the afternoon light; on the long road to Kingshill farmhouse, lapwings are dotted everywhere on the endless flooded meadows, foraging at the edge of silver pools and occasionally displaying low over the ground. A flock of starlings hurries across a distant horizon, no doubt mindful that this…

The Dart Estuary

The Dart Estuary is a sinuous flooded valley, lined with ancient oak woodlands that run down to, and hang over, the water. The influence of the Atlantic creates a damp, dark understorey of holly, birch and butcher’s broom with a ground flora rich in ferns and mosses. Between Dartmouth and Totnes, there are a handful of villages…

Curlew River

On a clear and crisp Sunday morning in the churchyard at Teynham, muffled sounds of singing escape the thick, flint walls of the old church. In the treetops and overhead, fieldfares laugh their pagan cackle; redwings rustle deep within the heart of berry-laden holly trees; immigrant blackbirds pink pink and a local robin ticks from the ivy-covered boundary…

Cliffe Marshes

The north easterly blows hard across the water of the flooded clay pit and whips the waves into a choppy mess. The sun is surprisingly warm out of the wind and insects work the few flowers, all of them yellow; including bristly ox-tongue that swamps every patch of waste ground and yellow-wort that peppers the…

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 countryside…