For about 10 years this giant coniferous root ball at Steamer Point has made for an ever changing natural sculpture, organic art. It's currently going through a rather groovy period.
Friday, 2 June 2017
We've got some cool nature, man. I came across this female Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus) around the woodpile at the back garden this morning. Some months ago I'd seen a Stag Beetle larvae whilst moving some wood and hoped I'd not disturbed it, and I'm going to take this sighting as I hadn't. Nice.
Thursday, 1 June 2017
Warwickslade Cutting is another good example of the positive aspects of stream restoration in the New Forest. Ten years ago Warwickslade Cutting was a straight deep cut drain which ran for about a mile and a half, through woodland from Warwick Slade to the edge of Poundhill Enclosure, where it turned into another straight drain and fed into Highland Water. As with most of the drains, it was fairly sterile, bare gravel bed and sheer banks. Now look at it. The woodland has been opened up, the stream now shallower and meanders all over the woodland. And now, it's thriving, with a huge diversity of flora and insect calling it home.
Wednesday, 31 May 2017
Farmed land has its own charm, especially grassland, woodland field fringes, hedges and trackways. These areas are just so diverse, man, a riot of plant types all vying for their patch, forming communities and holding ground, amongst them more bugs fly, buzz, hop and crawl than I know the names for, while signs of wild mammals are everywhere, as are the sounds of birds above, even the fields who support monoculture crops are bounded by thick verdant hedgerow habit, alive with flora, fauna and bug. It's never a boring walk around the fields.
Tuesday, 30 May 2017
40 million years ago this sharks tooth was swimming around a vast lagoon, doing shark stuff. Since then it entered the geological matrix, ceaselessly moved through said matrix bound in a layer of compressed lagoon bed, then eroded from its ancient bed, it was carried by surface water until today this tiny 9mm tooth found it's way on to the beach and into my hand. Time's some crazy shit.
Sunday, 28 May 2017
Friday, 26 May 2017
The lower section of Black Water (from the ford at Vinney Ridge) and the whole extent of Fletchers Water from the Ornamental Drive to where it joins Highland Water, is the most extensively restored water course in the forest. Fletchers Water was previously one of the straightest sections of stream in the forest, bare gavel and scoured sides. Now though it winds and meanders, with it's environs showing increased biodiversity by the year. It's source is right up in the northern part of the forest around Stoney Cross, and changes it's name several times on it's journey (Bratley Water, Blackensford Brook, Black Water and finally Fletchers Water or Brook). It's possibly the longest stream in the forest, with many tributaries and subsequently carries a huge volume of water from an extensive area of the forest in the wet season. Just beyond Fletchers Thorns there has been a ford which has been impassible (even to wading) through most of the wet season (something you needed to factor in on any walk during that season, as when impassible it required a lengthy diversion), though since my last foray this way, a splendid new bridge has been built which alleviates that need. A nice sympathetic design too.
I've seen a fair few Slow Worms (Anguis fragilis) this year, most of them with their tales intact too! (they often will shed them to escape a predator) They're carnivorous lizards (not snakes, as many people think) living off worms, slugs and bugs, and can live up to 30 years in the wild. Weirdly, they appear stubby when stationary, though extend to double their size when on the move. It's nice to see them, and nice to know their number are on the increase, bucking the current trend for our county's wild species. This little one didn't appear too bothered by my interest, though I'm sure it was happy for me to bugger off.
Thursday, 25 May 2017
When a forest water course is restored to its pre-Victorian course, it's not just the stream and its banks which are positively affected. The slowing of the water leaving the forest has an effect on the streams environs. Here as a consequence of meanders being restored to a section of Black Water, and the subsequent changes in seasonal water retention, the environs are lush and verdant, where previously they were much less so. It's a real joy to wander off the path and follow the winding stream as passes through woodland like this, so alive and thriving. To stop and sit, immersing yourself in their verdance is spiritually reviving.
Wednesday, 24 May 2017
Monday, 22 May 2017
Sunday, 21 May 2017
An interesting sight as you walk along the Ebble Valley, is the Dovecote at Faulston House. The Dovecote is a large and imposing circular tower with a conical tiled roof, the construction of the tower is flint with dressed limestone bands, and there are all manner of interesting architectural features are represented; doorways half way up the tower, blocked windows and signs of extensive repair or remodelling in one area. It doesn't look as if dovecote was this buildings original purpose, and that's maybe as it wasn't. It's said to be the last of 4 towers which, along with walls and a moat (the last section of which was filled in the 1930's), protected the original Faulston Manor (now long gone). The manor of Faulston dates to the late 11th century, though the when the first house was built, I don't know. It appears though that by the late 14th century it had become a substantial estate and gained licence from the King to crenelate the manors walls. Like most of the manors of England it lived through history, turbulent times and interesting tevents, before it's demise; the house which lays adjacent to the tower today is a much more recent build. The tower is a really fascinating building, I'd love to take a closer look.
When you're out walking the byways and ancient tracks which criss-cross Cranborne Chase it's easy to lose yourself in the wonder of the landscape. No doubt the landscape has changed drastically over the last century, the industrialization of farming, societal changes, and all that. Though under the dappled shade of veteran trees, which line an ancient track, upon whose trunks a myriad of historical names and events are memorialised, the land appears timeless. It's a beautiful place, the Chase.
Friday, 19 May 2017
The chain on the gate into Rhinefields Sandys is still undone, so I took the opportunity for another explore. Rhinefields Sandys was enclosed maybe 15 years ago and surrounded by a 2.5m deer fence, in some forestry project or such. The first thing I noticed on entering the woods was the abundance of saplings and low hanging foliage, the woodland was so dense and verdant. Something that's increasingly rare in other areas of the forest exposed as they are to over grazing by deer and ponies.
Thursday, 18 May 2017
Oooh, that must smart! This slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) tried to remain all nonchalant as fiery Wood Ants (Formica rufa) climbed all over it, until one got on its nose. The Slow Worm didn't like that! Not acting so cool, it moved off at great speed. As you would. Wood Ants spit formic acid, one of the active chemicals found in Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica), and no one wants that up there nose.
Sunday, 14 May 2017
I mentioned a short while back that there had been some land management work along Red Rise Brook. Towards Markway Bridge a fair sized bank side Oak has been cut down and I couldn't see why, it's not out of context or anything. So I was pleased to see that although it had been cut down, it wasn't yet ready to bow out, and only a couple of weeks after felling the stump was bristling with eager shoots.
Thursday, 11 May 2017
Wednesday, 10 May 2017
Tuesday, 9 May 2017
Monday, 8 May 2017
Sunday, 7 May 2017
Tuesday, 2 May 2017
Monday, 1 May 2017
After a 2 hour drive in the rain, I sat in my car at the bottom of Glastonbury Tor. The rain was still running down the windscreen, it was 0450, and 50 minutes to sunrise. I first came to Glastonbury for Beltane sunrise in 1990 and have been coming every year since (except for the year foot and mouth closed the tor, and another year due to illness). It's become a tradition I hold dear. It's an occasion I usually end up attending alone, I have taken people before, and ask every year, though I think people are put off by the time and the prospect of an early morning climb, not to mention the frequent inclemency. The rain still ran down the windscreen as the clock struck 0500 and it was time to start making my way up the Tor. Miraculously as I left the car, the rain abated; over the years I've found it can often be the way. I like to see it as a sign. The rain may have faded, though the tor was still shrouded in damp mist. As I climbed, part of a long line of pilgrims snaking their way upwards, the ghostly form of the tower emerged. I got closer and could now smell incense wafting on the air, and hear drumming. Inside the tower folk were crammed, noisily welcoming in the morning, the Green Man and the May Queen. It was getting brighter and the tor filled with more celebrants. Periodically the mist would clear to reveal the patchwork of fields and drains which make up the levels, then just as quickly as they appeared they were gone, and we were returned to standing on an island in a misty sea. Most people had gathered to the north of the tower, small groups doing their thing, others just watching the horizon to the east. The combined morris of Cam Valley and Mendip were preparing to do their thing; I've seen them perform every year and in every weather condition...they are hardcore! About the same time as their accordion breathed life into their dance, a group of women began to sing Deep into the Earth. ''Deep into the earth I go, deep into the earth I know, deep into the earth I go, deep into the earth I know, hold my hand sister hold my hand, hold my hand sister hold my hand, hold my hand brother hold my hand, hold my hand brother hold my hand'', over and over. They began to form a circle and it soon incorporated more and more smiling people. A hand reached out for mine and I joined the now slowly moving line of people as they wove a labyrinth path around the hill top, still singing. I've been coming to these type of things for nearly 30 years, and still I find it hard to let go, I'm too inhibited, though today my inhibitions were brought down, first meekly, then with more vigour I joined in the song. As the sky brightened and the clouds began to part, the tor was alive with music and activity, it was beautiful and I remembered (as I always do) why I drive through the night to an often windy hilltop for May morn. The assembled cheered. Once freed there was no holding back the spring sun, who spread his light across our goddess the land, illuminating all. One of Rollo's druids blew a horn, people whooped and cheered, smiling they stood transfixed on the sight before them. The green's face says it all. What a wonderful morning. Beltane blessing to y'all, may the seeds of your dreams and desires fall on fertile ground.
Monday, 3 April 2017
I read good headlines about Goat Girl, but only the headlines, I made a point of not reading on, nor listening to any of their music. There's something exciting about seeing an unheard band for the first time, the possibilities. I wasn't to be disappointed, Goat Girl were fecking great! Blisteringly paced, short punchy numbers all delivered with energy and gusto, in an indie, garage style; a four piece from the smoke, with a good tight sound. I heard they were all still teenagers, which is mental, and bodes well for their future, as if they're this good already (and they really were) we can look forward to some proper good shit to come. Each band member was proficient in their art and all had their own unique style and delivery, which made them as much fun to watch as to listen to. The lead guitarist/vocals had a cool laid back and quirky style of delivery which drew both eye and ear, the drummer was intense, leaning into her kit, giving it a proper thrashing and pulling some top faces, again great for eye and ear, the bassist was solid and already had that air of stoic cool seen in seasoned bassists, I couldn't properly see the other guitarist (too far over) though she sounded good too. I really enjoyed their set, as did the rest of the audience. A nice surprise and certainly a band to keep an eye on.