Nature Writing Workshop

Anthony Albright

Anthony Albright

I’ve just confirmed I will be running a nature writing workshop on Saturday 12th October from 10am – 1.00pm leaving from the Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory in Sandwich, Kent. This workshop is run as part of the Wild Sites on your doorstep project which is all about enjoying the wild sites close to where you live and using photography, art and writing to explore your responses to them. During the nature writing workshop we will take a walk through the beautiful and atmospheric landscape of the dunes and coast around Sandwich and learn the principles of writing vivid prose about the natural world. For more information visit

Butterfly sex

By nottsexminer (Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly  Uploaded by Fæ)

By nottsexminer (Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly Uploaded by Fæ)

Hurrah, I have finally managed 10 different species of butterfly in my garden, the last being a small tortoiseshell which floated past my buddleia before rejecting it out of hand and hurrying over the fence to next door. Still, no matter, it counts.

Also had some rampant butterfly sex taking place among the ornamental grasses between an aging and very ragged large white and her sprightly lover who performed a little flittering, pirouette dance before her while she graciously lifted her abdomen. He soon scarpered but she hung around for a while, thinking the whole thing over, no doubt.

The list of butterflies now reads thus;

large white, green veined white, holly blue, meadow brown, gatekeeper, painted lady, peacock, Essex skipper, comma, small tortoiseshell

What has been flying through your garden lately?

On Chislet Marshes

by Sergey Yeliseev

by Sergey Yeliseev

Hobbies hunting on Chislet Marshes yesterday, catching the dragonflies who hawk the ditches. I walked across the heat seared wasteland of intensive wheat fields carrying out a ditch survey but came to a halt as two battled overhead, one with a prize in its claws the other, so it seemed to me, not too proud to mob or was this a late courting pair? If so there was no love lost as they swooped down on each other claws abreast.  The intruder seen off, the remaining hobby returned to its patrol all dark shimmer and moustaches and so falcon fast as it cut down after its prey making me catch my breath with the thrill of its speed. What can I do? What can I do? What can I do? to make sure these birds continue to hunt the Chislet Marshes, yes so others can see them but more for the mere fact of falcon existence even if no one sees them. Does my little world of ditch improvements really make a difference against all the greed and destruction wielded by business and politicians?

Pond Dipping

Went pond dipping in the garden and came up with a newtlet. I was delighted but my Lithuanian housemate looked sceptical.

“What is a newt?” she asked peering into the murk of the pond.

“Like a small dragon,” I explained. “A small swimming dragon.”

She looked unconvinced. “Why don’t you get some goldfish?”

I will make a naturalist of her yet.

Book Review – Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

booksIn Cold Comfort Farm, the indomitable Flora Poste, finding herself an orphan, decides to offer herself as a guest to her distant relatives at Cold Comfort Farm in the hope that they will feed and house her. In deepest Sussex she finds a family of superstitious, rural misfits, ruled by the mysterious Aunt Ada Doom, all of whom delight in their own gloomy passions and are ruled by the flowering of the ‘sukebind’ weed. Undaunted, Flora sets out to sweep all such nonsense away before her and rid the family of their overly dramatic notions and appalling sense of style by applying her own brand of level-headed, ‘modern’ common sense.

Flora Poste is an exquisite heroine, a strong, sensible, woman; independent, stylish and able to reveal a softer, feminine side without loosing any of her own character. The book is light, funny, clever and knowing, being a parody of the many doom laden stories of rural life by authors such as D H Lawrence, the Bronte sisters and Thomas Hardy. The unexpected twist at the ending is a delight and ensures that the final character set on ‘the right path’ by Flora is indeed herself

A recipe for cherry season

imagesDown in the cherry orchard there is such a bonanza of fruit that I hardly know where to begin. After all, even I can only gorge myself on so many cherries and just what is going on with the price of brandy? Unless someone quickly tells me how to create a still in the garden shed then Donaldson’s cherry brandy factory will be creating only limited supplies this year. So what is a girl to do with too many cherries and a desire to make alcohol? Thankfully I have found the following recipe for cherry ale.

Cherry Ale

3 pounds of  cherries (stoned)

pints of boiling water

2 pounds of granulated sugar

1/4 oz of bakers yeast

put the stoned fruit into a bowl and crush thoroughly with a wooden spoon.

crush a couple of stones and add them too.

pour boiling water over the fruit, cover with a cloth and leave for four days, stirring daily.

strain the liquid through a cloth, add the sugar and gently heat.

If your saucepan isn’t big enough then dissolve the sugar into a bit of liquid and tip this into the remainder.

leave to cool then pour into a fermentation jar (demi-john) till the 3/4 mark.

Sprinkle the yeast in, fit an airlock and leave until fermentation ceases.

siphon into strong bottles, cork.

The beer can be kept for three years.

How not to tackle a barn owl


looking happier than the barn owl
credit – Jenny Cotterill

Rugby tackled a barn owl to the floor last week, she rolled on her back, firing her claws at me, clicking her beak.  I grabbed her ankles and pinned her wings to her sides, coming out of the encounter better than my volunteer Chris who had come a cropper with her mate and now had blood running down his hand.


injured but undaunted, volunteer Chris Bailes

Most boxes this year have been full of stock doves much to the dismay of one of our most colourful landowners who had watched in growing agitation as we carefully placed a ring around the chicks legs.

“I don’t want bally stock doves,” he protested. “Don’t ring its leg, ring its neck!”

That wasn’t about to happen, but the stock doves are a problem, seemingly evicting the owls and, like the worst squatters, re-decorating the interior of their homes with unsightly piles of twigs upon which no barn owl wants to sit.

The feisty owls we caught last week are sitting on three eggs, offering a little hope for the future.