Estuary Life in The Mudlark

Estuary Life in The Mudlark

by MLP

by MLP


A preview of my forthcoming book, Estuary Life, is available in the Mudlark Magazine this month.

This is an excellent magazine produced by the Medway and Swale Estuary Partnership

Download a copy of the magazine here:

or read an extract below.


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Book Review – The Old Ways, Robert Macfarlane

Book Review – The Old Ways, Robert Macfarlane

The Old Ways

The Old Ways – Robert Macfarlane

The jury is still out on Mr Macfarlane. Despite being lauded as one of the best nature writers of his generation, then I find it hard to fall in love with his style of writing.

I feel I should rate him, after, all Roger Deakin thought so highly of him he made him his literary executor and I applaud the way in which he has raised the profile of my much maligned home county of Essex, praising the desolate beauty of its coastline and the iconic Englishness of it’s seaside resorts, but, unlike Roger Deakin, Macfarlane’s writing just seems to lack the human touch or possibly a sense of humour, it is all so very, very clever and earnest.

Walking the Old Ways with him, while reading his book, felt, at times, a hard slog. Wading through a treacle of endless metaphor’s, scrabbling through geological terms. The fact that the book needs a 9 page glossary to help you understand it, says it all. It seems that, at times, Robert Macfarlane looses his way. Is he an academic or a literary writer? and , if he is a such a great writer, why does it feel as if he is trying so very hard to impress us with his knowledge? At times it just seems as if he is trying too hard, when he loosens up towards the end of the book he gets so much better.

I loved his stories of seeing a panther on the road at night after a long days walking in the snow or his experiences of ghostly presences at Chanctonbury Ring. He retold these events with admirably little fanfare and a dryness of style which made them believable and left you wanting more. Where this book really seemed to excel was when Macfarlane forgot himself and told the stories of others, particularly his account of the war experiences of Edward Thomas, then I became lost in the story and the writing, no longer fighting through cleverness but immersed in the landscape and the life of another.

The Old Ways has been praised to the hilt by many and was a surprise top ten bestseller. If you are at all interested in nature writing then it is a book to read just make sure you are prepared for some heavy walking.

Sentence too low for gamekeeper

A gamekeeper found guilty of killing 10 buzzards and a sparrowhawk with pesticide has received a 10 week suspended sentence and ordered to pay £930 in costs. Why suspended? To my mind it sends out the message that wildlife crime is not real crime. If the grim haul found at his farm is anything to go by then this man was probably responsible for the deaths of hundreds of creatures.

However, Judge Peter Veits it seems, is also frustrated that the law does not allow for prosecution of the landowners as well as the gamekeepers.

In sentencing he said, “Those who employ gamekeepers have a strict duty to know what is being done in their name and on their property. They also have a duty to ensure that their gamekeepers are properly trained and capable of keeping abreast of the complex laws relating to the use of poisons.

“In other industries, employers as well as the employee could be facing prosecution in such cases and I hope therefore that this case can serve as a wakeup call to all who run estates as to their duties.” He added, “It is clear that the buzzard population in Norfolk is increasing and this is something to be applauded and not seen an inconvenience by those who choose to run shoots.”

It seems that only when landowners and gamekeepers are handed sentences which truly act as punishment will the rogue elements of the shooting community take these offences seriously.

Chicken Livered

A hen harrier painted by on the blockhouse at Shellness by an unknown artist, possibly in response to the persecution of hen harriers in Britain.

A hen harrier painted by an unknown artist on the blockhouse at Shellness, Isle of Sheppey in Kent , possibly in response to the persecution of hen harriers in Britain.

An article in BBC Wildlife Magazine set my blood boiling this week. (October 2014) A plan is being drawn up to remove eggs from the nests of hen harriers, one of our rarest breeding birds, to hatch them in an aviary and release the birds in places that are considered acceptable for them to live.

Acceptable for who? Not the birds, not the million plus members of the RSPB. not the vast majority of the public, but acceptable for a tiny minority of extremely wealthy individuals who feel that they cannot live alongside a predator which takes a few red grouse as these are the exclusive preserve of a few fat cat city boys who pay vast sums to swan around the countryside, pretending to be country gentlemen, and shooting them.

There are only 3 pairs of breeding hen harriers in England but this is three too many for the owners of the grouse moors who have spent years persecuting these birds, shooting, poisoning and, in one case, nailing a live hen harrier to the door. It’s not only hen harriers that have suffered at the hands of these criminals but other wildlife. Red Kites, thriving in other parts of the country, have never recovered in the north of England or Scotland where the vast majority of grouse moors are. In Spring 2014 16 red kites were found dead next to a poisoned carcass put out to kill predators.

And yet, even if caught, the people who break the law are rarely given jail sentences, personally I would like to see owners of grouse moors who turn a blind eye or encourage this behaviour from their gamekeepers have their shooting rights for their estates removed. After all, why should they financially benefit from crimes that they allow to continue?

Yet, it seems, in 21st century Britain, conservation groups bend over backwards to appease these people. Working with landowners to benefit conservation is to be applauded but not when it removes a bird, which is desperately struggling to survive in this country, from the habitat it needs.

Thankfully the RSPB have yet to back this plan and let’s hope they never do. If we can’t live alongside a bird as benign to the majority of people in this country as the hen harrier then how can we ask other countries to live alongside top predators? What message are we sending out? That Britain is a country of wildlife lovers as long as the wildlife stays were we choose to put it?