This is Brownfield

Bakersfield, the brownfield site at the end of my road which was home to hedgehogs, little owls, nightingales, lizards, snakes and turtle doves have been destroyed. I tried to stop it, I couldn’t, but the fact that I tried, helps. Please watch this video and write to McCulloch Homes and Bioscan to condemn their actions.

A Good walk with Laurie Lee


Three friends set off on the trail

Laurie Lee immortalised the Slad Valley in Gloucestershire in his book, Cider with Rosie. Last weekend I followed the Laurie Lee Wildlife Way, a walking trail set up by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust to showcase the beauty of the valley.


poems-on-walkWaymarkers along the trail each include a poem by Laurie Lee about the landscape and greatly add to the pleasure of the walk.

There are beautiful views to be had across hills and woods but don’t forget to notice the small miracles at your feet.


Harebell and snail.









theres-always-oneAlong the way we enjoyed the entertainment.kiss-under-the-mistletoe

And got quite romantic under the mistletoe.








Before visiting the grave of Laurie Lee

and toasting his health in the Woolpack Inn.the-woolpack-inn-at-slad







To follow in the footsteps of Laurie Lee order a copy of the walk guide from Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust.











A Good Read – Fingers in the Sparkle Jar – Chris Packham

sparkle-jar-298x156Chris Packham’s memoir is a book about a lonely, troubled, isolated child who is at his happiest when he is out in the fields and woods discovering wildlife. A boy who is the freaky kid in school, probably a worry to his parents but who has far more potential than anyone else around him.

 If you were this kid, read this book. If you are the parents of a child who you suspect may just be this kid, read this book. If you expect a media friendly anecdote about a happy boy who came to be a television presenter, maybe stay clear.

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar is an unbelievably, bloody, brave book which it is hard to believe anyone with a public profile would have written. I suspect that if this had not been written by a ‘celebrity’ it wouldn’t have been published which says far more about the lack of bravery in publishing houses than it does about Chris’s ability to write as the book is very well written with beautiful descriptions of nature and brilliant observation of Britain in the 1970’s with all it’s hot, dusty and disconnected edge.

The book jumps around between times and perspectives but keeps it cohesion and the odd structure feels appropriate for the subject, sometimes you are in Chris’s head, sometimes you are observing him from someone else’s viewpoint. I think if you are deeply internalised then this is how you view the world.

This book resonated with me on so many levels. I frankly was that child or one very like it. It took me right back to being an isolated and bullied girl in a rough comprehensive and finding solace in nature books. It bought home the absolute necessity of being completely honest in your writing because only then can you reach out to others who feel the same way and give them something of real value.

This is a valuable book. It is a brave and important book. It makes me want to stand up and applaud this man and then possibly follow him around for the rest of his life and say ‘thank you.’

You reap what you sow




Reaper Binder Restoration Team

Spent this last weekend at my beloved College Lake near Tring in Hertfordshire where I was lucky enough to work under the inspirational warden Graham Atkins.


Graham was a lorry driver for a local aggregate firm who saw a hole in the ground and had the vision to imagine it as a nature reserve. It became so much more than that, a haven for wildlife but also for people who found a place where they were always valued and their work was always appreciated. view-from-the-new-bothy

Along the way Graham impregnated the place with individuality, quirkiness and sense of humour. Models of pigs sunbathed around ponds, chickens strutted beneath the plum trees, a Land Girl gazed in wonder at her  Ferguson tractor.

College Lake is now run by Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, you can still visit it but the quirkiness and humour have been replaced by ‘sensible’ interpretation and the faceless branding that has become the hallmark of conservation bodies marketing departments. Our landfill girl has been hidden in a shed in case she frightens small children and someone sues.

Still, I don’t go to College Lake for the Wildlife Trust, I go for Graham and I find him there still. In the old farm machinery he lovingly collected, in the plethora of hides and winding paths he planned and in those original volunteers who remember it as it was and struggle to keep Graham’s vision alive there.

kent-restoring-reaper-binderSo this weekend I painted a reaper binder with long term volunteer Ken Thompson. A reaper binder is the most marvellous piece of kit. To see one working is to appreciate how marvellously clever human ingenuity is. Hundreds of years of thought and improvements went into making this fantastic world of levers and springs and cogs that can cut a wheat field, order each blade, wrap them in string and spit them out the other end as a neatly bundled stook.

Painting this machine you get to appreciate every inch of it and feel the watching presence of the men that made and designed and worked with it. But the real magic comes when you see it working.









One of the happiest days of my life was cutting the wheat fields at College Lake with the reaper binder along with a gang of volunteers. To sit on top of this machine and see it work was a wonder. Afterwards we stacked the stooks onto a hay cart and, I seem to remember, ate fish and chips from the paper as the sun went down over the lake.

Ken on the reaper binder 001

Ken on the reaper binder

The reaper binder will probably never again cut the fields of College Lake. The Wildlife Trust does not have the appetite for such things and would no doubt swamp the whole enterprise in health and safety legislation. But Ken is a clever man and plans to rig the thing up so it can operate at a touch of a button and show a video from a far off time when the machine, the chickens and the volunteers were all allowed to roam free range across the fields.

The only place is Essex

Essex, home of fake tan, crazy eyelashes and X Factor contestants. A coastline blighted by industry and pylons. England’s national joke. If you think you know what Essex is all about think again. Essex is also unspoilt beauty, lonely coastlines, secret islands and a place where time and again people have been drawn to step away from the ills of modern life and try to forge a better world.




St Peter’s on the Wall, Bradwell

I spent the weekend at Othona at Bradwell on Sea on the Dengie Peninsula, working, eating and laughing alongside a great bunch of people from all over the world who had chosen to step aside from the modern world and enjoy a simpler, kinder, communal way of life for a few days.



Othona’s original accommodation used in the 1950’s


Things have got a bit more comfortable nowadays



A Wild Night


photo; Josh Bartel

Had a great day on Friday at the Salt Festival in Folkestone where I ran a guided walk for a lovely group of people around the Warren, got overly excited and ate too much wild food, shouted like Kenneth Branagh and got to interview Jay Griffith, author of Wild, an Elemental Journey about Marine Conservation Zones, the mystery of Nigel Farage and childhood memories.