Skies Black 3 – A poem by Ralph Connolly



photo by Ralph Connolly

Skies black

Moon old


 Flame light

Edge bright


 Shadows leap

 Quick the blade

Harsh the cry


Silver quick

Iron cold


 Fear, flight

 Moon light

Blood bright


 Branches lash, thorns flay

Hot the trail

Huntsman, Prey


 Onward and inward

Into the Wildwood

Deepwood, Darkwood


 Feet pound, flames fade

Cool dark stillness

Shadows engulf 


Wound mortal

Crimson flow

Thirsty the moss

Breath slows


 Life ebbs

Body cools

Deepwood, Wildwood

Dark embrace

A Good Read – Russell Brand – Revolution.

revolution-russell-brandRevolution – Russell Brand

Russell Brand? Never gave him much thought until recently. He was just some quite funny bloke with a massive ego and a lot of women. Then I heard he was actually a troubled soul who wanted to start a revolution and build Utopia and he began to sound like my kind of man.

I watched his documentary, The Emperors New Clothes and came away fired up, wanting to do something but not knowing quite where to direct this energy. I feel the same way after reading his book Revolution.

Revolution sets forth a case as to why our present economic and governmental system is exploiting ordinary people to make profit for a few wealthy men and women. It sets out what the alternative could be and it makes these arguments accessible. So far, so good.

True, Russell Brand is not the most coherent of writers. He goes off on rambling asides which sometimes seem to lead nowhere. The sort of stories which probably work much better in Stand Up than in print. However, he does make ideas which could be dry and hard work, readable. He uses his fame and notoriety in well intentioned ways and I won’t knock him for that.

I don’t agree with all of Russ’s ideas but by half way through I’m thinking, ‘Great, Fantastic, we’re going to start a socially and ecologically sound collective. Where do I sign? Where do I start? What’s step one?’ Problem is, Russell Brand’s book never tells me.

The man himself would know doubt say that, if he sets himself up as a leader to follow then it is against the principle of a collective, but as he never gives us any ideas of where the ordinary person in the street should begin then I’m left feeling demoralised. Feeling that I am being done over by all these rich people and am powerless to stop it.

Another chapter or two giving some grass roots ideas and organisations to get the ball rolling would have been really useful. A few tips on how to stop paying your taxes and avoid jail would also have been helpful.  Revolutions need talk, personally I think they probably also need leaders but what they need most of all is action.

Berengrave Nature Reserve

5If Tolkien hadn’t imagined Middle Earth at Moseley Bog outside of Birmingham then he would have found his inspiration at Berengrave Nature Reserve near Rainham in Kent.  A chalk quarry where spider trees rise from a flooded floor, ice covers crystal clear lakes and tangles of debris hang from the branches as if we were in the Louisiana bayous.7

It is not a cosy place of well tended trails. It is a place of magic and myth and dark thoughts. Never sunlit, even in the heat of summer. A place of silence and uncomfortable feelings. A place to drown your sorrows or your body in, your last word escaping in a bubble beneath the ice.

It is the cut through on the way home which causes children to quicken their step. It is a Boggart hole. May its secrets persist. We need the darkness on the edge of town. We need the wildness more every day. 3

Whitstable Literary Festival

PrintWhitstable Literary Festival

Sunday 14th May 11am-12.00pm

Whitstable Castle, Tower Hill, Whitstable CT5 2BW

This literary festival by the sea features both well known and lesser known local writers and aims to celebrate Kent’s cultural heritage.

I will be talking about my new book, On the Marshes and will be in conversation with Ros Coward, Guardian journalist and former director of Greenpeace.

Happiness is….a little brightness on a dull day.



The marvellously named Yellow Brain fungus and some equally marvellous volunteers.

While trying, unsuccessfully, to take a picture of a beautiful fungus growing on the hillside of Jumping Down in Barham, I captured instead the lovely volunteers of the Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership, hard at work, restoring the grassland. It was a bleak day to be on the hillside but both the spark of colour and the joy of being out working with friends was enough to brighten my day.


Rare plant found in Kent

Working in conjunction with Kent Botanical Recording Group is helping to conserve some of the rare flora of Kent’s waterways. Read the article below.


Sue Buckingham of Kent Botanical Recording Group helps with plant i.d. during a survey.

A rare plant has been recorded on Supperton Dyke, a botanically rich channel that forms part of Preston Marshes SSSI. Kent Botanical Recording Group working in partnership with the River Stour Internal Drainage Board surveyed the channel, managed by the board in the summer of 2016 and found a hybrid of carex x prolixa, a type of tufted sedge previously recorded at only a handful of places in Britain.
Carol Donaldson, who has been biodiversity advisor to the River Stour Internal Drainage Board since 2010 set up the partnership and uses the information gathered to tailor management, such as weed cutting and de-silting to each individual watercourse.
“Many rare plants are under recorded,” says Carol. “The IDB can help recording groups gain access to areas that would otherwise be out of reach. Working with the Kent Botanical Recording Group expands knowledge of Kent’s flora and helps the Drainage Board to manage the channels with the needs of these species in mind as well as protecting against flooding.”
Other scarce plants found in IDB channels during surveys last year include tubular water dropwort, hairlike pondweed and small pondweed, which was only the fifth record for this species in Kent.

Not so pretty now.


filmmaker Luke Gardener being inspired.

Why is it that whenever I take someone out to the North Kent Marshes to impress upon them the beauty and importance of the landscape it pours of rain? A few years ago I took my agent, Joanna Swainson and her partner out to show them this place I wanted to write about and the weather was dismal, the farm looked a mess and the meal in the local pub was so salty it was inedible. Despite this unpromising start she saw the potential and took me and my book on.

Today it happens again. I take out the guy who is going to be shooting the promotional video to accompany the publication of my book, ‘On The Marshes’ to the RSPB’s Northward Hill reserve. He has read my descriptions of a world apart, a landscape of value, a place which is special and should be protected and is inspired. Today, however, the reserve, is bleak and flat and grey, the farmyard, a muddy hole, the birds…out there…somewhere. Still, Luke, the filmmaker is keen. He can see it, that this place is different, it has a feeling all of its own that casts a spell even on a dreary early spring day.

We will, come back, when the sun is out, the skies, majestic and the birds singing. I want people to see the marshes as I see it. Not as a place to dump airports and car parks and ‘garden’ cities but as a rare gem which needs to be kept untouched as a place of sanctuary for us all.