Whitstable Literary Festival

Whitstable Literary Festival

Last weekend I attended the Whitstable Literary Festival where I had the good fortune to be interviewed by Guardian Journalist, Ros Coward, met an enthusiastic audience, sold out of books and learnt that literary festivals are rather like rock tours. A place to try out ideas on an audience and see what grabs them.

Thanks to Whitlit for having me. Ros for all her help, MLP for photos and the lovely audience for supporting me and buying my book.

photo 1

photo 3 Ros C and I laughing at Whitlitphoto 5 audience shotphoto 6 engaging with the audiencea long queue to sign books

A baby leaves the nest

blue tit baby tooSo here we go. That day of the year when me and all the neighbourhood stress out. The day that the blue tits fledge from my nest box.

This year there appears to be only one. One precious chick that the parents have worked their socks off to get this far and now flops around the garden, calling, calling and attracting every predator in the area to come and investigate.

I am out there early on cat watch but I can’t stay out all day. My neighbour is out in the garden enjoying a rare glimpse of warm sun and trying to read a book.

“I have to go in and clean the house,” I tell you. “You have to take over.”

She calls in the help of Blue, the Chihuahua. “You have work to do, Blue,” she tells him. See off the cats.”

I go inside to try to get on with my weekend chores but all the time one eye is on the garden.  I try to do the washing up. A Jay arrives. I am torn. Jays have babies to feed too and my blue tit chick would make a good meal. I can’t interfere in the natural order, not really but I convince myself I am going out to check on the washing on the line and it flies off.

All day this will go on. The chick will call and seem unable to fly and I and all the neighbours will fret.

“What happens at nightfall?” My neighbour asks. “You can’t just leave it. You will have to take it in and feed it.”

I tell her that nature has to take its course. I know it has to. I know that the blue tit baby must learn to fend for itself or die but it is hard not to interfere when something so seemingly helpless is under your care.

Gill Moore – an inspirational women.

21 Gill Moore at CliffeToday I learnt the terribly sad news that Gill Moore, one of the founding members of Friends of the North Kent Marshes, died yesterday after collapsing while returning from a trip out to the marshland near her home.

Gill was an inspirational, fearless and knowledgeable campaigner, who threw herself into protecting the countryside and wildlife she loved. She was a fundamental part of the No Airport at Cliffe campaign and more recently the Estuary Airport campaign.

Her huge contribution in protecting the marshes was recognised by the RSPB who awarded her and her fellow FONKM members the Presidents Award.

I think everyone who knew Gill is shocked by this news and feels her loss. We need Gill to help us in the continuous fight to protect this area . We know she would have been a huge asset in the defence of Lodge Hill from the plan to develop the SSSI for housing.

We need Gill and we need many more people like her. People willing to tackle politicians and raise awkward points at meetings and be on the front line in raising awareness of the importance of not only the marshes but all our wild places.

Gill appears in my book On the Marshes, doing what she did best. Spreading her message to everyone she passed. Telling them how important the area is for wildlife and what they could do to help protect it.

“We love the marshes quiet and peaceful,” Gill once told me, “but we know that people will only care about it is they visit and see how special it is for themselves.”

The best I can do for Gill Moore today is to continue to do just that. Tell people about the North Kent Marshes and encourage them to visit and value it. We lost an ally yesterday but the fight goes on.







A Yellow Life.

hare-field-2246752_1920I’m not saying it’s always good. When, for instance, you’re standing in the rain on a ratty bit of grassland, surrounded by industry and it is 6am and this is the 6th, 6am start of the week and you’re trying to spot lapwing through the drizzle. Then it’s not so good.

Sometimes though it catches you. The incredible, unlikely, luck of it all. That of all the people in the world going to work this morning you have somehow managed to score this job.

A job in which you fly across the Sheppey bridge and the Swale is laid out like glass and all the mist is rising from the fields and relishing in the growing warmth of the morning. Puffs of dandelion heads are backlit by the sun and your job, YOUR JOB, is to walk five miles across farmland watching nature go about it’s business.

Watching linnets gather on fence lines, swallow buzz the grass for insects, a yellow wagtail throw itself at a short eared owl and yell, ‘clear off.’

Your job is to hear cuckoos and watch hares calmly lollop towards you eyeing you with a yellow eye. Then, on morning’s such as this, it feels like the world is yellow. And the yellow rape, the yellow reed, the yellow sun  and the yellow eye are all through your lucky yellow life.

Ten ways to fall in love with Spring.

Lady's Smock MLP

Lady’s Smock MLP

Springwatch may not have hit out tele’s yet but Spring is well and truly here. Here is my guide for things to do to get you in the mood for the season.

1.Take a walk amongst the bluebells – They are one of the great beauties of the British Isles. They last such a short time. Make sure you never go a year without missing the sight and scent of a bluebell woodland.

bluebells in Trossachs John McSporran

bluebells in Trossachs – John Mcsporran https://www.flickr.com/photos/127130111@N06/26483847533

2. Listen to a nightingale sing. These birds have suffered a 90% decline in this country. Conyer Brickworks, near Sittingbourne in Kent is one of the best places to hear them.

3. Discover a quirky local custom. Spring is a wonderful time to enjoy the eccentric side of British culture. Find a weird festival and go along. I went to Bradwell on Sea, In Essex’s Scarecrow Festival.

Bradwell on Sea's scarecrow festival

A wedding party at the Scarecrow Festival at Bradwell On Sea

4. Embrace some greenery. Revel in some Rights of Spring and hug a Green Man.

cuddling jack in the green

Having a hug with Jack in the Green

5. Take a dip. Cold water swimming is a great health tonic and we have plenty of opportunity to indulge around our coasts. 16th April is the earliest I have ever taken the plunge but there are plenty of hardy souls who swim year round.

6. Grow some vegetables. Not only does home grown veg taste delicious but, even if you are only growing basil on a window seal, then you are taking part in the age old seasonal ritual of growing and harvesting. After all we have been farmers for 500 generations and computer nerds not even for one.

7. Do the spring cleaning. Fresh sheets, clean cupboards, spruced up oven and you are set for another year. I ran away from the household chores and spring cleaned some barn owl boxes instead.

cleaning out the boxes

Spring clean…In this case a barn owl box!

8. Begin a love affair, have a night of passion, conceive a (planned) baby. It is the time for sex and fertility after all.

9. Shed your winter layers. Don’t cast a clout ’til May is out the old saying goes. The Hawthorn is blossoming, time to get out those shorts.

10. Spend a little time out doors in nature every day. My friend Trevor refuses to take on any big building projects in the spring. “How many springs do you think I have left?” He yells down the phone. Quite right Trevor. We should take the time to enjoy every one.

I live in a bubble

toasting a successful first day

Toasting winning BBC Wildlife Magazines Blogger of the Week award….3 months too late.

My inability to deal with modern life is not always a good thing. Turns out I won BBC Wildlife Magazine’s Blogger of the Week back in February. I have only just found out on Twitter. A belated thank you to BBC Wildlife Mag. Clearly I spend too much time On the Marshes instead of on social media.