For illustrated talks on natural history and history see

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Friday 30 December 2011

Apple tree pruning time

Some decisive pruning was needed for my apple and pear trees.  The one in the foreground in on an M25, vigorous roootstock and I have reduced its size considerably.

Similarly these apple trees were reduced on size.

The top was taken out of this Conference Pear tree.

Then a hazel bush was half coppiced and poles removed for climbing beans later in the year.
Other trees which have been heavily cut back include Amelanchia canadensis and Cedrus deodora.

Monday 19 December 2011

Santa Claus visits Cuckfield's New England Wood. The Christmas spirit is alive and well.

Party time again in New England Wood, Cuckfield and the volunteer conservationists are up early to get the fire lit.
Using the magnificent hand crafted Swedish axe, thoughtfully and generously gifted to the New England Wood Trust by Patrick from Brighton University, John demonstrates the ancient Viking technique of log splitting with axe and log mallet.

Now what did it say in the Swedish manual of log splitting?

Mike preparing mulled wine, and very good it was too, with a delicate smokey flavour difficult to replicate at home.  Herrings on rye bread, potato skins with homemade dips, salmon quiche, sausages, crisps, mince pies, Christmas and chocolate cakes were all delicious and accompanied a sufficiency of alcohol of various sorts.
Now that's a good fire and charming company too.

Who is the red-coated man emerging through the woods?

Well now, it's Father Christmas from Brook Street bearing gifts.

Ah! The joy of Aquavit!

Happy Christmas everyone!  Ho, ho, ho,.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Female Hornet unearthed from a compost heap today.

This little beauty on my gloved hand was revealed from a compost heap in Surrey.  Woken up, it tried to fly off but seemed too confused to succeed.

I left it to hibernate in the leaf litter in a border.

Sunday 20 November 2011

Migrating and winter visiting birds on the Adur Estuary, Old Shoreham

The Adur estuary was full of over wintering birds today.
There are more than 3,000,000 Black-headed Gulls in Britain in winter -- a more than ten fold increase on the summer population.  Above is one in winter plumage, without its black head.

The gull in the foreground in much smaller.  If this is a Little Gull, it will probably have come from Siberia and may not stay long.  It may be refuelling before wintering in Egypt and the Nile delta.

Is the smaller one a Little Gull?

It's lovely to see Lapwings on the water's edge on the nearest shoreline.  On the mud bank are Swans, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and what look like Common Gulls, since they are smaller than the Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  Click on any picture to expand it.

In the docks by the sea, Cormorants enjoyed a lamp post with a view.

With thousands on winter visiting birds in Sussex, now is the time to get to the coast to see them.
See also the geese are around Chichester harbour.  Click here for that blog entry from October.

Sunday 13 November 2011

Tony's Remembrance day walk

Tony has lead this annual walk, come rain or shine for many years, in memory of his father who as an RAF fighter pilot was killed in Burma aged 25 years in WWII.

Mid Sussex Ramblers (MSR) greatly appreciate Tony's walks and publicity activities for MSRs.

UPDATE 4th Nov. 2013.  Tony will be leading this walk again in 2013.  Please see  and click on the "WALKS programme" button for information

Remembrance day walk; Ashdown forest

On the 31st July 1941 a Wellington bomber crashed in the forest killing the six crew.  This walk from Mid Sussex Ramblers visits the memorial at the crash site where there is a memorial gathering on this day each year.

This year the weather was perfect.
The forest was looking great in the Autumn sunshine.

We passed Nutley Post Mill.

There were fine views towards Old Lodge...

... a Lodge with a view!
Hundreds of people converged on the "Airman's grave" from all directions; on foot and on horseback.

This is just a sector of the crowd.

The inscription reads "To the glorious memory of Sgt/P. V.R. Sutton, aged 24 years, 142 Bom. Sqdn RAF also his five comrades who lost their lives through enemy action 31-7-41.  Mother"

After a two minutes silence at 11.00hr, a bugler, words of remembrance and wreath laying a biplane circled the crowd scattering poppy leaves -- a very moving experience.

UPDATE 4th Nov. 2013.  Tony will be leading this walk again in 2013.  Please see  and click on the "WALKS programme" button for information

Monday 7 November 2011

Driving a ferry on the Bosphorus

There has been a lull in entries recently as I have been driving a ferry along the Bosphorus towards Istanbul.
A fishing boat.

Something bigger to avoid.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Party time in New England Wood nature reserve, Cuckfield

New England Wood in Cuckfield is a nature reserve held in a trust.
It is managed by a team of volunteers lead by John, above and "advised" by Del, above right.
The hard labour is mitigated occasionally with cake and whiskey or wine when there is a birthday, as in this week.

The wood itself provides materials; for example, this solid chestnut gatepost was recently cut from a tree trunk which was blown down in the 1987 hurricane replacing a rotten post.

This is how John makes planks and in this case, the bearers for a new bridge in April this year.

The bridge being assembled in May this year with wood cut from New England Wood itself.
Nice work John!
Time for another party!

Monday 24 October 2011

Circular walk around Norbury Park, Denbies vineyard and Westhumble

We started from the car park at Beechy Wood yesterday and headed North for great views towards Box Hill and Juniper Hill.

Mickelham village and church.  There was a steep descent to the Druids' Grove. Please see following entry for pictures of the ancient trees.

One of Denbies vineyards

Denbies, where we tasted and purchased wine -- two bottles only as I had to carry them a further mile and a half.

The rows of vines contained a lot of weeds.  Near the woods here there were a lot of ash seedlings growing amongst the vines.

West Humble XII century chapel

Common carder bee, a bumblebee. 

The start of the final ascent.

The view back towards Denbies in the distance.  This is a short (c.5miles) walk and is a very pleasant one.  For suggestions for stunning walks in Sussex see my website

To see current wildlife posts and some biology lessons for my granddaughter in the absence of school or for children of any age, please click

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