For illustrated talks on natural history and history see

For illustrated talks on natural history and history click here for

Saturday 30 June 2012

Malling Down

We spent the afternoon wandering over Malling Down.
We saw a couple of Common-spotted Orchids and a Pyramidal Orchid.  That's all we found.

Thursday 28 June 2012

Man Orchids today at Darland Banks, Kent

What a joy it was to meet Ron Hardwick at Darland Banks today. 
He is an Honorary Warden of Kent Wildlife Trust
He showed me Man Orchids, Aceras anthropophorum / Orchis anthropophora which had eluded my own searches and pointed me in the direction of yet more shown below.  Many, many thanks to you Ron.

Very rare in Sussex, yet abundant in Kent.  With an estimated 4,000 here, this is the place to be for Man Orchids.  They flower from early May on the open Downs to late June in sheltered spots, ref. David Lang "Wild Orchids of Sussex".  Most had gone to seed as expected but I was able to see these, thanks to Ron.  He pointed me to a roadside bank north of the junction of Ash Tree Lane and Beacon Road, outside of the nature reserve.
There were scores of them here still retaining some flowers.

They grow in great clumps here!


Wednesday 27 June 2012

Fox eating strawberries this evening

The wild strawberries in my overgrown vegetable garden are eaten by pigeons and also by a fox this evening.
The foxes catch pigeons from time to time, so I'm pleased to have a den in my garden.
This one has a lame left hind leg though.  The poor thing would have problems to catch a bird.

Steyning to Shoreham historical walk visiting six ancient churches

This 10 miles linear walk last Saturday, starts at the magnificent Norman church of St. Andrew's in Steyning.  On this day we parked in Shoreham and took the 2A bus from Shoreham to Steyning.
Details of an illustrated talk on these churches and the history of the Adur valley can be seen at

One can not help but marvel at the Norman stonework.  The monks from Fecamp in Normany had problems with William de Braose in Bramber, where the walk goes next.

Just when or why Bramber castle was destroyed is not known.  The demise of the De Braose family is well documented.  The first William De Braose fought with William Duke of Normany, the Conquerer, who became king and gave the Rape of Bramber to De Braose. Subsequent Lords De Braose fought with King Richard in the crusades and became exceedingly wealthy under King John before a brutal demise.  Illustrated details of all this and seven churches of the Adur valley are in my 50 mins. talk on the subject.

St. Nicholas church in Bramber was finished in 1073.  The south and north transepts are gone now.

Leaving the river at Bramber, a flat path along the route of a disused railway leads directly to the Saxon church of St. Botolphs

St Botolph's church has traces of medieval wall paintings.

A short walk down the road there are more spectacular wall paintings at Coombes.
This church has a Saxon nave from 11/12th century.
The above painting in the Byzantine tradition may date from as early as 1120.  The paintings were discovered in 1949. 

From Coombes a path leads southwards up and over Lancing Hill.

Fine views to the north after the climb up the hill.
Thereafter a steady descent back down to the river and the old wooden toll bridge.
The nave of St. Nicolas church dates from 900AD, whilst the tower and transepts are Norman in the style of French architecture of the period.  See
Note the cat in the top of the arch.

When the river Adur silted up, the port of New Shoreham took over the shipping trade and the magnificent church of St. Mary de Haura was built.
The oldest part of this church dates from 1100-1130AD.
Built by William De Braose, the third Lord of Bramber, he lost favour with King John.
De Braose's wife and heir were captured by the King, imprisoned and starved to death.
De Braose was outlawed, yet escaped to France from Shoreham dressed as a beggar.

This blog entry can't reveal the beauty of these churches nor explain the rise and fall of the Norman De Braose dynasty.  My talk on the subjects covers the history of the valley and illustrates the evolution of church architecture from Saxon to Norman and early English, comparing for example St Mary de Haura in Shoreham with the choir at Canterbury cathedral.

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Pyramidal Orchids are blooming now on the Downs

Here are a selection of pictures of Pyramidal Orchids taken today on the South Downs in West Sussex.

One that has just emerged.
This beauty was in the middle of a bridle path and had escaped the horses' hooves.  In fact the best specimens that I saw today were adjacent to the bridle path, which suggests that orchids don't mind the odd dose of horse manure.  So much for needing a nutrient poor habitat then!

Fragrant Orchids in Sussex today

Fragrant Orchids were abundant today on the South Downs and their scent in intoxicating.
This one was growing happily in long grass and was magnificent.
Above is one growing next to a Common-spotted Orchid for comparison.
Above, another Fragrant Orchid with Common-spotted ones behind.
This time last week there were few.  Now they are abundant.  How I love the Downs.  The flora is ever changing and in Spring and Summer is always lovely.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Common Spotted-Orchids on the A272 east of Haywards Heath

There is a great display of Common Spotted-Orchids on the A272 east of Haywards Heath, before you get to Scaynes Hill, with a layby as well.  The orchids are so fine and well worth pulling in for a closer look -- which I did on my way to Chailey Common.

Heath Spotted-Orchids on Chailey Common

Heath Spotted-Orchids were a lovely sight in the rain on Chailey Common this afternoon.

To see more of what is going on at this most wonderful area click

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Froglets developing well

My tadpoles are developing at different rates.  Some are froglets, whilst much bigger tadpoles have no front legs yet.
I hope that they survive the newts, grass snakes and foxes in my garden when they are set free to fend for themselves.  They had cooked chicken breast for dinner yesterday and raw liver for lunch today.
Note the two insect larvae hanging on the surface of the water.  The bats can have the mosquitoes if the frogs don't eat the larvae.

Monday 18 June 2012

Tadpoles growing well on a fish & meat diet

In an old freezer drawer, the tadpoles are thriving on a diet of white fish, salmon and various raw meat bits.  They will soon be able to be put in the pond and hopefully compete with the newts.

Sunday 17 June 2012

Damselflies today

Damselflies were on the wing in Cuckfield today.  Above, a Large Red Damselfly, Pyrrhosoma nymphula

Above might be a Common Blue Damselfly, Ellanagma cyathigerum.  Pretty aren't they.

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