For illustrated talks on natural history and history see

For illustrated talks on natural history and history click here for

Wednesday 31 December 2014

Beautiful sunset over Holy Trinity church, Cuckfield yesterday evening.

At the end of the year commemorating one hundred years since the start of "the great war" in 1914 these are pictures to think of the men who died in all the wars commemorated in this church and churchyard including the Napoleonic and Boer wars.  See also and  for info' on local history and the church.

Monday 29 December 2014

What a relief as Virgin flight VS43 travelling from Gatwick to Las Vegas returns to land safely at Gatwick.

A Virgin Jumbo jet circled low over Cuckfield this afternoon as reported at  Here it is flying above Broad Street, Cuckfield.

 You can clearly see that one of the sets of wheels appears to be stuck and hasn't dropped properly for landing.
 Thank goodness it has landed safely.

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Orange ladybirds, Halyzia 16-guttata in The Long Plantation, Shabden Park

 Volunteers were hard at work today coppicing hazel (above) and clearing glades in Shabden Park under the direction of Reserve  Manager, Bob Crompton.
 Colleagues spotted these ladybirds in several different clusters

The orange ladybird (Halyzia sedecimguttata) has 12-16 white spots. It overwinters in leaf litter or sheltered positions on trees and eats mildews. Considered until 1987 an indicator of ancient woodland, it has become widespread since it became common on sycamores; it has recently moved on to ash trees. It is attracted to light and is often found in moth-traps Ref;
Because of the way that they are clustered and after some frosty nights, they seem to have been hibernating or just enjoying the fungus on this branch.  They were very active once disturbed.
Seeing such lovely insects is one of the benefits of working with such a conservation work party.
The Hazel tree that I coppiced was 40 years old from counting the rings; long overdue to be coppiced.

Monday 15 December 2014

Common Puffballs, Lycoperdon perlatum in Nymans Wood, West Sussex, England last weekend.

Puffballs are common at the moment.  They are in my garden in the debris from 20 years of piled up composting branches and garden waste; in the mulch by the car park at Wakehurst Place; and here in Nymans Woods under hazel, beech, oak and chestnut trees.
They look like Common Puffballs,  Lycoperdon perlatum, which figures as they are common enough.

It took a couple of attempts to capture the image above.  And days later I found that my lens and lens hood were covered in the brown spores!

Looking in detail at the arrangement of the puffballs they did seem to fulfill the criteria of a fairy ring suggesting that the mycelium originated from a central point.

Saturday 6 December 2014

Oysters fungi???

 Are these Oyster mushrooms or not?
Are they edible or poisonous?
 I'm not about to find out, having already survived a misidentified poisonous fungus in the past.
 In any case, they are spectacular fungi, don't you think from a walk today in Surrey.

They really do look good enough to eat!  After you though!

Exquisite tiny fungi in the leaf litter of Sabden Park woods, Surrey, UK

 Can you see the tiny white dots in the center of the picture above in this deciduous wood of sycamore, ash and beech today?  It is in Shabden Park nature reserve; click the link for more info' and scroll down for a closer look.

I have absolutely no idea what they are called but a search revealed the following from the Mountain Lake Biological center of the Biology Dept of the University of Virginia;

The entire genus Marasmius is comprised of tiny mushrooms with thin stems which make their home on leaf litter or woody debris. Mushrooms in this genus play an essential role in the forest ecosystem as decomposers, helping to break down leaf litter and rotting plant debris. Although they are often overlooked, their dried fruiting bodies can be found in leaf litter throughout their range. Another identifying characteristic of mushrooms in the genus Marasmius is their “marcescence,” or ability to revive after dry conditions. When the mushrooms become too dry, they shrivel up and remain hidden in the leaf litter until conditions improve, at which point they resume their previous appearance.

Whether these are from the genus Marasmius or not, it doesn't matter.

They are performing the same task of decomposing the leaf litter;
are exquisitely tiny;
and within this forest floor ecosystem small is truly beautiful don't you think?

Exploding chestnut from a poffertjes pan causes great mess and excitement in a Sussex kitchen

A poffertjes pan is perfect for roasting chestnuts at this time of year.  Take a nick out of or into each nut with a large knife or cleaver and place on a hot pan.  I heat it by gas.  Keep turning them over from time to time until they start to blacken when they are ready and shell easily.
There was an almighty bang though when one exploded -- despite having been nicked -- splattering half the kitchen with fine bits of cooked chestnut and shell!   Such excitement!  And the chestnuts from Italy were delicious.

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