Country parks and nature reserves

On Thursday morning just before lunch time I felt really awed as I watched a swarm of newly emerged damselflies fly away from their place of emergence. I had noted several damselflies, almost transparent as they emerged from their exuviae. They were perched on some stakes which are part of a fence and some feet away from the water. To watch this is absolutely amazing and makes you feel insignificant when in nature. It’s not something you see every day.

But however wonderful these parks and reserves are, there is always someone who does not appreciate what is there. They leave dog poo or if they pick it up they hang it on a branch in the car park. Dogs are allowed in the water where they disturb birds and insect larva. I have seen children run and chase the birds on the edge of the water and teenagers throw branches at the ducks.

Yet many reserves and country park run activities to ensure that we all appreciate what is there. Some parks put up signs to show what the trees are called or the wild flowers and have trails for children to follow. All this is good but we need to educate people more. There can be a distinct lack of understanding about the area and that it is not just a place to walk or run around. There is a lot to see if you look for it, insects of many kinds as well as birds, bees and butterflies. Take your time and enjoy your walk, it’s not a first past the post race.


I have been thinking about how much we waste things recently. It came to the forefront of my mind at a recent coffee morning where there were cakes to celebrate a birthday. Many of those living here like Mr Kiplings cakes. I am naming them and shaming them because each cake in the box was in a plastic tray with a plastic film around it. I thought it was bad enough that the cakes were wrapped as pairs, in a tray and with plastic film around them. To wrap each one individually seems absolutely a waste of resources and adds to the plastic problem. To say I felt shocked was an understatement when we are all aware of the plastic disposal problems.

Someone admired my waistcoat the other day. I bought it over twenty years ago in a charity shop for £2.50. I have patched it and added braids and ribbons over the thin parts so I can still wear it. It has good pockets which I find essential and can even hold my small camera. I am not throwing it away for some time even though it needs more patches. I also have other clothes I wear which I have had for a long time. I don’t like the idea of a new wardrobe every summer and autumn, it seems like a waste of money to me.

But some good things are around. The recent large amounts of rain have helped the plants to grow much larger and taller than they should so the wildflower patch I planted now looks a bit like a jungle, lush, green and full of flowers. I was out with my son on Thursday recovering from a visit to the dentist and we walked amongst some wonderful green shrubs and trees with birds singing, bees buzzing and a wonderful feeling of peace. I need more of this!

Time to sit outside and listen

After all the rain it is good to be able to sit outside for a while. The plants have grown rapidly with all the rain and many are now in flower. There are lots of bees, birds and butterflies too

I sat outside on a bench for some time just before noon today. I watched the birds on the feeders and some still gathering twigs for nests. Many of them were singing merrily telling us all how wonderful a day it is. The butterflies were busy too, many in pairs doing a courting flight ritual of some kind. Brimstone and holly blues mainly but there were a few others. Lots of bees buzzing and many other insects around. It is so refreshing and replenishing to just sit and listen and watch.

I have been busy with my local history research and writing as well as sorting out a lot of old paperwork so this time out in the sun was a wonderful respite. I think we all need to take time out to just sit still or even stand still. Those moments of reflection are good for us all.

On another note I am disappointed to see how protests are being handled by those in power. What happened to free speech? If this kind of thing is going to happen more often then the time spent in quiet and reflection will be much more necessary. I want to fight to stop trees being unnecessarily being felled and I want to fight for the right to speak out freely about my feelings and thoughts on our natural world. If we can’t do this then how are we going to make sure that our natural world is not built on and destroyed?

But back to being outside, my son and I went to a different nature reserve last week and even though you could hear the traffic going past there was a peacefulness in the reserve. It is possible to tune out the traffic and tune into the birds singing.

A slightly different view

As a druid I work closely with the four elements, earth, air, fire and water. So what have we done to or with these elements on our planet? Water is the easiest to look at first. We have oceans, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, small streams and so we have a lot of water on our planet. We have ruined the oceans because lots of our litter goes in there as it is washed down from the rivers and streams. Phosphates from agricultural land and other poisons from factories, as well as sewage run off into the streams and rivers and then into the oceans. This kills ocean life and makes it impossible for us to enjoy the rivers and oceans as we used to.

We have mined and quarried our earth for stones, clay and minerals to use to heat our homes, build our homes and make items for our homes. Some quarries are absolutely huge and the land around them is damaged by the heavy trucks and machinery that works a quarry. Rare earths are mined because we want mobile phones and electric cars. The name rare earths should tell you something, they are rare and so far not recyclable. Old quarries which are no longer used have become nature reserves in many places. Plants are choosy about their soil and some will only grow in certain places like old quarries. But modern quarries are a different thing and are so large you can’t imagine them ever reverting to a good landscape where wild life can flourish.

Where air is concerned we have polluted this too. Smoke, fumes from power plants, cars and other engines have polluted our atmosphere until some areas are so bad that it is difficult to breathe. I was born in the Potteries area and remember the smoke from the bottle ovens. You only put your washing on the line outside when the wind was blowing the smoke away from you. Now the air is much cleaner since an act of Parliament came into place. But where I live now, there is so much traffic that I have to keep my windows closed because of the dirty air outside as well as the noise.

So what about the element of fire? There are various ways of looking at this. Burning things produces smoke which pollutes. Fire itself cleanses the land and allows regrowth but it does harm the life that lives on the earth.

Complicated issues whichever way you look at them all. Would love to read you comments on this.

Getting there slowly

It does seem as if people are beginning to realise that we have to do things differently if we want a better world. I have noticed more conversations and more articles in magazines and newspapers offering advice and giving ideas of how to live in a better way. One thing I have noticed is that nature continues here as before.

First the snowdrops appeared, then the aconites, daffodils and tulips. The blossom started to appear, blackthorn first, cherry and hawthorn and then many others. The butterflies appeared in order, brimstone, peacock, small tortoiseshell, holly blue and orange tip. The birds are nesting and even the squirrels seem to be making nests. And I saw the first large red damselfly of the year on Thursday. So it seems that all is well. However we have a long way to go. Holiday flights and cruises are still popular and not good for the climate and people are still buying large gas guzzling cars.

Another thing I have noticed is what I call electrical pollution. I know that I am what is called hypersensitive to electrical things. I cannot go near pylons or heavy overhead lines and keep away from phone masts as much as possible. Yet houses are still being built under these lines and with pylons in the garden. Recently we have had a large amount of new smoke and fire alarms installed in our flats. Apart from the bathroom, there is an alarm in every room and two in the hall. In the corridor outside there are two on each. landing and 3 of those which you break to call the fire engine. Of course if one goes off, they all do adding noise pollution to it all. Since all this has been done I have felt unwell a lot of the time but improve quickly when I get outside. You can protect yourself against the electrical pollution caused in various ways. I have shungite around the house which does help but may have to look for something else. But to cheer us up here is the photo of the large red damselfly.

A few random thoughts on the natural world around me

The last few weeks seem to have been very busy with appointments of various kinds and setting up a new computer with Windows 10. I did not export/import bookmarks as I have far too many and wanted to start afresh so it took me ages to get into this blog to write a new post!

I planted some strawberries a couple of weeks ago in a large planter bag. One morning I went out to check them and four of them had lost their small leaves and the large leaves were just lying there. Muntjac of course, who love nice new leaves. The two remaining plants have a wire cage around them. All of my planting pots and bags sit on a pallet so my son is going to make a fence to go round the pallet. It is good to see the small deer but he or she can be a nuisance when you have nice new plants.

I have bird feeders in an old cherry tree. The seed feeder is squirrel proof as we have lots of squirrels here. Different birds feed here too, sparrows, blue tits, chaffinches, goldfinches, dunnocks and larger birds such as starlings, blackbirds and of course the pigeons and crows. I also have a peanut feeder which the squirrel loves. He manages to lift the top off the feeder and then gets one peanut at a time, comes down the tree and goes off to hide it somewhere. He or she never seems to eat them!

As there are lots of trees and shrubs there are generally lots of insects and butterflies. So far this year I have seen several butterflies, small tortoiseshells, peacocks and brimstones. There are lots of bees, as my son and I planted a spare piece of ground between some large trees and the stream with wild flower seeds, the year before last. That small piece of ground is now covered in plants, many starting to flower. It should be really good this later when all the plants are in flower.

My little patch of garden has snakehead fritillaries in bloom, tulips in nearby pots and cowslips. There are buds on some of the other plants too. So the natural world carries on whatever I do to it. I would like to think that everybody had a small patch of garden or wild areas where they live that was accessible to them all the time. It is good to be outside and I try to spend some time everyday sitting on the bench near my bit of garden.

A glimmer of light

The hours of daylight are getting longer and it is good to get out despite the weather. I went with my son to one of our favourite country parks last week. Schools were closed for the Easter break and it was good to see children out in the park looking for different trees and plants. The park provides worksheets for children and these are used well. If we start children off taking care of nature and recognising species then hopefully they will take care of nature later. We actually saw a pair of mandarin ducks which are not common. They were brought to Britain from China and some escaped and they now breed in some parts of our country. The male is stunning. (photo at end taken by my son)

It has also been heartening to see how much money has been raised to get legal action in place to save our trees from felling. I have noticed that in other areas, developers are trying to fell ancient trees but are meeting strong opposition. This gives me some hope for the future when people come out to protest at wanton destruction of our landscape.

Perhaps people are waking up to the fact that nature is very important and we need it to stay healthy. The last part of the TV programme about our wild isles is broadcast tonight but the sixth part is only to be seen on ‘iPlayer’ because it is contentious we are told. I can’t wait to view it to see what is shown. I have noticed that one of the other countryside programmes is also taking a look at new ways of growing food and farming.

There is a glimmer of light here and I hope the glimmer soon turns into a large beam of light.

Looking for the light at the end of the tunnel

I have been feeling very despondent recently. I think it is because of all the goings-on in our world. There is a bit of hope though regarding the felling of the local trees as the nesting season has begun and it is illegal to fell trees during this time. It gives the action group time to find and fund a barrister to stop the felling.But the house building continues on a flood plain. That never makes sense but is done all over the UK. But more people than I think are aware of the felling of trees. An old lady, maybe a bit older than me, sat next to me on the bus. Some trees in her area had recently been pollarded. She was worried they might be felled and I tried to reassure here but you never know what councils do behind your back.

Then there is the clean water subject. It is horrifying to see how much sewage goes into the rivers and seas. How much water life does it kill? All those insect larvae can’t survive in polluted water. Some years ago I used to work for the Open University at some of their summer schools. I worked on the water quality project and remember sampling the rivers and streams to see what life was there. Mayfly larvae were a sign of good clean water. We also tested the water in the lab as well. At home I use a water filter. The water here is extremely hard and when I tested it I also found it to be full of all kinds of metals and other contaminants. I have an expensive water filter which takes most of this out but many do not even use any kind of filter process. So if you drink it what does it do to your body?

This week has also been a noisy one. New fire and smoke alarms have been fitted, one in each room and two in the hall. A bit overkill it seems for such a tiny flat. The noise of drilling through concrete was horrendous and added to the traffic noise made life very unpleasant. Now at night when I want to sleep, not only do I have street lights and outside security lights but a small green light on the smoke alarm!. No wonder I don’t sleep well.

But I did get out one day and looked at catkins and spring flowers. It cheered me for a short time but I need more time out in our natural world while we still have it.

So much to do

The last few blogs have concentrated on our natural world mainly trees. But if we want a future for our planet and especially for our island we need to do a lot more. I am very aware of noise and air pollution as I live by a main road with bus stops outside my flat. Very handy when you want to use the bus but annoyingly noisy and smelly when you don’t. When I moved here I did not know how much traffic uses this road, buses, lorries delivering to the shops a bit further down and many cars including the cars owned by young men who try to make them as noisy as possible.

There was a lot of small industries here in the years past, shoemaking and brickmaking and many other small industries. The stream at the bottom of our garden was often polluted according to the locals but apart from shopping trolleys and rubbish dumped in it, it seems quite clear. It runs into a large lake system in the nearby valley. (Nene Valley). Recently the lakes and rivers have been flooded and this of course pollutes them with the runoff from the land some of which is still farmed.

Water pollution is high on the list of things that need to change but nobody seems to want to invest in the machinery which can clean the water. The water companies prefer to give their shareholders lots of money instead.

I recently got an email about a Peoples Plan for Nature. I downloaded their ‘brochure’ and found it extremely interesting. It states the following:

‘The People’s Plan for Nature is a UK-wide initiative powered by the National Trust, the RSPB and WWFUK. It is a unique collaboration with the UK public to protect and restore
nature in the UK.’

It makes interesting reading and I hope that some of it’s ideas become reality. There is a long way to go but we must keep trying and fighting for our natural world, all of it.

Trees and more

Spring is on the way, The trees are showing buds and tiny leaves and the blackthorn is in bloom. It really brightens the day and helps me to deal with the horrible news about tree felling in many places. As was reported recently by the Woodland Trust ‘“#MatureTrees are not replaceable with a sapling. There seems to be no appreciation that the starting point for regeneration or redevelopment should be designing around the nature that is already there.” – Andy Egan, Head of Conservation Policy.

I totally agree with that statement. But many who plant saplings by the roadside to stop the soil from moving and to act as windbreaks, never look after the saplings and many die. What a waste of money and saplings. I had a sapling last year and it was put in the grounds around the complex where I live. The muntjac nibbled the nice new leaves until my son and I put a protective cage around it. But however much I watered it last summer the drought and extreme heat killed it. It will be replaced by a buckthorn but not until the buckthorn is able to withstand all kinds of weather.

It seems that councils are starting to fell trees over night unknown to those trying to protect the trees. I have seen this done before when a whole row of trees disappeared over night in the town where I then lived. Yet trees are so important to us, without them we could die. There are many reasons why they are so important and here are a few ‘Trees contribute to their environment by providing oxygen, improving air quality, climate amelioration, conserving water, preserving soil, and supporting wildlife’. They also provide places for us to walk and enjoy the outdoor life and help to prevent mental illness.

I have just been out to fill the bird feeders and went to look at the stream that runs along the bottom of the complex. There are very old willows there as well other small trees and quite a large blackthorn. The stream is the highest I have ever seen it and is rushing along looking very muddy. But the trees soak up the excess water and stop the area from flooding.

So be aware of what your council plans for it’s trees. Make sure you protect those you have and get more planted.