Ecology, Wales

Images of Summer


Bloodsucker on Ragwort

Bloodsucker on Ragwort

The sight of this flower beetle takes me back to the sunny meadows of childhood where holding one of these bloodsuckers was a right of passage!  Misnamed, they hunt the flower heads for tiny insects although this one seemed to be drinking nectar.

Fairies gambol and flit by the pond — dragonflies whizzing past my lens at the speed of sound — boom!  I know — shutter speed too slow!



Dragonfly I took last year

Dragonfly I took last year

Cheating -- a blue chaser from August last year!

Cheating — a blue chaser from August last year!

Just above the water of the pond, perched on a rush, is a tiny skipper — it seems to be laying eggs.

Orange Skipper

Orange Skipper — not clearest image


Here she is again


Skipper with her tongue out

Skipper laying Egg?

Skipper laying Egg?

Orange Skipper

Impressionist image of Orange Skipper

In the back-ground on this idyllic day is the sound of this little chap, well thousands of him, and not heard often in wet Wales!

Can you see the Meadow Grasshopper?

Can you see the Meadow Grasshopper?

Sorry — not always the crispest of images but I am working on it!

Humour, Metaphysical

Eternal Analogy

Don’t panic but I’m talking about the relationship between Man and God. I should say between God and Man because God is more important but then, when it comes to the ‘relationship’, Man is probably the main mover — wielding his free will and his recently evolved imagination.

The analogy: you guessed — the shepherd and his flock (why does this woman never stop talking about sheep?) It’s not blasphemy — me and my sheep — the precedent is well established by great authority, it stands to reason and is immediately evident to anyone who keeps a woolly congregation.


Position is relative: I am the Walrus, the Ombudsman, the Gatekeeper, the Father. I don’t control the weather but they think I do. They plead, they nag, they accuse me, and when it rains for a week, they stand in full view, in rows, entranced, fixing me with all their  psychic energy, praying (I swear they do) – it’s not easy being the supreme power.

Sheep's view of Supreme Being.

Sheep’s view of Supreme Being.

We, — the trilogy — Him, the Maa and the Holy Dog — put up fences, make barriers, structure the known world. But we don’t make the lambs stick their heads into the fence and get stuck. We spray for fly and we immunize but we don’t hold dominion over all living things although they think we do.

You believe in God if you want to but be reasonable, believe he makes the boundaries, puts up the fences but doesn’t stop you crossing them — sticking your head in where it doesn’t belong and getting into difficulties – getting stuck. He can’t control everything – you may not like it but he’s muddling along doing his best. We all muddle along together — that’s Life.

Thanks to Peter Jenkins for image of the iconic arse (all rights reserved).
Ecology, Wales

Grass Roots Bio-Diversity.

Here’s a political picture: four man-made layers  — you just know it’s wrong.

From the top -- over-grazed, windfarm on peat-bog, desolate, monoculture pine forest and modern farming

From the top — over-grazed mountain; wind-farm on peat-bog; desolate, monoculture pine forest; mechanised farming

In contrast, the farmland we tend here in Wales is designated by the Government as 100% habitat (which is probably true of most places if you know what you are looking at) — but it’s official,  half our land is ‘oak and wild hyacinth’ — bluebell woods to you — ancient woodland that was felled after the war for pit-props for the economic recovery and grazed until 2006 when the Forestry Commission, with unusual wisdom, offered us a modest grant to replant and, more importantly, to exclude grazing for 15 years.

So for the last 8 years this land, nestling under the old hill fort has been spared the ravages of the hardy native sheep that we love but whose mission is deforestation. ????????????????????????????? I never understand why folk get so enthusiastic about protecting the bleak moorlands of this area that are scoured bare by unnatural numbers of hungry sheep when, if left to its own devices this land would be broad-leafed woodland bursting with wild flowers, song birds and little furry creatures!

Couldn't resist a little furry creature!

Couldn’t resist a little furry creature!

So here we are — our saplings, oak, hazel,rowan, aspen, alder, wild cherry and holly wrestle with self-sown birch and willow and the creeping shoots of blackthorn and hawthorn which insinuate themselves from the old hedgerows.   They were planted naturalistically (not in rows), not to confuse the tree counters from the ministry, that was inadvertent (a happy accident) but to give them a head start and to make the wild-life feel at home.  In the wet gulleys the alders are already 5 meters high in places.  I don’t like to embarrass them but they are sexually mature with lots of little cones, the rowan have berries and this year for the first time there are wild cherries!  Some of the oaks are taller than me (I sound like a parent) and in the spring and early summer the foliage on the new growth is bright red.

Red leaves on the new growth

Red leaves on the new growth

Our new old wood is very young and we will need to maintain the glades and open areas — it would be nice to re-introduce a charcoal burner or an oak tanner, sadly extinct, to maintain the woodland clearings  where the meadow-sweet can grow as it does now in the floor of our little dingle.

Imagine the vanilla perfume, the hum of bees and the tintinnabulatiion of the stream

Imagine the vanilla perfume, the hum of bees and the tintinnabulatiion of the hidden stream

Fruiting moss -- once harvested for florists - you sink into it like green snow.

Fruiting moss — once harvested for florists – you sink into it like green snow.

The land looks wild but cut back the undergrowth a little and you will find signs of quite sophisticated engineering from long ago, built by hand with shovel and river-stone.

Drainage culvert

Drainage culvert

And beware invaders when you clear ground; where we dug out a hidden culvert in the spring to unblock it and release the pond that had squatted along our track, we now have a bank of rose bay willow herb.

Rose Bay Willow Herb flourishes on any bare ground.

Rose Bay Willow Herb flourishes on any bare ground.

What amazes us is the variety of plants and animals that show themselves as the year progresses; every week the micro-landscape changes as the colours and shapes reflect the constantly changing balance within the ecosystem.  As taller plants like the ferns, the miriad tall grasses, the foxgloves, meadowsweet and the parsleys grow up and take the light,  the undergrowth of smaller plants, the mosses, shamrocks, wood anemones and bluebells, having flowered while they can  are obscurred and you have to wade, shoulder deep in a tangled profusion of humming, scented, sometime prickling, jungle.  The lushness and fertility of it all just knocks your socks off!


The other half of our land is ‘severely disadvantaged’ and ‘unimproved’ pasture (what a cheek!)  that we work hard to maintain without recourse to chemicals or artificial fertilizers — we hack down the bracken and dig out the gorse and cut the thistles just before they seed and we harrow the mole hills and we mend the fences and the sheep do the rest!

Sheep in the meadow -- once the orchisa have seeded.

Sheep in the meadow — once the orchids have seeded.

Humour, lifestyle

Double, double toil and trouble.

Auspicious day? Yesterday I cleaned the house which must have unsettled everyone. Today I could feel it through my feet – bare feet, next to godly feet – feel the silky smoothness of the wooden floors, the springiness of the fluffed up carpet pile and…


Bless the cats – a field mouse, just what I wanted for my birthday, but not as much as I wanted my breakfast. A bowl of muesli, topped with fruit-salad and —  go on, spoil yourself – some double cream. I’ll eat it in the sunshine.  So I popped it on the table outside the kitchen door but remembered the mouse (other members of the household are more squeamish than I), I picked it up by its tail, went out of the door and hurled the little body towards the overgrown bank (for the thrice mewing buzzard to eat)– not a very good delivery (sad in a cricketing family) – Splash. Luxury dead-mouse muesli!
You see I’d been reading Macbeth — so it was ordained and it set me thinking what else I should add to my birthday breakfast.
We live in Wales – so Dragon scales and it’s a classic recipe so
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog (all freely available),
I can get hemlock and yew,
but liver of blaspheming Jew?
‘That’s racist!’ interjects the spouse,
‘Just make do with mouse’.
Entrails of a cursing Celt
Would probably suffice –I felt

For offensive antiquary

Insert anathema contemporary

Nose of Turk will no longer work
A politician’s naval I’ll convert.
For Tartar’s lip — a grated betting slip,
Ear hair from a defrocked priest
would be in the spirit of the piece.
Gall of goat and sweat of stoat —
Microwaved in belly of python
And foamed up in a soda syphon…
…That should do it!

May Lambs and cats 014 Black cat