wild flowers

Nothing is ever just Black or White.

Do you recognise this plant? I didn’t.

Browsing the plant life near to the beach at Snettisham I found something unfamiliar — a large attractive flowering shrub growing in the midst of stinging nettles and thistles with quite leathery leaves. It was blowing a gale, black clouds were heaving overhead and I had no gloves to explore more closely. So I took some photos and made haste to the car park!

Here it is again, note the tendrils and the ivy shaped matt leaves. This is white bryony, Bryonia cretica — a climbing perennial related to squash and cucumber but is poisonous — deaths have been recorded. Even drinking milk from cows that have grazed it can be harmful. This one was climbing all over its neighbours, pretending to be a dense bush. Black berries in Autumn but not to be confused with Black Bryony our familiar hedgerow climbing vine which has red berries — is that clear?

Black bryony, I don’t know why they call it black, is also known as lady’s seal or black bindweed, Tamus communis. It is a member of the yam family, twining clockwise, some say ante-clockwise — I suppose it all depends which way you look at it, or whether it grows in the southern hemisphere! It has no tendrils, the leaves are heart-shaped and shiny and all parts are poisonous containing saponins. Intrepid or very hungry folk evidently eat the new shoots when cooked — not recommended, as even if it doesn’t poison you, picking it may bring you out in a nasty rash.


Gastronomic Interlude!

Norfolk Edge beach cafe at Winterton, Norfolk

Amazing what you find while looking for little terns. Young men cooking marvellous food!

Skilled and efficient and rightly proud of their superb beach cuisine.

Here we heard the immortal words, “Does the dairy free still want truffle oil?” That’s what I call beach food!

If you are anywhere near North Norfolk — check them out!

Ecology, Farm engineering


To increase our biodiversity we have long wanted to dig a pond in our woodland — we have tried before — it is not easy manoeuvring a heavy digger in waterlogged mud — what you need, we have learned, is an expert.


We know where to dig from the rushes and willow saplings that grow there (and the dents from previous attempts). In the past, discretion has always forced us back onto solid ground, occasionally with great difficulty! Today the weather is dry and sunny and the nearby stream is the lowest we have ever seen. Meurig, a man at one with his machine — he could use it to peel an orange, has come to help us.

By lunchtime we have a big hole and as he predicted water is appearing all by itself.

The one larger willow will be on its own island — ducks welcome,

By teatime its definitely a pond and filling up fast and I’m looking on the internet for life-belts!

We have uncovered a cache of thick, antique Welsh slate — haphazard sizes, mainly broken that were buried in the mud — they might help waterproof the clay banks — if nobody wants them — does anybody want them?

Don’t worry — it will all green up in no time but we might help a bit with some native pond weed and maybe some yellow flags and buckbean.

Bogbean aka Buckbean

Jubilee Ringing

Today 4 septuagenarians, one carrying a 10 ft ladder, picked their way along a precipitate and thickly wooded hillside in the foothills of the Cambrian mountains. While others waved flags (today was the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee) we looked for bird nest boxes put up at the end of winter and now hidden in the deep foliage of the Welsh rainforest. Bill and I were trying to help ring this year’s chicks.

Great tit, one of a brood of 8. Very feisty and ready to fly the nest.

A right of passage — to get a number before they leave the nest — for us to monitor what is going on and to make sure we are doing the best we can to help the local birdlife! Most of out boxes only went up this year so expectations were not high as Jan and Jon of the local Habitat Protection Group inspected the 12 boxes which were designed primarily to boost our population of pied flycatchers.

This box had 7 chicks in it — Pied flycatchers!

Two of the boxes revealed pied flycatchers, one with a record brood of 9 chicks. The total of 16 chicks in the first year exceeded our wildest dreams.

Undignified but gently done this great tit gets registered and tagged with a little metal anklet.
Pied flycatcher chick poses after being ringed.

12 boxes yielded 48 chicks of which 24 were blue tits, 16 pied flycatchers and 8 great tits.

Thanks to the Habitat Protection Group for sharing their time, knowledge, expertise and for their patience and for giving us such a memorable jubilee.