16th August 2018

Coppice with standards– I’ve talked before about the value of coppiced woodland for wildlife and diversity of flowers, insects and birds and the favoured form of coppicing in Sussex was ‘coppice with standards’. As can be seen in the photo’s, the coppiced Chestnut or Hornbeam, cut in rotation every 12 -15 years for maximum sustainable wood-crops, would also always include ‘standard’ oaks, which were have been spaced through the coppice, and of varying ages. Occasionally a mature Oak would then be felled for timber, and another sapling left to grow on and eventually replace it. This management of woodland produced a wide variety of sustainable wood over

Normanhurst woods, Catsfield- coppice with standard oak.

Recently cut coppice with standard oak.

centuries. Sadly, much woodland is now left to grow too dense for light to filter in and the variety of species to flourish. New Oaks are seldom planted to replace the old. Conditions: Rain overnight in Sheffield. Temperature: Max 20 Min 10 C.


11th August 2018

Gin seems to be the fashionable drink this year and if the south is anything to go by, you should be able to make your own tasty and beautifully coloured Sloe Gin shortly. Despite the exceptionally hot, dry summer, and maybe due to the very wet spring, without late frosts, very plump, nearly ripe (already with a bloom on their skins) Sloes were weighing down the Blackthorn bushes on East Hill, Hastings this morning, mingling with heavy crops of Elderberries and Blackberries. Conditions: Nearby Herstmonceux had an astonishing 3 inches of rain yesterday, while Catsfield had long deluges. Temperature: Max 20 Min 15 c.


Blackberries and Sloes


9th August 2018

Plantlife reveals disturbing figures: We have lost 97% of our meadows since the 1930’s, one in five of our wild flowers are in danger of disappearing, and every county loses a wild flower every couple of years. They work hard to reverse this ‘great thinning’ and have created 90 new meadows in 3 years, and protected and restored 3,000 hectares of grassland in just one of their projects. Without our wild flowers and meadows, insects decline rapidly (75% recorded loss in a recent survey) and so do birds. Every little bit helps, from growing nectar rich plants, introducing wild flowers to your garden, encouraging settlements of all sizes to plant wild flower meadows. Joining plantlife.love-wildflowers.org.uk is also worth

Wildflower meadow

Wild Flower Meadow, Sheffield, Earl Marshall

Rich meadowland

Meadows support insects which support many birds

considering. Conditions: Showers and cool at last! Temperature: Max 16 Min 10 C.

6th August 2018

Fleabane, a flower of damp areas and ditches, (in short supply this dry, hot summer) was attracting many feeding insects yesterday, none more beautiful than the tiny, fast moving Small Copper butterfly. Fleabane, as its name suggests, was dried and burned to deter fleas, in the days when people strewed rushes and herbs on the floors of their homes. Its Latin name, Pulicaria (Pulex =Flea) Dysenterica, also points to its early use as a medicine against dysentry. Although Culpepper called it an “ill-looking weed”, the Romans valued it more highly, using it to make wreaths. Conditions: Continuing extremely hot and dry. Temperature: Max 27

Small Copper on Fleabane

Small Copper

Common Blue on Fleabane

Min14 C 

31st July 2018

It is not too late to do the Big Butterfly Count! For anyone who has a job identifying the most common brown butterflies, this may help. The Ringlet is distinctive for its velvety dark background and for having several circles, though the number and size can vary. Meadow Browns have one circle on their forewings, with one white spot, and in most habitats is the Brown most frequently seen, and Gatekeepers (declined 44% since the 1970’s, largely due to intensification of farming) have two white spots in their single dark circle. Conditions: Cool breeze and occasional shower ut the welcome spell of rain seems over too soon. Temperature: Max 22 Min 12 C.


Meadow Brown

Male Meadow Brown

Male Gatekeeper

25th July 2018

It is time for the Big Butterfly Count, and wildlife guru’s from David Attenborough to Chris Packham are urging people to take part. It is easy- there is a phone app and identifying pictures and it matters as much if you see nothing in your 15 minute survey as it does if you see a lot. I was lucky to see these male Common Blue Butterflies at the weekend, which shows what a small patch of wild flowers can do, as there were several other species in a small garden patch. Round the corner, where an industrial site has pulled out a species-rich verge and hedge, there was devastation-

Common Blue

Male Common Blue

Male Common Blue

Male Common Blue

where once I saw 40 Common Blues at a glance, I saw two. Every wild space counts. Common Blue caterpillars exude a sweet substance which attract ants, which then deter predators- such evolutionary finesse. Conditions: Still dry hot days with crops and vegetation visibly damaged. Temperature: Max 25 Min 14 C.

22nd July 2018

Six-spot Burnet Moth

Burnet Moths – the Six-spot Burnet moths can be seen wherever their caterpillars’ food supply- trefoils and vetch- thrive ( see photo). Cyanides in these plants are passed from caterpillar to adult moth stage, deterring bird- predators. However, in Ireland last month, on the wonderful Burren limestone, we saw ( a first for me) these Transparent Burnet Moths on the gorgeous deep mauve Tufted Vetch. You won’t see these in England but the Six-spots ( see one of the photos) are pretty common and flying now. Conditions: continuing parched dry, hot weather. Temperature: Max 24 Min 16 C.

Transparent Burnet Moth on Tufted Vetch

Transparent Burnet Moth