Friday, 13 February 2015

Vange Well #5

View of the sky from Well #5
Up in the hills of Langdon Hill Country Park in Essex, tucked away in the woodlands, lies a ruin. A relic, a building which housed Well Number 5 of the Vange Water Company. The metalwork of the domed roof creates an interesting frame for the sky, and for the encroaching woodland which is reclaiming the site.

Read more about the building and "Farmer Cash's Famous Medicinal Vange Water" at the Basildon History website.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Greenwich Reedbeds

Taken last November, the winter sunshine bathes the Thames in this photo taken from the Greenwich peninsula, looking North and East out over the reed-beds. The Thames Barrier can be seen in the distance.

This photo was taken in North Greenwich from the Thames Path, near the delightful little oasis that is the Greenwich Ecology Park (and not far from the O2 arena, formerly the Millenium Dome). At one time wetlands (marsh, reed-beds and ponds) would have covered much of the the peninsula; the peninsula was actually known as Greenwich Marsh! Green space here has disappeared and reappeared since then, with the rise of industry in the 1880's and its subsequent decline. The Ecology Park's wetland habitats sit on the site of an old steelworks, and were created in 2000 when the peninsula was regenerated. The Ecology Park and the reed-beds nearby are artificial, but are still true reflections of what was once the natural landscape here by the Thames. The wildlife that has since colonised these habitats attests to their value.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Fallen Limb

Taken in Epping Forest, "Fallen Limb" shows a veteran Oak pollard with a large fallen bough. The forest is starting to show autumnal colours here, with hornbeam showing yellow tones in the background of this picture.

Pollarding is a traditional woodland management technique which involves cutting back the tree to head height, to stimulate growth and produce useful lengths of wood. This often results in unusual shapes as the tree grows, particularly if the cutting regime isn't continued. Eventually, an unmanaged pollard can become unable to support the weight of its limbs, dropping branches or even being split in twain.

Read more about Epping Forest and Pollarding on the City of London website.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Marbled White at Langdon Hills

This shot captures a Marbled White butterfly, feeding on red clover at Langdon Hills Country Park, in Thurrock (Essex). The site has a number of meadows, supporting a myriad of insects and other wildlife - including 33 species of butterfly. Many of these are on the wing now that the British summer is most definitely here. Below we have some more information about the Marbled White butterfly, from Naturalist Natasha Lodge.
- Tom Heenan, Photographer

The Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) is actually more closely related to the 'Brown' butterflies than the 'White' butterflies due to its life cycle and habits. It has distinct black and white markings that make it easy to recognise. Small, red, parasitic mites are often seen on the bodies of Marbled Whites, but these do not pose a threat to the butterfly in small numbers and do not detract from their attractive colouring. It is a common species and is found throughout most of South and central England and in parts of South Wales. It is currently absent from Scotland, however the species is expanding northwards.
- Natasha Lodge, Naturalist

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Fading Comma

"Fading Comma", resting amongst the Speedwell flowers, May 2013.

The sun is finally shining on us here in the UK, or so it seems. The butterflies are making the most of the bright weather, with many of these bold and beautiful creatures flying around the woodlands and meadows of the countryside, or visiting gardens. Here is a shot from last Summer, of an old Comma butterfly, starting to look ragged but still beautifully coloured, resting on the grass amongst the Speedwell flowers. This shot was taken on the walk between Admiral's Park in Chelmsford and the village of Writtle.

Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys) is an interesting flower. Some attribute the name "Speedwell" to its use as a traditional remedy, where it was supposed to cure a person quickly (see article here). It may not be enough to restore the Comma butterfly in the face of climate change however.

The Comma butterfly, and other darker insects like it, may soon be fading away as a result of climate change. A study published last month found that global warming is favouring lighter coloured insects over darker ones; Zeuss et al. looked at a wide range of butterfly and dragonfly species across Europe and found that their colouring affects their ability to cope with temperature. The current distribution of these insects is linked to their colouring, and as temperature increases their distribution will too. Darker insects, like the Comma, retreat northwards and lighter insects appear in their place. “Until now we could only watch the massive changes in the insect fauna during the last 20 years. Now we have an idea of what could be a strong cause of the changes," said Dirk Zeuss, lead author of the study. This will help to predict future changes to insect populations in Europe.


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