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.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

"Cotswold Beech Burst"

Beech limbs seem to burst over a traditional Cotswold dry stone wall in this image by Heenan Photography.
"Cotswold Beech Burst", Maugersbury, Gloucestershire.
There is something about this image that I have just fallen in love with. Is it the extraordinary beech tree, whose limbs seem to burst over the traditional Cotswold dry stone wall? Is it the wall itself, that very woldsy structure formed of warm-toned Jurassic limestone and stone-age craft beginning to be colonised by ivy? It can't be the garish modern road-sign in the foreground. But perhaps it could be the juxtaposition of the three elements within one picture which I find appealing. On the edge of the delightful little rural backwater Maugersbury, itself a stones throw from Stow-on-the-Wold, this quiet country lane bears the intrusion of the modern world. In this image at least, the modern world has yet to take over completely: the enormous tree and the stone wall beneath it manage to dominate the photograph.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Historical Epping Forest: A Photographic Exploration

The Epping Forest area is full of historic buildings as well as ancient trees. Churches, chapels, hunting lodges and haunted pubs, the area is full of interesting buildings with fascinating histories (and photogenic foibles). Here are a handful of images to show you just some of the historical interest to be found here in South-West Essex, on the edge of London.


The Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge has to feature in any mention of the history of Epping Forest. From Elizabeth I to William Morris (whose first recorded interest in textiles was during a visit to the hunting lodge - read more about him here), this building has touched upon the lives of many important figures. The lodge was actually built for Henry VIII, back in 1543. The two photos above show the hunting lodge during a medieval re-enactment event, a chance to see history come to life at the hunting lodge. The hunting lodge and the newly-built visitor centre next door are excellent places to learn more about the forest (and "The View" visitor centre does indeed have fantastic views out over Chingford Plain), and there are a number of marked trails leading out from here to help you explore the woodland. Find out more about the lodge and upcoming events at the City of London website.

"The Chapel" in Chigwell Row
The Chigwell Row chapel above, dominated by very grand Plane trees, was opened in 1804 (although the frontage is probably more recent according to British History Online) and it is now a United Free Church. The building, though squat and rectangular, looks stunning when its golden bricks soak up the sunlight. Chigwell Row was an outlying hamlet on the very edge of Hainault Forest, and although development has since joined it up with neighbouring settlements it still retains some pretty village features (and some of nearby Hainault Forest still remains to enjoy).

Some of the fascinating features that can be found on buildings in the area
And in this final image, a montage of building features. On the left is one of the gargoyles which grace the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Pub in Chingford. Just around the corner from the hunting lodge, this pub is reputedly haunted (did the ghost inspire the gargoyles, or vice versa?). In the middle of the montage is a Norman Cross, part of the original Norman doorway of St. Mary's Church in Chigwell Village (built in 1160). Finally, the head to the right of the montage is part of the decorative stonework around the arched doorways at the All Saints Church in Chigwell Row (next to Hainault Forest). Besides being a very fine piece of masonry, the face seems to have a quiet dignity which is very suited to a man of stone.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Chignal Jester

The Chignal Jester stands proudly on its head.
Has someone turned this tree upside-down as some kind of April fool? The ash tree in this photo, taken in rural Essex, certainly looks topsy-turvy. The short stout trunk ends in a blunt and lumpy way (as a result of pollarding) and the winter-bare, spreading branches above it strongly resemble roots. A number of gnarled, veteran ash trees can be found throughout the farmland around Chelmsford, but this one near the Chignals was particularly photogenic. Its trunk catches the winter sunshine, and its branches seem to embrace the blue sky. It presides over both the country lane and fields beside it, but the other trees distant in the background place it in context: this tree is one of many dotted through the agricultural landscape, and these provide added interest and a huge benefit for wildlife (providing food for butterflies and moths, for example).

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