Saturday, 23 May 2015

Langdon Hills: Feeling Blue

"Feeling Blue" by Heenan Photography
"Feeling Blue": Common Blue Butterfly, Langdon Hills, Essex
A rather ragged-looking blue butterfly rests a moment in one of the wildflower meadows of Langdon Hills Country Park, near Basildon in Essex.

The larvae of this butterfly feed on Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus). Adults will also feed on Bird's-foot Trefoil, and a variety of other plants besides (read more at

Many of the butterflies in the Lycaenidae family have interesting relationships with ants. The chrysalis of the Common Blue attracts ants that protect it from predators. Larvae can also produce nutrients to feed ants (read more on Wikipedia).

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Bluebells Arising

Spring is most definitely underway here in the UK, and the signs are all around us. In the Langdon Hills this means some superb swathes of bluebells are soon to carpet the ancient woodlands with blue, and sweetly scent the air. Some woods on the ridge put on their display of bluebells earlier than others due to aspect and other factors, but suffice to say that it will be well worth visiting the various woods over the next few weeks.

Here you can see the first bluebells emerging in Martinhole Wood in Langdon Hills Country Park, and the dense mat of bluebell plants on the ground here presage the plenitude of flowers yet to emerge. The presence of these flowers here, plus others such as lesser celandine and wood anemone, indicate the age of the woodland. Bluebells are protected by law, so please remember not to pick them... Take a photograph, it will last much longer anyway!

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Essex Forest Fragments: Hatfield Coppice

Hazel Coppice in Hatfield Forest
This photo was taken in Hatfield Forest in Essex, a medieval royal hunting ground now owned and managed by the National Trust. This is a fragment of the Forest of Essex, that once covered most of the county. The site is over a thousand acres in size, and is managed using traditional techniques such as coppicing, pollarding, and grazing with livestock.

Coppicing, a technique used for thousands of years to produce useful wood products, has resulted in the interesting growth forms of the trees. Many native trees will regrow with multiple stems after being cut down, producing these distinctive, dense thickets in the photo above. Spring also brings a splash of chartreuse green to the picture, with fresh foliage on both hazel thickets and the ground layer.

Coppicing is often used in modern times as a tool for maintaining the biodiversity of woodlands. It can add variety to the structure of a woodland, and allows light to reach the woodland floor.

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.


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