Challenging Habitat Blog

The expansive views of Dartmoor at the headwaters of the Tavy.

Beautiful at the largest scale.

And intriguing at the smallest scale:

What is he doing in there?*

*lyrics of a song by Tom Waits

Let’s say this is a grasshopper, which species I wouldn’t know.

I heard and then saw it, and numerous more, in the flower meadows of a local nature reserve.

Flower meadow in the nature reserve

This area used to be a farm and now it is a haven for wildlife, with its hedgerows, meadows, shoreline of the estuary and small woodlands and quarries.

It also serves the local community as recreational area and it seems that as an ecosystem that provides services to people, too, it all works well together.

It’s Father’s Day in the UK.

One thing I really don’t miss during lockdown is shopping and, by extension, the madness of consumerism on days, such as this.

Christmas, Valentine’s, Easter, Mothering Sunday, Halloween, Guy Fawkes… what did I forget?

All are occasions when we are made to believe that we can’t express our love for people or enjoy ourselves without purchasing stuff we don’t need and we don’t really want, either.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not wearing a hair shirt and I don’t live in a cave. I have a car and laptop, a smartphone and Goretex wet weather clothing.

I like to give and receive presents like anyone else and for me it’s always the thought that counts.

But the mountains of plastic junk and knick knacks that go with these occasions disturb me for reasons of resources, waste and sustainability.

‘Non-essential’ shops have opened in the UK a week ago. I’ve not been – I continue my daily exercise outdoors and I don’t need new stuff or a shopping experience for entertainment.

Being in a beech forest, on a cliff top or on my paddle board is precious time to me.

And this will not change when the hold of COVID-19 over the way we behave diminishes.

Then, I will just reintroduce more precious time (and hugs) with friends and family into my life. Including those who live 800 miles from here.

Can’t wait to see you again, dad!

What beautifully delicate white flowers!

Fit for a bridal bouquet, if it wasn’t for the toxicity of its sap.

This is the flower of Heracleum sphondylium, Hogweed. Roots, stems, leaves and flowers – all toxic and related to Hemlock, the plant Socrates was poisoned with.

And the ‘critter’?

I hazard a guess at Strangalia maculata, a longhorn beetle, who is obviously not deterred by whatever this plant is producing to deter predation.

But then, it might just be after the pollen, and that’s in the interest of the plant.

Umbelliferous flower head backlit against a sunny sky

Foraging (be)for(e) breakfast!

For a couple of weeks I’ve been eating handfuls of bird cherries during my dog’s early morning ramble.

This morning I ‘rescued’ a large bowl full from the rot, inevitably brought on by days of rain.

This year, they are almost as big as sweet cherries and big enough to take the stones out. So, perhaps it’s cake time!

Thank you NATURE!

Sadly, i can’t bring to you the heady scent of the hedgerows on a sunny afternoon after a summer rain and the rumble of thunder.

Rambling roses, honeysuckle, bramble and a myriad of other wild flowers, combined with that freshness following dust washed off leaves and the slightly musty smell of decay and damp soil.

Uniquely summer!

There one moment, gone a few steps on. Re-emerging with a different, refreshing quality under the canopy of trees…

Time for a deep breath and a smile.

I could have been the tropics, well, almost!

The river Yealm estuary is not 5000 miles away, but it features turquoise waters.

My first paddle boarding venture out of my local river, the very muddy Tamar, since lockdown was rewarded with beautiful wooded river banks, clear views to the rocky bottom and of fish, shellfish, sea weeds and jellyfish.

What a beautiful day in the excellent company of my friend Malcolm.

Another paddle on the Tamar, right up to the weir today.

It’s a narrow, steep sided valley and I spotted a kingfisher flitting past. A dart of sapphire and emerald.

Some butterflies just flutter by, always on the move.

For a while, this small tortoiseshell was content with where it settled.

In German, we call this flower ‘Flammende Liebe’ – ‘flaming love’, and it is at its best in the hedges and banks at the moment.

In fact, I’ve never seen it bloom more prolifically in the Southwest. It’s my mum’s favourite wild flower and with travel restrictions and quarantine in place, it’s a bittersweet reminder that I won’t be seeing my family for a long while to come.

12 weeks in lockdown and I’m looking for the silver lining…

What are we learning?

About the value of life?

About the value of health and looking after mind, body and spirit?

About the value of relationships and society?

About receiving and gratitude?

About giving, kindness and generosity?

About our relationship with nature, our being part of nature?

About what we think need and what we think we want, or do we, really?

About status and money and power and priorities and values and meaning and motivation and what we want our taxes spent on in future.

I started my day with wild cherries picked while letting my dog have his morning run.

Free food, natural, pretty, healthy, a little tart and delicious!

Mellow yellow!

After blue, white and pink, the yellow has returned to our lanes. Not in form of daffodils, of course, but a range of shapes and sizes…

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