Sunday 10 December 2023


Day 161 #365DaysWild

A good year for the wild carrot growing in the meadow.

Initially a few seed heads were collected during a walk, their seeds cast and now wild carrot has flourished.

In July its white lace parasol heads are held proudly above the other meadow plants.  Invertebrates use it as a landing platform. Soldier beetles gather to feed and mate giving the country name of ‘Hogweed bonking beetle’. They’re no taxonomists and can be forgiven for bonking on carrot. 

During one of our NGS open walks, the ladies of the Gotham Gardening Club were especially-pleased by this little snippet.

But I love ‘em iced! During the winter the closed, goblet-shaped seed heads are not only architectural but provide food for finches and small mammals.

One day I will see a harvest mouse with prehensile tail gripped around the stem, enjoying supper. 

Saturday 9 December 2023


Day 160 #365DaysWild

Banning of poisonous lead ammunition

Tom Heap interviewed Liam Stokes, CEO of British Game Assurance,  on BBC Countryfile broadcast on Sunday 12 December 2021. His industry has been granted a voluntary scheme which sees lead shot being ‘phased out’ by 2025. He wasn’t put through the wringer.

Hen pheasants with chicks

We were told that tests have shown 179 out of 180 game birds tested contained poisonous lead shot. In law there is no maximum limit of lead in game and no safe limit of lead for humans.

Across the North Sea the EU widely uses steel shot - not lead.

Stokes asserted that game is ‘local’. It isn’t.

Over 27 million hatching eggs or poults of partridges and pheasants were imported into the UK from EU countries in 2019.

He asserted that it is ‘sustainable’. It isn’t.

6000 tons of lead are used in shooting each year. The shot not penetrating birds is scattered across wetlands and farmlands.

55 million pheasants are released into the British countryside each year - greater than the weight of all our songbirds. The inhumane consequence of this massive release is that many pheasants  are killed or maimed on our roads. During shoots, many birds are not killed outright. The presence of this huge number of pheasants leads to excess numbers of pheasant predators e.g. foxes, crows, rats, badgers, magpies. The effects of releases of pheasants on invertebrates are considerable. Clearly, the unregulated release of such a massive number of birds does not mesh with steps to control avian flu and its possible crossover to humans. 

That protected species such as woodcock and snipe can and are shot legally as ‘game’ in the UK is impossible to understand.

Grouse shooting is as far from ‘sustainable’ as can be imagined. It is largely undertaken on an industrial scale with intensively-reared and released birds on driven grouse moors. This monoculture is associated with illegality- especially illegal raptor persecution and the catastrophic decline  of hen harriers.

Stokes also spoke of trees being planted. Tree cover is planted for pheasants. However, through systematic burning, the driven grouse industry eradicates trees creating barren moors with consequent effects on water retention and flooding downstream.

The intervening years until the voluntary ban could lead to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary bird deaths attributed to ingesting lead shot according to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. One in four migratory swans die of lead poisoning.

Lead shot and the ‘legal’ shooting of endangered birds should be banned immediately.

The impact of the release of millions of game birds is demonstrably detrimental to biodiversity in our countryside as well being inhumane and having clear risks to public health.

Influential vested interests advocate for the shooting business- worth £68 million pa and rising.

The echoes of those previously advocating for the tobacco or oil industries are uncomfortable. 

The shooting industry is not ‘sustainable’. 


Consultation on lead ammunition closes at midnight Sunday evening.

Friday 8 December 2023


Day 159 #365DaysWild

I walk at dusk.
Arborists have gone leaving the chainsaw scent of sycamore. 
Tawny owls awaken in Crimea Plantation. Calls are

strange strangulations.
I stand listening, hoping the birds approach but they fall silent.

Tawny owls are prospecting for territories and nest sites.

We’re hoping for owlets this year having had no young during past two.

Thursday 7 December 2023

The canary in the coal mine ...

Day 158 #365DaysWild

Nature and the quality of the food we eat are, in my opinion, inextricably linked.

Organically grown fruit

Healthy, nutrient-rich food cannot be grown in over-ploughed ground that is drenched in artificial fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides. 'The canary in the coal mine' is biodiversity. Where soil and food production are healthy and in sympathy with nature, wildlife will be able to flourish and the food produced will have greater health benefits. I refer you to the excellent science shared in the Zoe podcast 'The truth about organic food' in which they discuss the risks to health of eating food that is not grown organically.

Yesterday, Sam Knowlton (Agronomy Consultant)

drew attention to an article in the journal 'Nature' published on 30 November 2023 on the deterioration in the food quality of rice and wheat over a fifty year period.

I quote:

'Rice and wheat, two of the most crucial food staples worldwide, have experienced a significant decline in nutritional quality over the past 50 years. 

The essential mineral concentration in rice has decreased by 36%, while in wheat, it has dropped by 57%.

At the same time, toxic elements like aluminum have increased by as much as 78%.

This deficiency in nutritional quality, coupled with elevated concentrations of toxic elements, lies at the heart of the overfed yet undernourished paradox.

Home grown green beans
This is the result of high-yielding cultivars bred during the green revolution which led to an increase in synthetic NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) fertiliser use'.

As I write, a significant proportion of the nation faces a cost of living crisis. Simply keeping warm and providing enough food for themselves and their families consumes every waking hour for far too many people.

This situation is the result of political decision-taking. For example, our leaders have chosen not to support a national home-insulation programme which would have cut domestic heating bills and reduced our reliance on fossil fuels. Skewing the economics of food production towards high-input, nature-degraded agriculture is also a political decision. In both cases, the effectiveness of non-elected pressure groups has subverted democracy in favour of vested interests.

Growing our own organic food
is better for us and better for nature

Producing healthy, regenerative food that people can afford is achievable with sufficient political will. The potential beneficial impact on health and quality of life have been demonstrated. The long-term benefits to the NHS in preventing food-related health conditions could be significant.

For our health and for nature we must change course urgently.

Wednesday 6 December 2023


Day 157 #365DaysWild

Turkish sage (phlomis Russeliana) now in what garden designer Piet Oudolf described as ‘the fifth season’ - a celebration of plants in their ‘dead’ stage. On frosty days, the structures of the seed heads are especially interesting.

When we were first developing our prairie beds, it was Turkish sage which best exemplified the kind of planting and effect we wanted to achieve.

Although the perennials have retreated beneath the frosty ground, their stems, dried leaves and seed heads still provide food and protection for birds and invertebrates.

Goldfinches probe the seed heads for food.
We leave the dead tops of the plants during winter,
‘Dead hedges’ are built up using twigs, sticks and branches and the arisings from perennials in the beds and meadows. They provide ideal places for invertebrates, mammals, birds and herpetofauna.

removing everything to our dead hedges before spring growth, helping wildlife and removing the need for smoky bonfires.

Tuesday 5 December 2023

Stripped oak

Day 156 #365DaysWild

Out and home before dawn. 
Walk entirely torch lit. 
The woods darkened paths difficult to follow, squelched mud and leaves. 
Oaks stripped.

Drizzle throughout.
Coat, boots hat and trousers now hanging to dry..
But so enriching to feel the sweep of the seasons on my skin.

Monday 4 December 2023


Day 155 #365DaysWild

Rain has cleared the snow.

Drive to Southwell today. Field ditches churned cocoa colour. Oxton village flooded again. Engulfing bow-waves from lorries. Huge chunks of tarmac erupted as water boiled out into the road.

In Bestwood Country Park, footpaths are impassable.

“Greenhouse gas levels are record high. Global temperatures are record high. Sea level rise is record high. Antarctic sea ice is record low. It’s a deafening cacophony of broken records,” WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.

Sunday 3 December 2023

Proper snow

Day 154 #365DaysWild

Proper snow.

Saturday 2 December 2023


Day 153 #365DaysWild

Frost persists. The dusting of snow is now hard.

Garden a fairyland.

Friday 1 December 2023

House sparrows

Day 152 # 365DaysWild

Thanks to everyone for their amazing support this morning as we sited the house sparrow boxes.
Almost all boxes up - a few people out so their boxes still to go.

A great team effort from my brother-in-law Roger, RSPB Officer Carl and Friends of Bestwood Country Park amazing naturalist Hayley.

Now the long wait till spring!!!!

Photos by Hayley.

Thursday 30 November 2023


Day 151 #365DaysWild

A dusting of snow across the park.

A single snatch of song from a song thrush. 

Acid green siskin and blood orange lesser redpolls in the birch tops.

Wednesday 29 November 2023

Air frost

Day 151 #365DaysWild.

Air frost this morning.

Pond frozen.

First group booking for National Garden Scheme taken for July. Summer feels a long way away this morning..

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Full moon waning

Day 150 #365DaysWild

The full moon now waning above the trees in the the north west.

The sun molten on the eastern horizon.

Migrant voices across the wet fields lifting rhubarb roots in the soggy ground.

A solitary raven big and cronking.

Monday 27 November 2023

Rich winter vegetable soup

Day 149 #365DaysWild

Into the dark days now. Walking before sunset.

A busy week ahead with lunch guests most days!

But plenty of home-grown vegetables available for …

Rich & spiced winter vegetable soup for two*

Onion chopped.
Leek washed and chopped
Olive oil

Stir onions & leeks into oil on moderate heat and cover. Stir regularly until slightly caramelised.

Grind dessert spoons of coriander and cumin and add.

Add crushed garlic cloves 

Stir for a few minutes.

Add diced squash, kale, potato and carrot.

Stir for a few minutes.

Add a tin of chopped tomatoes, a couple of dried bay leaves and the rind a Parmesan.

Stir for a few minutes.

Add stock.

Simmer or use slow cooker until all vegetables softened then remove Parmesan and bay leaves.

Mash or whizz. I don’t completely blitz till smooth but try to leave some pieces of vegetable. Your choice.

Taste. At this point I usually add a teaspoon or two of ginger paste and also chilli powder to taste.

Now in with a tin of cannellini beans.

A final taste and seasoning 

…. et voila..

Serve with home made bread.

* as I’m making ‘a pancheon**’ of soup I multiply this up.

** A dialect family word for a large pot from the Notts/Derbys border

Sunday 26 November 2023


Day 148 #365DaysWild

A magnificence of oaks! 

Each morning these majestic trees accompany me on my walk.