Monday, 8 September 2014

Beautful north Somerset

We treated ourselves to a wonderful overnight stay in Porlock Bay (with a sea view!), on the north Somerset coast, and a walk and drive around Exmoor.  

The weather was fantastic and we were able to find lots of ripe blackberries, untroubled by other walkers.  The moorland is purple right now with flowering heather and was an amazing sight; everywhere was alive with the buzz of bees.  The flowers give off a sweet, honey-like scent which is surprisingly strong.

The woodlands, which cloak many of the deep river valleys incising the moorland, are starting to hint at the autumn ahead, with darkening tones and some gentle amber hues.

Another sign is the fungi sprouting their fruiting bodies through the leaf litter.  The slightly alarming smell of the stinkhorn, which helps you to search it out, is only surpassed by its distinctive shape...

There is a great view from the Toll Road overlooking the bay north of Porlock:

In many of the hedgerows robins seemed to be the most vocal birds with their melancholy song.  In the farmsteads, hundreds of swallows and house martins were seen swooping around, chirping and twittering busily.  It certainly felt like summer was on its way out...

Friday, 29 August 2014

New Forest splendor

AS the summer draws to its inevitable close, the colours on the New Forest heathland turn to purple with heather ('ling') flowers, along with the odd splash of yellow gorse.


Cattle and  horses are the main graziers in the Forest, along with deer that browse and pigs that root!  These animals maintain the delicate balance between keeping the vegetation down to ensure that it does not revert to woodland, whilst not overgrazing and destroying the wildlife interest.

The day was quite warm for our visit and here the horses were taking advantage of the few waters sources still running in the valleys:


Not many butterflies were evident - but this grayling seemed quite happy to sit on a warm, reflective hand (mine!).  As I changed my position it turned in order to maximise the warmth from the sun.

Our lunch spot:

Where there are flushes and the ground is damp for most of the year, mosses can grow and in the nutrient poor habitat the sundews are able to thrive, supplementing their diet with trapped insects.

These areas are also preferred by cross-leaved heather:

On the fringes of the forest there are areas of unimproved grassland within small paddocks.  Where the grazing is lighter and the ground is also flushed with ground water, the feverfew flowers profusely at this time of the year.

The New Forest is surprisingly sparse in visitors (away from the car parks).  It has something to offer at any time of year, but is particularly special in August (for the purple heather) and later in Autumn, for the amazing colours and profuse fungi.  We highly recommend it.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

The purples have it...

IF you live near an area with limestone or chalk bedrock it's worth hunting out patches of ungrazed, permanent pasture at this time of year, as the late summer colours can be spectacular.

The scabiouses and knapweeds are interspersed with old yellow rattle flowers, seeding grasses, white dropwort, blue harebell and orchids gone to seed - this provides a wonderful sea of purples and muted browns.