The following post was written by Woodlore Aspirant Instructor Sarah Day.
Our wonderful waterways are now being accessed and enjoyed by more people than ever. The rivers teem with canoeists, kayakers and paddle boarders, as well as the traditional rowers and anglers. Most are aware to some degree of the risks of sharp (often man-made) debris in the river, fallen trees, and the hazard of the water itself – even that of Weil’s disease – but many are unfamiliar with the harm that their own actions can cause to the ecosystem and how they can avoid doing so.
I was paddling recently in the River Stour in Suffolk, near Langham. My partner spotted a jawbone (probably from a cow) on the river bed of the shallow section and picked it out to show me. It wasn’t the worn teeth and odd hole through the side that I noticed first though – it was the tiny, striped mollusc shell clinging to the bone.
The zebra mussell found by Sarah
I recognised it from the warning poster I’d seen at Alton Water the week before. It was almost certainly a zebra mussel; an invasive species of freshwater mussel, native to Russia, that probably came here originally in the ballast water of ships. It is small but prolific, and can totally clog up water treatment plants, kill native swan mussels, and cause lake beaches to become virtually unusable due to the swathes of sharp shell fragments. Continue reading →
In the heart of winter, it can seem that the long, dark nights are closing in around us. But the forest, seemingly asleep, is already making preparations for the most spectacular of its annual displays. The days are already starting to draw out again as we are blessed with crisp mornings, and soon we will feel the excitement of change in the air. Look closely and you will see that buds of many trees are already formed, holding close their furled treasure; spring is waiting.
The magic of the British woodlands in spring is the wonder of transformation and new life. The leaner times of winter are washed away in a flood of colour, scent and sound. Once again we can rest in coppices bathed in the deep perfume of ramsons; walk beneath the cathedral bowers of the beech, fresh in the succulence of their new leaves; drift slowly to sleep, lulled by the heady perfume of bluebells, and wake to the serenade of birdsong. These are the experiences that form our year and bring renewed vigour to our love of the forest. There is an irrepressible thrill, a deep connection with the life of these very special places, which wakes the soul and sets our pace into the coming year.
As the sun’s weak rays start to muster their strength and bring warmth to our forest home, the plants that surround us respond with generosity. The sap will rise in the birch, giving us a short-lived opportunity to enjoy this invigorating draft. The willow will loosen its bark, allowing us to harvest the fibres needed for cordage at this time of year, and many other plants will provide their fresh, young leaves, ready for salads: a welcome repast which speaks of the freshness of the season.
Ray’s latest series comes to a close this week, with the sixth and final episode of Wilderness Walks with Ray Mears hitting our screens at 7:30 PM on Tuesday 30th December, on ITV1.
In this episode, Ray journeys to the magnificent Isle of Skye in search of Britain’s rarest bird of prey, the spectacular sea eagle. Yet, it is a golden eagle he spots overhead which truly inspires him. He says: “I could watch that bird all day. It’s so majestic, and it makes our puny efforts at moving through this landscape seem completely ridiculous. It’s wonderful. You know, native people all over the world considered eagles to have a special affinity with the creator because they flew so high – I think they’re right.”
A new book has been released this autumn, chronicling the captivating lives of one of Britain’s most recognisable native species. My Year with Hares records one man’s amazing year-long obsession with this fascinating animal, from his addiction to finding and photographing them through the seasons, to rearing a rescued leveret.
The book’s author is one Martin Hayward Smith, a professional wildlife cameraman and photographer, who has travelled the world extensively for the BBC and Discovery, among many other companies. Ray and Martin first worked together during the filming for Ray’s Wild Britain series, and it was this chance meeting that ultimately led to Ray writing the foreword to Martin’s beautiful book.
Read on for Ray’s foreword in its entirety, along with a selection of Martin’s images, taken from My Year with Hares:
If you want to see wildlife you need to dress warmly and in colours that blend in with your surroundings. Then go outdoors when others are indoors and sit perfectly still. Remain perfectly still even if it involves suffering.Continue reading →
During the UK course season, our team of instructors often find themselves gaining a unique level of intimacy with their surroundings at our various course sites. A number of our team are also keen photographers, and occasionally this blend of interests pays off in spectacular ways: