Spring 2023 blog update


I wanted to do a blog update post as I have fallen behind with writing and photography, but am still in existence. Believe me it pains me not having the time or mental space to write anything, possibly more than it pains you to read this blog.

I’ve just finished working on a short-term project job and it’s been pretty full on. I’m hopeful that in April I’ll be able to post more, especially with the invertebrate world coming to life again. I’m also about to embark on a new project job, full-time, meaning I will have to be more organised about how I post on here. As ever I want to keep my blog as an outlet.

Hairy footed flower bee rescued from the road

Spring, it cometh

There have been a couple of signs of spring awakening in my garden, with a hairy-footed flower bee my most seasonal sighting. That said, I have only seen one, which is perhaps unusual for this time of year.

It’s late March now and the local green spaces have their chiffchaffs back.

In mid-March I led a spring walk in Dulwich for London Wildlife Trust. It was rather wet but there were still signs of the season changing.

Lesser celandines were the closest thing to a flowering plant I could find, but ramsons, bluebells and wood anemone were in leaf. That said, wood anemone appears to be a casualty of lockdown, in that the increased footfall has trampled this delicate ancient woodland plant out.

In terms of the more distant past, I spoke to the group about the Victorian impact on the woods, how invasive species like knotweed, laurel and rhododendron had been introduced by them. At the end of the walk one attendee spoke to me and told me something that astonished me.

“My family, back in the 1700s, were responsible for introducing rhododendrons to the country,” he said. “It’s in the bones.”

I was aware of the fact that my throwaway comment about Victorian introductions might have potentially been an insult. I explained that it was more in regard to their place in wilder landscapes which he agreed with, mentioning just how destructive they are in more rainy places like Scotland. 

I’ve said before on here that one of the great things about leading guided walks is that people feel comfortable sharing their knowledge with you. Guided walks are always a shared experience, not a lecture. They’re an invitation for people to look differently at a place and make others aware of things you didn’t know yourself.

I’ll have to be more careful in my (mild) criticism of the role Britons past have played in changing the flora, fauna and funga of the UK.

A worrying extract from The Gallows Pole

The Gallows Pole

I’ve been reading the novels of Benjamin Myers recently, an author of poetry, fiction and place writing based in Yorkshire. While on a weekend break I read The Offing and gobbled it up. It’s the story of a young man walking in the north of England one summer after the Second World War. He becomes friends with a very charismatic woman who takes him under her wing, in the way that people in their 30s upwards can often do for young people at the end of their teenage years. It’s a beautiful book and much recommended.

I’ve just finished the very brutal The Gallows Pole. The story is based in ‘the land of my forefathers’, the Calder Valley near Hebden Bridge in North Yorkshire. It’s a visceral, violent and disturbing novel but is one of the best I’ve read in years. It has that ‘unputdownable’ quality. More disturbing for me is the number of Greenwoods who crop up as part of the illegal coin clipping industry that blossomed in the rainy hills of Calderdale. Not least, a Daniel Greenwood! And it’s historical fiction! My family were hillfarmers there up until some point in the 1800s, living in the area around Haworth at the time of the Brontรซs, before moving to Liverpool where my father was born. Greenwood is a Yorkshire name with heavy concentrations around Lancashire, too, probably because they moved to work in the cotton industries at the advent of the Industrial Revolution. My Dad told me that Greenwood comes from a wooded place known as ‘Greenwode’. ‘Wode’ of course is the Anglo-Saxon name for woodland.

The Lost Rainforests of Britain

In the nature writing world, in February I read The Lost Rainforests of Britain by Guy Shrubshole. It’s great to see these woodlands getting some press, especially seeing as they have been decimated over the centuries, with very little of the the habitat left. Shrubshole shows the way for how much of the landscape in Western Britain can be home to more of this unique habitat. I hope it can progress but worry that in a warming climate it becomes less viable.

I felt the book might have benefitted more from a deeper focus on the landscape at its heart – Dartmoor, close to where Shrubshole lives. The random trips to tick off other woods felt a bit of a distraction from a more meaningful account, such is the style of this type of species or habitat-focused genre. In terms of personal taste, the name-dropping of other writers and musicians has become a tedious pastime of this genre and makes it seem like a clique. I don’t think that helps the movement, though again it’s probably about personal taste.

It’s definitely worth a read if you want to know more about things like Atlantic oak woodland and the habitats and landscape history of Dartmoor.

Thanks for reading.

8 thoughts on “Spring 2023 blog update”

  1. Thanks Daniel, interesting post. Personally I think you should carry on mentioning invasive species, the more people who know about it the better, so less people plant them. Also know what you mean about a certain genre of nature writing that I am reading at the moment. It’s interesting, but I feel that not only are the temperate rainforests a world I will always have difficulty in visiting due to transport issues, time and cost, but that the book told of a club that I am not part of nor ever will be (not sure that makes sense). However, I loved Wild Fell, which felt so different in its approach – a job was being done and done well.

    1. Thanks Sylvia. I will deffo mention invasive species, but it was just quite hilarious that people from hundreds of years ago had a representative at the event! ๐Ÿ˜‚

      Yes, there is a lot of driving in this particular book, which for me just fragments things. It also says a lot about how crap rural public transport is.

      Well if you liked Wild Fell, the author is basically the equivalent of Jesus in this one, appearing every few chapters like some mythical figure! I haven’t read it yet but am interested to.

      You should have a blog by the way! I’m so disappointed with how Twitter has become so rubbish and is now owned by that thug. Your tweets don’t appear in my timeline much anymore.

  2. I tend to agree about the namedropping. Not only does it make it seem the writer is (or thinks they are) part of a clique, it has the effect, at least on me, of somehow sending out the message that you, the reader, are excluded from this clique. That you don’t belong.

    I’ve not read The Gallows Pole but the name that struck me looking at that extract was Crowther O’Badger. Now that is a name!

    1. You’re right on both counts there Mick. What a name that is!

      I definitely find the name-dropping exclusionary, but also it just doesn’t really add anything to the narrative. There is one random reference to a poet which has almost nothing to do with the chapter.

      1. No, it doesn’t add anything useful.

        BTW looking at your reply to Sylvia above, the way to ensure you see someone’s tweets is to go to their profile and click ‘turn on notifications’ (the little bell). It seems to work.

  3. Lovely blog as always, Daniel.

    On the subject of Biritsh rainforests, last year I visited Exmoor National Park, and walked along the stunning River Barle from the Tarr Steps. I was fascinated by the moss-covered trees that lined the river and, on returning home, I discoved that this was, in fact, an SSSI and one of the most important areas of ancient woodland in Great Britain. It really did have a rainforest-feel to it and I’ve been researching this subject ever since.

    1. Hi Wayne, nice to hear from you.

      I’ve only ever been around Badgworthy Water which is where Lorna Doone was supposed to have lived. I also saw some of those scraggy oak woods but now know they are overgrazed. They did look quite vulnerable.

      The book by Guy Shrubshole is definitely worth the read if you’re interested in Exmoor/Dartmoor.

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