The only concrete aim of Project 2014 was to photograph a Box Moor Trust tree, once a week, for a year. After that, my plan was to have no plan. I hoped that by approaching the land with an open mind and heart, I might perhaps explore with as much innocence and curiosity as is possible. I tried not to dismiss areas that one might assume were barren or uninteresting, and, by committing to appraising the land over a period of 12 months, I inevitably had to persevere. Of course, through all of it, I chose the company of the Oak, a weekly appointment, for which I have been richly rewarded. I have so many wonderful memories of wildlife encountered around Dellfield meadow.
And so, here it is, Week 52, the final instalment. I have watched this moment approaching. When the trees began to lose their leaves, and the shadows lengthened, I could see and feel the land gradually returning to its starting point. The arc of the circle was closing. I had no real preconceptions as to what this year would involve or produce. I had no idea that in choosing to follow how an Oak tree changes over time, I would in fact come to appreciate its semi-permanence and stability, whilst the surrounding landscape and skies transformed and evolved. It amazes me that the same view, of the same tree can be so different even seconds apart. A cloud passing over, the shifting of the earth on its axis as the seasons change, and, of course, the colours and textures and shapes that emerge as leaves, buds and grasses grow, reproduce and die off again. The Oak within its landscape has alone been a source of genuine surprise and joy.
And then, of course, there has been everything else “that caught my eye, sparked my interest or tickled my fancy”. Where on earth do I begin!? When I look back, each week contains something which I remember fondly and cherish. I re-read my post on earth worms and it made me smile even now. Nothing like championing the overlooked and under-appreciated! Ok, I shall have to be ruthless. I’ve selected what I hope are the 12 most universally interesting or ecologically significant finds from this year. In chronological order…
Green Hairstreak & Dingy Skipper
Grey Wagtail Breeding
By Station Moor, in July,
I found the nest site and the newly fledged family of Grey Wagtails.
This species is resident all year round but it was delightful to find them breeding locally.
Barn OwlsThe last week of July, heading out to photograph the sunset and I came upon a magnificent Barn Owl. And later, it wasn't only the one Barn Owl, it was a pair! To say, I felt like I was dreaming is an understatement. If this had been the only significant find all year, it would have been worth every second spent on the project.
Painted Lady & Silver-washed Fritillary
Brown Argus Colony
Harvest Mouse jaw bone
If someone had told me at the start of the project that I’d be treated to up to five different Kingfishers along the Bulbourne; Cuckoos calling through woodlands; Green Hairstreaks and Dingy Skippers; know the thrill of finding a rare moth (Grass Rivulet) and a colony of scarce butterflies (Brown Argus); chance upon a carpet of Bee Orchids; watch Damselflies dancing and Grey Wagtails raising young; come across 26 species of butterfly; have Barn Owls flying over my head; spend a sunny afternoon with a migrant Stonechat, and retrieve a Barn Owl pellet that contained a Harvest Mouse jaw bone, I would have laughed in absolute disbelief! What a year, and all within walking distance of Hemel Hempstead town centre or the village green of Bovingdon! It just goes to show that you don’t need to seek wilderness and solitude for something special from the natural world to cross your path.
Although this blog is coming to an end, I hope to continue volunteering with the Trust and monitoring the land. Dan Forder is developing a new project (which I’ve alluded to briefly in the updated “About” section), and has very kindly asked if I’d like to join him. If/when that comes to fruition, I’ll put links in here.
Thank you to the Trust for its continuing care and active management of the land, balancing the needs of the local community with the interests of the natural world. Over the last 12 months, I feel as though I have fallen into step with the rhythms of its wildlife and I’m looking forward to seeing who or what will turn up over the next 12 months. This blog is, in a sense, a gift to the Trust which I hope will be of use and, if nothing else, will serve as a snapshot into the life on the land.
Thank you too to anyone who read and/or commented on my efforts either online or offline. This was never meant to be a project done in isolation and I was chuffed if anyone else enjoyed it or came along for the ride.
Last but not least, the final Oak photograph
Farewell for now
P.S. The Snowdrops are coming into flower on Bulbroune Moor and the cycle begins again…