Archive for the ‘natureheads’ Category

21 February, 2012

Moorland, the Heart of Exmoor

Moorland - the Heart of ExmoorLinked in from the previous article about the new interactive visitors’ map by Exmoor National Park – here’s another brilliant one for the South West Coast Path that is also great for Exmoor walks.

Find the Interactive Map (a tab just under the top photos) and zoom into Exmoor’s shoreline. The map shows you a collection of short walk routes that lead off the main coastal path.

©2011 South West Coast Path

A few of the Exmoor coastline walks

If you’re after the definitive Exmoor experience, make sure you include some coastal heath on your walks. Here are just a few:

  1. Heddon’s Mouth Cleave
  2. Lynton and the Valley of Rocks
  3. North Hill from Burgundy Chapel

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Yes we’re on Twitter – does it matter?

22 May, 2011

(Micro) Bears in Space

21 May, 2011

Animal -what is an animal to you? Tardigrades will probably change your concept. BBC Nature has a bloody brilliant article on water bears (Tardigrades) in space. Be amazed!

Vertical Marathon world record

14 February, 2011

A bloke at work recently did a hugely challenging fundraiser, called the Big Vertical Marathan Tour. Robin Offer was one of a small team who set a new world record – except they didn’t register it with Guinness! Robin said ‘We didn’t do it for the glory – we just did it for the money.’

So far they’ve raised over £1,500 for Cancer Research UK.

PLEASE DONATE ONLINE to their good cause: 


VIDEOS on Vimeo by The Big Vertical

All images from

Butterfly Conservation half price membership

24 November, 2010

Butterfly Conservation half price gift membership – a perfect Christmas present that will last for a whole year!

From now until 10 December you can buy a friend or loved one membership of Butterfly Conservation for a bargain half price:

Single                                       was £28                        now £14

Joint                                         was £32                        now £16

Family                                      was £38                        now £19

Young person/student                was £20                        now £10

Gift membership includes all the usual benefits e.g. new member welcome pack, Butterfly magazine three times a year, membership of the local Branch etc … but in addition every gift member pack also includes a FREE copy of the Pocket Guide to Butterflies of Britain and Ireland by Richard Lewington (rrp £9.95) – what a fantastic deal!!

Download your gift membership form or phone Catherine on 01929 406015 for more details.

All forms and orders must be received by 10 December at the latest to ensure they are processed in time for Christmas.

What’s Barberry good for?

19 November, 2010

Barberry is gaining popularity all over the place because people are planting it to help a moth, which relies on it as caterpillar food. The native barberry Berberis vulgaris – was eradicated from most parts of the countryside because it is also the host of a ‘rust’ fungus that attacks cereals. A cute little moth – the Barberry Carpet – was virtually wiped out along with it.

Nowadays the rust has been defeated by breeding resistance into modern varieties of cereal. Farmers have no need to fear the Barberry. So we’re planting it at Sheepdrove Organic Farm this month – fancy joining us?.

But what is Barberrry good for, apart from being a very effective thorny component of your hedge? Well, it’s not just food for caterpillars.

Zereshk (زرشک) is the Persian name for the dried Barberry fruit. Zereshk is commonly used in Iran to bring a tarty slant to chicken – like the Zereshk polo dish served with rice. Also popular for jams and puddings. The barberry is known as Épine-vinette in French. Q’est ce que ςa va dire… spine vine?!

Daniel Darwood, writing about the cuisine at Sketch in The Fine Dining Guide mentions the three-Michelin-starred Pierre Gagnaire who sometimes uses barberry: “consider, for instance, the Épine-vinette and Lardo di Colonnata which garnished a crustacean course…”

I wholeheartedly recommend a taste of the Laissez Fare blog which has an excellent review of the Sketch experience. To quote:

“Last up was a little sandwich of langoustine with some clever toast of extremely thin fried potato. The inherent sweetness of the langoustine was here matched with the quite sharp flavor of European barberries and the unctuousness of the little dabs of lard. 8/10.” (full review here)

Well, if Gagnaire likes barberry in his kitchen, let’s have it!

So, those of us working in nature conservation don’t have to think of Barberry simply as a means of helping the Barberry Carpet. The comeback of another moth would be great – but let’s also celebrate the comeback of a fine hedgerow character almost lost from our food culture.

If you’re growing barberry for moths, I’d suggest the first surveys you carry out should be for fruits! One way to make sure barberry becomes more widespread is to share its flavours! Try out recipes for jams and sauces, and give them to your friends and neighbours.

Jason Ball

Barberry Carpet factsheet (Butterfly Conservation)

Read about herbal uses, yellow dye, and more…

photo from NEN

Fallstreak clouds

13 November, 2010

An article about these weird formations…

Talks 25 Nov – Friends of the Ridgeway

2 November, 2010

I’m doing 2 evening talks for the Ridgeway Friends group at Letcombe Bassett village hall on 25 Nov 2010.


  1. Sheepdrove’s Wild Side

  2. Barn Owls and their conservation

Mrs Bitey

21 October, 2010

Chris Packham just got bitten by a polecat LIVE on Autumnwatch. Twice.

Ideas in chalk

4 August, 2010

Tomorrow I have a meeting with Oliver Cripps (North Wessex Downs AONB) about a slightly mad notion for chalk features placed in series across the landscape. Maybe 21st-Century floral fortresses? Flint-walled lookout posts?

My vision is for something semi-sculptural, with multiple benefits: biodiversity, tourism, community involvement.  This was inspired by the Small Blue success at Sheepdrove. If we come up with a neat concept, we’ll be keen to consult with conservation bodies, rangers, access officers, etc – for project partnerships.