Posted by: Ross Gardner | August 7, 2018

Feel the heat

I think I may have mentioned on these pages before about my immense good fortune to have grown up and still live close by to some wonderful wildlife sites despite a close proximity to the South Essex urban sprawl.  If I not on here, this always been something and the places somewhere never far away from the books I have written over more recent years.  They are places that may carry a very personal significance, but the philosophies that they have helped to shape and the deep sense of wonder for the natural world that they have nurtured is, I think, relevant to other places and hopefully other people far distant from here.


Fair-weather clouds over the Thames-side slopes of Hadleigh Country Park.

There is one place that rather stands out, an area that I affectionately refer to as ‘The Downs’ and which is more popularly known as Hadleigh Country Park.  It is a fantastic and varied area and one which comprises a part of quite an expanse of open country along the northern shore of the Thames Estuary.  It has ancient woodland and thorn scrub; splendid flower-rich grassland and pond studded, ditch crossed grazing marsh; even also a seawall with views over saltmarsh and estuarine creek.  It is somewhere that perhaps I have spent more time in than any other and one that still has the capacity to amaze me, despite it great familiarity.

Indeed, it is my recent wanderings there, beneath the absurd heat of our currently quite un-British summer, that has prompted its appearance here.  The life of the place is in part subdued.  The bird-life presumably finds the heat as stifling as any human and any mammalian residents that might be given to diurnal movements would surely reserve them for the relatively cool of the evening or early morning.  But with the smaller life it is a-buzz.  The swathes of knapweed are full of the diligence of bees and the more ponderous intensity of butterflies – of the likes of common blue, brown argus and gatekeeper, perhaps a Clouded Yellow, conspicuous in its yellow-ness.  The ponds and weedy ditches are never without their attendant dragonflies, energised tirelessly by the heat – foraging and fighting, foraging and fighting – territories must be maintained.

Such as these, of course, are the most obvious.  There is much to be found…

Philanthus triangulum (bee-wolf). 3 (scaled)

A Bee-wolf (Philanthus triangulum) hunts among the knapweed flowers for honey bees with which to stock the underground cells where their young will develop.

Eristalis nemorum - pair 2 (scaled)

The hoverfly Eristalis nemorum is very similar to other Eristalis species, but the habit of the male of hovering a guard over his neactaring mate can make it easily identified.

Southern Migrant Hawker - male 2 (scaled)

The Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) is something of a rarity in the UK which may be in the process of colonising Southern England. This is a stunningly blue male.


  1. […] is not back to the New Forest I take you though, but to that special part of my home patch which I wrote of a few weeks before, the place I affectionately call ‘The Downs’, a wonderful area of wildlife habitat […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: