our precious world

As Paris is the focus for discussions about the world response to climate change this week, two books I have read and am re-reading come to mind.

landmarksLandmarks crafted and compiled by Robert Macfarlane is a most beautiful meditation, reflection, verging on poetry, in praise of landscape. It seems we are letting the language of the countryside slip through our fingers and minds, so thank goodness Robert Macfarlane is on the case to help. Gathered over many years from many sources this book is brilliant and we need to keep searching and recording!  Here are some gems:
stoach: to churn up waterlogged land as cattle do in winter Kent, Sussex. There’s a lot of this about around here just now.
yark: cold, wild stormy weather, Exmoor.
And a personal favourite which I can’t stop looking out for: smeuse: the gap in the base of a hedge made by the regular passage of small animals, Sussex dialect.

If the effects of climate change seem too huge to get a handle on then Adventures in the Anthropocene might illuminate things.  Gaia Vince a journalist and broadcaster specialising in science and the environment, wanted to discover the effects of climate change from different communities in the world, so she gave up her job and travelled the world finding out. I am finding it very powerful and inspiring. There’s a guy making small glaciers every year in Nepal to store drinking water for the crops in Spring because the large glaciers have disappeared in his lifetime. Wi-fi is helping local farmers share market prices of their goods before they walk for several days to find it’s not worth it! This book weaves stories from individuals into a astonishing global story and presents a surprisingly positive picture of the world. The book won Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books 2015.
© sue orton


Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 11.41.48As the cold weather sweeps into UK for the first time this year my mind turns to hedgehogs, european hedgehogs to be precise. They are in trouble, deep trouble and we can all do a little something to help them.

* Leave a wild corner or two in gardens, fields and parks which offers shelter, protection and natural foods.
* Buy or make a hedgehog home for hibernation or nesting in Spring.
* Check bonfires thoroughly and move sleeping hedgehogs to safety before lighting.

Further information and action 🙂
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

Hedgehog Street is a campaign aimed at ensuring the hedgehog, the UK’s only spiny mammal, remains a common and familiar part of British life. We know hedgehogs are in trouble. We’ve lost a third of all our hedgehogs in ten years.

© sue orton

summer weaving

Inspiration was hard to come by after my diploma but a practical project for cushions exploring a new weave structure has emerged.  I wanted to create an cloth with contrasting colours in sections. This plain weave with weft sections raised is pleasing.  My first warp was too small after washing (rusty calculations!) and the edges unsatisfactory, so I covered a small bolster. Now I have just finished a 4m length ready to be turned into cushions.

© sue orton

south downs way 9

Balancing coffee on my knee after an early start I boarded the Chichester to Midhurst bus soon after 8.0 am. Sunshine and the occasional shower was forecast and a chilly wind greeting me at Cocking for the 12 mile leg to Queen Elizabeth Country Park.  Soon away from the farm buildings I climbed up onto Cocking Down, Linch Down on open farmland with views north over Midhurst and south to The Solent and Isle of Wight. The path sides were full and buzzing; fields however were another matter. I was struck by the contract between fields with single grain crops and those grain fields with a 3-4m edge of wild flowers planted specifically to encourage corridors for wildlife. The former silent and the latter buzzing with bird and insect life.  Linchball, Winden, Venus Woods, were south of the path. I plunged from light to dark woodland into Philliswood Down ‘peopled’ with several beautiful old Beech Trees and Hazel passing signs to The Devil’s Jumps; the best example of a Bronze Age barrow formation in Sussex.  A drink stop before taking the short-cut over Beacon Hill (242m) before dropping into Harting Down.  South Harting marks the original end of the SDW, it was just over half way for me. Much of the walk between South Harting and Buriton was on roads and tracks with few views north and south but the hedgerows were glorious.  My lunch stop was on a grassy bank near Sunwood Farm. I strolled into Queen Elizabeth Country Park forest at tea time under a darkening sky.  12.5 miles in 4.5 hrs.  Only two more walks to Winchester.

© sue orton

South Downs Way 8

On the trail again at last after the stresses and strains of my weaving diploma final show. How different and delightful the South Downs look in late June 🙂 The route: Amberley to Cocking 12 miles.  An abundance of green growth, flowers, butterflies and skylarks met every step, all spilling into my senses, brushing bare legs, and testing my nature recognition skills. Train to Amberley and then following the Arun river valley where Water-voles have been introduced; they are an endangered species so very precious. The Wetland and Wildfowl Trust are leading their revival.  Climbing up hill, skirting Coombe Wood to Westburton Hill; the first big view of the day: the Weald and Amberley Wild Brooks and in the far distance the Solent.  On up to Bignor Hill, Stane Street, Leper’s Path, and Gumber Lynchets wonderful names with echoes of Roman Soldiers on route between London and Winchester.

Lunch on a well placed National Trust bench in the shade before walking on towards one of the highlights of the walk Graffham Down Trust chalk downland reserves.   Wild flowers including my favourites, Orchids (Common Spotted and Pyramidal) and Butterflies: Meadow Brown, Brimstone, Speckled Wood and (I think) a Silver-washed Fritillary.  The reserves were a wonderful diversion from the rather disappointing path which followed. Mile after mile of straight road without much view or interest except buzzing helicopters! Eventually the valley of the A286 appeared.  A bus to Chichester and the train home.

© sue orton

excitment in new garden pond

pond life May 2014There is much excitement in our new garden pond.  Dug and built in the winter, Hackney frogspawn in during March, and now newts and this local frog, with resident tadpole looking on nervously 🙂 [frogs eat tadpoles!]  On a positive note, it will be excellent to mix the frog genes!
We are taking delivery of native pond plants this week; hoping to entice dragon flies and other life.

© sue orton