On the Wild Side: the Writer’s ‘Retreat’

A Writers’ Retreat?

Into the Wilds! Woodland path, Oxford
Into the Wilds! Woodland path, Oxford

Being ‘too busy’ is bad for creativity: I awarded myself a writer’s Retreat.  A retreat from writing. To re-group the creative mind: to paint, bake cakes, encourage the garden.

Book Reviews are on hold.  I’ve joined the 30 Days Wild project  (http://www.mywildlife.org.uk/30dayswild/)… as anyone who’s read Baby, Baby or The Labyrinth Year will  know,  Jenny and Daze investigated wildlife as children, and so did I …

Probably un-clubbable like most writers, I do actually believe in joined-up-ness. As in joined-up projects, community activities, and making creative connections. It’s fiction-writerly thing: joined-up-ness yields plot. Getting back  to really looking at nature is joined-upness with my childhood, having once been a child!

And after giving my computer an upgrade … could  use another retreat from that techie, not  writerly, project. After several days working on, and adjusting to, the upgrade, I’m back with the Wildlife.

The MyWildLife Project – 2 walks and what’s in the garden

The idea is that as many of us as possible get outdoors studying and relating with the natural world. They suggest many ways and your own choice: own choice for me is being out there to record what I see photographically, then do a bit of research to find out more.  

Here’s the results for the past week: be prepared for creepy, crawly, things …

Oxford Evening Field Walk:

P1200295
Wildflower Meadow

Fields and wooded paths run along the back of the University Parks, Lady Margaret Hall, The Dragon School, and Wolfson College, towards Marston Ferry Road. The paths run beside sports fields and a farm, and are edged with a huge variety of wildflowers and grasses.

  • Slugs:  I was photographing a bee on comfrey, and nearby sat a large black slug. Our
    Black Slug, Arion Ater, hermaphrodie
    Black Slug, Arion Ater, hermaphrodie

    garden slugs are usually tiny grey/white (British, and dangerous to plant life) or big and brown/orange (continental recent-ish newcomers, less of a pest). Joined-up-ness: I decided to take more than a destructive interest in our black slug and looked up Latin name and details (see right under photo).

  • Their vile mucus (quote Wikipedia, It is somewhat difficult to wash off) as well as helping them move along, is a defence.  Apparently it stinks and tastes so horrible that they have few predators, and unlike snails, have never been added to the human menu, though hedgehogs well eat them. Bring back the humble hedgehog … we used to see them around here.
  • The wooded path home, lined with sycamores, filled in a knowledge gap from when I was a kid and observed how susceptible sycamore leaves are to an acne-like rash of small scarlet pustules. I used to find these creepy and never researched them. Joined-up-ness:
    Red galls on sycamore leaf
    Red galls on sycamore leaf

    this time I’ve looked them up and discovered they’re “galls’” caused by a mite (official name Aceria cephaloneus). The females lay their eggs inside: the developing mites live inside them. (So what exactly is a mite? A bit like a tiny tiny spider which bites? Mites: ‘small arthropods belonging to the subclass Acari and the class Arachnida’ (Wikipedia)

  • Masses of wild flowers are out in June. Ragged Robin was a great find, I haven’t seen it around
    P1200280
    White deadnettle
    P1200296
    Ragged Robin
    P1200288
    sorrel
    P1200281
    Purple Veitch

    here before.

  • Bracket Fungi were found on the trees.

wick wood infoEast London Afternoon walk:

This was in Wick Wood, Hackney, a wood planted about 20 years ago on what used to be playing fields to provide a wildlife habitat, right beside a raised section of the A12. Two gatekeeper butterflies were flying around and settling on beech leaves.

Gatekeeper, Hackney Wick Wood
Gatekeeper, Hackney Wick Wood
  • The undergrowth – blackberry bushes – are flowering and come July/August anyone in the know will be able to pick berries and make jam.
  • Here’s a bee in one of the flowers: sadly not a worker making honey but some species of ‘bumble’ either solitary or maybe, as we found on another walk in Oxfordshire, a member of a ground-based colony living in a hole (possibly abandoned by rabbits or dug by a dog).
    Bumble Bee on Blackberry Blossom
    Bumble Bee on Blackberry Blossom
    Blue or prickly comfrey (S. asperum)
    Blue or prickly comfrey (S. asperum)

    A clearing had been cut in the wood, and a hedge woven from branches. It’s probably part of a schools project. In Oxford it would’ve been made from the willows which grow everywhere here, but I’m not sure what had been used for this one.

  • Wild flowers were woodland types such as these blue comfreys which grew at the wood exit. The trees were mostly beech, there was an avenue of planes (good London trees): as this isn’t a natural wood, these trees were probably selected to grow happily in a polluted environment.

Yesterday’s observation and more to come …

(made seated on the grass as suggested in the Notes, and while eating a bun):P1200352

  • A large green, iridescent, beetle, busy eating the nectar in a rose… This seems to be a Rose Chafer, well known to eat petals and nectar. The larvae live on rotting wood and compost (maybe in our compost bin?)