Habitat restoration

In 1996 I became involved in a project to restore an area of arable farmland back to a wetland, known as Kingfisher Bridge. In some areas ponds and scrapes were excavated to provide permanent and semi-permanent water, reedbeds and wet meadows. Planting of wetland species such as reed, rush, sedge, willow and many other plants was undertaken.

12 years later the site is now well and truly established as an important wetland habitat.

The open water is home to herons and egrets, terns and gulls, and a variety of wildfowl and waders.

and the reedbeds are home to Bitterns, Bearded Tits, Water Voles and many species of insects.

Personally I would prefer to see existing natural habitats better protected and respected, but this project and others like it have proved that habitats can be restored and recreated.

To learn more visit the website Kingfisher Bridge.

Roasting crane

I came up with this idea when we had several pots cooking over the fire and insufficient room to spit roast two partridges.

Firstly you require a forked, green branch

Trim the branch to produce the two parts of the crane as below

Do not completely remove side branches as these will go inside the carcass and prevent it spining around on the stick.

Push the straight stick vertically in the ground and tie a piece of cord at the top. Rest the forked end of the other stick horizontally against the upright and tie one end of the cord around it and the other end around the fork as below.

You can even roast two birds at once.

The benefit of this system is that you can adjust cooking by swinging the crane closer to the heat or further away, turning the birds as necessary until the juices run clear.

Checking fences and paths – 19th November

After strong winds we have to check all livestock fencing and paths on the reserves to ensure no fallen trees have damaged or blocked them.

As I was walking along checking sheep fencing I noticed a movement from the corner of my eye. I looked around to see a Common Darter Dragonfly (Sympetrum striolatum) landing on a fence post.

The latest date I had recorded one of these previously was the 14th November and with the cold weather we had had recently I was surprised to find one on the 19th.

This particular site also has a lot of Horse Hoof Fungus AKA False Tinder Fungus (Fomes fomentarius) growing on Birches.

To obtain amadou I find it best to collect young specimens like those on the right of the picture as they are almost all amadou, with almost no spore tubes and the outer layer is much easier to remove.


This specimen was interesting as at sometime a small Birch twig had broken away from the tree and had then been engulfed by the fungus.

If however you have a specimen with a lot of spore tube do not discard it as this too once dried will take a spark if the surface is roughed up with a knife.

To find out what I do with the amadou layer take a look here http://fenlaners.blogspot.com/2008/08/false-tinder-fungus-amadou.html

Back to Danemead Part 3

It was a reasonably nice night so I decided to sleep outside, rather than in Stuarts tipi. I can’t remember the last time I used my hammock, so I set it up and then used my black sleeping bag bag and bivvy bag from my modular sleep system together with a 3/4 length mat inside. If I do not carry a mat with me but have my Swanndri hooded bushshirt as insulation in the bottom of my hammock and it works very well. After a very comfortable nights sleep I was awoken at about 7am by Stuart reviving the fire and getting the kettle on.

Once the kettle was on Stuart started to prepare breakfast, so I decided I should get up and give him a hand.

After breakfast I walked around the site with Stuart and Acer to show them the right types of wood to collect for different parts of the bow-drill. We gathered Hazel (Corylus avellana) for all parts of the set with the exception of the bearing block for which we used HornBeam (Carpinus Betula).

We made a couple of bow-drill kits from the materials collected and Stuart was keen to give having spent a lot of time recently trying without success. Within 15 minutes he had his first ember and then proceeded to produce a second ember a minute later.

After a late lunch we sat and chatted and then mid-afternoon we headed home.

Back to Danemead Part 2

Stuart cooked eggs, bacon and fried bannock bread for lunch


Before lunch some of the Sea Cadets and leaders had called in to say hello as they were doing navigation in the area. We set the cadets the task of gathering fire wood for us and the result was a large pile of mixed sized wood which was great!

They returned in the afternoon as I was about to make a debris shelter and were all keen to help. Firstly I cut 4 forked poles, interlocked then and pushed the ends into the ground.


The Sea cadets gathered a large amount of medium sized branches which a laid between the poles (leaving the front open). And then we all began to gather leaves to cover the shelter. I was impressed with a couple of the cadets who found a bread tray which they used to carry a greater amount of leaves.

This is my good friend George who was proving that a man can infact multi-task by drinking a cup of tea and gathering leaves at the same time!

Unfortunately one of the Horn Beam support poles wasn’t strong enough once the weight of wet leaves was on it and as you can see below, bent under the weight.

After the cadets left us we spent the early evening preparing a meal and then Sheila, Mark and Acer joined for food and an evening around the campfire.

To be continued….

Back to Danemead Part 1

I returned to Hoddesdon this weekend and Danemead Scout Campsite. Originally I was going to be teaching a small group of leaders, but for various reasons some people cancelled and for most of Saturday it was only me and my friend Stuart.

As I arrived and got out of my car there was a large party of Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrests moving around feeding in the trees. As I was watching I heard the short, loud, distinctive “tsu-weet” of a Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus), a bird which breeds in Siberia and Russia and migrates to Asia and has wondered off course. Each Autumn this uncommon vagrant arrives in varying numbers for a brief stay as they make their journey south. During my years of serious birding I spent many ours chasing around looking for them. This bird called several times and then departed with the tit flock and I did not hear it again for the rest of the weekend.

There is a brief piece of video of a Yellow-browed on YouTube here

Stuart had purchased a Tentipi (made not that far from my cabin in Sweden) and was keen to get it set up and try it out.

Here is a view from the front.

After erecting the tipi, we cut and split some logs for fire wood

and then got a fire going and put the kettle on.

Another surprising find, especially for mid November was this Comma butterfly

It gets its name from the white mark you can see on the underwing.

To be continued!!

Spruce Whisk

While out in the woods one weekend I was making stinging nettle and potato soup and wanted to whisk the potatoes and nettle leaves. I considered lashing a handful of twigs around a stick but then came across a fallen Spruce. I cut the very top out of the Spruce, peeled the bark away and this is what I ended up with.

Perfect for the job!

And here’s the end result..