Author Archive for: Phil Gates

Emissary arrives in fiery copper costume

River Derwent, Northumberland The small copper butterfly flitted from flower to flower, then settled almost at my elbowDownstream from Blanchland bridge there were signs that the countryside was settling into autumn. In gardens on the edge of the villa…

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Connecting with the wild and free

Egglestone, Teesdale Looking at wildflowers and seeing an image of ourselves implies an empathy with the natural worldLethargy seemed to have settled over the landscape after the harvest. There was barely enough wind to stir the thistledown and willowh…

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A stealthy birth, then to sprout and spore

Hollingside Wood, Durham: New life is erupting from the humus – the toadstool season has begun early this yearPapery seed capsules are the only sign of the bluebells which carpeted this woodland floor in the spring. Now, in the humid aftermath of tor…

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The wasteland – what branches grow out of this stony rubbish?*

Crook, County Durham We count the usual suspects among the rubble – teasels, mugwort, ragwort, poppies, mullein and melilotThe fragrance of newly mown hay drying in the sun in Weardale’s meadows is just a memory now that the last cut has been gathe…

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Martins on madcap chase in the meadow

Kirkhaugh, Northumberland: The birds hurtled past, chattering like excited children, rising in high-speed turns, chasing the cloud shadowsWe stood on the wooden bridge spanning the fast flowing, shallow, South Tyne river. Ahead, in the eroded bank at t…

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Martins on madcap chase in the meadow

Kirkhaugh, Northumberland: The birds hurtled past, chattering like excited children, rising in high-speed turns, chasing the cloud shadowsWe stood on the wooden bridge spanning the fast flowing, shallow, South Tyne river. Ahead, in the eroded bank at t…

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Withered charm of the bird’s nest orchid

Weardale, County Durham: With no leaves or chlorophyll the plant’s survival depends upon a complex ménage à troisIt is 15 years since we last discovered a bird’s-nest orchid. It was hidden among dog’s mercury in an old hazel coppice. The wither…

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Dinosaur in the log pile

Crook, County Durham: We watched the rhinoceros beetle take lumbering steps across our kitchen table like some prehistoric monsterDavid Elliston Allen, chronicler of naturalists in Britain, once described the natural history field club, a Victorian inv…

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Can the cloning saxifrage outwit our herbicides?

Thorsgill Beck, Teesdale To 16th century travellers meadow saxifrage would have been unremarkable, today it is a window into a lost landscapeFive centuries ago the White Canons, who worshipped in the Premonstratensian abbey, whose ruins sit high above …

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Can the cloning saxifrage outwit our herbicides?

Thorsgill Beck, Teesdale To 16th century travellers meadow saxifrage would have been unremarkable, today it is a window into a lost landscapeFive centuries ago the White Canons, who worshipped in the Premonstratensian abbey, whose ruins sit high above …

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