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Sir John Lubbock's Pet Wasp

Sir John Lubbock’s true story and his scientific writings on Ants, Bees & Wasps stood out as contemporary for directors, Osbert Parker & Laurie Hill who worked in collaboration on the short film. Themes of environmental concerns, cultural displacement and empathy were found in their interpretation of Lubbock’s story still relevant today. Sir John Lubbock was a contemporary and friend of Charles Darwin and a cousin of our family.  His fascination with insect society is even more relevant today.  Without insects the whole system of inter-relationships that are our true nature, collapses.  We must engage with nature … more.  With this in mind, read on to discover the delights and fascinations that await at Adhurst.

April emerges …

April at Adhurst – Everything is emerging!  The birdsong is deafening in the woods and by the river. Everyone’s calling for mates and building nests and singing up a storm.

They’re eating all those amazing patterned caterpillars and even that lovely educated wasp of Sir John Lubbock’s.  Spring is the best time to book your guided bird walk.  The snowdrops are receding and the daffodils are crowding around the cabin the the woods.  The woodpeckers are drumming away so listen out for that distinctive call.  Down by the fast-flowing river the trout are spawning in the gravel beds.  But don’t focus just on fish – try some pond-dipping to look under the magnifying glass to identify all the bug life in the river those fish rely on.  Up at the yurts the beech leaves are just starting to blossom from their buds in technicolour yellow/green.  Like the wood sorrel underfoot these young beech leaves can be added to your lunch.  Strange parasitic purple toothwort emerges from underground by the river.  It’s a glorious time but the days are still short so it’s especially important to have a full moon and starlight – aim for 16th April 2022 which is the full moon.  Also in 2022 there will be lambing of the rare-breed sheep by the river – the sheep will be very fearful and very protective of their young so tread lightly and keep dogs well away.  They lamb every other year.

May to June

May brings swathes of bluebells to the yurts and the woods beyond.  Down by the river spikey white garlic flowers emerge in great colonies (ransomes) and even their dark leaves are great in omelettes and salads.  The mayfly and dragonfly are emerging and the trout, if you sit sit silently, are starting to jump out of the water to eat them.  Roe deer fawns are born now and will be hiding in the undergrowth and bedding down on nests of bracken.  Listen out for the song thrush flipping through its repertory as if it’s a pop song medley.  He sings each tune three times and goes through about six tunes!  It seems electronic until you realise it a genuine bird singing his heart out for a mate.  Head for the Overlook Deck to see as well as hear.  In May the entire woods are covered in purple and mauve rhododendren flower and it’s a sight to behold.  Jays are busy burying the acorns that will emerge as oak trees if they forget where they buried them all!  And in June it’s strawberries at the pick-your-own farm!

The July and August Heat

Wild swimming brings you even closer to river life. It’s time to really enjoy the river swing without worrying about falling in. Otters live at Adhurst and are nearly impossible to spot but we have night vision camera footage and there’s evidence of their presence as spraints and pawprints.

Otter!

A flash of blue and orange fast over the water?  That was a kingfisher.  Watch for butterflies from all those springtime caterpillars that the birds missed finding.  Now is also the time you’re likely to find disused bird nests fallen from trees.  If you listen you’ll hear the field crickets in the long grass – they especially like the sandy soil at Adhurst.  You might also hear the buzz of the bumble bees underground hives.  They’re buzzing all over the hollyhocks on the walk to pub.  Look out for the little holes and you might see them emerge.  Listen out for a bark that sounds like a dog but is weirdly different – it’s a muntjac deer.  They even look like dogs in the distance.

September to October colours

Finally the ground has warmed up.  Mushrooms appear after each rain.  Watch out for those bizarre red ones with white polka dots – poisonous fly agaric.  But also use your nose to sniff out the stinkhorns – bizarre mushrooms whose stink is actually more a foetid perfume.  Come October the fallen chestnuts are ready for roasting; some windfall years are better than others – one year we couldn’t actually see the ground below.  We always associate blackberry picking with summer really now is the time.  Also, cup your hands over the Himalayan balsam.  The pods are ripe now and burst like nature’s popcorn from their malty scented pods. The perfect healthy snack while walking to the pub. Watch out for the hovering kestrel and other birds of prey.  Pheasants worble and crow in the undergrowth and sometimes get snatched up by those birds of prey.  Owls hoot throughout the evenings.  Aim for those full moons for more evening light – 10th September and 9th October.

All photographs taken at Adhurst