My neighbours Nick and Caroline live in the house at the top of the field and between their home and mine, curved lines of earthworks follow the contours of a hill down to the river and reveal the remains of an iron age refuge.
In Nick’s kitchen a topographical study made in the early nineteenth century depicts house boats beside a creek. The curved bender roofs of the two hulls reminded me instantly of my own situation here in Exbury. Living beside water has long had many attractions.
A small oak opposite the egg has a rich crop of galls to harvest. I will use them to make a dye for my clothing and to create an ink for drawing as the first step toward understanding the cultural and environmental importance of the tree in this particular riverscape.
Oaks can have many different species of gall growing on a single tree. These were made by the species of parasitic wasp andricus kollari and resemble marbles in size and shape.
The arrival of an inflatable kayak has allowed preparations to begin for exploring the wider bounds of the Beadle’s Parish. On washing down the craft after its first trial on the water I discovered a hitch hiking spider associated with these wetlands in the passenger seat- tibellus maritimus. These elegantly slender spiders do not weave webs, but hunt their prey in the long grasses of their salt marsh home.
Striped arial raiders have dug out a former mouse hole as a home and I am keeping my distance as they come and go. The wasp’s sting evolved from an ovipositor and so only the females will send you off in need of vinegar, but then one is not likely ever to meet the male.
Found close to the egg where I store spares for the dinghy, were two dead wood mice. I was surprised to find two so close together and wonder how they came to die. There were no obvious signs of injury and nothing poisonous amongst my supplies. I have placed them into separate containers drilled with small holes so they can decompose and hope to inherit two complete skeletons which I will try to assemble one cold Winter’s evening, like those Airfix kits of childhood.
A fluorescing tube in the ultra violet spectrum was employed to turn the egg into a huge moth attracting device last night. White cotton gauze stretched across the doorway was intended as the stage for a flickering theatre of moths in flight and a platform on which they could land for solo performances in both silhouette and spotlight.
The grey or dark dagger below (it is only possible to tell them apart by an examination of genitalia) was a memorable participant. In the caterpillar state they love blackthorn, so the nearby thicket is perhaps its own home and the axis of it’s nocturnal world.
Standing sentry beside The Gateway to the egg are a row of ten tall marsh sow thistle. It is a nationally scarce plant undergoing significant decline and disappearing from most parts of England as its preferred floodplain habitats change. I have observed it in small patches all along the parish boundary west of the egg as it raises itself above surrounding reeds, grasses and brambles. Last year’s dry shoots remain petrified beside the current generation and whilst the plants are all mostly seeded and spent, the long summer is raising up new yellow buds for my continuing enchantment.
Reading reveals that they have been observed beside the Beaulieu River for many years and could be indigenous to this particular place.
The Beadle is back on Station.
The sloughed off skin of a grass snake lay next to some old corrugated iron, which the snake itself uses for shelter. It’s been seen there many times over the years according to Nick, my guide and walking companion. Though ‘Natrix Natrix’, was not at home and possibly skulking in the long grass nearby, a resident slow worm posed for a picture before defying its name and very quickly sliding from view.
Around one hundred and fifty Canada geese arrived yesterday in the early evening, appearing from the direction of the Isle of Wight. They were letting everything and everyone know they were coming with that raucous, noisy honking that ripples too and fro throughout the flying flock. Two small resident groups already here, frequent a pond on farmland adjoining Exbury Gardens and it is beginning to feel like the start of a Canada goose convention. I watched a pair of shell (shocked) ducks seemingly retreating out of their way.
These naturalised Canadians first settled in England in the 17th Century when they were introduced as attractions in the gardens of country estates and perhaps our local flocks still have some distant race memory of ornamental forebears on the Exbury Estate? I shall have to ask if any were ever kept hereabouts.