Staying put

Two weeks ago I was in West Sussex, on a beautiful sunny day in which I met up with a couple of friendly faces from my birding past (you can read about it here). I took a detour on my way home, to Shoreham, to see plant that I have long lusted after, Starry Clover (pictured above). The drive was a lengthy one considering the short distance, and the traffic seemed to be back to pre-Covid levels, with plenty of queues, hold-ups and busy junctions. I crawled into Shoreham - the clover's home - and parked up by the fort, to be greeted by hundreds of people flopping about the beach, strolling the paths and enjoying ice-creams, drinks and the sun. My clover quest was a rushed affair, due to the species being by a busy footpath, with my self-conscious attempts to photograph the flowers drawing plenty of bemused attention. I then, rather reluctantly, walked some 500m to check on a site for Childing Pink, at a small cordoned off area of sandy ground, along the harbour's edge. It was heaving with people, bikes, dogs and balls. I couldn't wait to get away, and barely checked for the plant.

Driving home, along busy roads, I wondered as to whether or not my trip to Shoreham had been worthwhile. Admittedly, I had seen the clover, but it was not the enjoyable experience that I envisaged. What did that say about my apparent success in seeing my clover lifer? Surely having seen it was the reason, the purpose of the visit, so it would suggest that it must be classed as mission accomplished, job done, thumb's-up all round? Clearly not.

What was the fly in the ointment then?


The older I get, the more my natural history experience needs to be one of solitude, 'quietness', spirituality and contemplation. These are reasons why I didn't go and visit the River Warbler in Somerset, drive up to Northumberland for the stint or even go down to the shingle Kingdom of Dungeness to watch the 'three pratincole' show. I don't know whether I am an 'anti-social, social' person, or a 'social, anti-social' member of society - whatever it is, they are the traits of somebody who feels happy in their own company up to a point. Losing myself in the landscape - be that a vast panorama with accompanying big sky, or a hogweed choked footpath brim full of insects - is my safety valve, my comfort blanket, my safe place. A time to switch off from normal life, divorcing yourself from the long list of negatives that blight our lives in 2021. 

I have a list of 'summer' targets - butterflies, moths, plants and other inverts - all written in a book, with timings, locations and other information just waiting to be accessed and acted upon. The Starry Clover entry has been dealt with, its presence on the list removed. But as for the others? I doubt that I’ll move on any of them in 2021…


Chris Janman said…
You must have had a long day Steve, you were at Pagham at 0530, what time did you get home ?
Long days in the field are a bit beyond me now-a-days, well done.
Derek Faulkner said…
To be honest, your Shoreham visit reads like a typical twitch, (swap flowers for birds) - rush in, see it, tick it off and out again.
The anti-social aspect of things has been exacerbated this last year, due to the lock downs and brief respites in between. The countryside seems to be flooded with all manner of people who see green fields of any description and mostly private, as a target species to be walked on and disturbed.
Here on Sheppey, new "Private Land - No Public Access" signs have started springing up on farmland due to the amount of people wandering about all over it with no idea of where they are and what they're doing.
Ric said…
I too avoid people. It's easy. I operate at times when the numbers are at their minimal.
I'm not anti-social. I really like seeing people enjoying themselves. I just prefer to observe from a distance.
I have recently been made aware of the personality type called the Sigma Male. I'm one, and so are you chaps. It's a good thing to be and answers a lot of questions.
My only gripe is that the type 'that women are most attracted to', isn't much use now I'm a decade or three pass my sell by date.
Gibster said…
I love the idea that you've complied a list of summer targets, positively smacks of planning, plotting and longing! Sod the people, Steve. Work around them, I do! But don't ever let them spoil what you love doing, it's doing what we love that keeps us (loosely) sane.

Let me know when you've finished compiling your 'northern' list and we'll see what we can sort out between us. There must be a couple of things up here you'd like to meet or reacquaint yourself with - miles and miles away from the hustle and bustle. It's a serious offer buddy, just say when.
Steve Gale said…
Chris, despite having been up since 03.30 I felt quite bright and breezy still. No doubt having seen you and Merv gave me that energy boost!

Derek, flower twitch? Yes, that is what it was, no dressing it up as anything else. And the lockdown trait of people wandering across, and defiling, countryside because the shopping centres were closed last summer seems to have carried on into this year.

Ric, just read up about the Sigma Male. I can see what you’re alluding to!

Seth, thanks for the offer. After reading your previous blog posts it is a very tempting one.
Gavin Haig said…
Shoreham sounds ghastly. People 'flopping about' on the beach! Love that description. The desire to be apart from crowds appears to be common to many (all?) of us. But then we are basically old men now.

That said, in different circumstances I would enjoy flopping about on the beach in my role as granddad of small granddaughters. But like you, when it comes to communing with nature, mostly I like a crowd of one.
Tim Saunders said…
Your reflections are as thought provoking as your observations Steve. I think Shoreham is interesting in that these rarities grow amongst so much human activity but I am a bit biased as my children were born there.
Having been in Devon this ast week, and with my wife wanting to visit Woolacoombe, where my mother in law was evacuated during the war, I set off for Heddons Mouth to see the high brown fritillary. Therre were a few high speed fritillaries (flitillaries?) around and the experience was tantalising (they coud have been dark green) but on a perfect day in a stunning place I returned frustrated and exhilerated in equak measure, knowing if and when I do see it it will bring a still greater satisfaction.

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