A Scottish gothic folly, Mount Stuart

Advertised as “Britain’s most astounding Victorian Gothic mansion”, Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute is a rather impressive place. Home to the Marquesses of Bute, it was rebuilt in 1877 after a fire, and turned into a majestic Neogothic castle. The most interesting feature of Mount Stuart is however the 300 acres (120 hectares) gardens…

Inconspicuous things in the Forest

Autumn is now well settled, and we are slowly but surely slipping into winter – the dark and cold season where trees have no leaves, where animals are hivernating and where everything seems pretty lifeless. But for now, there is still a lot going on! Pretty flowers and warm sunny nights may have gone, yet…

Car Park botany

As some of you might know, I work for a plant conservation charity, Plant Heritage, which manages over 640 National Collections of plants, or, as we like to call them, “living plant libraries“. Some are collections of popular ornamentals such as tulips or yellow daisies, some hold incredibly rare species brought back by adventurous plant…

Bioblitzing

This weekend was held the second edition of the Surrey Wildlife Trust’s Bioblitz at Wisley Common Nature Reserve near Woking. Now, as I can imagine your eyebrows raising – what on earth is a “Bioblitz”??? As I’m lazy, here is Wikipedia’s definition (but it’s actually quite good) : “A BioBlitz is an intense period of…

How much biodiversity on a roadside?

I have been obsessed by roadbanks and escarpments since travelling to South-East Asia. Walking in the rainforest, you can’t help but be amazed by the diversity of plants, invertebrates, birds, and mosses living on these slopes. Here in Mount Kinabalu, Borneo, this ranged from blue spikemosses like this Selaginella uncinata, to jewel orchids with iridescent leaf veins (Anoectochilus…

Heathland awakening

Last week-end was warm and sunny, a good opportunity for a walk in a heathland reserve a few miles away from Guildford. Whitmoor Common is a huge -183 hectares- reserve maintained by Surrey Wildlife Trust, which comprises moor, dry heathland, bracken, birch and pine woodland, a small stream and a large pond. Gorse (Ulex europaeus)…

Mothing…night creatures revealed

Despite many entomology courses and practicals, I have never found moths particularly attractive.  So when I read about a mothing event in Guildford’s Pewley Down reserve, just 5 minutes from where I live, I thought : why not? This might be interesting. Maybe I should start by explaining what moths are! 1) Many people think…