As I look at the sky at the beginning of September I notice something special in its light, a clear blue freshness.There is a new clarity in the air, which is in tune with the turning of the season and the slight chill in the early morning and at twilight. At sunset it is almost as if the golden light has been captured by the trees and clings to them, radiating a warm, weird glory. A couple of days after Keats composed his ode To Autumn he wrote a letter to his friend John Hamilton Reynolds:

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Late August

Mid-way through August we had rain, torrential rain and the persecuting temperatures fell dramatically. This was good news for wildlife and it is always fascinating to observe how quickly nature recovers itself. Within hours the streams were filled with water again and the grass was showing a verdant, fresh green. It is true that most of the wild flowers were over by now and the drought and heat had finished all but the most hardy of the late summer species. Survivors include various members of the thistle family, knapweed, mallow, common fleabane, mayweed and plantain. These plants can endure dry field conditions and tend to live in relatively poor, infertile soils. Plants like the Rayless Mayweed (commonly named the Pineapple Weed ) or the Plantain could be described as the down-trodden flowers of the countryside, overlooked because of their dowdy appearance, they grow on waste ground, the edges of fields and footpaths and people take them for granted. Yet these plants form part of the ecological fabric in otherwise inhospitable habitats and serve insects, for example, when other flowers are not available.

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Cobbler’s Brook, August

The first half of August saw temperatures reaching 35 degrees centigrade, weather which had been preceded by a long period of very low rainfall. Farmers across the country were concerned that drought was affecting their crops and the stress on the countryside was visible, with plants wilting and trees losing their leaves prematurely. Locally there was a fire on Holmbury Hill and wild fires were reported on heathland in other areas of Surrey; luckily all of these were contained but the damage to wildlife is clear. Water courses were also suffering and ponds and streams were drying up.

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It is very still as the hottest temperatures of the year are reached and the long drought continues. The beginning of August is marked by Lammas, Loaf Mass Day celebrating the harvest of the first grain. Bread was brought into the churches to be blessed and thanks offered for the bounty of the earth. The same date is also the Celtic festival of  Lughnassadh, Lugh is the Sun King and God of Light and  August is his sacred month. School children enjoy their summer holiday at this time and later in life many of us nostalgically recall the long, hot days of freedom in the summer-time. Lugh’s beneficence as light-giver is touched with melancholy as his powers lie on the cusp and his influence on the wane. So August is full of signs of nature’s bounty but also hints of the year’s turn are in the air.

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Wildflowers in the garden

The seeds for this patch of wildflowers in my daughter’s garden in Wormingford, Essex, came from the packets given out by LEAP at last year’s Ewhurst Carnival.  They were sown in early Spring and she said there was still some flowering by the middle of August.

Claire McGill

We’re back and making a meadow!

Dear All,

We have a few plans for LEAP this autumn, and I hope I can welcome you all back with a (socially distanced) working party this weekend!

Whether or not you are able to join us, Alice and her sisters have started a scheme to make us all think about our environment. Simply stop everything for a minute once a week: #11thHourForClimate – see

Earlier this year we managed a litter pick and cemetery tidy, but now they seem ages ago. Some time before that I mentioned we had been allowed, encouraged even, to make a wildflower meadow behind the pond in the centre of the village. The coronavirus stopped us, but with guidance we can minimise the risk.

On Saturday (5th September) we will prepare the ground for a wildflower meadow by putting up a small fence delimiting the meadow, and creating patches for spreading wildflower seeds.

Please come and join us, we’ll meet at 10am in the car park opposite the village hall. We cannot share tools, so please bring a spade for digging up small patches of turf. These can then be turned over and spread with LEAP wildflower seeds. Unlike many wildflower seeds, these are specially for fertile soil, and will hopefully make a splash of colour next year.

To make the fence we will use willow pollarded from the tree by the pond. James will bring some hazel stakes and we can weave the willow between them.

Unfortunately we can’t provide drinks or snacks either but we will take a break. Please bring your own.

Over the summer the LEAP website has had an (enforced) remake. Please take a look – – and pass on any notices or items of interest to add to it. Richard’s wonderful parish rambles are all there too.

I hope to see you on Saturday. Please keep in touch if you can’t make it.

All the best,

New LEAP website!


This is the new LEAP website. I am trying a completely new system and I am still making some changes, adding blogs and pictures but if you have anything you would like to share please pass it on to me, by email ( or any other way. You can also send any comments to me by replying below.

A better new photo would be good! Views of or from the hills? The pond with wildflowers? If you have one you would like me to use, please send it in.

Hedgehog Envy

I am envious of people who have hedgehogs visiting their gardens; it is a very long time since we saw one in our garden and despite offering every inducement to them, including a rather cosy hedgehog house and a passageway in our fence, we have drawn a blank. I have a friend who boasts about the variety of birds that visit her garden and I find myself drawn into a fruitless competition with her: ”Red Kites always visit my garden and eat the meat I leave out for them”

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High Summer.

The essence of high summer, for me, is to see Swifts skirring the evening sky in search of insects, calling with their ear piercing cry. Parent birds will harvest up to a thousand insects,store these in their crops before feeding them to the hungry youngsters waiting at home. In hot, dry weather they will fly very high and they are said to be the fastest bird on wing in this country. Apparently the Peregrine only exceeds this record when they dive. Swifts arrive in April and leave in August and, like other migrants, travel amazing distances. Ornithologists have fitted geolocators to the birds, revealing that they can fly 800 Kms (500 miles) in a day. These remarkable little birds spend most of their lives flying, only landing when they nest; they even sleep on the wing, having the capacity to shut one half of their brains down into sleep mode, while the other half remains awake.

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