For illustrated talks on natural history and history see

For illustrated talks on natural history and history click here for

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Protecting Sussex Downland flowers

Local MP Caroline Lucas is championing one of Sussex’s best loved wildflowers, our iconic 'Pride of Sussex' flower of the South Downs .
She appreciates that it is vital to restore and protect chalk grassland, home to the round-headed rampion and so many other wonderful flowering plants.
Doing their bit in conservation on Friday 1st September 2017 were seven volunteers with "The Friends of Wolstonbury" lead by National Trust Ranger, Mike Botterill.
Above, Derek, a stalwart of the group, heading to an overgrown area of Elderflower, Hawthorn and a very large Sycamore tree, which, if left unchecked would choke Downland plant species.
​​Above Hilary, Margaret and Derek, after clearing the hillside scrub and felled tree above, which was burnt in one enormous bonfire.
It was a great team effort today and much was achieved.
It is a great pleasure to work at one's own pace, enjoy convivial company, the exercise and do our bit to protect this unique habitat.
Thanks to sensitive grazing by cattle, sheep and the work of the National Trust Rangers and volunteers with "The Friends of Wolstonbury" this hill is ablaze with the blues of scabious and "Pride of Sussex" flowers."
As an antidote for depression or high blood pressure, a day spent volunteering with The Friends of Wolstonbury works wonders for both physical and mental well being.
Details of how to join this happy band is at
All tools and gloves are provided... and tea and chocolate biscuits too.
Wolstonbury Hill welcomes you.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Colourful green and brown crab spider in a Sussex garden.

This colourful spider came into my kitchen with some hazel nuts.  Crab spiders are amazing with colour combinations matching their plant or flower location.
For two years I have taken a special interest in spiders and created an illustrated talk, which is described at

Cuckfield vineyards walk, about 5 miles.

The High Weald landscape trail  is a long distance path which passes through Cuckfield in West Sussex.  The Sussex landscape is changing as arable, sheep and cattle farming are replaced by vineyards.
It is this extraordinary change in land use that prompts me to share this walk with you. It is an easy walk to navigate.  From Cuckfield take the High Weald landscape trail (HWLT) westwards, with great views to the South Downs and Wolstonbury Hill, to Deaks Lane.
View to the South Downs

Wolstonbury Hill zoomed in.
At Deaks Lane turn left down the hill past the Cattery and turn right up a track, which continues as the HWLT.  in a couple of hundred meters the landscape changes dramatically.

You are now in the c.100 acres of Pookchurch vineyard
Take the footpath through the vineyard and a wood to Broxmead Lane.  There turn right up the hill and under the canopy of a magnificent chestnut tree, which sheds yummy chestnuts on the road in some years.  At Broxmead a footpath to the right takes you through more vineyards to Deaks Lane.
(If you come to a locked gate you have missed the public footpath which dives off through the hedge, a few meters behind you, to Deaks lane alongside houses and gardens.)

As you leave Broxmead Lane
Walking eastwards along this track, Cuckfield church appears of the skyline.
View to Cuckfield church

View to Cuckfield church
As you get near to Cuckfield a detour into New England Wood is an option, emerging on a higher path above the HWLT with more fine views to the South Downs.

Chanctonbury Hill
Click on any picture to enlarge it.  A guide is not needed for this uncomplicated stroll.
Unfortunately, this path is now getting overgrown since I stopped regularly clearing it.
Please see
for the situation in 2011.
How wonderful it would be if other Cuckfield residents now assumed path clearing of this beautiful trail.  Local and long distance walkers would be grateful.
For other, specialised walks, please see

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Cuckoos have left the UK, yet cuckoos remain.

Cuckoos, parasitic birds of reed warblers and other host birds, may have left the UK for their African winter quarters, yet cuckoos remain.  Cuckoo bumblebees, that is, which can commonly be seen in gardens.

Buddleia or butterfly bushes are visited not just by butterflies but also by bees.

Red Admiral

Large White

Buff-tailed bumblebees
For example, here are a couple of Buff-tailed bumblebees, Bombus terrestris.  The larger, with a buff coloured tail is a queen.  The smaller, with a white abdominal tip is a worker or a male.

Buff-tailed bumblebees
Queens produced in late summer are fertilised and hibernate over winter until next spring when they start a new colony.  All the other bees in the nest die.  (Although with milder weather in the south, some nests may survive the winter.)
Southern Cuckoo bee
On this same bush yesterday in my West Sussex garden was a Southern cuckoo bee, Bombus vestalis, which is a parasite of Buff-tailed bumblebees.
Southern cuckoo bee and a honey bee

Buff-tailed bumblebee queen (foreground) and a cuckoo bee (top)

Just like the cuckoo bird, cuckoo bumblebees lay their eggs in a host bee's nest, which is cuckolded into rearing the cuckoo bee's progeny.

Bumblebees and honey bees are vital pollinators of plants.  Solitary bees play an even greater role.  

Advice for gardeners wishing to maintain a bee-friendly garden is avaiable from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust at

"The extraordinary lives of wild bees and the important role of gardeners in their survival" is one of my talks on natural history, details of which are at

All these photo's were taken in my garden yesterday, 14 August 2017.  Click on any picture to expand it.  For my other talks please see

Monday, 14 August 2017

Six Dragonfly and Damselfly species in the Sussex High Weald yesterday.

 A perfect location for White-legged damselflies, which although uncommon, were numerous here yesterday.
White-legged Damselfly

White-legged Damselfly

Common Blue damselfly male

Common Blue damselflies mating wheel.

Azure Damselfly male

Common Darter

Black-tailed Skimmer perhaps

Male Brown Hawker
Click on any picture to expand it.
For info' on my talk on these fascinating insects click here

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Southern Hawker Dragonfly newly emerged at Old Lodge, nature reserve, Ashdown forest, yesterday

 There is something hanging from the bracing strut under the bridge.
 It looks like a newly emerged Southern Hawker Dragonfly, Aeshna cyanea
Southern Hawker Dragonfly, Aeshna cyanea

Southern Hawker Dragonfly, Aeshna cyanea
This was at 13.00hr.

 I went back later at 15.00hr to see how it was getting on.

I had to kneel on the bridge and hold my camera over the water without dropping it.
It was quite dark and the shutter speed was too slow for a sharp image on close-up macro mode.  A flash was used to get these shots.
All photo's are copyright Peter Lovett.
Click the pictures to enlarge them.
Click here for details of my illustrated talk on these fascinating insects.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Migrant Hawker female, Aeshna mixta today in Cuckfield, West Sussex, UK

 This fine female dragonfly and others were flying around my garden today.

Do you know clubs or societies interested in speakers on the wildlife of S.E. England?
Then please see for my illustrated talk on Dragonflies and Damselflies.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Ichneumon wasps today in Sussex.

In the UK we have approximately 2,500 species of ichneumonid. Making up almost 10% of all British insects.  They are notoriously difficult to identify.  Ref:  Beginner’s guide to identifying British ichneumonids 

What an diverse range of insects.  There were also lots of Chrysops caecutiens horseflies attempting to bite me, which was quite unpleasant today in the Loder valley.

Friday, 28 July 2017

The Dundas Aqueduct, Bath: a short walk to the Kennet and Avon canal from the Combe Grove Hotel.

This is the view from the magnificent Combe Grove Hotel looking southwards over the river Avon valley.
From the hotel you can walk to the canal in a half an hour.

 Take the steps in front of the lawn and walk to the driveway to Brassknocker Hill,
passing under the stone arch.

 You walk through delightful mature woodland of ash, oak, beech and laurel.
 Turn left at the busy road for 30 metres or so and cross the road to the milepost where the footpath descends steeply down the hill.
There had been torrential rain before our walk on Saturday 22 July 2017 and the path was slippery.
Stout boots or shoes are essential.  After such rain the ground was a little muddy in places: nothing compared to Sussex though.
Local enthusiasts have installed kissing gates on the path.  There are no awkward stiles to climb over.

 Sheep are in the fields and there far-reaching views of the Avon valley.

 Now the canal aqueduct comes into view.  And the main road.
Leave the field gingerly: traffic seems to pass within inches of the gate!
 Cross the road and a narrow path runs from the beginning of the lay by steeply down to the canal.

 Off this basin is the entrance to the narrow coal canal below.
 Click on the pictures to enlarge them and read all the information.

A walkers' and cyclists' heaven.
This short walk is just delightful and the aqueduct is inspirational.
We must come back and make more time to explore this canal network.

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