Blog Archives: Uncategorized

#WildEssex 2022 – our year in books

2022 has been a busy year publication-wise, although the fruits of most are not expected until next year! 

Planned for next year is Teesdale’s Special Flora (much of which we copy-edited, and more) –  Princeton University Press/WILDGuides now have this in their catalogue for Feb 2023, and its publication will be a huge tribute to a true botanical and conservation legend, one of few to be recognised just by her initials ‘MEB’!

More details here


Also from the PUP/WILDGuides stable is the interesting and wonderfully illustrated Edible Fungi – on this one we copy-edited the Danish translation, and this too is  expected in February 2023. This is a book which might even make us feel brave enough to eat foraged fungi!

  see here 


There are also a couple of DK offerings on both of which we have acted as consultants. First is a reissue with corrections and updates  of Pocket Nature Wildlife of Britain & Ireland (due April 2023, see here) and secondly a new book How to Attract Wildlife to your Garden (due March 2023, see here) by Dan Rouse.


And last but not least is the first PUP/WildGuides volume on which I appear as one of the authors, British & Irish Wild Flowers and Plants, expected April 2023   

 (more details here)

Having seen early pages in development, I really think this will be a game-changer for the identification of commoner plants (but I would say that…), and it is a springboard to becoming a ‘real’ botanist (by which time you might like to buy the three-volume guide to all the British & Irish species in a couple of years’ time.


All that has not left a lot of time for other writing, although that was one thing that could carry on while I was bed-bound!

The one article published this year, although dated next, is a bit of a thinkpiece, mulling over the idea of rewilding and connectedness of the landscape. GIBSON, C. (2023) Rewilding the skeleton: A vision for nature’s rebounding on a crowded island. The Ecological Citizen Vol 6 No 1: epub-076-1 to epub-076-4  available here: Rewilding the skeleton

In addition, we have written or contributed to a couple of papers in the forthcoming volume of Colchester Natural History Society’s journal Nature in North East Essex, about the Wivenhoe Green Spaces project and Great Bentley Green ‘rewildling’. And. keeping it local, contributed a short chapter on Tendring Rock Sea-lavender, our local endemic subspecies, to a new book about Colne Point, celebrating the retirement of the long-term warden, Bob Seago. All of these coming soon….

GIBSON, C. (2023)  Unique to our part of Essex: Tendring Rock Sea-lavender. p.206 in Colne Point: Life between Land, Sea and Sky, eds. Marsden. K. & Bain. D. pp 290. Essex Wildlife Trust, Tendring Local Group


#WildWivenhoe Bug & Botany Walks – autumn in Wivenhoe Park

For those of us living in Wivenhoe, the University grounds (Wivenhoe Park) are a wonderful resource the year round, but never more so than in autumn with beautiful trees turning to russet and gold, and usually lots of fungi to discover.  This year the autumn is rather late in arriving, so many of the arboreal specimens are still in their summer coloration – but there was some evidence of a change in the Narrow-leaved Ash and the Norway Maples which were looking splendid on our morning walks in October.

As a demonstration of how the fires of autumn are either late, or subdued, this year, the photo below left shows the groundscape below Red Oak today; on the right are the leaves of the same tree exactly two years earlier. Different year, different weather conditions of the preceding summer, different colours…

So our walk, billed as ‘Fruits, Foliage and Fungi’ was rather lacking in dramatic foliage, and also fruits. Acorns, for example, were almost non-existent, in complete contrast to last autumn, a mast year, when the trees were laden with the fattest acorns imaginable, in huge numbers. Fortunately, for those of a gastronomic bent, the Sweet Chestnuts, at least from some trees, have fattened well.

But as for fungi,  the damp summer and warm autumn have produced a bumper crop. On our walks we are not able to identify all the species we find with confidence – even expert mycologists have been known to mis-identify with alarming and potentially fatal results.  So we stick to pointing out what we can and offer tentative or group identifications where we are able, but never to say definitively ‘this is edible’…!

A summary of what we saw, in pictures…..

Everyone’s favourite, from elves to toads to Father Christmas, the Fly Agaric was in profusion around one of the Silver Birch Trees:

Several other species in the genus Amanita were also found, including one which may prove to be our most interesting find when it grows up. At this early button stage it has all the appearance of the Solitary Amanita, a rare , southern species in the UK.

Under Beech and Oak trees, there was a variety of puffballs, earthballs, cheese-caps, penny-buns and lovely Amethyst Deceivers, at first almost invisible among the leaves, but seeming to emerge in troops as we got our eyes into searching:

And out in the more open grassland, again a great range of species, from Shaggy Ink-caps to Liberty Caps and Parasols, Yellow Clubs to waxcaps, all indicating the ecological quality of the extensive grasslands in Wivenhoe Park.

And then fungi growing on the old trees themselves, Beefsteaks and Sulphur-tufts recycling and hollowing, but not killing…

High in a large Oak. Chicken-of-the-Woods was fruiting…and as we peered skyward, a sharp pair of eyes spotted an anomalous set of leaves sprouting from a bough. It was a 2m tall Silver Birch sapling growing epiphytically from the Oak, the sort of thing we associate with rain forests, both temperate and tropical, but a surprise in the arid lands of north-east Essex.

In keeping with the ‘Bug’ bit of our walks, we kept an eye open for invertebrates – and were hoping that the Rhododendron leafhopper Graphocephala fennahi  would make an appearance. Spectacular and relatively large for its family Cicadellidae, this is one of only a few creatures which makes its home on Rhododendron.  A quick peer at the host plant indicated that there were none to be found today, but here is ‘one that we took earlier’ on our recce a day previously, a somewhat warmer day. Certainly worth a search next time you are near a suitable plant.

While we didn’t look in too much detail at galls this time, one that attracted our attention was these hairy little structures on Beech. These are the galls of the gall midge Hartigiola annulipes, which it seems is rather rare in Essex, with only seven previous records from the county shown on the Essex Field Club map. Another sharp pair of eyes spotted these little insects apparently coming out of the galls – as a mini-wasp, these are not the gall-causers, but likely a parasite thereof.

All those and more – Jackdaws and Green Woodpeckers as usual here flew the flag for the birds, along with a few Redwings ‘seep‘ing overhead, and one, maybe two, noisy Little Owls that unfortunately remained hidden.

For anyone looking to go back, the university has recently produced a second edition of its ‘Tree Guide’, well worth a look, and a visit to these grounds, at any time of year. To download a pdf of the guide, visit Wivenhoe Park | University of Essex, and follow the link.

Thank you to everyone who joined us and apologies to those who we had to turn away.  We like to keep our groups fairly small in number so that everyone can see and feel involved.  Apologies too that we unfortunately, inadvertently chose the Uni ‘Open day’ to arrange this event, so Chris had to compete with loud music and a helicopter overhead, but hopefully none of this got in the way of enjoying the nature!


Jude’s Rubbish Diary – Episode 2

29 MARCH 2019

What no litter?……

…..well hardly any!

This beautiful morning was too good to ignore, so we set out for a walk in the sunshine armed with a trusty litter picker and bags. What a pleasant surprise to encounter not a scrap of rubbish along the river path, all through Grange Wood and out onto Whitehouse Beach.

Our euphoria didn’t last however, as we found the remnants of a barbeque on the shoreline. Complete with large disposable bbq, tin cans and other rubbish. Sigh. So early in the year too.  Come on folks, its a great place to enjoy a meal, but what happened to ‘leave only footprints’?

However, all things considered it was all a very uplifting experience. Thanks to the unsung litter fairies who dedicatedly keep our beautiful places litter free, and of course Wivenhoe Society who organise the River Bank Rubbish Clearances.