October in Orchid Glade 

30th Oct 2016 by Janey Cullen and Rose Battye 

As we climbed over the gate, we were astounded to see the clearing work which has taken place at Orchid Glade.  We saw a huge area basking in the sunlight, cleared of undergrowth and the ubiquitous sprouting alder and dogwood.  A deer ran away as we marvelled at the restored glade.  We walked to the open gate beside the thicket, and saw tracks where deer have been able to come and go without harming themselves on the barbed wire fences.

More clearing has taken place beside and beyond the pond, and we watched two Ruddy darters having a fine old time together as they flew over the brilliantly green mossy drawdown.  Upon further exploration of the clearances we came upon a crowd of shaggy inkcap mushrooms.  We lost count after 93!

The pale green/grey leaves of the common fleabane were a delightful contrast to their turning brown/black flowers.  We left with the taste of unblemished blackberries, and feeling much comforted by seeing the restoration of Orchid Glade.  We know that it will need regular maintenance but a grand start has been achieved.

Janey Cullen and Rose Battye


October at Fromus  

28th Oct 2016: blog by Serena Inskip

Friday 7th October 5.30 – end of a grey day.  Grey clouds folded low and still.  On the track a crushed pigeon wing – the Fromus bed is bone dry except for one pool.  Light fading so I don’t venture into it.   Sap retreating – dog’s mercury pale and drooping, oak-leaves brown at their outer half.  Leaves float silently off maple and elder leaving spaces for sky-light to enter, reminding me of the brightness of spring light shining through first tiny translucent leaves – a long time back, a long time forward.  Moving away from the traffic sounds, birdsong comes through – and I wish I could identify them.  Can I say for sure, “blackbird, blue-tit, hedge sparrow”?  No.  Step softly towards the first pond, suddenly a coot scoots without sound across the patch of open lit water, with intent but not in fear or flight.  Pity I forgot my ‘bins.  Stand stock still, and another crosses, and another – a family?  Had they felt the drum of my feet approaching, and fled?  At the far end, coot toe-prints and small deer slots in mud.  The wet soft margin matted with repeating pattern of interlocking flat star-forms of pointed leaves, interlaced with some miniature knotweed in flower, and the water-mint flowers by the bank.  A long-tailed brown bird flits across from bramble to maple.

1610 Fromus Dock    1610 Fromus Pond


Out along the meadow, walking is easier than in August, over and along the surface of the exhausted grass now lain down as a mat.  Light rain prickles my cheeks – pings and plips off my coat while another bird sings.  Clusters of straight-backed teasels are ready to feed finches when times get hard.  I’m fascinated by filigree of small dock stems, deep red against the darkening green ground – thistledown attached here and there.  More sap leaving.  Pale elder leaves flopped, beside the ripening old man’s beard tufts.  Dusk-sharpened silhouettes tell a lot.  Dead elm, dying ash.  Lush halos of oak trees’ summer sprouting have been rich feasts for caterpillars.  A delight to see oak seedlings popping up through the grass from acorns hidden by crows, jays or squirrels.  Prr-rr-rr  Tsee-ee ! small birds skittering overhead from border to stream edge.  Rasping croak of pheasants settling to roost on the high  bank – a last outburst.  Light fades more but the red of hip, haw, unripe blackberry still shines out against the dark hedge.  Next year’s thistles are green whorls of leaves at ground level, while this year’s heads curl over like a shepherd’s crook.  And, what?  A cane in the grass – a marker of orchids maybe – now wrapped in lichens.  Remains of a pigeon, only grey wing feathers and some down, somehow beautifully arranged.  Is there a fox about?

To north-west a tawny owl calls “too-wet-to-woo!” over Lodge Farm – it isn’t really.

1610 Fromus Teasels    1610 Fromus willowherb


A crow on a high tree above the bank – the owl again far off.  A gaggle of rooks start up over the northern horizon.  Though almost dark now, I set out across the further section of ex-fishpond bed, taking care not to trip on the bridge, not to get ripped by brambles opening the gate – and even picking up a dead piece of oak to wave at the cows I knew I might meet, and which might be over-curious.  In fact they barely acknowledged me, still white forms at night-fall.

Serena Inskip



24th Oct 2016 by jools

Just posted is a Species List for the Diptera of Fromus Valley, kindly supplied by Peter Vincent from his survey last year.


September Song at Orchid Glade

28th Sep 2016 by jools

Laurie Forsyth's September report for Orchid Glade is now available in the Seasonal Diary.


Fromus Valley's bone-dry river and hay crop blues.

25th Sep 2016 by jools

Laurie Forsyth's August and September reports for Fromus Valley are now available in the Seasonal Diary.


Hedgerow Harvest Open Day

18th Sep 2016 by jools

Our Hedgerow Harvest Open Day was warm and dry but nonetheless signs of Autumn are here, like the lovely fungus, shown on the right below.  It’s a Sulphur Polypore, otherwise known as "Chicken of the Woods" (Laetiporus sulphureus) – it’s edible and apparently tastes like chicken!  

The blackberries were abundant and the sloes huge with bright red hawthorn berries cheering the scene.  

Our next outing is the GreenerSax Winter Fair – which is early this year on 29th October.


Guest blog: “Moths at Orchid Glade”

21st Aug 2016  by Peter Rowberry

Peter had another opportunity to trap moths on the SFPT reserves on 12th and 13th August, this time at Orchid Glade.  Conditions were near perfect.  A dry night with a less than full moon, and temperature overnight around 14°C.  The only thing that could have improved prospects was some cloud cover.  

Read his report within the Guest Blogs.


SFPT Orchid Glade report for August 2016

14th Aug 2016 by admin

Summer is heating up — you can read Laurie Forsyth's report in the Seasonal Diary.


Open day guest blog

11th Aug 2016 by admin

Local naturalist Charles Cuthbert came along to the Open Day at our Fromus Valley Reserve and enjoyed his walkabout with Jerry Bowdrey, finding new species records for the reserve.  He has kindly written a guest blog for us, complete with photographs by him (except common darter which is courtesy of John Rainer), which you can read within the Guest Blogs.


Moth Report

8th Aug 2016 by jools

Pete Rowberry from U3A had a superb catch with his moth trap on Friday night, including the brown beauty you see below – a flame shoulder.  Our Species List has now been updated with his findings.


Big Butterfly Count – today!

7th Aug 2016 by admin

Come along to our Open Day at Orchid Glade today, and enjoy the sight of a sea of yellow fleabane with red bartsia, common centaury, agrimony and tares all attracting a host of butterflies in the sunshine.  Today is the last weekend day for doing your Big Butterfly Count – a "Citizen Science" project helping collate data on Britain’s butterfly population.


Walkabout with Jerry Bowdrey

31st Jul 2016 by jools

On our Open Day next Saturday, 6th August, we have the bonus of Jerry Bowdrey, ex-Curator of Natural History at Colchester Museum, guiding a walkabout.  His particular interest is plant galls but he is knowledgeable about all natural history, and it will be well worth it to explore the reserve with a different viewpoint.  Whether you have been before or not, we look forward to welcoming you.  Guardian John Rainer will also be on hand to share the fascinating medieval history of the site.

On the Sunday, you can view the Orchid Glade in its August glory – a sea of yellow flowers with a wild profusion of amazing butterflies, as well as viewing our adjacent meadow.

If you plan to come along, please visit our Open Days page, and ensure that you have sturdy footwear – no matter the weather.


A Beetle on a Dog Rose — video posted on 24th Jul 2016 by jools

A Bee on a Thistle — video posted on 17th Jul 2016 by jools  




 1608 fly on coprinopsis lagopus    1608 Shaggy inkcap og Oct 2015   1404 0 Buff Ermine 26apr2014  

 1408 small tortoiseshell   1409 flame shoulder moth   1607 Meadow 3

 1607 oak catkin gall