• September Saturday

    On a perfect September day, falling acorns rattle on the road. The leaves maintain their colour, with the early exception of the turning leaf of the Virginia Creeper. The Creeper clings to the walls of the Marsham Road Cottages. The sky is a softer blue, brushed with the feathery high cirrus cloud. Along the Railway Line a family of Bullfinches creep along the Blackthorn thickets. In the distance a lone Muntjac hurdles the potato baulks. The cool Saturday morning air just moves the very tips of the highest trees. It feels as if we are just about to turn the corner into Autumn proper.


  • Night calls

    Tawny Owls are spending their nights in establishing their winter territories. The lighter calls are presumably the younger among them. At times the shouting match reaches a crescendo as two birds throw their calls at one another, often within the relatively confined space of the garden. We hear hear the scrape of their talons as the land on the ridge tiles. In a semi sleeping state their arguments come and go. The outside night world making small incursions into the house and then drift away.

  • Calls from the north

    The Brampton fields take on the soundscape of the tundra. The plaintive flight calls of the Golden Plover are detectable, often in the immediate post dawn light and at dusk. Their flights in loose v-formation circle, merge and demerge. In the morning the notes make a strange counterpoint with the early traffic. Each year they stop off at the same very localised group of arable fields. What attracts them is difficult to determine, but they punctuate the year with their visits at Spring and Autumn.

  • Wildlife crossroads

    I count eighty eight House Martins and Swallows on the telephone lines near the Common. The gathering continues until, at some hidden signal, they will depart and leave us and take the summer with them. When that moment actually arrives is hard to spot, but by Sunday evening they have dispersed. The village really is on the cusp of the seasons this week. The convergence of the river, its valley, rail lines and roads seeming to combine to create a meeting place for the moving migrants. That evening we stumble across two Fallow Deer, not the usual Roe or Muntjac, both of whom were moving with intent – their own small scale migration in search of new territory.

    The next morning the unmistakeable call of the Golden Plover drifts down as the first flock arrives at their favourite stopping off point on the way south from their tundra breeding grounds. As always they centre themselves on the same arable fields which must have become ingrained as the traditional rest on their long journey south. We hope to hear them during their night time flights as the moon becomes full late in September.

  • Fall of a giant

    Fallen giant - the last mature English Elm in Brampton has been felled
    Fallen giant – the last mature English Elm in Brampton has been felled

    A giant fell this morning. The skeletal carcass of the last English Elm to have reached maturity in the village has been brought crashing to ground. It had far outlasted its contemporaries – many of which were felled when the Dutch Elm Disease struck in the 1970’s – but now decay had finally so-weakened the stem that it was unlikely to remain standing for a further winter. So, at ten minutes to ten on a Sunday morning, following a short chainsaw cut and a haul on a tractor winch, the old tree cracked and came to earth. What was left of its crown, which once touched up to 100 feet in height, split in to many pieces on impact. Tell tale star-like shadows of fungal growth showed through where the viable bark had spilt away. These are the marks of its death and decay. The stump looks as weak as cork. There is a gap in the skyline. Some ten years ago tree surgeons had taken cuttings from its then fully leaved crown in the hope that it was disease resistant. But the cuttings came to nothing and the disease took hold. Now this is its epitaph.

    It’s young relations, mostly clones of the parent, still sporadically grow as hedge plants for a few years until the Dutch Elm gets to them. No Elm in the parish reached maturity in recent years. The bare branches remain in hedge lines for a few years until they are tidied away or trimmed back. The Elm is no longer a feature in the local landscape. Although it held on for longer than most in the area.

  • Summer fruit

    Late Summer. The cherry trees promised much. But the Thrushes have got there first. In an early raid they stripped the berries from the garden cherries in a frenzied feast. The wild cherries in the hedgerows do not seem to have much left either. It takes time to get your eye in for spotting the wild cherries and they are often later than the garden varieties, so there is hope yet.

  • Change in the sky

    This weekend the skies are emptier. The Swifts which, for the last four months have blazed around the cottage roofs, have headed south. Or so I assume. In the past, after seeming to have left they have reappeared for a final joyful circuit. Not this year. Although I expect to see some more birds as they pass through from more northerly summers.

    In their place flocks of Jackdaws and Rooks roll around the country gleaning what they can from the newly harvested fields. Jackdaws always seem to me to be positive and high-spirited in their approach to life. Their calls ricochet around the village as they set of in the morning and later, once again as they return to roost.

  • Dog day Swifts

    As the village basks in the dog days of Summer, the grass of the Common takes on a tawny hue. Looking up, Swifts wheel and swoop around the cottage roofs. They gather in flocks at height and then descend in pairs or small groups, shattering the air with their screaming calls. There is a rushing sound of air as they brake and turn in front of their nest sites in the cottage roofs. We try to count them in the warm evenings but their speed and sudden changes in direction defy us.

  • A Brampton centenary

    This weekend we celebrated a birthday – the hundredth birthday of the largest musical instrument in the village, the Church pipe-organ. Built by the Norwich firm of Norman & Beard, the organ was originally dedicated in March 1913 with an organ recital by Frank Hill overseen by the incumbent Rector, V C A Fitz Hugh and Canon De Chair. With slightly less formality, the centenary was celebrated on a midsummer Saturday with a concert given by the Nonsuch Singers directed by Dominic Vlasto with Alex Little providing organ accompaniment and recital. The church was packed. It will be hard to beat the relaxed enjoyment of the event which included such an eclectic mix of Bach, Mozart, readings such as James I’s diatribe against the evils of Tobacco and the tongue-twisting spoonerisms of Cinderella (“Rinder-Cella”). The evening culminated in a wine and sandwich supper at the Old Rectory thanks to William and Jenny Youngs. An event to remember.

  • A June Otter

    Otters have a habit of putting in an appearance when you least expect them. It may be their natural inquisitiveness. This morning’s Otter was a case in point. All four of us were walking upstream on the Common. As usual there were several conversations going on at once, and whilst our attention was diverted, the Otter surfaced for a few seconds before submerging and leaving a trail of bubbles as it disappeared. But that few seconds was enough. We had been Otter-less, or at least lacking in sightings, for a few months. Perhaps they were not in the area or maybe they were keeping a low profile whilst rearing young. Now they were back. All we need to do is to not expect to see them, not worry about how much noise we make and then we should see them again.

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