A Sea Kale Regale

Just now, in Bulverhythe, East Sussex, the pungent aroma of sea kale (Crambe maritima) wafts strongly and sweetly over each passer-by on this secluded beach.

As I walk through this wildlife haven, the aroma draws my attention to the clumps of flowers dotted around the beach, which remind me (for some reason) of balls of tumbleweed in a spaghetti western desert.

Maybe one day we’ll be able to reproduce smells online. But for now we’ll have to suffice with these words and pictures. Which is fine, because there’s so much to love visually about these plants…..

Not only their effervescent yellow-white florets – the source of that sweet aroma…

But also the way rain drops gather into silvery globules like pearls on their succulent leaves – providing watering holes for little creatures….

And then there’s the striking purple stems….

Sea kale is a popular plant not only with human foragers, but also with tinier diners. Soon, as in previous years, we’ll no doubt see Large White butterfly caterpillars on these nourishing plants.

At the beginning of May, however, before the flowers had unfurled, I was overjoyed to find a more special, less commonly seen larva on the sea kale at Bulverhythe – this very handsome Garden Tiger Moth caterpillar (also known as a Woolly Bear):

Thank you, sea kale, for giving so much to this area, both nutritionally and aesthetically. And thank you to the Ultimate Source who feeds the birds (and insects) and clothes the fields (and beaches).*

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I’ve also written a book, Coming Home for Good (available on Amazon). Autobiographical, it’s more about homelessness than nature, but do take a look if you think it may be of interest. You never know!

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*Jesus, in Matthew 6

Beyond the Thorns

Beyond the thorns strewn across our path, that make our journeys so troublesome at times, hope and faith enable us to see a better place ahead, a better world even.

Beyond the crown of thorns that he suffered, Jesus, Lamb of God, foresaw a resurrection goal that held promise not only for him but for all of humanity, in fact for all the created world.

“In this world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have overcome the world.”

Happy Easter!

In Celebration of Spring

English weather rarely follows any sort of predictable pattern. It’s all jumbly, bumbling around all over the place like a drunken bee in winter.

This year, though, a period of spring-like weather has coincided neatly with the official start to Spring. How very un-British.

Just in these last couple of weeks I’ve already seen 7 species of butterfly – a very good start to the year:

Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Red Admiral, Comma, Small White, Brimstone, and Holly Blue.

In sheer celebration of this colourful and rapid emergence of Spring butterflies, here are a few photos taken over the last few days, all on the sun-kissed edges of Summerfields Woods, Hastings:

Peacock
Peacocks: two for the price of one
Comma
Holly Blue, on rhododendron leaves
Small Tortoiseshell:
a butterfly that’s been making a remarkable and very welcome comeback in recent years after suffering major decline for many years

The Eternal Resilience of Nature

It takes more than the destructive wake of extreme weather like Storm Eunice to stop Spring life from displaying her finest robes.

Tree in Alexandra Park, Hastings, brought down by Storm Eunice

Even if it means growing horizontally!

Crocuses and daffodils, still emerging from the base of the fallen tree

I can think of ordinary people in the news today, and many others closer to home, whose lives reflect the same kind of inspiring resilience. Downtrodden but not defeated. Rising up, proud and strong.

When Life Brings Storms…

…pick up the flowers.

Seaspray in 60mph+ winds at Hastings Pier

Last Friday, when Storm Eunice hit, they advised to avoid the seafront here in Hastings, where I live.

Horizontal waves at Harbour Arm, Hastings

Well, that was an invitation for some photography if ever I heard one!

Harbour Arm, Hastings

I had to get down there with my camera.

It was definitely a walk on the wild side, but so worth it!

Not only was I pleased with these results, but our local press used some of the pics as well.

Wave being whipped up vertically, then horizontally, by the wind
Gulls somehow managing to fly against the wind

Like a lot of people, we suffered some storm damage at home. Nothing too dramatic – our next door neighbour’s cherry tree fell on our fence. That is, one major bough toppled on to a fence that was already in need of some repair.

My neighbour and I chopped and sawed the fallen tree, and we’re getting the fence fixed. No lasting harm done.

(I didn’t think to get a picture of the tree first. Sorry for that missing bit of the story!)

Not one to waste an opportunity to delight in the gifts that Nature brings my way, I picked up a few of the snowy blossom-laden twigs to brighten up the kitchen.

Janine and I have enjoyed their presence the last few days as they’ve slowly shed their tiny, white petals over the worktop.

I started this post with my own version of the old “When life gives you lemons…” platitude*:

When Life brings storms, pick up the flowers.”

I’m not much of a fan of far-too-easy platitudes, but sometimes they do resonate.

I’ve experienced a storm of stress and anxiety with physical symptoms recently, which is all calming down now, and I’m beginning to glean some bright fragments of blessing from the debris: things I’ve learned that will carry me through into a better future.

The Divine often has a way of speaking to us through Nature.

Whatever the weather, whatever the season, there’s always something to be received, to connect with, to draw us closer to Divine Reality and therefore closer also to ourselves and others.

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(All photos mine, but I’m not precious about copyright, so feel free to use any of them if you wish, with my blessing.)

*For an “alternative”, less platitudinous version of “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, check out Kaitlin Shetler’s version. It’s brilliant.

And Heaven and Nature Sing

Joy to the world! The Saviour reigns
Let men their songs employ


While fields and floods
Rocks, hills and plains


Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy

Repeat, repeat the sounding joy

And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing


And heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

Nature singing with joy to their Source this Christmas Day (all photos taken in Hastings, today – 25th December 2021).

The Colours of Winter

I’ve always tended to think of this time of year as as a season of dying back.

I’m increasingly discovering that that’s not the whole story, as many examples of wintry life become apparent, from tiny insects to fungi to migrating birds, as well as the endless regeneration happening beneath the surface of trees and soil.

The very colours of nature tell us that, even in the winter of our discontent, in the ‘valleys’ and ‘deserts’ of our lives, in the challenges and difficulties, when all hope seems lost and it feels like dying in our souls, something vibrant and luminous may be happening at a deeper level.

…as these winter leaves teach us.

Something seen only by the One who creates and shapes us.

I’m full of colour when You’re with me

You are the artist and You set me free

I’m still unfinished, You’re shaping my heart

You carve every detail, I’m Your work of art

Bright City – Colour

(Photos taken in my back garden)

Loving Local

One of my favourite places in the world is Bulverhythe, a short stretch of coastline just down the road,

which, amongst our stony beaches, boasts expanses of smooth sand at low tide…

…cut off from the main road by a railway line,

giving a sense of seclusion for wild walks, runs and bike rides…

…where a wealth of wildlife can be found,

including this cool cormorant standing guard…

…and these terrific turnstones,

clambering about on the rocks.

I feel very lucky to live in Hastings.

It’s good to appreciate our local surroundings.

[All photos taken on this incredibly cold but beautiful winter’s day (28/11/21).]

(In the background in this photo, you can just see the Royal Sovereign Lighthouse, which gave its name to the Sovereign Light Cafe in Bexhill, the inspiration for a song by local band Keane.)

What do you appreciate about where you live?

Autumn: Nature’s Finery

I love Autumn.

It’s right up there in my top four favourite seasons – as I often joke – in the same way that each of my children is one of my favourites.

Newgate Woods, Hastings

In other words, each season has its own special qualities.

Rivelin Valley, Sheffield

In late August, as summer slips away, selfishly taking her warmth and wealth of wildlife away with her, I grieve as for a departing friend.

But when Autumn gets into full swing, I revel in her kaleidoscope of colours….

Peak District

crunching through the crackle of fallen leaves as I walk Gorka, our dog, through our local woods…

Gorka in Summerfields Woods, Hastings

…her juxtaposing shades of dark and light…

Norman’s Bay, Sussex

And running off-road through Autumn’s extravagant finery in these cooler conditions is the perfect cathartic activity for my work-stressed mind and body.

The colours of the Peaks

Keep close to Nature’s heart and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” (John Muir, adapted)

Even driving is a pleasure as ornate leaves dance to the beat of seasonal winds in front of my car wheels.

Roadside, Rivelin Valley

Countless poets and writers have been inspired by this time of year to produce breathtaking pieces of literature.

I can’t possibly do justice to them or to Autumn herself, but I leave you with these photos (all taken in recent weeks) and these stumbling words of mine.

Mandarin duck: originally introduced to the UK from China, now found in various parts of the country, including here in the Rivelin Valley

…and this final quote from John Muir:

Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.”

Rivelin Valley

(All photos taken by me, but not copyright – i.e. feel free to use them, with my blessing!)

You can also find my book,

Coming Home For Good, here on Amazon.

April Come She Will

After the beautiful but short-lived heatwave we had this week here in England, lasting a mere two days, it’s a little disheartening to see such a cold forecast for the week ahead, with night-time temperatures as low as -3C.

But despite the fluctuating weather, Spring moves forward. Although she seems slow in her arrival this year, like April (in the Simon & Garfunkel song) come she will.

I love the resilience of nature and the dependability of the seasons, like a faithful lover or spouse.

As the old hymn goes: “Summer and winter and springtime and harvest…join with all nature in manifold witness to Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.”

The divinity of nature and God entwined as one.

Today was the first day this year that I saw wild bluebells (in our local woods).

Every year, the first day of bluebells feels like a landmark moment.

Perhaps signalling the end of winter.

An auspicious icon of something new and beautiful.

A promise fulfilled.

On the way home, after taking these photos, I bumped into a friend and told him about the bluebells.

He pointed to his head and said, “It does something good to the mind – seeing these things.”

Indeed. The eternal spirit of Yahweh in nature bringing healing balm to mind, body and soul.

(The following photos are of Spring Snowflakes, also adorning the woods….)