Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Amethyst Deceiver - Laccaria amethystina

A recent illustration featured on a soon-to-be-installed interpretation board at Kenilworth Common Local Nature Reserve.

First described in 1778, this lovely fungi is often found in dark, damp leaf litter and is especially abundant under beech trees. The colour deepens when wet and particularly vivid when young. In dry conditions it fades to white. The cap starts off convexed becoming almost flat and pales as it matures. You'll find it between June and November.    

Thursday, 6 December 2012

The Broads Wildlife Centre

Norfolk Wildlife Trust - Ranworth Broad

I have just returned from a visit to a outstanding nature reserve - Ranworth one of the most popular broads in Norfolk. An extraordinary site where on approach is quite unassuming. A grand 200 year old oak greets you before following an astounding board walk winding through a succession of woodland, swampy habitats and reedbed. Here you'll find the iconic swallowtail butterfly amongst a wonderful variety of wildlife. 

Yet it isn't until you reach the unique floating wildlife centre and step inside that you get to see the expansive broad itself. Of both national and international importance for wildlife, the broad hosts large numbers of birds and wildfowl including one of Britain's largest inland cormorant roosts.

This year during these quiet winter months when the centre is closed, there is much work being done to develop the visitor experience. I am working with a dedicated and talented team from Norfolk Wildlife Trust, on an extensive interpretation project that will form part of the exciting new Broads Wildlife Centre, open to the public on March 23, 2013.   

For further information:  


Monday, 26 November 2012

Interpretation Board Archive

An archive of my interpretation boards can be seen on my Facebook business page, along with detail and previews of recent and forthcoming projects.  Use this link to have a look - JBEI Interpretation Board Archive

A Coventry Way Association

ACWA IB along the Kenilworth Greenway, National Cycle Route 52

On revisiting existing interpretation projects to document in the JBEI archive*, I sadly discovered that Cyril Bean had died earlier this year.

I had the pleasure of working with Cyril to produce interpretation panels for A Coventry Way in 2003, a 40 mile Long Distance Path that took Cyril and The Coventry Way Association some 20 years to establish. The Coventry Way circles the city, providing local links that encourage us to easily and safely explore the wonderful countryside that is literally on our doorstep.

The route is now published on Ordnance Survey maps but in addition the Way also provides us with a variety of smaller circular walks, catering for all levels of walkers from casual to the seriously enthusiastic. Twenty one circular walks are published in this fabulous book that describes and illustrates each route, with fascinating detail of local history and wildlife.

ACWA book available to buy

Coventry Way founder and hiker Cyril Bean dies aged 82 - Coventry News - News from @covtelegraph

*JBEI Interpretation Board Archive

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Welches Meadow

Welches Meadow LNR
Radford Road, Leamington Spa
OS Grid Ref: SP 325 657

Newly installed interpretation panel next to the River Leam bridge on Willes Road, Leamington Spa.;postID=1623220070796927341 


Kenilworth Common Reptiles

Preview of featured illustration from forthcoming Kenilworth Common interpretation project

Lacerta vivipara / Zootoca vivipara - the Common Lizard, also known as the Viviparous Lizard, viviparous meaning the female incubates the eggs inside her body and gives birth to live young.

Look for them on top of logs, sun basking in spring and autumn on open ground. You need a keen eye, they’re small and fast. Hibernates in burrows under logs and rocks in the cold, usually emerging in April. The external ears without flappy bits, blunt head and tail are adapted for a snug fit away from the elements and predators, a vital ability if you’re poikilothermic. They’ve been on the planet longer than snakes.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Kenilworth Common

Kenilworth Common LNR
Common Lane, Kenilworth
OS Grid Ref: SP 297 730

One of my locals!

Neolithic lowland heath, imperial gravel pits, mountain bikes, reptiles, glow worms and recreation.

The Common lays on ancient ground but the trees are relatively young and only started to grow just over a century ago. We see them today reclaiming The Odibarnes, a once large area of open lowland heath with common grazing. Like so many of our remaining historic habitats, it is man-made. Created by land cleared and exhausted through exploitation of woodland resources and over grazing, impoverished and abandoned by the early agriculture of Neolithic man.

As a child the common was playground, all mysterious nuns and nature. Divinity and imagination inspired fantasy scenarios involving quests to find the scared yet elusive serpent, to begat magical powers. My tracking skills at the time were fairly poor so I never did get to see the elusive adder and to this day, remain a mere ordinary mortal.

The original interpretation boards on the reserve are over 20 years old. It's odd how things turn out, I remember seeing them in storage at Brandon Marsh when I was a conservation trainee. Then, I had no idea it would me who has the great pleasure of replacing them with updated versions. The design and artwork is complete and will soon be going to press, installation is due by the end of 2012.

One of the original boards soon to be replaced

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Andy Tasker

What a landmark year 2012 has been for Britain, the Queens Diamond Jubilee, the London 2012 Olympics and The Wildlife Trusts Centenary. 

This year also marked a personal milestone, twenty years ago I joined Warwickshire Wildlife Trust as an employment trainee and it was life changing. Ever since then I've been lucky enough to have the lions share of interpretation projects throughout Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull. 

More sadly, this year also saw the loss of Dr. Andy Tasker, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust's Chief Executive Director. Andy was the driving force behind the Trust for over thirty years, from when he became the youngest Chief of Council in 1982 and then the first paid Trust director in 1988 until his premature retirement in 2010. His achievements and sheer inspiration were extensive and remarkable, within the Trust and beyond.

His death in January came as a great shock and sadness to all who had the privilege to know him. He influenced my life so fundamentally, I'm only doing what I do now because of Andy. I just wish I'd told him that. 

Andy Tasker and David Attenborough. Brandon Marsh 1992. 

Photograph reproduced with kind permission from Warwickshire Wildlife Trust


Welches Meadow Local Nature Reserve

Welches Meadow LNR
Radford Road, Leamington Spa
OS Grid Ref: SP 325 657
The reserve flanks the River Leam, a traditional flood meadow in existence for nearly 200 years. 

Many locals remember skating on it in winter, many moons ago. How lovely to return myself, on a bright crisp February morning, a mere thirty years later, no longer a teenager. I remember lazy slow summers along the river path, the deep soft buzz of dragonfly and silent Demoiselle. Open grassland, birds flock. Some things don’t change.

Met some lovely WWT volunteers, working hard to maintain eager bushes keen to colonise. 

The design work for the interpretation panel is complete and currently in sign manufacture production. It will be installed shortly. In the meantime, here is another preview illustration. The reserve is managed using traditional methods dating back to medieval times. The willow trees along the river bank are pollarded, as seen here. A means to maintain growth and longevity.

Willow Pollard and wagtails