HERE’S AN early nature journal page from a student sketchbook:
Thursday, 17th May, 1973
Box hill and the surrounding woodland proved worth the 25 miles train journey from
Victoria. I managed to get lost as I walked in the dense woodland.
The common but mysterious Dogs Mercury does well in the shade. A member of the Euphorbia
family. “There is not a more fatal plant native to our country, than this.” says Culpepper,
and he attacks Gerard’s and Parkinson’s Herbal for not making this clear.
A solitary primrose was growing in the wood near a caravan site.
The Gean or Common Cherry (Prunus avium) was in blossom. ‘One of the few trees to
flourish with the beech on the chalk hills of the south.
The blue bells were out in full force. I don’t know why they put so much effort into
producing flowers. Surely they multiply by producing off shoot bulbs?
Yellow Archangel, one of my favourite plants, it grows on the edges of woodland in
Growing on a tussock blue & lilac white edged flower
A Green Woodpecker flew up from the downland turf of a hillside. The first I’ve seen
for ten years as far as I can remember.
A violet which grew in the turf, a Dog Violet I presume . . . but I’m not well up
on violets. We don’t seem to have any up north.
Finally, I should really spare you this, but I was trying to write poems (or, failing
that, verse) at the time:
From Victoria’s lofty canopy, Down over the Thames out to Epsom
Today I walked in deep woodland, Above the steep slope of Box Hill. Where the fine
beech hangars stand, And the air is sweet and still.
I listened to the piping songs, Of birds, the buzz of bumble bees And the softly chirping
throngs, Of foraging tits amongst the trees.
I wandered under shady yew, Edged by the gnarled and ancient box, Followed the pilgrims’
pathway through This wood on Surrey’s chalky rocks.
The green woodpecker flew up from The closely clipped green downland turf,
And (thank goodness!) that’s as far as I got. Still, it brings back that day for
My diary for that day finishes: ‘Back in time for Robinson Crusoe, Argentine Safari,
Cheri & Horizon - Memory’.
I’m rather ashamed that, after all that effort to get to Box Hill, I returned before
sunset. Perhaps I was afraid that I’d get lost in the wood if I stayed. I remember
all those programmes, except, paradoxically the one on memory! Robinson Crusoe was
one of my all time favourite children’s television series, a French series filmed
in wild, sunny coastal locations; one man in the wilderness, a real escape for me.
Argentine Safari was one of Jeffery Boswall’s deliberately low-tech (by comparison
with Jacques Cousteau’s films, for example) wildlife series. Cheri was a BBC2 classic
serial adaption of Colette’s novel.
I’m still watching the science series Horizon today. This week’s was about Black
Holes. I really appreciate being able to see it today widescreen and in colour. In
those days I had a black and white portable with a screen smaller than a sheet of