Lines on the Landscape: wildlife writing

Charleton Creek, Bolts Tail

From : Valerie Belsey

Obviously it is the wildlife of this AONB which is so abundant and whose variety has nowhere been recorded in such detail as by Gordon Waterhouse both in his series of articles for The Kingsbridge Gazette and his writings for Orchard Publications on the estuaries he knows so well. As a forme, very popular and much missed, head teacher Gordon is able to light up his descriptions of wildlife in a way which appeals to all ages.

He follows in the line of the fathers of natural history, particularly George Montagu (1753-1815) who lived at Kingsbridge and is remembered for his identification of the now much loved and augmented in numbers, cirl  bunting.

Here is Gordon describing the appearance of an osprey at Charleton Creek:

'From this spit, one September, an osprey was seen. It gave a splendid display of plunge diving. Five times it rose clumsily from the estuary and shook the water from its feathers in a halo of spray, but with its talons empty. The sixth time it rose triumphant with a grey mullet clasped like a silver torpedo. Ospreys pass through on migration most years.

At very low water, a population of peacock and other burrowing worms, sponges and sea squirts is revealed here. This and the diving birds that frequent this part of the creek are indicative of the underwater fauna. The main channel from the spit to Geese Quarry Wood is a principal feeding area for diving duck in the winter. There are up to fifty goldeneye in a hard winter. Pochard, which seems to be increasing, may join them. Red-breasted mergansers, great crested and little grebes all favour this curve of the channel.’

Henry Williamson's prose captures the majesty of Bolt Tail like no other:

'On the great craggy precipice Phillip called Valhalla the gulls soared, glided, threw-up and fell crook-winged, blaking, crying, gabbling, hanging in the upblast of wind a few yards from his face, yellow-eyed and wind-ruffled. Daws winged their speedy blackness down the wind, shooting down and checking uneasily; buzzards sailed high, with sweeping leisure and then – crossing the sky at tremendous speed, swinging round into the wind to hang aloft – two peregrine falcons. Two shaftless arrow-heads of iron, he thought two black stars of the day, cutting into the blast. The wings were black, the heads blunt, tails short, thick and stocky – they remained motionless, as though held there, at a thousand feet.'

Reproduced with kind permission of The Henry Williamson Literary Estate: Henry Williamson

                                   

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Lines on the Landscape: wildlife writing

Photo: Peregrine falcon on the coast path at Salcombe, taken by Geoff Foale in late spring 2009.

See more of Geoff's stunning wildlife photography on GoldenDays here: Insect life

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