Last Tuesday of January!

Morning – 9.30:

I’m going to be in Dacres Wood tomorrow, in the morning, starting 9.30, doing some conservation work.  Could be putting on waders and pulling out more reed sweet-grass, but if that’s too damp and cold, it could be the time to measure the girths of those big old Turkey Oaks.  Just how old are they?  This should give us a clue.  Nick Pond is also going to have a quick look round today, and get back to me with any other conservation tasks to be done.

Not strictly conservation, there’ll be things to do tidying up round the Field Studies centre, but I’m also thinking about putting together a whole list of things to do to make the place more welcoming, and organise a special volunteering day to work on this.  Below is how Iris at Grow Mayow has attached boards to some uninsulated walls, and started to wall paper them – the sort of thing I’m thinking about.


Afternoon – 2.30

Then, in the afternoon, I’m going to be going round with my camera, photographing mainly plants, but anything else natural which catches my eye.  I’m expected at least three more people to turn up with cameras, maybe with more of an artistic eye.  We’ll we doing these walks / photo blogging sessions the last Tuesday afternoon of each month, and hoping to capture the changing moods, vegetation of the reserve.

Bird Walk 26 December 2016

After a couple of festive days staying inside, I was ready for some fresh air. This perfect winters day, bright but cold was made for a short bird walk round the reserve. My son Nick and I wrapped up and set off.Inside the reserve all was quiet and 2 walks around the perimeter yielded a meagre 4 bird species; wood pigeon, robin, collared dove and great tit….possibly my poorest return ever here. However with few leaves round perhaps many birds were foraging in gardens; a more reliable food source. Undeterred we stuck around and as the day closed in birds began to arrive to roost and our numbers picked up. We saw wren, blackbird, goldfinch, chaffinch, blue tit, carrion crow and we heard a great sotted woodpecker in one of the tallest oaks. Try as we might all we gotf for our efforts to locate it were sore necks. However there was some reward in the form of a pair of nuthatches. I’ve always been puzzled why, with so many mature oaks in the wood I’ve never seen nuthatches before (one heard last summer), especially as they’re abundant in Mayow Park. Anyway as the temperature dropped we prepared to leave . Hard work but with the nuthatch sighting, ultimately rewarding. On the way out Nick saw a cormorant skirt the reserve and on the way home i picked up the churriing of a party of long tailed tits in a Silverdale garden and enjoy edged views. A nice ending to the walk.

Last Saturdays in 2017 – Open Days and moth / bug identification

From April, we will be resuming our regular Open Days on the last Saturday of each month, so

  • April 29th
  • May 27th
  • Jun 24th
  • July 29th
  • August 26th
  • September 30th

These will be from 1.00 pm to 4.00 pm, and an opportunity just to look around the reserve in your own time.  However, we hope also to organise special activities, appealing to young families, such as a Teddy Bears’ Picnic, and blackberrying combined with den building.  (The yields of blackberries were not great in 2016, but kids still had a lot of fun with their dens!)

We are also planning to set up moth traps the evening before, and have one of more volunteers come in to identify what there is fluttering around the reserve at the different times of the year.  We will be doing this to develop a record of the sites bio-diversity, but we hope also to be able to share some of what we find  with Open Day visitors.  Also, on the “last Saturday” mornings, from 11.00, volunteers who have done a “Curious entomologists” course with professional entomologist Richard Jones will also look for other insects.

All welcome – and a special welcome to those who like us are interested to know what insects we have!  We will be at the entrance for 11.00, but leave a message with the comments below if you want to come along, but are not sure if you will be there at 11.00!

Last Tuesdays in 2017 – conservation volunteering and plant identification walks

In 2017, from March, depending a bit on the weather, we’re going to have two regular sessions at the nature reserve on the last Tuesdays of each month – so

  • March 28th
  • April 25th
  • May 30th
  • June 27th
  • July 25th
  • August 29th
  • September 26th
  • October 24th

From 9.30, a group of conservation volunteers will spend a couple of hours doing whatever might be needed round the site to improve bio-diversity, conditions for our wildlife, people getting about.

Then, in the afternoon from 2.30 for an hour, another group will go round identifying plants, seeing what flowers are out, what leaves appearing, and taking photos which will be posted to the website and on Facebook as a record of the reserve through the seasons

For both, just turn up, although be ready to get muddy, or even wet, if doing conservation work in the pond, so dress sensibly.  And, you will be expected to accept some basic health and safety requirements.  For identifying plants, please bring cameras, and share photos!

If you want to check about any of these, post a comment below


Conservation volunteering, tomorrow and following last Tuesdays

We’re starting this low key, building up a group of volunteers to do conservation work at Dacres Wood on the last Tuesdays of each month, starting at 10.30.  There’ll be at least three of us there tomorrow, mainly pulling more reeds out of the pond, which is essential to keeping it fully frog, toad and newt friendly.

Continue reading Conservation volunteering, tomorrow and following last Tuesdays

Planning ahead to 2017

Last Saturday saw our last regular “last Saturday” Open Day for 2016, although the last Saturday of October will see volunteers from GoodGym Lewisham helping clear reeds from the pond.

But now we are thinking ahead, to 2017 and beyond.

Of course, we will resume our regular “last Saturday” Open Days, which we hope will continue to offer so many parents an opportunity to show their kids nature right here in SE23.

But Tim is also planning to resume his regular photo-blogging about plants and fungi, but on a regular day each month, and will be encouraging other people with an interest in plants and photography to join him.

Following the course run by Richard “Bugman” Jones on collecting insects, we are also thinking of similar monthly visits to photograph and identify insects and other invertebra. Unfortunately, to identify many species, it is necessary to kill them, so we plan to limit this to these proposed monthly visits, or ad hoc visits from experts with the sort of training Richard offers.

Finally, we are thinking of regular monthly conservation volunteering days, which will complement the work already being done by Thames 21 volunteers, and to be done by GoodGym Lewisham.

If you are interested in any of these opportunities to get more involved with Dacres Wood, please comment here, but when we have firmed up on actual dates, we will be contacting our growing mailing list, and using various local media to spread the message further.

How to be a curious entomologist

Richard Jones – a.k.a. Bugman Jones

will be in Dacres Wood this Saturday from 10.00 to 4.30, showing how to be a “curious entomologist”.  As he explains:

Insects are everywhere. They are so many, and so varied — fascinating, beautiful, mysterious, bizarre. Through their mind-boggling biodiversity they offer us a window into the ecological complexity of life on Earth, and give us a powerful insight of the workings of the natural world. But their small size means they can easily be overlooked or ignored. However it doesn’t take much specialist equipment to have a closer look. Using simple methods and materials provided, this 1-day workshop will look at techniques to find and observe a wide variety of different insects, then how to preserve sample specimens for examination under the microscope.

In the morning, we’ll tour the reserve, finding and discussing the many different insect groups — looking at their structure, behaviour, life histories, and some easy identification pointers. In the afternoon, during the laboratory session, there will be the opportunity to look at some in more detail, and consider how studying insects can contribute to our understanding of nature, and the contribution it can make through citizen science.

Curious? Why curious? Entomologists might, at first, seem a bit eccentric, but they pursue their study of the natural world with a passion fuelled by curiosity.

Richard Jones is an acclaimed expert entomologist, a fellow of the Royal Entomological Society and a former President of the British Entomological and Natural History Society. He writes regularly for BBC Wildlife, Countryfile, Gardeners’ World and Sunday Times. He has written several books on insects, including Extreme Insects, The Little Book of Nits, House Guests — House Pests, and Call of Nature — The Secret Life of Dung.

The cost is £35, and to book a place, call LB Lewisham Ecology officer Nick Pond on 020 8314 2007, where he will be able to take a card payment .  Alternatively, email him on or use this form to send him your phone number and a time he can call you.

Blackberry and Cinnamon Cake – Sounds delicious!

Thanks to Fiona B who contacted us with this recipe ahead of Saturday’s blackberrying Open Day:

Photo: Fiona Buckley


150g/5oz unsalted butter, softened
150/5oz caster sugar
150/5oz ground almonds
150/5oz self raising flour
1 free range egg
10ml/ 2 teaspoons cinnamon
10ml/2teaspoons vanilla extract
225/8oz fresh blackberries
Plus some for decoration
Icing sugar for dusting


Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark4. Check temperature for fan ovens.
Grease and line the base of a 23cm/9 inch spring form tin

Put the butter, sugar, almonds, flour, egg, vanilla extract and 5ml/ 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon in a bowl and beat well together.
Spread half the mixture into the prepared tin, lightly flatten the stiff mixture with a fork.
Sprinkle over the blackberries, carefully dot and then evenly spread the remaining mixture over the blackberries to cover them.
Place the tin on a baking tray and bake for about 1 hour until golden on top. Test after 45 mins with a skewer, cover with foil to prevent burning the top if it is not ready, cook for another 15 minutes or so. Leave to cool completely in the tin. If still quite warm will break up when removed.
Dust the top with the remaining cinnamon and icing sugar, arrange a few blackberries on top for decoration