Category: Out and About

A better urban wildlife legacy

Nick Dobbs

At the heart of Bournemouth and Poole lies an extraordinary 37 hectare fragment of the once Great Heath that stretched uninterrupted from the Purbecks to the New Forest. Eighty per cent of heathland has been lost since 1800 and today the UK is the custodian of 20 per cent of this remaining habitat worldwide. Talbot […]

Dartmoor’s wounded land – part 3: what can be done?

Tony Whitehead

In the first two parts of this series I looked at the parlous state of the Dartmoor Special Area of Conservation. I gave reasons for how it came to be in such a poor state, and covered the influence of post war agricultural policy. In this final part, I will look at what can be […]

Welcoming prickly visitors

Helen Fairhurst

As nature starts to beckon in the spring, my thoughts turn to welcoming some prickly visitors. Each year I’m hopeful that I might see the return of hedgehogs on my little patch as they awake from hibernation. Sadly, the hedgehog population is in serious decline in the UK. The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2018 report […]

Walking for health

Barbara Leonard

Just over a year ago I was one of small group of volunteer walk leaders sharing thoughts about a new virus being talked about on the news in the UK. Some of us had just returned from visits abroad where warnings about Covid 19 and measures to limit its spread were already happening, in sharp […]

Zebra crossing in the Masai Mara

Valery Collins

Driving through the Masai Mara Nature Reserve, I had to stop to let a herd of zebra cross the track in front of me. And not just zebra: wildebeest and the occasional giraffe as well. Mine was the only vehicle for miles around and wild animals were the only pedestrians on the vast open plain. […]

Puppy lust: the rise in heartbreaking pet theft

Sadie Parker

Imagine having a pair of dogs for company. They’re your everything, now that your spouse has passed on. Between walks they like a frolic in the garden. One day you let them out as you put the wash on and potter in your utility room. When you finish a short while later, you call out […]

The Third Gentleman of Swanage

Valery Collins

During the nineteenth century the fortunes of Swanage were dictated by a trio known as the Three Gentlemen of Swanage. Two of them, John Mowlem and George Burt developed the Purbeck stone trade, contributing to the fabric of the town as their business prospered and grew. It was the third, philanthropist William Morton Pitt, who […]

Beyond the ‘burdensome estate’

Mick Fletcher

Since West Country Bylines published my article Blocked by the ‘burdensome estate‘ people from all over the country have contacted me with similar examples of apparent official vandalism. Despite the Department for Transport (DfT) publishing a cycling and walking plan for England which ostensibly “sets out a vision for a travel revolution”, part of that […]

Gardening for wildlife: get ready for Spring!

Anna Andrews

The hours of daylight are slowly beginning to increase again and nature is responding to the lengthening days: spring is not all that far off. In February while the trees may still be stark and leafless, look really closely at the branches and you will almost certainly see the buds, the promise of this year’s […]

The ballast of Swanage

Valery Collins
Wellington Clock Tower, Swanage. Deep blue sea, blue sky, cliffs in the background

To many, Swanage is a traditional, old-fashioned English seaside town, a place to wander along the sea front enjoying the murmur of the waves. Some may notice the old tram tracks embedded in the concrete and ponder their significance as they pause on the Stone Quay. Purbeck Stone Brings Prosperity to Swanage During the 1830s […]

Rewilding comes to a Devon valley

Simon Chater

Local environmental charities are working to increase Devon’s tree populations. Simon Chater was delighted to take part. For nearly 40 years I’ve lived in an old farmhouse in one of the loveliest spots in the South West – the valley of the Holy Brook, a tributary of the Dart. A livestock farmer sold me the […]

The shifting sands of travel restrictions

Valery Collins

Christmas and new year are traditionally times for planning summer holidays, but we’re living in a constantly changing situation. It is no longer a question of asking ‘Where do I want to go?’ – more a question of ‘Where can I go’? Even if the UK has put a country on their ‘travel corridor’ list […]

2020’s Christmas ‘star’: the great conjunction of the giants

Bob Mizon
Saturn, Jupiter and Milky Way above Dunkery Beacon

At dusk during the fortnight before Christmas this year, an intriguing event plays low in the western sky for those with an unobstructed view of the horizon. Stepping out into the night from 11 December, if the sky is free of cloud and light pollution we see stars beginning to appear around 5pm, as darkness […]

Walter Raleigh and Sherborne’s castles

Valery Collins

Sir Walter Raleigh was loved and hated by Queen Elizabeth I and despised by King James His own great passion, however, was for the Dorset town of Sherborne. He has left his mark on three of the town’s attractions: he lived in the two castles and he intervened in a dispute at the medieval St […]

What’s next for Somerset Film?

Mick Fletcher

“It was fresh air that kept us sane” said Kathy, reflecting on growing up in the 1940s. Kathy was part of ‘Making Waves’, three days of FM community radio shows created by Bridgwater Senior Citizens’ Forum in 2012. Broadcasting from an empty High Street shop, the Forum’s sometimes provocative but always warm-hearted shows were well […]

Pieces of China

Jenny Steele Scolding

Lhasa is packed with pilgrims, poor country farmers and nomads who visit the monasteries and temples every winter. Their obeisance involves dragging themselves on their bellies across the square and round the temples, their knees protected by rags, their hands by wooden blocks. In the Potala, one-time palace of the exiled Dalai Lama, those who […]

…and on another front of the culture war

Eric Gates

“The National Trust has been contacted by the charity regulator over claims that it has strayed from its ‘clear, simple purpose’ to preserve historic buildings and treasures. Regulators approached the charity this month after receiving complaints from the public about its review into links between its estate and slavery during the British empire.” Do people […]

Cranborne and wanderlust

Valery Collins

I have been travelling the world for the past 20 years. During that time, I have travelled alone, worked as a tour manager and for the past 12 years I have been writing about my experiences. Lockdown brought a sudden end to my roving life. I was gazing at a long, empty period of nothing […]

Art Matters : Ashburton Arts

Anthea Simmons

Whatever Rishi Sunak did or didn’t say or did or didn’t mean  in his interview with ITV, the debate over the value of the arts and of artists in our society and economy has been front and centre recently. And rightly so. The UK’s creative industries are estimated to contribute around £13 million to the […]

Travelling outside comfort zones: two fingers up to the predictable

Dawn M Sanders

Why should additional needs limit your craving for adventure? Journalist Dawn Sanders, who has a visual impairment, argues impaired sight should not get in the way of free- spiritedness. Two years ago I met a kindred spirit where I would never have expected to: at the Royal National College for the Blind. Before going to the […]

The sea has set me free

Heidi Westbrook

For Heidi Westbrook, sea-swimming has brought joy, friendship and vital solace through the lockdown. For 20 years I’ve been lucky enough to have lived on a clifftop high above Newquay’s famous Towan beach. Over the years, the number of people enjoying the water has steadily grown. Once these were mainly year-round surfers and families in […]

Gardening for wildlife: ideas for the autumn

Anna Andrews

Wildlife in the UK is struggling with more than half of our native species in decline and one in seven facing extinction. Faced with these depressing forecasts, it is sometimes easy to forget that many of us can actually do something to help slow the decline, by making our outside space more nature-friendly. Anna Andrews […]

A walk with Coleridge in Ottery St Mary

Mike Temple

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in 1772 in Ottery St Mary: the churchyard and river area were his playground and the source and inspiration of much of his poetry. He returned to Ottery as a young man aged 21, and later wrote a sonnet To the River Otter, addressing it as a friend. He recalls […]

Boxing clever

Anna Andrews

Well, here we are again, heading for the end of the transition period without any real sign that the UK will have a proper trading arrangement with the EU, and amidst  increasingly dire warnings about possible shortages of food and other essentials. The Covid-19 pandemic has also served to expose the weaknesses in the “just-in-time” […]

The new terra incognita

Matt Borne

GPS navigation has led Matt Borne to a library abandoned to moths and mice. So he’s decided to finally switch off his satnav. I was driving to the Eden Project last week for a work thing. I’d been asked to go to the service gate, an entrance I’d used many times over the years, but […]

The Lizard’s vagabond girl

Jenny Steele Scolding

I lie in bed and listen to the waves crashing on the shore. I pull back the covers, cross the bedroom and settle into my rocking chair in front of the window that overlooks the sea. Down in the cove, the fishermen have pulled the boats up high; a storm is brewing. I always start […]

A walk on the edge – along the Mendip scarp by Westbury Beacon

Mick Fletcher

There are many good walks in the Mendips, but popular sites on top of the plateau can get a little crowded at peak times. I prefer a walk that starts from one of the spring line villages that surround the upland – more challenging, but a more varied terrain, and a walk where the landscape […]