“I remember very well, Grinmleck,” Vogle answered, menacingly. Vogle calls me Grinmleck, but I am not yet able to translate the meaning of the word.

“The night was warm and dry. I decided to leave the party after a few hours, rather than spend the whole night at the Bogler’s,” recalled Vogle.” The Boglers are well-known for their hospitality, their wild parties, and the very strong ‘blow your brains out’ apple and damson beverages that are consumed in huge quantities on these occasions.

At this early point in the story, I would like to point out that goblins will draw a person into a long intricate discussion when questioned about anything; if they have a mind to. It’s the way they are; they feel it’s expected of them. This behaviour can be very annoying and also very time consuming. It might be the lack of television, radio, IPods or books to help wile away the long dark winter evenings, that encourage them to indulge is such long boring diatribes. Some of you readers might feel that I make a meal of my posts, but believe me, I can’t hold a candle to Vogle’s intricate verbal meanderings. So, rather than bore you all to tears with the goblin’s words, I will voice this story in my own way. This is a posting after all, and the object is to keep things short and to the point. And don’t forget, it’s you readers – some of you, anyway – who have badgered me for another episode. So here goes! Let’s see which way this tale rolls:

After the Bogler’s party, Vogle made his way down the narrow path alongside Owl Brook (Hoo Brook) and onto the twin water pipes that run parallel with the swamp. He was accompanied for part of the way by his friend, the one-eyed Bogler. “Lovely night,” barked Ra Muntie, from somewhere in the swamp. “Indeed it is,” barked the goblin in reply – Vogle understands and talks to all the marsh animals in their own language. The Bogler crossed the river on the pipe bridge and the goblin turned left along the river bank, heading for North Pond. He crept very quietly on his hands and knees past the home of the vicious and much feared Minkymonk.

Vogle sat on the soft ground under the Lightning Tree and sucked his pipe. He puffed away contentedly, recalling some of his most favourite wonderful nights spent fishing on his pond. His coracle and fishing gear are hidden in the reeds. The pond is one of the goblin’s most treasured of all places. There is nothing better after a night out at the Bogler’s, thought Vogle, than spinning gently in my coracle.

Clouds of pungent pipe smoke billowed up through the Lightening Tree. The cooler birds and nutlers coughed and wheezed as the smoke brought tears to their eyes. Within seconds they began to fall from their branches, stunned rigid, hitting the soft ground with sickening dull thuds. The goblin tittered as he counted six glorious thuds. Not bad, he thought. I fancy a fresh cooler bird snack right now.

The goblin picked up and inspected the cooler birds; he wasn’t at all keen on the taste of nutlers. Selecting the juiciest, he sat under the tree and removed the bird’s head cleanly from its body with one quick bite. He chomped away noisily until there was nothing left but feathers. With a full belly, he walked down to the edge of the pond and pushed his head into the water to wash the blood from his face and beard. “That was a really tasty he mumbled to himself. Vogle washed away the blood not because he wanted to be clean, nor was he ever so slightly concerned about his appearance; no, he didn’t want the marsh carnivores to smell the blood and chase him. He is not afraid of the carnivores; he has many ways of dealing with vicious hungry beasts. No, he prefers not to run all over the marsh on a full stomach.

The goblin’s pipe is filled with a potent concoction of specially selected herbs, flower petals, shredded fly agaric toadstools, and ground up deadly nightshade berries. There have been times when breathing in this fragrant second-hand pipe smoke, that my head has soared to a weird and mystical land where fairies serve me bowls of strawberries and cream, large whiskies in finely cut crystal tumblers, and even big fat Cuban cigars from a sandalwood box.

Vogle decided to visit a friend who lived in the wood next to his. He would walk along the river bank where he will be hidden from the moonlight and hungry mash animals.

Everything went to plan until Vogle crawled under the fence into the Tenant Farmer’s Corridor. He sniffed the sweetness of a Long Tall Grinner. Slowly, and quietly he crawled along the edge of the river bank. Goblins are not good swimmers, and they would never ever think of venturing into a river. Vogle stood as still as he could. His body tingled with apprehension. He pressed himself tightly against a tree – nothing moved. He crept silently to the towards the next tree. Suddenly, a brilliant flash lit up the night, severely frightening him and the pet bat that lives in his beard. The startled bat shrieked and flew terrified into the darkness. Vogle wasn’t so fortunate! Temporarily blinded by the flash, the goblin lost his footing and fell headlong into the river. “Help me, help me!” he screamed.” I’ve fallen in the water.” As he sank into the spiraling murky depths of the river, the goblin saw a large dark shape loom over the river bank….

8th January 2011:  I was out in Hoo Wood at dawn this morning under a cloudless, powder blue sky. I felt the increasing heat of the sun on my cheek, as it rose slowly above the horizon. Spike sniffed the air repeatedly whilst skipping along the ridge track. It felt like a spring morning! The sun felt like a spring sun! I looked across to Dark Wood; the undergrowth was sprouting, or it appeared to from a distance. The honeysuckle is already in leaf and elder buds are cracking open. No, I’m not in bed dreaming; I know because I pinched myself … twice. At Fox Hollow, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker tries out the drumming tree. He isn’t drumming a fast machine gun beat, it is more of a half-hearted slow knock-knock-knock. I expect he is getting in a bit of practice in before the start of the mating season.  Surely these things are happening too early in the year. I expect the honeysuckle leaves and the elder buds will disappear with the next frost.

I scanned Fox Hollow with my binos: often a productive activity, given enough time. It’s no good scanning the undergrowth once or twice, you need to allow at least fifteen minutes to adequately examine the ground in detail. It’s also important to listen whilst using your peripheral vision to pick up small movements. This is what I was doing when I noticed rustling in the leaf litter, right down in the middle of the hollow. Focusing my binoculars, I saw a small pile of leaves churn, and the occasional flash of white fur. I watched something running rapidly under the leaf carpet; the leaves washed over and completely hid the small animal, as it bulldozed its way along the floor of the hollow. Suddenly, all movements stopped, just for a few seconds. The cream head of a ferret poked through of the leaves, holding a mouse or vole in its mouth; it looked this way and that, before diving under the leaves again. The ferret must have been trying to get its bearings. It changed direction and scurried under the leaves towards a high bank. The ferret broke from the carpet of leaves and ran up the bank before diving down a hole. I now know where this particular ferret lives, so the wait and the small amount of effort has paid off.

I took Spike home, picked up my camera gear and made my escape to the marsh before something happened to prevent it. I had the whole day to myself and was eager to find out what was happening down there. A Greater Spotted Woodpecker knock-knock-knocked high up in an tall oak tree, on the far bank of Hoo Brook. A small heron rose from the brook as I lifted my camera from its rucksack. The morning chorus had started again, or perhaps it’s just the first time I was have heard it this year. Most of the backing vocals were sung by tits and blackbirds, and a couple of rooks croaked the chorus.

I later sat on a stack of logs eating my lunch – a slab of Christmas cake – not far from the south weir. A man strode towards me. I had just finished eating my cake, so I didn’t feel obliged to offer him a bite. I was dropping the empty foil cake wrapping in the rucksack when he popped up beside me. One second I was sitting quietly with my thoughts and the next a man was hovering in front of me … “Are you Mike585?” he asked.

I soon learned that ‘my man’ was a former Wilden Marsh Manager of some eight years ago, and he had turned up today to check the water levels. The conversation was enjoyable enough, better than talking to the marsh cattle anyway. I am increasing Thinking that I should stop talking to cows. I became concerned that someone might see me! It eventually occurred, though, that if farmers are comfortable talking to their animals, then I am comfortable talking to the marsh cattle. They are good listeners and appear to be interested in what I have to say.

Anyway, my guest was telling me about his continuing interest in the marsh and his willingness to get involved again: running a Saturday work party seemed an attractive idea, he told me. Obviously, a lot has changed within the Trust and on the marsh in eight years, and old marsh knowledge is not current marsh practice, so a degree of retraining might be necessary.

I know the above person reads this blog, so this is what I suggest:

  1. Work days: if you are unable to attend the monthly Wilden Marsh Thursday work party, then Andy Harris is putting together a Saturday work party at the Devil’s Spittleful. This might be a good opportunity to update your skills and knowledge.
  2. A second monthly Wilden Marsh Saturday workday might be started in 2013.
  3. If access to Wilden Marsh is a required, a permit can be sort from Andy Harris on 01905754919.

The rest of the afternoon was quiet. When it began to get dark, I trudged home.

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Midday January Moon.

5th January 2011:  Today is the first Thursday of this New Year and also the first Wilden Marsh workday of this year. Around twelve of us, with ages ranging from late teens to seventy plus, descended on the south end of the marsh with bow saws, long handled pruning secateurs, and Dave with his chainsaw. Today’s task is to clear branches, fallen and growing, from around the fences and checking that they are cattle proof.

Marsh Cow.

A bright, clear and relatively warm morning soon deteriorated into a cold, grey, windy and overcast afternoon, with occasional rain showers. Howling winds bend the tall mash trees to unnerving angles. Strong gusts launch dead branches from the tree tops as I eat my Christmas cake lunch. Luckily, the branches were not large enough to cause damage to me, or my cake; which is just as well, as I would have been forced to move from my couple of square feet of reasonably dry ground. Before lunch, we had found it a mistake to spend too much time standing in one spot: wellies sink into the mire with surprising speed. Having your wellies held fast in mud while the high winds do their best to lay you flat, is not a good experience; at least, it’s not for those who haven’t the luxury of wearing waterproof trousers.

Heron in the orchid field.

After lunch, it was deemed too windy and too dangerous to resume work in the woods. We reverted to ‘clean-up’ duties. This involves collecting as many pieces of dead wood as we are able to find, and stacking them tidily in large piles to rot. If the wood pieces and twigs are not collected, they will take root during the growing season, and we will have the backbreaking job of pulling them out, roots an’ all, at the end of next summer.

Walking alongside the River Stour this morning, I saw a couple of mink rolling about on the river bank. They weren’t fighting; they were playing. They ran off in different directions as soon as they made eye contact with me. I have a special pair of glasses that hide my eyes from animals, but I didn’t have them with me. I didn’t have my camera with me either.

1st January 2012: Well, this is the beginning of a new year, and I started today without a hangover. This clearly is a good thing! I did have a few whiskeys last night; perhaps the lack of hangover is due to the quality of whiskey I drank. I often get a quality whiskey present for Christmas.

I have to face reality – can’t escape it! The celebrations and the holidays are coming to an end. I will very shortly have to concentrate on the things that bring home the bacon. It’s been a grey, wet day; a lazy day for me, too. I think the laziness, and the lackluster have transferred to today’s images:

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31st December 2011:  Happy New Year everyone. This is probably my last post for this year.

The weather is overcast, rain is expected, and the temperature is eleven degrees Centigrade.

The turkey carcass is in the rubbish bin; the last of the mince pies will probably be eaten today; practically all the chocolates have gone where all good chocolates go; there is still plenty of whiskey, rum, port and wine left to enjoy, and I know for a fact that it will be a very busy time for me in the New Year .

There is not a lot of wildlife activity on the marsh at the moment. I am still coughing at inappropriate times and frightening away most of the animals that do make it in front of my camera lenses, but my cough is improving. There are plenty of Muntjac deer tracks and I am even catching glimpses of the North Pond mink; in fact, I have found where the elusive critter is living, or at least one of the places it is living.

The optimistic side of me is expecting good things to happen on the marsh over the next year. Fortunately, the pessimistic side of me struggles to make an impact on my life.

I have taken the following images to finish off my year:

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