A Focus On Nature

Advent Calendar

Advent Calendar: Upton Heath by Sam Manning

Welcome to our AFON Advent Calendar! Each day leading up to Christmas you will find a wonderful new post by a different member. This years theme is your favourite nature reserve; where do you go to escape from the world and connect with nature? Enjoy!

All too often, the great Lowland Heaths of southern England are cast to the very rear of the queue for public interest and acclaim, and rightly so – blisteringly hot in the summer months, making them inhospitable to even the broadest of hats, and the thickest of creams – and in the winter characterised by an empty, exposed bleakness that wouldn’t be out of place in the descriptive prose of a Game of Thrones novel.

wasp spider

© Sam Manning

But perhaps it is this unloved quality that draws a loyal few to these ancient giants, of which only few remain and are faced like aged mammoths with extinction. I owe the largest slice of my wildlife-experience cake to the noble Upton Heath, north of Poole (home of the world’s most Dickensian bus station) which boasts a commanding view over one of the world’s largest natural harbours, Britain’s favourite nature reserve 2014 (Brownsea Island) and the most biodiverse 10 square kilometres found anywhere in the country – the Purbeck NIA beyond.


© Sam Manning

It is here I have seen in my child-like lunch-time scrambles through the pastel purple heathers, rare species of every season that I am unlikely to be gifted with anywhere else in the world, ever again. The lazy Sand Lizards of the south facing tins, the Skimmers and Chasers of the clay ponds and pits, the Sundews, Bog Asphodels, Pale Butterworts, Dodders, Devils-matchsticks, Dog-violets and other such magical and mystifying plants and lichens that only the keenest and most thorough explorer will be rewarded with, the delicate master craftwork of the Wasp Spiders and my personal favourite friendship between the Silver Studded Blue butterflies and the ants of the snaking sandy paths that shimmer in summers hottest sun.

And so, why not give a thought to the solemn, shivering pines of Upton on this stone-cold December day, and maybe even pay them a visit? If you’re ever down this way.