Monday, 10 March 2014

Arthur's pace

Arthur - "take time to sit and watch"
I spent an enjoyably “slow and gentle” sort of day yesterday with a good friend, wandering around some lovely Hampshire habitats in the delicious, warm spring sunshine. To an extent I was forced to slow down, as I was with Arthur Jolland, who at 88 years of age, can’t leap around quite as much as he used to able to!

Arthur is a countryman through and through. He was born in Sussex but has lived in or around the small Hampshire town of Alton since 1950, where as a professional wildlife photographer, he explored what seems to be every inch of the surrounding countryside.  Unfortunately, Arthur can’t drive any more and therefore relies on others to take him on trips out to “re-connect” with his local patch and his beloved wildlife.

Arthur is a good chatterer, especially if he has the ear of a fellow countryman or woman, and as you explore the wide array of natural history subjects, you soon become aware that this is someone who really knows the countryside, not just sections of it. During the car journey and over a picnic lunch sitting in a sun filled spot, we talked nine to the dozen. Topics ranged from butterflies (We saw Brimstone, Comma, Small tortoiseshell and Peacock) and dragonflies to Crossbills (which we also saw) and Bumble bees. 

As we moved effortlessly from topic to topic, Arthur would invariably drop a little gem of information in to the conversation. Adders come in many colours including the famous “black” adders (which of course he has filmed!), Cuckoos can be easily “called in” as he perfected their call when only a small boy and it never failed to bring them in close enough to photograph!

We passed a large pond not far from Alton and he told me that during a particularly severe drought he had walked into the middle of the pond and picked up some truly huge carp – “they survived for quite a while with their backs sticking out of the water, until the rains came again!” Then we passed a wood were Arthur exclaimed – “that is a good site for Earth Stars” (A fungi), there used to be hundreds. I wonder if they are still there.”  I'm fairly sure that was a sort of code and I will get a call when the right time of year arrives, “Peter, shall we go and check those Earth Stars out?”

As Arthur talked, I realised that we will lose all this incredible knowledge that he has stored away, collected during hours and hours of patient observation, when eventually he goes. I also became very aware of the ridiculous speed that we all hurtle around at nowadays, and thus so enjoyed ambling along at “Arthur’s pace”, a slow shuffle, which now and then also involves taking out a fold up chair to sit and watch.

I look forward to our next field trip out and the wonderful snippets (not available in any book) that will be so effortlessly dropped into the conversation, often about a world that many of us will not even notice as we speed by on so called urgent business.


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