Sussex Field Notes is a blog written and compiled by Sophie May Lewis, a naturalist and writer from West Sussex.
In November 2016 Sussex Field Notes became the new combined home of my previous blogs, “SophiEco Wild” and “The Oak By The Rife Local Patch” which included posts from The Cutty Garden Allotment.
Please read on to find out more about myself, the blogs, and other influences on my life.
They say there is no place like home, well, for me, Sussex is home. More specifically, the West Sussex Downs ‘twixt Chichester and Midhurst. I live in a brick and flint property on the edge of woodland, beside a meadow where I often sit to listen to the tawny owls on winter evenings. Field edges have a special charm for me, they feel like my natural habitat. Perhaps it is a genetic memory passed down with the chalk in my bones, via the generations of Sussex farm labourers and country folk that make up a large part of my ancestry.
Birding and Nature
I fell in love with birds at a very young age, feeding the squabbling house sparrows and starlings on the garden bird table. It was as a teenager, when I often felt out of kilter to my peers, that birds became a fascination for me, with birdwatching providing the perfect escape and distraction from everyday life. It soon developed into a permanent habit to notice the wagtails that skittered across the school playground, the gulls wheeling over the town pond, or to plan my weekends around trips to nature reserves. It wasn’t just birds that had me fixated; butterflies, lizards, wildflowers, any living thing that moved (or didn’t!) was a source of wonder. Something that, thankfully, continues to be the case.
Each January I attempt to find time to join a team of fellow birders to take part in the Sussex Ornithological Society’s New Year Bird Race. The aim of the game is to see or hear as many species of bird (wild, native/naturalised) within the county boundary, in 24hrs. We (The Martlets) usually manage a 12 hr day, dawn till dusk, with varying results! … it’s deadly serious, but just for fun! Sponsorships/donations to support Sussex Ornithological Society’s conservation work are very welcome. https://www.sos.org.uk/
February 22nd 2016. I am standing in the middle of a slightly shabby plot at the end of a row of allotments, near the junction of Bepton Road and Pitsham Lane, kicking at a clod of soil with the toe of my wellington. “So, would you like it?” offers the voice at the other end of my mobile-call. And that’s that.
I garden an allotment on the edge of Midhurst Common, where I grow a mixture of edibles and flowers. The plot is managed on organic principles and worked with wildlife in mind. If you follow my allotment adventures via the blog or Instagram you’ll hear mention of the veg beds, the polytunnel, the mini orchard, two old apple trees, the cut flower patch and ‘pollinator corner’. I am a self taught gardener, drawing on the inspiration of my great grandfather Sid who was a very keen gardener, and my personal passion for caring for my little patch of land in the best way possible, to benefit not only my mental and physical health, my dinner plate and flower vases, but also the wildlife that shares the space with me.
Sussex Field Notes began life under a different name in March 2009, and has undergone several evolutions in the intervening years, as I have learnt my skills and crafted my voice. It finally metamorphosed into the site you are on today in November 2016 and continues to develop with each passing season. It has become a place where I express and explore my connection with the natural world, share experiences, and hopefully sow a few seeds of inspiration and curiosity along the way. Depending on the subject matter, posts range from anecdotal to poetry, opinion to creative prose, and are almost always illustrated with photographs I capture during my everyday adventures.