Grenliness. /ˈgren.li.nəs/ Noun. The state of being green, or the act of keeping things green.

Example. Our weekend was defined by it’s grenliness.

 

Having arrived in James’ county of residence late on Thursday night, we made haste towards sunny midnight Dorset. This trip has been in the works for years. In fact, I believe there are several posts which begin with “Having cancelled our trip to Dorset…”. Well we’ve done it now and I have photos to prove it, just in case someone claims it was a creation of my fever addled mind.

Not long after 2am we arrived at our first destination, Hengistbury Head, to look for natterjack toads. Getting out of the car, the sky was clear and my breath was visible. Immediately it seemed as though toads were not going to be roaming around in such frosty conditions, but we headed out none the less. We had failed to see natterjacks several times before, so one more time couldn’t hurt. The walk to the natterjack ponds was relatively short and soon we could watch over the water and admire the complete lack of activity. After giving it a good ten minutes we decided to meander back to car for chocolatey treats. We took a slightly different route back which was occasionally interrupted by some bird song. Then, suddenly, at the side of the path was a bumpy lump of flesh with a clear line down it’s back. It was a natterjack and it was lovely.

Natterjack - Dorset

I’d like to point out that this picture doesn’t do the size of the toad justice. It was like a pudgy bulldog. I gripped it under its front legs and tried to hoist it up but was unable to get its bulk off the floor. In fact, just imagine the image below but with me and an enormous rare toad:

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Elated, we celebrated with chocolate and treats from the local Tesco. Unfortunately, the staff didn’t seem to find our toad-fuelled whimsy infectious.

I’m just going to interject here to say that the Tesco in Dorset sold cheese and onion dougnuts. Let that sink in. Tesco has sinned against  Man and Nature in one fell swoop. May god have mercy on our souls

We found a spot to bed down for the night near where we intended to start the next day. As we pulled up, the headlights of the car shone upon a gang of youths. At all times one of them were looking at us. Maybe they were worried we were undercover police? Maybe they were undercover police who were worried that us, undercover police straight out of the academy, would blow their cover? Either way they started to walk towards us, all 6 of the brutes. I had several options:
1. Claim my dad is massive and will “do them in”.
2. Pull out my wallet, shout “FBI” and hope that it’s convincing enough for them hightail it.
3. Challenge them to a rap battle. This would require James to drop a beat, something he always seem reluctant to do.
4. Do some sweet tricks on my skateboard. This seemed the least likely due to my lack of a skateboard and skateboard-related skills.

I would have gone for option 3. Most problems can be solved with rap.
Fortunately they walked passed the car, obviously impressed by our potential swagger and were not seen again. Another roaring success. Then we fed a fox some crispy m&ms and I fell to sleep for an hour.

Just has the sun started to eke into existence, James awoke me excited by his finds. He had decided that sleep was for chumps, suckers and rubes. He had potted an interesting looking earwig and a something completely new for me, a very small wall lizard. I tried to convey my excitement through bleary eyes and hoarse throat. I sprung into action over several minutes and began to join him in scouring the cliffs for more reptilian delights.

Young Wall Lizard - Dorset

The wall lizards started to emerge regularly from about 8am, on wherever the sun was shining. They proved more than willing photographic subjects.

Wall Lizard - Dorset

Wall Lizard - Dorset

We always knew the wall lizards would offer themselves to us without great difficulty. Our next aim was to find the introduced population of western green lizard. We searched the cliffs for over 3 hours, hoping for brief views of anything that fitted the directions given to us. Having believed we found the spot we then intensified our search but alas, no green lizards were to be found that morning. We decided to cut our losses and head on to our next site.

The sat nav may have tried to drown us, or take us by ferry. Either way it was misleading.

Our next site was a small reserve dominated by hills covered in heath. We had been given directions to a place to see smooth snake basking. While trudging through the heath I heard James proclaim loudly about him seeing a blue damselfly. He deftly netted it and brought it to my beady peepers. I proclaimed it to be a southern damselfly (because it was) with its distinctive marking on the 2nd segment of the abdomen. First new odonata of the trip and a lovely local one at that.

We then found the smooth snake site with directions and quickly spied a smooth snake, who also clocked us and quickly made haste into the undergrowth. Our last native british snake. Done. I’m essentially done with the UK now. Maybe I should just stop writing? NO I WON’T BECAUSE THEN WE SAW A SAND LIZARD. More accurately, James saw a sand lizard and I saw a lizard-shaped creature bounding through the heather. As much as we tried to relocate it we had no luck. Every now and again James would spot another which I still only got fleeting views of. A pond festooned with odonata caught our attention so we bee-lined for it. Amidst the four spotted chasers and large red damselflies. James then struck paydirt with his net skills and swooped a stunning downy emerald (a contender for the species containing the most grenliness). I have coveted the emerald dragonflies for a long time so this was rather special. Unfortunately I was unable to get a good picture of it without my hand holding it in place so google it and revel in it’s monstrous amounts of beauty.

By now it was midday and the sun was feeling pretty cocky and blasting me with all it’s UV goodness/badness. I fashioned by shirt into a makeshift do-rag, much as I imagine explorers did in days of yore. More heath trudging found me my first Dartford warbler, pictures of which are purple smudges and will not be posted. We seemed to meet the limit of the reserve and started to make our way. Some more water found us a lovely, freshly emerged emperor dragonfly, who has nice enough to let me keep it’s discarded exuvia.

Recently Emerged Emperor - Dorset

I then managed to get a good view of a lovely male sand lizard, basking in the entrance of a rabbit’s borrow. The sun got to us at the point and a short nap was had in the shade of some birches. After we rested I scanned the horse fields near the reserve car park and found some of the horses looking a bit small, brown and skinny. When I brought my binoculars up it became clear they were deer.  We knew they were sika deer but it was decided the views weren’t good enough so we hastened forth to Arne.

When we got to Arne the combination of heat and sleep exhaustion was turning us into some sort of vitamin D drunks. I think our conversation with reserve warden/assistant could be considered emotional assualt. The following things definetly happened:
1. We saw loads of sika deer, but they were obviously very used to people. It still didn’t feel like a proper sighting.
2. I took this picture
Four Spotted Chaser

3. James put his hand in a wood ant nest and emerged unscathed but vinegary.
4. Arne has the nicest dragonfly ponds I’ve ever seen. This was enhanced by the profusion of downy emeralds.

The wood ants were Formica rufa, a new species for me and my third ant. I was faintly disappointed that they didn’t really do any damage to me, but I have since been told that if I had left my hand in the nest long enough the acid would have made my skin slough off. Not a spot to leave a damp newborn unattended.

The following things almost definitely didn’t happen but the heat is making me believe they did
1. A shrew swore at me
2. A horse swore at me
3. A bee set up some festive bunting
4. I died and came back to life as a demon made entirely of fire

As I say, they almost definitely didn’t happen, it just feels like they did .

We moseyed onto to our hotel, the plan being to rest for a short while then go out to look for stag beetles. We also considered hitting the hotel bar so we could speak to travelling salesmen and escorts. This are the only 2 types of people I imagine in hotel bars. The plan didn’t happen. We slept for 10 hours straight.

I didn’t even get out of my clothes. I lay on my bed briefly to test its springiness and to eat some houmous and the next thing I knew it was 4.00am. I only woke up because Robert had put a wig on me and was spooning me. I was okay with it. 

Favourite quote of the day – “Brian Cox is the Ted Bundy of physics”

Does that need any explanation? I think it might be better to leave that a mystery. Though if anyone would care to guess what I meant, please leave a comment below. In all seriousness, there might be a prize in it for you.

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