Posting this after so long an absence causes me great trepidation! I have even had to re-log in and remember how to use the site! I stopped posting blogs because our personal circumstances became a bit overwhelming but then I didn’t get started again as I felt a need to find the blog a new direction. I couldn’t think of a better one, however, as it was always really very good for me to comment on other people’s writing as I’d found it instructive, if hard work. But a new year has begun and still a new direction hasn’t presented itself … until now. (And I may yet go back to the old type blog!)
So here goes, are you sitting comfortably…. (small cough, cough) …. My next pamphlet is to be published by Palewell Press and will be called Vanishings as it is about endangered and vulnerable creatures. As my self-imposed rule was that I must see or hear the creature I wrote about I limited it to the UK. (When I looked at the planet I realised it would be a life-time work to tackle all that’s endangered and I couldn’t travel everywhere). As I have quite a lot to say beyond what will be in the book I thought it could spill-over here. So you can read it if you want to, or not! If you hate spiders, don’t! (although they are extremely tiny)
When I started thinking about Vanishings two years ago I soon realised that most wild creatures are vulnerable in this country. It breaks my heart to think of how little our society and culture values them. Successive governments pay conservation lip service but nothing much gets changed at a national level. I read that more people in the UK are members of environmental/conservation groups but we still have one of the most depleted natural environments in the EU. hate
This time last year John Walters, who is a well-known local entomologist, took me to see the Horrid Ground Weaving Spider whose only known habitat is in the limestone quarry area on the eastern end of Plymouth. (There might be another colony in Spain. Might be.) He told me where to meet him and I was surprised it was beside an industrial unit on the edge of a huge housing development with quarries close by, all fenced off with CCTV cameras etc. Beside the busy road was an old railway line and we nipped in there among the trees. He told me a new cycle track had been diverted from the disused railway line as that is one place where they now seem to live, among the detritus on the edge of a city: a sort of dog shitting area, I thought.
They’re only called Horrid because horridus is bristly in Latin and they make intricate webs on the ground to catch their minuscule prey: (Nothophantes horridus). Its size represented everything to me that’s going wrong…we need the smallest creatures to survive because obviously bigger creatures rely on them. They keep the world ticking on. But because they are so small no-one much notices them except for John Walters and Buglife.
If you like spiders even a little bit here is a short video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFBjAyTE3tk
John lifted up a piece of old carpet left on a stone and hidden beneath we found one: I felt very privileged to see one at all and in fact it was only the 87th ever recorded!
How to write about it was my problem. I decided to write in longish lines with spaces between because…
They live in the hollows and creases
hidden in their money spider-size two amber globules
each one intricate as a gold tear
Perhaps it wasn’t the right decision because this poem has never been accepted for publication! My whole idea about Vanishings is tinged with the risk of giving too much information. I sometimes get really caught up in a creature’s wonderfulness and want to tell people about it but I have continually had to watch myself on this! So maybe that is this poem’s fault, not my choice of crevices between words!
Under the same rock we spotted an equally rare Hedgehog Harvestman who often lives near the Horrid one. The connection is not understood. But they too only live in Plymouth. Harvestman are not true spiders as they don’t have spinnerets to make webs. I thought it beautiful. Its legs are like stilts and it walks just like that, lifting itself up and stalking.
This very small poem has never found a home either but, in case you are interested, it ends like this:
Its droplet of body is black and gold,
spiny, intent on chance and cold.
Next time: probably something cuter!