A Solstice Frog and a Red Admiral

Apologies for the slide-show photographs being a bit sparse this month; must be the time of year...

However, I've been asked about the relevance of the Solstice Frog, not yet about the Red Admiral - but both are a bit unseasonal. The Solstice Frog was an early-evening encounter returning from a Solstice-themed walk from the Eagle Pond to the River Lee, appropriately enough on 21st December. There is an historically anomalous strip of land called the Walthamstow Slip that runs from just by the Birch Well close to the Eagle Pond as far as the River Lee - a distance of nearly three miles. The aim of the walk was to follow this strip of land as closely as possible - considering that buildings such as Whipps Cross Hospital have now been built across it - on shortest day of the year. Starting from the Birch Well was in itself somewhat significant - or at the very least felt so - because of course springs of water - for that is what it is - are magical places which have always been important in human imagination, though we may tend to forget that these days.

Birch Well, WansteadThe Birch Well, SnaresbrookOn the 21st December, at the Winter Solstice, if you were to look along the line of the Walthamstow Slip towards Hackney Marsh and the River Lee, if it weren't for the houses (and the trees) in between, at 3.56pm on that day (clouds and weather conditions also coming into the equation) you would see the sun set. It is quite remarkable, I think, that the alignment of this strange strip of land happens to be at about 240° (ie SW), which is the same as the setting sun on just that day!

We looked at the well, thought about its significance and walked across Leyton Flats and through side-streets near the hospital to reach Leyton Green. Capworth Road is very close to the Slip and on the same alignment, and  - albeit we were a bit early for the true sunset - on that long view towards Hackney Marshes we had the pleasure of the clouds lifting to reveal the orange glow of a descending Sun. We arrived at the river just at sunset to end our Solstice walk.

Now to the frog. My way home was via Bush Road, in between the north and south portions of Bush Wood, in the dark of course. There on the pavement, facing that somewhat busy road, was a nicely light-coloured frog. If it had continued the way it was facing there is a good chance that it would have soon been an ex-solstice frog, and even sitting there in broad night-light, it was threatened by human feet. I made a rescue, and went home, content with a nice walk, a nice sunset and a frog-rescue.

The Red Admiral - like the frog - was a creature you would less expect to see during these dark-days of the year, but Jennifer Charter was pleased to see one flying around quite strongly by Reservoir Wood on another day which has significance to many at this time, Christmas Day.

However, whoever or whatever you may celebrate at this time of year, we should all perhaps celebrate the fact that outside of our doors, the wildlife goes on and it is not just Robins that are so much in evidence, but sometimes quite unexpected creatures.

Paul Ferris, 26th December 2011