The Wild Places of Essex
Multi-award-winning writer Robert Macfarlane sets out on a journey to explore the unexpected landscapes and natural history of Essex, revealing that there is far more to the county than the stereotypes of white stilettos and boy racers.
Robert spent a year travelling the county's strange and elemental landscapes of heavy industry, desolate beaches and wild woods. He encounters massive knot flocks over the Thames, peregrine falcons at Tilbury Power Station, water voles within sniffing distance of the municipal dump, deer rutting in earshot of the M25, barn owls, badgers and bluebells in Billericay as well as a large colony of common seals....
Here is a short account from Robert Macfarlane himself:
"At 350 miles, its coastline is the longest of any English county. Its medieval field systems, grazing marshes and ancient woodlands are among the best-preserved in Britain. Marsh harriers cruise its skies on the look-out for lunch, and bitterns pick their way through its reed-beds, placing their feet with the exaggerated care of mime artists. In Epping Forest, stags bell and rut within a few hundred yards of the M25. The Essex shoreline is an archive of defensive military history, on which Martello towers and second world war sea-forts survey each other. Out on the Dengie marshes - a vast coastal prairie of sea-lavender and glasswort - there is a powerful sense of openness, which is sharpened rather than blunted by the industrial horizon of Tilbury docks away to the south.
But there were compensatory excitements. There was the feeling of getting slowly under the skin of Essex, of starting to understand its charismatic contradictions and juxtapositions as a terrain. There were also incidents of startling beauty. Silver flocks of knots shimmering around the massive container ships that ply the upper Thames, peregrines soaring over power stations, and a day spent kayaking and swimming with the rust-coloured seals that live in the Walton-on-the-Naze backwaters."
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Here are some links to clips from the BBC documentary 'The Wild Places of Essex'.