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After working in universities for 30 years as a biomedical scientist, I took early retirement in 2009 and moved to Devon. I am Emeritus Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Reading and writing is now my principal occupation. I write about science and about nature with a particular focus on how science fits in to society.
Last summer, on one of the hottest days of the year, I joined a walk led by Nick Gray of the Dorset Wildlife Trust through some traditionally managed meadows in Dorset’s western Vale. We found fields filled with lush grasses, Read more »
The greatest global killer since the Black Death As the First World War staggered towards its bloody conclusion 100 years ago this month leaving 17 million dead, the war-worn world suffered a second catastrophe. A lethal influenza pandemic swept the Read more »
Chalk grassland, with its colourful wildflowers and multitude of insects was once a common sight in a Dorset summer. It is the landscape defended by the Cerne Giant and where, in Far from the Madding Crowd, we first meet sheep Read more »
It was a luminous spring morning in early May when I trekked up Hardown Hill in west Dorset. Hardown rises steeply above Morcombelake and the surrounding countryside affording fine views of the coast and of the Marshwood Vale. Compared with Read more »
You may have never knowingly encountered a nurdle but these small plastic pellets are the raw material of the plastics industry and are ferried around the world in their millions. About the size of a small pea, nurdles come in Read more »
A Treasure Trove fit for the 21st Century The Lyme Regis Museum reopened last year after a major makeover including the addition of a new wing named after Mary Anning, the famous fossil hunter and one of Lyme’s most celebrated Read more »
Towards the end of October, I spent a day at Cogden Beach, just east of Burton Bradstock. It’s a beautiful, natural spot, a rich concoction of sea, sky and shingle where wildlife prospers despite the sometimes harsh conditions. It’s becoming Read more »
Four years ago, a family of wild beavers were spotted on the river Otter in East Devon. This was the first report of the animal breeding successfully in the wild in England since the species had been hunted to extinction Read more »
Mistaken marriages, passionate affairs, tragic deaths, richly interwoven with folklore and superstition. This is the complex concoction contained in The Return of the Native, one of Thomas Hardy’s great novels. Hardy set his narrative on the semi-fictional Egdon Heath, a Read more »
For hundreds of years, colourful, flower-rich hay meadows were a defining feature of the British countryside and its way of life. The 20th century saw a tidal wave of agricultural intensification sweep through the countryside accompanied by increased use of Read more »