Winning tip: Light vessel fantastic
On a sandbank of the River Neath next to the wharf of a scrap-metal merchant lies an old rusted wreck, the salt air-bleached, twisted metal skeleton of this old ship is all that remains of LV72 light vessel. One sunny day during the first lockdown I was cycling on the towpath when I came across it just a few miles from my home. I went home and researched its history, which was rather astonishing as I found out the pivotal role it played in marking a mine-swept channel for D-day. Her code name was Juno.
Andrew Addis Fuller
A new clam for Scotland – found by me
My discovery was a clam – an Asian semele – not found before in Scotland. I used the March lockdown to teach myself seashell identification, which I’d always wanted to do.
I collected shells during my exercise walks from Granton along the Edinburgh coast. I found more than 100 species of mollusc, including marine clams, sea snails, tusk shells, octopus, squid, freshwater snails and land snails. Amazingly, one clam turned out to be new to Scotland. I entered all the info into iRecord, a public online database for UK biodiversity which has already informed future marine conservation in the Firth of Forth and more widely.
David G Notton
Like the shopkeeper in my childhood TV favourite, Mr Benn, a pair of stonechats have a habit of magically appearing, just when I think my chance of seeing them is over until another day. Since first discovering the presence of these small but jaunty birds a few weeks ago, I look forward to new encounters on my lockdown walks. Stonechats are normally associated with heathland rather than the arable farmland of south Cambridgeshire, but do extend their range in winter. I love watching the delightful duo patrol the ditches either side of the nearby farm lane, posing from perch to perch.
My lockdown discovery has been churchyards. Unlike churches these have remained open all year and there are lots within cycling distance of home. Most of the time I’m the only one there; sometimes I’m joined by grazing sheep or walkers en route to somewhere else. I have savoured drifts of wild garlic, watched squirrels madly chase one other round and round, tried to read faded headstones. And now I watch the snowdrops growing silently, reminding me that the days are lighter and spring, and the wild garlic, will come around again.
Short history of tractors in West Yorkshire
Tractors are like magpies; if you see one vintage David Brown machine, you may see several – brand loyalty works for farmers too. My 2020 trip to Ukraine was postponed so I’ve been photographing old Fergies, Fordsons and DBs in the fields and farmyards of the Ribble Valley during lockdown. I could compile these discoveries into “A Short History of Tractors in Yorkshire dialect” perhaps? David Brown tractors were made in Meltham, near Huddersfield, from 1936 to the 1970s. This one is rusting gently in the serene village of Bolton-by-Bowland (part of the old West Riding until 1974). Sir David Brown bought Aston Martin in 1947 and his initials still designate the models – but that’s another, more glamorous story.
No more earphones, Edinburgh
I found peace and calm where I least expected it, in Edinburgh city centre. I’d run this route plenty of times, earphones blasting with motivational tunes, footsteps thudding. But lockdown forced me to stop, take a moment, slow down. As I walked among the deep, sweeping trees along the Water of Leith, I took my headphones out. What was that? The calm, soothing sound of the river flowing. A bird tweeted from the trees. I exhaled. Nature. Right here in the city. Nowadays, I always take my earphones out.
Plaque spotting, Oxford
With the streets clear of traffic, I began to notice plaques around my local area. I had time to read them, eking out each walk with a slower pace. First, I saw blue plaques divulging what had happened inside nondescript buildings. Once in the habit of spotting signs, I saw flood markers, the site of a long-gone railway station and houses sporting identical numberplates, presumably the Edwardian originals. These signs gave clues of the area’s history and how it has changed. Brewery plaques revealed the number of houses which were originally pubs; poignant now that even the remaining pubs were locked and dark.
Rummaging among the birch bark cracks and crevices, I enter into the kingdom of fungi. I note down descriptions to look them up later as I have no clue what I am looking at. Wrinkly blackcurrant brains, fairy’s parasols, crème brûlée, tiramisu, a pebble on a beach and oyster shells. Even better that a couple of my descriptions turned out to be their real names! These magical mushrooms are a delight to discover, and I will look forward to the return of autumn more than ever before.
Roaming the world through film
I started watching classic/world cinema when the first lockdown started in March 2020. I did a movie marathon of one movie a day for 59 days until lockdown rules were relaxed in Cambridge. Now we are in the new lockdown, I’ve started to watch one movie from each country, from Afghanistan’s The Patience Stone to I Am Not a Witch, made in Zambia. It fills my time, and I can virtually port myself to these exotic lands. I spend over an hour researching films from different countries and ways to stream legally, and have made friends online in the process. Check out my movie journey here.
Venkata K C Tata
Secret wetland, Berkshire
After growing bored with my local towpath, I would stroll aimlessly around my home town of Reading. On one trip I found myself by a dual carriageway, the stench of a nearby sewage plant assaulting my senses. Attempting to find a way home, I wandered down an overgrown path that led to waterlogged fields. An electronic whirring rose above the drone of traffic behind me. I’d never seen a lapwing before and now two danced across the sky. I wasn’t sure what I expected, but it certainly wasn’t Coley water meadows, a wetland brimming with life, nestled between a sewage treatment plant and the A33.