Heard about people celebrating the Solstice at Stonehenge in Wiltshire? It’s simply the longest day of the year (21 June) when the Earth is tilted farthest away from the sun. Despite the image of ‘hippies’ arriving there, in fact the local authorities have ordered many to leave, as they keep leaving too much litter (so much for being earth-friendly). There is also a winter Solstice on 21 December. Wildlife are all affected by both, as they are out foraging and eating in summer, yet have to conserve their energy in winter when trees are bare, and there is only 8 hours of daylight.
The Time Nature Keeps is a visual guide to hep you set your clock to the natural world. From nature’s longest sleepers to the lightning-fast communications of bacteria. How far do birds migrate, and for how long? How fast do viruses spread in towns versus the countryside. And where are you safest? Do dogs really need more sleep than humans? How long does it take an immortal jellyfish to die? Take an infographic journey of discovery through the animal and plant kingdom, and become an expert on the rhythms of nature.
As nature draws our attention to its plight, these pages shed light on the truly remarkable range of the natural world: how plants and animals grow and age, sleep and migrate, and reproduce and die. Spanning ideas big and small, this is a visual trove of nature’s clocks that explain our world’s cadences at a glance. Dr Helen Pilcher is a science writer, with a PhD in cell biology. She was shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize for Writing on Global Conservation. She lives in Warwickshire.
Many people who celebrate the solstice identify themselves as pagans. This is a pre-Christian religion that likely was authentic at the time. The problem is today it is associated with everyone having to buy trinkets like unethically-sourced crystals, and the names Wicca and (God forbid ‘witchcraft’) makes many people shudder, that the love of nature has to be associated with putting spells on people! Of course there are good witches (like that nice woman in The Wizard of Oz). But don’t play around with energies you know nothing about, and just enjoy God’s creation of the natural world, no covens necessary!
Wicca is a slightly made-up religion, along with a lot of other new age-ish things. It’s a mash-up of all sorts of different things. You mix it all together and the whole thing is an excuse to worship in the woods. I felt like I was physically dragged out of Wicca, like I was being told ‘You’ve got to get out of here because this is not good stuff you’re doing’. There’s all sorts of strange forces at work. Paul Kingsnorth
What Causes Days & Nights?
Have you ever wondered what causes day and night? In England, we have pretty much half-and-half, but our northern friends in Scandinavia often have times during the year when it’s all day and all-night. Simply put, the earth rotates at a tilt to the sun. One side of earth is bathed in sunlight and the other in darkness (the earth blocks the sun). Because the North Pole is at an angle, the sun does not set above the Arctic Circle, so Norway gets a ‘midnight sun’ where it never sets, giving 24 hours of daylight. Sounds nice, but likely difficult to get to sleep! And in the far north of Norway, for a few months of the year the sun hardly rises, making it dark all day, though mostly covered in snow, means it’s easier to see in the dark. Some people have developed the same kind of vision as reindeer, where they see better in the dark (never visit reindeer in Christmas shopping centres, as most are terrified by the noise and bright lights).
One amazing spectacle at night is a dark sky, where there is no light pollution from shopping centres, street lights etc. Northumberland has the best night skies, likely because it has the fewest people. Too much artificial lighting (and glass) is causing birds to crash-land and wake up before daylight (see how to stop birds flying into windows and glass buildings). Elsewhere, many creatures like crabs and turtles are coming out of the sea and laying their eggs near multi-storey car parks (attracted by the light, wrongly thinking it’s the moon).
Many native mammals wake up at night including hedgehogs, badgers, owls and bats. Read Wild Nights Out, on how to conduct night walks safely. Don’t disturb wildlife if gazing at night. Using torches and lights can confuse birds and other wildlife. Just watch from afar in the dark!
A Printmaker’s Day and Night
Wild Light: A Printmaker’s Day and Night is a beautiful book with over 70 original illustrations, to invite us to look at how the light changes the world around us, and how that changes us in its turn. The book follows a journey through 24 hours of collected memories of the nature that surrounds.
I, like many other people, find great inspiration in the way mornings, evenings or bright midday light changes the way we see the things around us. The bouncing light of a cloud-filled storm sky can change a seascape through a palette of blues, greys and turquoises. The cool summer mood of the garden from homely to unfamiliar. And whether it’s the low light of an English February afternoon or the sharp bright mid-morning light of the Cornish seaside, the light and dark we experience affects our moods.
Angela Harding trained in Fine Art at Leicester Polytechnic and printmaking at Nottingham Trent University. She created the image for the iconic cover of The Salt Path. She lives in England’s smallest county of Rutland, working from a studio at the bottom of her garden.
Music Break: Night
Ludovico is the world’s most downloaded classical music artist. Classically trained in Milan, he is the grandson of a former President of Italy. Fortunately for us, he chose music over politics. His favourite artist? Eminem!