J A Baker – The Peregrine and John Davie – The Darent Suite

In the autumn of 2015 we had a holiday in Essex mainly to have a look around the area that J A Baker used to cycle and watch wildlife – mainly birds – notably his pursuit of wintering peregrine falcons in his area of Chelmsford. We had a wonderful few days in the area staying at Longwick Farm. We walked along the Blackwater estuary to Tollesbury passing Gore Saltings and other notable Baker places. Unfortunately we did not see a peregrine sitting far out on a post in the saltings as described by Baker – I would have loved that. We did see a Marsh Harrier flying low over the seawall hunting the small ponds which run along beside it which was great and also a great many skylarks and other small birds. We went down to the ford on Hurrell’s lane where peregrines often came to bathe. See the photo I  include but firstly a painting by my late father John Davie RCA  from the Darent Suite – his very large painting is much better viewed in person to get the real splendor of it but I include it to make the comparison. For reference the Darent Suite is based on a journey from the river’s source to the Thames estuary see  www.johndavieartist.com/darent_suite.html

painting 1 or 5again

We went down to the Ford which is thought is the ford Baker mentions in his book. It did have a magical feel to it and we walked the area hoping to see a peregrine. We did however see a Merlin near the Ford which was a great and a rarer sight nowadays than a peregrine. We also walked part of Grace’s walk and then drove over to Hanningfield reservoir south of Chelmsford – often visited by Baker where we saw a Peregrine! mobbed by a couple of crows. Of course they are more frequent sighting now than they were back in the late 1950s and  1960s. There is a lot of controversy about Baker ‘The Peregrine’ – regarding its authenticity. For birders authenticity is important but I say do not be afraid to read and enjoy the work. Back to me now all our birds are flying well – Pete the Kestrel is flying really well! we also saw a Kestrel down by the Ford and also sitting on an overhead wire near Longwick Farm.

This is lovely picture of the ford that crosses Hurrell’s lane near Little Baddow.

2015-10-20 11.14.20 J DAVIE 1

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