CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Hampshire Life today CLICK HERE

Chris van Schaick has a confession on his knowledge of local wildlife

PUBLISHED: 14:42 25 September 2014 | UPDATED: 14:42 25 September 2014

He may have lived in the country for two decades but when it comes to his knowledge of local wildlife, Chris van Schaick has a confession

Meon Valley has been my home for 20 years now. But although it’s a great privilege to live so close to the deer, badgers, foxes and woodpeckers, I’ve a confession. For all of those 20 years I’ve been bluffing madly on the subject of nature and wildlife.

Like many Meon Valley Men (and women) I go over the horizon to urban places to earn a crust – Southampton, Portsmouth, Reading or London. It can leave you short of time to mug up on the difference between a Crested Grebe and a Bearded Tit.

My cycling mate Jeff sometimes shows similar tendencies – even though he was brought up in Hambledon. On one cycling trip, he stopped, solemnly ushered us both to the side of the road and pointed out what he sincerely believed were the distinctive markings of an adder on the grass verge. On closer inspection, it proved to be the distinctive markings of an elastic luggage tie from somebody’s roof rack.

Jeff has a favourite phrase for when a distant object passes overhead. “That’s a buzzard,” he’ll say. Usually, it is but once in a while it’s a FlyBe flight from Belfast on its final approach to Southampton Airport.

We’re all at it. The boiler man Alan was here recently. He came in holding a tiny creature he’d found outside. For several minutes we speculated whether it was a field mouse or a dormouse. We spoke with great, Attenborough-ish authority; but on the basis of no knowledge. The creature could equally well have been a vole, or an extremely small rat.

And the other day on another cycling trip, I Ieaned across the parapet of a lovely, ancient bridge over the Meon and saw the water was full of big edible-looking fish. Did I pause for verification before telling my cycling companion that they were trout? Course not. I did what I always do and bluffed.

The seasoned Nature Bluffer needs a few stock species whose names he can trot out at key moments. On country walks, my Dad used the term Meadow Pipit to describe more or less any bird smaller than a kestrel. My own standby comes from the butterfly world. There’s nothing better for inspiring awe in the uninitiated city dwelling visitor than fixing your gaze on a spot a few yards away and saying: “I’m pretty sure that’s a Pearl-bordered Fritillary.” If you’re feeling brave, you add: “It’s a bit early for them.”

If I’m no Chris Packham, then Mrs v. S is certainly no Kate Humble. One night she was putting the dog out for a wee and accidentally trod on a hedgehog that had decided to curl up on the front door mat. There followed a serious incident of noise pollution, with Mrs. v. S. hopping on one foot yelping and the dog barking frantically. It was more You’ve Been Framed than Autumnwatch. It’s going to take a few more decades before we can bracket ourselves alongside Humble, K and Packham, C.


Read on

Chris Van Schaick on gift buying dilemma’s

Chris van Schaick on his hairdressing disaster

More from Out & About

Thu, 11:55

Treat yourself to lunch and tea with a visit to one of these fantastic Hampshire tea rooms.

Read more
Wed, 12:32

Is there anything more refreshing than a stroll on a crisp winter’s day? We don’t think so! Here are a few of our favourite rambles across the county to enjoy this season

Read more

We round up some of the best events and things to do across Hampshire this month

Read more
Tue, 11:55

With 100 years since the last guns were fired during World War One, we remember the sacrifices Hampshire made

Read more
Tue, 11:45

With the New Forest, South Downs and a picturesque coastline, Hampshire is an amazing place for a walk. We round up a few of our favourites

Read more
Friday, November 30, 2018

There is so much to see and do in Hampshire over the festive season, from carol services to markets and of course amazing food and drink and our day-by-day guide brings you the pick of the best

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

If you’re planning to add a new extension, remodel the internal layout or create a brilliant new kitchen overlooking a landscaped garden, a visit to the South East Homebuilding & Renovating Show (19-20 January 2019) at Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre is a must

Read more
Monday, November 26, 2018

Huge Christmas markets, frosty countryside and cosy pubs; winter in Hampshire is second to none…

Read more
Monday, November 26, 2018

When it comes to celebrating the festive season, Winchester is alive with the sound of music. From Cathedral choirs to community singers and from family musicals to classical concerts, there’s something for everyone

Read more
Friday, November 23, 2018

Get in the festive spirit with our selection of the Hampshire's top dining experiences this Christmas…

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

This thriving community in North Hampshire is a desirable location for residents and visitors alike

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Running a successful regional theatre means thinking beyond the bricks and mortar to reach out to the community. We ask four of Hampshire’s leading impresarios, how do they ensure that the show goes on?

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Savour spectacular views of the Needles and Alum Bay and discover history tales on this invigorating walk on the Isle of Wight

Read more
Monday, November 12, 2018

With late-night shopping, fairs, Christmas markets and plenty of food and drink, we’ve rounded up some of the best festive offerings in Hampshire

Read more
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search