J. A. Baker, an arthritic and short-sighted birdwatcher from Chelmsford, compared the British wilderness to ‘the goaded bull at bay, pierced by the lance of the picador’. Baker found solace in the unblemished solitude of the Dengie Hundred, where he wrote one of the strangest and most influential nature books ever written, The Peregrine, which tracks the daily lives of a pair of peregrine falcons. He died in the 1980s but the wilderness of the Dengie Peninsula, 50 miles east of London, where Essex marshland meets the Northern main, is still largely as it was.
Here, wildfowl still come and go in their thousands. Waders take refuge in the glasswort and sea aster, and starlings flit through the sky like airborne sardines.