Tom Bai­ley

On foot in the Bri­tish coun­try­side year-round, CW pho­tog­ra­pher Tom Bai­ley is fas­ci­nated by the things he finds and the tales they tell. Keep your eyes peeled and you will be too.

Country Walking Magazine (UK) - - News -

CW’s pho­tog­ra­pher and fount of his­tor­i­cal, nat­u­ral and ar­chae­o­log­i­cal wis­dom has made some fas­ci­nat­ing finds in years of shoot­ing.

Scal­lop shell

Bar­ris­dale Bay, Knoy­dart. A place that re­minded me of the Nor­we­gian fjords. A sea loch with is­lands and that won­der­ful bay be­neath the tow­er­ing 1010m of Lad­har Bheinn. A search of the beach pro­duced this won­drous, near din­ner- plate sized scal­lop shell. The per­fect re­minder of some­where I must re­turn to.

303 bul­let case

Dover, that most con­tested cor­ner of Bri­tain. A walk along the cliffs and you’re soon re­minded of the last war. Pill­boxes, gun em­place­ments, the ev­i­dence is ev­ery­where – in­clud­ing in the ground, which is where I found this 303 bul­let case. It was made in 1942 and used in a dou­ble mounted anti-air­craft Bren Gun – de­tails you can tell from the mark­ings on the base of the cas­ing. His­tory lives in my hands!


Only the week be­fore last I was ex­plor­ing the Western flank of Skid­daw. Quartz was com­mon, but as my eye be­came ad­justed I could see crys­tals in lots of places. This was the best I found. Cer­tainly the most in­ter­est­ing thing about Skid­daw!

Scots Pine in the shape of a horse

By the shores of Loch Trieg, hun­dreds of bleached Scots pine roots have been washed out of the banks of the loch and have col­lected in vast piles. This is the first piece I picked up. Shaped like a winged horse, it was a per­fect gift for my horse-mad daugh­ter.

Red deer antler

I waited an aw­fully long time be­fore I found this. I’d al­ways longed to stum­ble across one in some re­mote, dra­matic lo­ca­tion and that’s ex­actly what hap­pened. Far to the northwest of Scot­land, in the boggy wastes south of Suil­ven. The only trou­ble was I had to carry it strapped to my al­ready over­bur­dened ruck­sack for the best part of 40km over the next day and a half. That night in the tent I even slept next to it, one eye ever open should any­one steal my most pre­cious of finds.

Pre­dated (eaten) ptarmi­gan eggs

Way, way out in the mid­dle of the Cairn­gorms, just west of the Larig Ghru I found a par­tic­u­larly sad sight. Sat to­gether, close to the ba­sic grass-formed nest they had been stolen from were four ptarmi­gan eggs. A large hole in each re­vealed that a preda­tor, a raven most likely, had had a tasty break­fast. Beau­ti­fully speck­led, and in a fresh con­di­tion de­spite the hole, they’re a con­stant re­minder of the fragility and sav­agery ev­ery­where in the nat­u­ral world.

Fox skull

There's a green lane I used to walk of­ten. On one oc­ca­sion I fol­lowed a fox with a black­bird in its jaws. Mov­ing cau­tiously, the fox never re­alised I was be­hind it and I was re­warded with a priv­i­leged close up of its life. About eight months later I walked the same track and found the skele­ton of a fox in al­most the ex­act same spot. Was this the same an­i­mal?

Tawny owl feather

I find at least a cou­ple of th­ese ev­ery sum­mer. Fur-like in their soft­ness, it’s this char­ac­ter­is­tic that al­lows them to fly silently. I found this one deep in the Bed­ford­shire coun­try­side, need­less to say in wood­land. I carry a ‘Feather Tube’ I've made out a bit of drain­pipe wher­ever I walk, so I can trans­port th­ese del­i­cate finds home in safety.


Last year I vis­ited Stone­henge. Much has been changed there: the road is be­ing rubbed out, the old car park dug-up. It was here that this fab­u­lous but­ton caught my eye. Amid freshly-turned soil by the path, I fig­ured it was fair game and popped it into my pocket. A lit­tle bit of Google that evening soon iden­ti­fied it as dating to the 1700s. Who knows, maybe it be­longed to one of the early ar­chae­ol­o­gists.

Stone with a face

Call me soft in the head if you want, but I’m a sucker for stones with faces. They’re hard to fifind, but that only makes them more e de­sir­able in my book. I keep them in n a drawer in my desk. When­ever I open it I’m ’m greeted with a va­ri­ety of ex­pres­sions ons (I have more than one!).. They never fail to make me e smile.

Flint ar­row­head

Find­ing stone tools is one of my pas­sions. To hold in your hand some­thing that was made long ago, by peo­ple just like us and liv­ing on the same land blows my mind. It was on a short walk from my last house that I found this early Bronze Age barbed and tanged ar­row­head. How could some­thing this finely made and del­i­cate sur­vive for four thou­sand years in the soil? Of all my stone tools, ar­row­heads like this are most likely to cre­ate a sense of won­der in even the least in­ter­ested.

Am­monite fos­sil

The Juras­sic Coast, Dorset. One of the best fos­sil hunt­ing beaches around. I was lucky enough to spend an af­ter­noon with a fos­sil ex­pert. He pointed out what to look for and we were soon find­ing them – great fun. At one stage he found a part of a Ple­siosaur. We stared wideeyed, only later re­al­is­ing he had prob­a­bly planted it to im­press the hap­less jour­nal­ists.

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