Village News

Christmas Lights

140717 | OBITUARY: Chris Haes, Angarrack | West Briton

Chris Haes

OBITUARY: Chris Haes, Angarrack

By West Briton | Posted: July 17, 2014

Comments (0)

Mr ECM Haes Angarrack

MR EDWARD CM HAES, known affectionately as Chris by all his friends, was born in Bermuda on February 1, 1930, and spent his early years in Australia, but most of his working life – with the Plant Health Department at MAFF – was based at his home in Worthing, West Sussex, where he lived with his wife Jane, writes Dave Flumm, of Sancreed.

Their ten-year marriage was suddenly curtailed when Jane died unexpectedly and it was her death that ultimately led Chris to move to Cornwall in 1988, a year after retiring from the ministry.

Chris was an outstanding naturalist and held in high regard in entomological and botanical circles.

For many years he was the national recorder for Orthoptera (grasshoppers and crickets) and this was how I came to know him after he confirmed my observation of a wart-biter bush-cricket on the South Downs, above Brighton.

I, too, lived in Worthing at the time, but we had never met up and it wasn't until I also moved to Cornwall that we would meet.

As a professional botanist and highly knowledgeable in anything entomological, he wrote several books, among them Winter Colour In The Garden (1965), Bulbs For Small Gardens (1967) and The Natural History Of Sussex (1976) as well as contributing articles for the Alpine Garden Society and the Gardeners' Chronicle.

One of his outstanding contributions to entomology was his 252-page book entitled Grasshoppers & Allied Insects of Great Britain & Ireland, which he wrote with Judith Marshall, of the Department of Entomology at the Natural History Museum, the same year as moving to Cornwall.

When the RSPB was about to sign a long-term lease to manage Marazion Marsh SSSI as a nature reserve in the early 1990s and appoint me as its warden, one of the first tasks I set myself was to undertake a biological audit of what was there – before we started messing about with it.

We are so lucky in Cornwall to have such a wealth of knowledgeable specialist recorders and when I contacted Cornwall Wildlife Trust and the Cornwall Biological Records Centre for help, Chris's name came up.

On June 19, 1990, I went to collect Chris at his home in Angarrack and I still remember him greeting me at the door, a rather short, plump, bespectacled fellow with a broad smile and bubbly persona – and rather worryingly armed with a large shovel.

Given the invitation to come to have a look at the marsh with me for a few plants and insects, I was expecting a butterfly net or somesuch, so I was rather alarmed when he said he wanted to dig up the place to look for mole crickets, especially as RSPB hadn't yet signed the lease, I was still unemployed and we would be trespassing on private property.

He informed me that Marazion was the last site in Cornwall where this rare insect was found before it became extinct in the county.

We didn't find any mole crickets, but this day marked a turning point in my life and the start of an education in biological identification and recording for which I have been fortunate to carry with me ever since.

A typical day out with Chris was always a full-on, fun-packed adventure as we, or rather he, sought out and identified things most people wouldn't even know existed.

We logged more than 500 species of vascular plants at Marazion and more than 500 species of invertebrates there, before moving on to Hayle Estuary RSPB reserve, where the change from freshwater to saltwater biota presented us (me) with a different set of challenges.

Actually, for me the real challenge was trying to keep up with his monologue, scribbling down in my field notebook his ID pointers.

Chris was one of those rare all-round naturalists at the top of his game, who knew what you were going to see before you actually saw it.

Thus that first outing at Marazion went something like: "These five-spot burnet moth cases are higher up the stems than normal, must have been very wet here when these formed; oh yes look these plants (species A, B, C, D, E … all of which I've now forgotten) shows there was actually a pond here and usually you find a tiny beetle (species F) associated with these; oh yes, here it is on here (plant G) and often you find a solitary bee (species H) with this; oh yes is that one over there?"

I filled four pages of notes on that day alone with scribbles such as "meadow grasshopper, Chorthippus parallelus – parallel sides to pronotum, black knees, small ovipositor, never hairy or orange …" but I now also read "By flooding, may upset Great Green Bush-cricket on Main Marsh". Sorry about that Chris – too late now, I'm afraid.

Sometimes his enthusiasm got the better of him. On one occasion at Marazion he stopped me dead in my tracks as he exclaimed "Tabanus sudeticus – where's my camera?" This was to be a new species for the reserve but unfortunately when I received his postcard (he never embraced computer technology) a few days later he said that in his haste to focus on the horsefly before it got away he had forgotten to put the film in the camera. Furthermore it was a Tabanus bovinus, not the rarer sudeticus, as he had hoped.

Nevertheless, he always seemed to enjoy our days out together and one of his favourite expressions, "It'll do!" would usually round the day off – or be given as a gesture of thanks after a follow-up meal at my house – he had a wicked sense of humour.

Chris's enthusiasm was infectious and unstoppable and on one particular visit to the Eden Project (a place we took him many times, and where he would enlighten us with the correct IDs of the plants Eden had labelled incorrectly), he had me scurrying around on my hands and knees in the tropical biome trying to catch some ants for identification!

I only had my (large) lunchbox with me and trying to gather up these tiny creatures in the darkness of the rainforest without the Eden staff spotting me would have been difficult to explain if I'd been caught.

It turned out, as Chris had suspected, they were an invasive species from Portugal and he was worried they might escape, along with the American cockroaches also in there, into the wider countryside.

Sadly, Chris's last couple of years were spent in care homes at Carbis Bay, which as nice as they were, couldn't compare with his bungalow at Hatch's Hill, Angarrack, where he had lived ever since moving from Sussex.

Chris died at the Trewartha Care Home on June 11, aged 84, and although I hated seeing him there bereft of his alpine plant collection, he never complained; "It'll do" he would say.