Funnel-web spiders are the sort of animals I always thought of as exotic; creepy-crawlies found in the deepest and darkest tropical jungles. So it came as a surprise to see hundreds of them living in a thorny hedgerow just a few hundred yards from my home in the southwest of England.
I fitted a magnifying filter to my 50mm lens and walked to the meadows in search of insects and other fascinations of the micro-world. Wandering about the grassland I found a few beetles, some aphids, and one honey bee busily collecting pollen; all excellent subjects for macro photographing.
After about an hour I made my way to an overgrown hedge in the corner of the meadow. Once this hedge was part of a nearby wool factory, planted to keep people away from a small dam in the river and a waterwheel that powered the factories machines. The waterwheel has long gone, and the Cotswold stone building now contains office space. But the broken dam has created a small tranquil pool in the river and the hedge, neglected for many years, is now overcome with thorny creepers. Nasty plants that grow at a proliferate rate and cover themselves in vicious barbs. Nasty for humans perhaps, but the perfect environment for small animals seeking protection.
I edged my way into the hedge in search of more subjects to photograph. Immediately my clothes caught and snagged on the thorns. Spotting a small white clump of cobweb, I pushed in for a closer look. From the centre of the web, I saw a flash of movement as a small animal disappeared back into its den. Straightaway I realised I was looking at the home of a funnel-web spider. A little startled I looked more closely at my surroundings. By now I was utterly snared up in the spiky bush, I tried to move around, but one of the tentacle-like branches caught the back of my hand. It surprised me how easily the thorns sunk deeply into my skin, immediately drawing blood and refusing to come out as quickly as they had entered. I tried to pull the barbed hooks out of my hand, all the time getting more and more entangled with the wretched things. As I clumsily tried to free myself, I noticed another funnel web, and then another, and another. Hundreds of them surrounded me.
Once I’d freed my hand, I began taking photos. The spiders were skittish things, disappearing as soon as I moved in close. I never got a full view of a spider, but I liked this last shot that shows the little hunter lurking in its lair.