old country lawn

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Heavy rain, cold, and Wimbledon semi-final all conspired to make our bat event on 6th July a very small one!  However the barbeque was enjoyed and we were fortunate enough to hear and see lesser Horseshoe bats in the farm buildings, as well as Pipistrelles and others ( including possibly Serotine?) coasting about near the pond and over the tracks linking the buildings.  The following day I heard that 34 Bechstein bats had been counted by the woodland monitors, and  at the weekend, new guests to the B&B were thrilled to watch the spotted flycatchers bringing food to their nest, and, because it was so cold and I’d put out seed again, also saw woodpeckers, nuthatch and others on the feeders. Now we have yet more swarming  bees, who have decided to live under some eave tiles on the granary roof.  Numbers have appeared in the house, seeming confused and out of sorts, and I wonder if they have been affected by insecticide locally, as it has been proved to upset their homing sense (if it doesn’t kill them altogether).  How  I wish that people when buying their food and drinks would make the connection and insist on crops grown without these sprays – but perhaps our own intellectual faculties are similarly affected, or is it just laziness?

Further walks are planned, possibly another bat walk later in the summer when it is warmer (?), and in the winter we are looking forward to an interesting  and educational morning learning how to prune traditional orchard trees with a view to wildlife, landscape, and productivity, led by Janet Lomas.  I hope to then have the time over the winter months to apply these lessons, though there is plenty of other HLS work to do to hedges and ponds. The Higher Level Stewardship Scheme (HLS) is demanding and the weather can play havoc with our plans! We do our best. The new pond we made this spring is already full of ‘wiggly things’ and several hedges have been protected by new fence lines.  With the help of the AONB we have also planted hedge trees, oaks, and disease-resistant elms which will help maintain important features of the traditional landscape for future generations.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Lovely weather for our walk with Janet Lomas on 9th June, looking at management of old trees and hedges, and we all enjoyed the afternoon even though very few people turned up!  I suspect most were battling with their own gardens on the first fine day for a while… Janet’s interesting talk was constantly interrupted by the drumming of the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker – he who was so elusive on the Orchard Bird Walk! I learnt a lot about pruning and the best shapes for budded trees and we all became more aware of the fascinating paradox of how man-made England’s rural landscape is, and yet how incredibly complex and subtle the connections are in the web of natural life that supports it. We must acknowledge this in our readiness to accept we are on a constantly ascending spiral of knowledge. (Well, I hope so!)

The next event is a Bat and Barbeque Evening, on Friday 6th July, starting at 8.30 pm until after dark (bats stay up late!)  Ste West will be leading this with the expert help of David Lee, and we will be able to identify plenty of bats on some clever machines.  The event is Free, although a donation would be welcome in respect of the barbeque food.

Recent monitoring of bats here has revealed  the continued presence of Bechstein bats (see picture), as well as dormice who keep turning up in the boxes!  More dormouse monitoring in the old Sandpit has just begun – it will be exciting to see if any live there.  The Sandpit is an interesting area, worked for sand and gravel in the 50’s/60’s,  which now presents several large, shallow pools in a deep hollow, shrouded by willows of all persuasions, alders and rushes.  Dragonflies are notable here and we hope to attract some funding to coppice some areas to allow more light in. On the recent Botany walk we found ‘Goldilocks’ and ‘Townhall Clock’, two less common species of plant, as we filed along the footpath along its perimiter.  To the North the surrounding grassland is very unspoilt and species-rich, necessitating a special management regime.  Thank goodness for helpful cows!!

But as well as being thankful for cows, I must record here my gratitude and appreciation of all those who contribute to this special place, observing and monitoring ( and wobbling up and down ladders in wet prickly woods all day is a labour of love!), sharing knowledge and skills, and just tirelessly turning to and getting down to the jobs that need doing.  Thankyou all very much, everyone - I'm sure you all know who you are (well I should hope so otherwise how can you tell bats apart!) and I'm so pleased that we are gradually building up a better picture of what lives here and how we can care for it. And I very much appreciate the interest and enthusiasm of our visitors, holiday people and locals too.

To end - yesterday evening my son and I spent a few hours helping a local friend collect two swarms of bees here - much more exciting than watching the match!!!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Last weekends walks were hugely successful despite low temperatures - hard to remember now we're enjoying summer warmth!  On our Bird walk we not only heard lots of birds, thanks to Simon Barker, (who is soon to publish the reults of his studies of Orchard Birds),  but found evidence of the Noble Chafer Beetle, and tucked into Legges' famous local sausages for breakfast.  And on the Botany Walk we were all immensely entertained by Gerald Dawes,  by the description of the chemical properties belonging to various plants (including some rare ones) and the statistics describing their 'movements', ending up in the farm kitchen consuming coffee and cake and discussing nearly every subject under the sun!  Next walk is about the management of orchard trees and hedges, led by Janet Lomas, on June 9th at 2.30pm.  There will be a cuppa and home-made cake afterwards.
Now I'm back to B&B and letting the Lighthouse - we have our usual interesting mix of tenants and guests : orchestral players (playing at the Three Choirs festival), internatonal furniture makers and woodworkers (doing a course near here with Gudrun Leitz in the woods), an American professor pioneering radical new surgical techniques, puppeteers, cider makers, and people just 'in passing' up and down the country. In between whiles I slink out to the veg garden and water my seedlings or do some much needed weeding! The cuckoo is singing well and our younger swallows have now joined us, somewhat later than their parents, though I don't think they are old enough to nest this year. All the various roses here are about to flower: Cecil Brunner, a tiny noisette rose which is at least 50 years old, as is 'Gloire de Dijon',  'Breath of Life', planted by a former partner of mine, on the farmhouse walls, and  'Graham Thomas','Malvern Hills', and 'Pegasus' up at the Lighthouse, where they fulfil a dual purpose of shielding the interior from overhead rays from the sun, with 'Grace' and 'Lady Emma Hamilton' as shrub roses, providing shelter from the road. How I enjoy the seasons!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Heavy rain caused our Bird Walk led by Simon Barker to be postponed to Saturday, May 19th, at 8am (with breakfast afterwards). Its a treat worth waiting for.  The following day we have a new topic:  Botany, led by Gerald Dawes, which I am also really looking forward to, as I know less about plants than birds, despite having grown up with two plantspeople!  Gerald knows a great deal about our local botany, and has also written persuasively about the role of the plant world  in 'green places' in our own lives and health from an holistic, yet scientific, viewpoint. Come and learn about our plant life here on Sunday 20th May at 11 am!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

28th April, 2012

Getting ready for our first Farm Walk of the year, tomorrow morning : 'Discovering the Birds of Traditional Orchards', led by Simon Barker, who works for the National Trust and has visited these orchards often. The weather is not good and it looks as though the whole thing may have to be called off!  This is a great shame as several people have been very kind in helping me to publicise these walks, and there looked to be a good turnout.  We were to have learnt about redstarts, woodpeckers (including the smaller spotted), blackcaps, garden warblers and nightingales.
These walks are held as a result of us joining the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme, which gives us a basic payment towards hosting them and allows the public to get a better idea of what it does and what we do here. There is to be a walk on the Botany of the farm on 20th May, 11 am, led by Gerald Dawe,  and another on caring for hedges and orchards on 9th June, led by Janet Lomas.  Later in the year there will be our usual Bat evening, with barbeque, which is always enjoyable.