June 2005

This month I report some sadness and some success. Where nature is concerned it is bound to have both at the same time. So let’s get the sad bit out of the way first.

The cuttings of native Black Poplar which seemed to flourish in early spring are now looking rather dead. That is not the end of the world because they can be replaced next winter. The difficulty is that they are each surrounded by a sturdy sheep protector that will be like Fort Knox to get into!

The other sad bit is the lack of ground cover in Big Field. It has been sown twice with grass seed and wild flower seed. Anything that comes up seems to disappear again. There are neat little holes where I put in snowdrops and bluebells (not over the whole field I hasten to add to my wonderful bulb-planting volunteers). And some of the plants put in just are not there any more. We have rabbits to thank for that, I believe. Why can’t they just eat the grass that is strong and healthy in the rides?

So to the successes. We have sprayed (yuk!!!) the thistles in all three fields and it works wonderfully, but unfortunately will also kill clover. The thistles were beyond a joke, spreading everywhere and not controlled at all by the mechanical methods we tried before (see earlier reports). We cannot hope to have controlled Big Field because the ground is still settling and deciding what it will grow. That will have to be sprayed at least once more, but the hope is that each time there will be less to do in all the fields.

Where wild flower seed was scattered on bare soil such as spoil heaps two years ago there is now a glorious array of oxeye daisy, red campion, ragged robin and red clover. And most of the new-planted trees are looking really strong and healthy. Let’s hope for a wet summer!