Summer and Autumn 2009

This time there is a combination of two seasons because they rather merged into each other. Leaves started to turn colour in August and berries have been prominent since July. It was a good year for berries and the colours range from yellow sea buckthorn to black privet, alder and purging buckthorn to red holly, Guelder rose and wayfaring tree – though, surprisingly, there were not as many privet berries as might be expected.

The crabapples in Oat Field (therefore among the oldest trees) which fruited this year produced huge apples: one was sweet and floury, another was sweet but tasteless. The others were very tart. But I thought crabapples were tiny fruits, like the tree in the new hedge from the road gate. Either I’m wrong, or I have been given impostors. However, the fruit will feed the birds, so that can only be a good thing.

We had several weeks without rain, so it was not surprising that the ponds are very low. In fact, they were low even while it was raining in early summer, so that does not bear logic. Roll on the winter rains, because at the moment the recent rain did nothing more than wet the grass. I was hoping that it would make the soil easier to cut into for bulb planting, but that was a false hope and I could only do a little at a time before my wrists complained. And then I was avoiding the enormous cracks in the ground. Heavy clay has its advantages, like good nutrition for plants, but makes it hard work for farmers and me.

The bulbs planted are fritillary on the wetter areas and snowdrops on the drier. I am also scattering seed of teasels, garlic mustard, red campion, celandine – in fact anything that is a weed at home. After all, the definition of a weed is merely a plant in the wrong place. The bonfire sites from hedgelaying last winter are still bare and too rich this season. Next year I shall scatter flower seed there and hope the plants can race the grass that will inevitably creep in.

Birds are very active, most noticeably the buzzards and their mewing almost daily somewhere nearby. On most visits after August a snipe or two are disturbed from one of the Big Field ponds. Mice (that is, shrews, voles etc) squeak in the grass and tiny toads are everywhere with the occasional frog. A pair of Muntjac were seen as were a brown hare, rabbits and fox. There has been no sign of the bigger deer, but that does not mean that they have moved on. They might rather like to return for winter shelter and to nibble tree bark. Hey ho. I love Nature!

We were lucky enough to have had several visits from local experts to study the wildlife in Gimswood. So in due course there will be species lists to add of butterflies, dragonflies, gall wasps and their friends. We definitely have Roesels bush crickets and coneheads all over the place. These look like grasshoppers and are creatures that are gradually working their way northwards up the country, but they seem very happy and established at Gimswood, which pleases me. I love to learn of a rarity on my patch, but of course as they thrive, they no longer are rare.

A bone of contention: some of the ponds and scrapes are being taken over by reedmace. This has meant pulling them out by hand because digging out is nigh on impossible. One section of Complex Pond has succumbed totally and only weedkiller will work there – well, so far it has not, but let’s see next spring.

A mixed blessing: the baby Elms are thriving. But a large hairy caterpillar was eating one!

A boon: the thistles are coming under control a bit more. Last year there was no spraying so they took off again. This year it is very satisfying to see black dead stalks where the weedkiller has worked. Hopefully next year real progress will be made.