September

September is my favourite month for many, many reasons.

The end of September always makes me a little sad but but I am always looking forward very much to the next one.

It is filled with lovely things for us:-

It is the month we take our main annual holiday

The Shropshire Way

Walking – The Shropshire Way

It is the month of Burghley Horse Trials

Burghley Horse Trial

Burghley Horse Trial – Burghley

It is the month of harvest

Harvest in Northumberland

Harvest – Northumberland

It is the month of Sandringham Game Fair

Horse Boarding - Sandringham Game Fair

Horse Boarding – Sandringham Game Fair

It is a month when we do most of our walking

walking - The Lakes

Walking – The Lakes

It is the month when the best fungi appear.

Fungi - Fly Ageric

Fungi – Fly Ageric

It is the month of Food Festivals across the country. Ludlow being our favourite.

Ludlow Castle

Ludlow Castle

It is the month for Bramble picking & making Jam.

Brambles

Brambles

It is the month of Indian Summers when the heat has left the sun but the cold months are not showing themselves yet.

September Sun - Ford Village

September Sun – Ford Village

It is the month we got our hound and collected him when he was just 8 weeks old.

Max

Max

And it is the month we got married

September Wedding - Rings

September Wedding – Rings

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Willow Tree Fen

permanent waterways that edge the farm and the willow woodland 2012

We went to an agricultural show in June 2012 which was very wet and, although incredibly quaint and old fashioned with vintage tractors, rare breeds and country craft demonstrations, the rain drove us indoors eventually.

We took the exhibition tent and got talking to some interesting people at Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.

the ground is still partly drained by the grid of dykes across the fens 2012

Where we are based in South Holland, there are very few public footpaths because of the extent of the privately owned agricultural land.  We know there are some places that you can go to but they all involve a drive and sometimes into the next county.

Imagine our delight to discover some incredible and readily accessible nature reserves right near us.

flora and fauna 2012

Giddy with the joy of it, we joined the LWT at an annual fee of ONLY £33 and walked away with a comprehensive map of the local reserves, a book about all the reserves in the Wildlife Trust’s arsenal across the UK and a car sticker (should have handed that back as we won’t ever use that).

The following day, the weather perked up considerably and off we trotted to one of the newest reserves that happens to also be the closest. Willow Tree Fen

jews ears or woodland ears on fallen rotting willow 2012

Unfortunately most of the reserve restrict dog access but we did happen upon dog walkers on this one and wished we had brought the furry one.

one of the many varied damsel flies that we spotted 2012

Willow Tree Fen is exactly what it says it is.  It is a fenland farm where Willow trees grow in abundance and it is one of the last farms that was run as a traditional fen farm where the seasonal water level changes are allowed to occur in the low section of land.  This in itself, gives rise to all the splendid wildlife and fauna that goes with it:- Willow Trees are in their element, sometimes standing in water for months at a time, the wetland meadows or meres are teaming with flowers, the permanent water ways that edge the farm are home to lots of interesting insect life such damsel flies that are so numerous in types that we got lost counting them, there are water birds, sand martins, swifts, swallows and many more.

kings cups with the new flower heads growing towards the water surface 2012

It was peaceful and a total delight to have found.

We spent a wonderful afternoon there once we found it (as the directions are a little sketchy) and it is tucked out of the way so is unlikely to get very busy (we only saw half a dozen or so visitors in a whole afternoon).  The original 2 hides have posters of the birds that have been seen and visitors are asked to record the breed and numbers that they see when visiting for the reserves records.

resting cattle in the fen meadow with the mere in the background 2012

Nearly all the work undertaken to build hides and walkways is done by volunteers and there was evidence of some of that work in progress as we meandered around the reserve.

acres of meadow and mere stretch out across the farm 2012

The farm itself was sold to the Wildlife Trust in 2009 after I imagine it became unviable as a business but when you look around the acreage, it is easy to see why if was kept in it’s traditional state but how that would mean low yields and limited options for making a living out of the farm.

It is a great thing that it is being maintained and that is thanks to the foresight of organisations such as the Wildlife Trust.

the wet meadows with the willow wood in the background 2012

Since first exploring the reserve, we have been back a number of times and see changes every time we do.

tree clearing 2014

tree clearing 2014

There is a new hide that sits between the 2 original ones and right on the edge of water that is punctuated with trees that were clearly planted in neat little rows at some point in the farm’s history.

logs piles from tree clearing

logs piles from tree clearing

These are currently being cleared as they have mostly died in the deep fen water but before this is completed and while we were enjoying the peace and quiet of the new hide, the trees provided a perch for a kingfisher that we were delighted to see.

a beautiful kingfisher

a beautiful kingfisher

In a flash of blue it appeared from behind the hide and stayed with us for a few minutes before flying around the front of the hide and disappearing behind the other side with as much flourish as it arrived.

reed bunting

reed bunting

We listed the numerous birds that we have seen this week (some more interesting than others but wonderfully varied all the same) and managed to photograph some of them:-

goldfinches

goldfinches

Kingfisher

Goldfinch

Mute Swan

kingfisher

kingfisher

Wood Pigeon

Great Tit

Blue Tit

off as quickly as it arrived

off as quickly as it arrived

Marsh Harrier

Crows (numerous)

Jackdaw

Swallows (still here)

little egret

little egret

Little Egret

Kestrel (x2)

Snipe (not confirmed as not 100% sure)

Reed Warbler

lapwing display

lapwing display

Nuthatch (also not 100% sure)

Reed Bunting (numerous)

Jays (x2)

lapwings flocking over the marshes

lapwings flocking over the marshes

Mallard

Coots

Moorhen

Grey Heron

coots and moorhens in amongst the drowned trees

coots and moorhens in amongst the drowned trees

Buzzard

Sparrow Hawk

Lapwings

House Sparrow

woodland walk

woodland walk

There is a new woodland walk, a new path along the drain which takes you lower and nearer the meres, there is an education centre, new benches dotted around and at some lovely viewing spots and a wonderful bug hotel at the visitor’s centre that would be the envy of many and has certainly made my little palace look wholly inadequate.

5 star bug hotel

5 star bug hotel

There are other reserves that we need to explore too but we will continue to come back to watch this one through it’s seasonal changes and improvements.

It is a lovely place!


lovely lapwings

arial acrobatics

arial acrobatics

 

One of my favourite birds next to the Wren is the Lapwing.

 

with a beautiful clear blue sky backdrop

with a beautiful clear blue sky backdrop

 

Called peewits in the NE (& possibly elsewhere too) because of the sound they make, they are endlessly busy beauties that grace our skies with their amazing acrobatics.

 

endless activity in the sky

endless activity in the sky

 

They are graceful, athletic, full of character and have such lovely markings.

 

swooping down to the ground

swooping down to the ground

 

Their nesting habitat is easily ruined as they tend to nest in ground scrapes on flat farmland that is invariably ploughed, planted up and later harvested.

They are fierce defenders of their nest, eggs and youngsters; feigning a damaged wing if there is anyone or anything too close to the product of all their hard work and courtship.

 

IMG_0152

wading – is that a banksy?

I never get sick of watch and listening to them. I could do it for hours.


deer damage

old deer damage to a sapling

old deer damage to a sapling

 

We are lucky enough to see Roe Deer where we walk at the weekends and although they become harder to see when the crops get up, there is always a sign that they are about.

 

a healed area that has been nibbled in the past

a healed area that has been nibbled in the past

 

We see slots in the mud, beds of flattened grass where they have slept at night, nibbles on crops but also damage to tree bark where they have been having a feast.

 

this sapling has been targeted all up it's trunk until they have finally snapped it

this sapling has been targeted all up it’s trunk until they have finally snapped it

 

It is inevitable and one of their many wild habits although it is not very popular with anyone growing saplings.

 

freshly planted fruit tree with no protection has already been targeted

freshly planted fruit tree with no protection has already been targeted

 

I like seeing the secret signs that the deer are about and know that as long as the damage is not extensive the saplings will survive.

 

small areas of damage on lowu nprotected branches

small areas of damage on low unprotected branches

 

A deer damaged sapling will never grow to be the perfect specimen but this is nature and this is what happens – good, bad and indifferent.

 

self seeded whitebeam being stripped

self seeded whitebeam being stripped

 


The debate about Badgers

footprints

badger footprints

The trial badger cull ended yesterday after Natural England decided that the numbers culled did not achieve those required to test if culling would prevent the spread of Bovine TB in cattle.  We won’t know whether it has had an impact (positive or otherwise) for quite some time to come I expect but I think we do know that the killing of badgers during the licensed period was a complete waste of wild life.

Whatever your feelings about what the solution is to this particular problem, there is no doubt that the british cattle farmer is facing a difficult road ahead because there is a very definite affect on farmers from Bovine TB throughout the British Countryside.

badger sett

badger sett

Where we walk there is lots of evidence of Badger activity. We never see the badgers themselves but it is lovely to know that they have been about their business before we arrived.

The same badgers that leave the tell tale signs are hidden away in their cosy setts when we go out and we would need to sit in a hide (I am very tempted to camp out one night to be able to watch them) for long hours to stand any chance of catching them when they did venture out.

clearing mounds around the sett

clearing mounds around the sett

We know they are there though. We see their footprints, their scrapings from food foraging, their numerous territory markers (where they dig a hole and leave their droppings) and there are lots of entrances to their setts along the dike sides.

badger toilet

badger toilet

They are interesting and odd looking burrowing creatures when compared to lots of our british wildlife. They are nocturnal, strangely coloured (for our environment) and are seemingly related to weasels and wolverines.

They look like they should be carnivores but they are omnivores and so are as happy eating roots as worms. Bizarre when you consider how viciously well equipped they are for the life of a carnivore.

They are incredibly strong, make good parents and although they can be solitary, they mostly live communally. We’ve all seen the cute footage on wildlife programmes where they are filmed socialising and playing in mixed family groups at the neck of their setts..

main entrance to the sett

main entrance to the sett

They are a ferocious creature with the capability of inflicting a lot of damage with their might and their mouths.  These qualities and their fight to the death defence strategy have very sadly meant they have been used to fight dogs. This, thankfully for both dog and badger, has been illegal for some time now (though I suspect this horrible activity still goes on somewhere).

Because Badgers are complex and look a little out of place; they fascinate me and I would love to be able to observe our local population one day.

The thought of this peculiar shaped, omnivorous mammal with mad markings being eradicated or driven out of farming areas entirely because a sensible solution to address the issue of Bovine TB can’t be found, doesn’t sit well with me.

I do not know what the solution is but I do know that we need to stop bulldozing problems and find a much more inclusive way to balance these things out. I really hope that there is an effective, none invasive way forward that deals with the problem both the badgers and the farmers of the UK face.


Utility Boot Rooms

I hate mess and things that are untidy need to be out of the way; behind a door or drawer front of some sort if remotely possible.

I love a well ordered, easy to manage spaces

neat and ordered

inspiring – neat and ordered

These spaces in other peoples homes are inspiring and I’m very envious.

colourful and organised

practical – colourful and organised

We have an odd shaped area off our lincolnshire kitchen which was used as a dining space by the previous owners.

It’s narrow and really doesn’t lend itself to anything other than somewhere to dump stuff.  It houses the hoover, dishwasher, washing machine, ironing and has become somewhere to hang coats so it has become our Utility/Boot Room.

coats, boots and many, many other bits

coats, boots and many, many other bits

It is far from perfect but does a sterling job in providing hanging space for a rather large collection of green coats and long boots.  It needs a few things adding such as a  clothes dolly so we can dry the washing without calling on the radiators or having a clothes horse standing in the way somewhere on those wet days when it will be wetter if it was hung outside.

We have a clothes dolly; it is stored in the garage but that is as far as it has got so far.

a sea of green and camo

a sea of green and camo

The space also needs blocking off with a bit or wall and a dipped pine door (that we also have stored in our garage).  The opening is already partly closed off and begs to be finished.

We have made some progress though……

machines and bags and stuff

machines and bags and stuff

It now boasts a worktop where there had previously been none.

It has transformed the space. It provides a valuable and incredibly useful surface for dumping things on such as the dog’s towels, shopping basket, dog leads, binoculars, cameras, wallets, keys and all those other things that we need handy pretty much all of the time.

picnic baskets and blankets

picnic baskets and blankets

I think the dogs feel safer having their beds underneath something when they have a sleep to so I think they like the change.

baskets and storage

baskets and storage

It has worked well so far and I can’t wait for the door and wall to be done so we can close it off from our coats smelling of our last meal and we won’t have to look at all the mess anymore.  Just as it should be!!

There’s a man in the village who I have all my hopes pinned on!


it’s getting hot in here

sleeping sitting up

sleeping sitting up

This recent hot weather is really tough on dogs and it is so sad to hear that there are still people leaving their dogs in cars to die or walking them on hot tarmac until their feet burn and blister.

sunbathing

sunbathing

Our old boy, Hamlet has always loved the sun and used to spend hours on the lawn lapping it up. (He may have been a lizard in a previous life).

ready?

ready?

He still enjoys it but he certainly gets hot and the heat that we have been getting have seen him struggling. He has a heart murmur too so we have to be quite vigilant and not let him get over hot. he has had odd little funny turns in the past which may be related to his ticker, heat and dehydration so we do as much as we can to try to prevent repeats of these.

thirsty

thirsty

In order to avoid the heat of the day I’m getting up at about 5.30 to walk them and JC has been hosing them down to cool them off when it is particularly bad. I’m not sure they actually like this ‘shower’  but it certainly makes them more comfortable as it evaporates out of their coats.

eyeing up the ice

eyeing up the ice

When faced with the prospect though, they don’t seem to appreciate the benefits and they have been known to hide. Max definitely does a runner when he sees the hoes or the tin bath.

 

no one will see me here

no one will see me here

They even hide after they have been drenched (although I’m not sure what they think that will achieve). Bless!

sleeping in his hiding place in the sweet woodruff

sleeping in his hiding place in the sweet woodruff

Ice cubes in their drinking water have helped and getting them to lick ice cubes instead of gulping lots of water is great for keeping them hydrated without the risk of them throwing it back up.

Max isn’t great at doing ice cubes and tolerates them in his water but Hamlet likes to have them thrown for him to catch and crunch.

catching ice cubes

catching ice cubes

He’s quite an enthusiastic little dog (read bonkers!!) whether it’s going out, chasing a ball or catching a treat so catching ice cubes brings a bit of a wild look in his old eye.

ready for another one

ready for another one

He would stand there waiting for them eternally I think.

 

As always, hugely entertaining and endlessly funny.