June in the Forest

This is a wonderful time of year in the natural world. It’s all go – we have a Pied Flycatcher’s nest in a bird box at the back of the farm’s vegetable garden (more like the wildflower patch at the moment), the House Martins are investigating the farmhouse eaves and each evening we have bats doing circuits of the house and outbuildings. Crevices in the walls are full of nesting Sparrows, Blue Tits and Mason Bees. I feel that I have to say, ‘Excuse me’, just moving about the place, interrupting as I do the important business of feeding and breeding.

The meadows are a delight. The Cowslips and Lady’s Smock have given way to buttercups, Red Clover, Pignut, Yellow Rattle, Knapweed and meadow grasses such as Sweet Vernal Grass. Year by year we try to increase their diversity by reducing the fertility of the soil. The odd bit of cow, sheep or deer dung is fine but artificial fertiliser or slurry-spreading would encourage grassland bullies such as Ryegrass, Docks, thistles and Nettles. Yellow Rattle is often mentioned as being a highly-desirable constituent of wildflower meadows because it is a hemi-parasite of grasses, reducing their vigour by taking some of the sugars they produce. Grazing is an important part of the plan too. Spring grazing is followed by haymaking then the remaining grass is eaten off by cattle or sheep. Twenty years ago we started the herd of Dexter cattle at Uncllys by buying a cow (Amani, pregnant with Percy) and calf, Gwillan, from Stuart Norgrove at Haye Farm. Breeding and further purchases took the herd to over fifty, and then in 2010 they were bought by the Wyre Community Land Trust (WCLT) who continue the job of grazing many small meadows in this area.

Many local people have been partners in this conservation effort, volunteering with work such as checking the cattle, moving them to new pastures or home for TB tests, fencing meadows and putting in water supplies. Open Farm Sunday on 9th June is an opportunity for all ages to visit the headquarters of the WCLT at St George’s Farm, Tanners Hill, Bewdley, DY12 2LS (signed from The Hop Pole) from 11am to 4pm. They will meet the small herd of Dexter cattle and there will be guided walks around the woodland, orchard, meadow and woodyard to explain what the Land Trust does. There will also be a children’s activity and green woodworking for adults, local producers including Wildjac with their array of botanically-inspired spirits, and Peter the Bee with native wildflower plants. Apple juice and wood products will be on sale and you can buy light refreshments or bring your own picnic.
For more information contact Liz: 07905188856, liz@wyreclt.org.uk

Linda Iles