I was waiting at the bus stop after visiting my father this morning and a red kite sailed over my head. I have seen one or two patrolling the tiny village in the past but this was the closest it had got – unfortunately it looks very small in a hurried smartphone photograph.
They must be in the top ten of the most majestic sights to be seen in the English countryside – the phrase poetry in motion being completely accurate in this case.
I took this photo moments before the image of cornfield poppies in my previous post. It is called Windmill Hill. I have always assumed that the ring of trees on the mound at the top indicate the place where the actual windmill stood but I have never delved into the history of the place. It is patently long gone.
One of the botanical groups I used to belong to when living in Wiltshire organised several field trips to the site but sadly I never attended. The flora is apparently quite interesting.
For those familiar with my landscape paintings I have portrayed Windmill Hill a number of times (albeit in a modern art idiom) but always from the Collingbourne Road on the other side. I have also painted the hill on the opposite side of the valley (Sidbury Hill) which has an iron age hill fort on top. I have managed to attend field trips on this latter site (including a none too successful one listening to nightingales – or not listening to nightingales as it turned out!) plus worked there on many occasions clearing scrub. It is extremely evocative as you stand on the crest waiting for the bonfires to burn down and watching the dusk descend across the plain below.
Anyway that is enough of that; hopefully there will be a horticultural post next time!
The task at Little Durnford in 2009 was dedicated to removing tree seedlings from the important hillside grassland. This ranks along with ragwort pulling as a severely boring job – although the views across the Avon valley made up for this. The seedlings were mainly ash and there were thousands of them! The reserve is owned by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and is actually grazed by Jacob’s sheep and also (I think) cattle but obviously they needed a hand!
These photos and the ones done a year earlier at the same reserve are my only record of the hundreds of conservation tasks I did from 1990. I wouldn’t have taken these except I was by then a proud owner of a mobile phone with a camera – now replaced with a smart phone which is even more flexible. I do wish smart phones and blogs were around earlier!
Little Durnford In The Avon Valley was the first nature reserve I worked at in the Autumn of 1990. It was a lovely day with glorious views and I have been a practical wildlife conservationist ever since!
Although it has some nice stands of trees including beech the reserve is managed for the very rich downland above the trees – sheep and cattle are used as part of the management scheme but our group often worked at the site during the Autumn/Winter cutting down tree seedlings (especially ash) and cutting back scrub as it encroached on the grassland.
At the illustrated task the group was clearing up and burning branches from felled trees. The trees were taken down by contractors some time earlier. The slope got steeper as the day went on!
This task took place at the beginning of the 2011/2012 conservation season (now finished) we were cutting down small isolated hawthorn and rose plants that would, if left to their own devices, shade out the grass and other flora. The site was extremely steep and we were stacking the cut scrub at the bottom – so extremely hard work (it wasn’t too bad coming down but then you had to go all the way up again!).
This is a picturesque reserve close to Salisbury. It is owned by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and has a large array of wild flowers and associated fauna (butterflies etc.). During the Autumn and Winter months scrub is cut back to stop encroachment into the important grassland.