Creating Wildflower Meadow

Here at Sun Rising the development of a new area of wildflower meadow is now underway.  This new area will add another acre and a half of wildflower meadow to the nature reserve, making an enormous contribution towards the ecological importance of the site.

At the moment, the area has been ploughed and harrowed, and we’re waiting for some perfect damp still days in which to sow the seed.  That’s a long and painstaking job to be done by hand.  Then all we can do is wait …

Michael's Meadow Ploughed and Harrowed

Michael’s Meadow Ploughed and Harrowed

We’re using a special seed mix, customised specifically for Sun Rising, which means this area will have a slightly different feel from the wildflower areas that area already established.  However, it could take a few years to get there: the seeds that will germinate first will be the arable weeds that have been sitting quietly in the soil waiting for a chance to come through, the charlock, fool’s parsley, fat hen, thistles, willowherb and the like.  Once it settles down, though, this view from the pond, looking up towards Sun Rising Hill, will be absolutely glorious!

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Wildlife Hospital Talk

This is a post to support a trio of local charities: Stour Valley Wildlife Action Group, who are hosting a talk about the Vale Wildlife Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre, in aid of Shipston Home Nursing.  Here’s the information …

SVWAG Talk Poster

SVWAG Talk Poster

Do head along if you can.  Not only will it be interesting, but all in a good cause.

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The 50+ Festival

On Saturday this week, 30 September, we are at the 50+Festival in Stratford upon Avon: An A-Z Guide to the Second Half of Life.

Organised by Engage, this is an ‘Information Day at Stratford-upon-Avon’s first Festival for those from 50 to 100+. There’s a lot going on in our town and surrounding area for people from 50 to 100+ but it’s not always easy to discover who’s doing what and where. If you’d like to expand your horizons, learn a new skill or hobby, volunteer or simply acquaint yourself with what’s going on that might be of interest, this is the Fair for you! 60 or so exhibitors, workshops and talks and a great café too. Easy, free parking and disabled access. Come along with family and friends – or make new ones over a cuppa – and add oomph, gaiety and a sense of purpose to your life. No need to book – just turn up on the day.’

The event is in the Levi Fox Hall at King Edward VI School, Chapel Lane, Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 6HB.

Do come along and have a look at what’s on offer.  Come and find us, and say hello.  We’d love to see you there.

It begins a week of activities and opportunities.  Check the website at https://www.engagefestival.org.uk/.

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Autumn and Winter Events

A  note to let you know that our autumn and winter events have now been posted on the website – http://sunrisingburialground.co.uk/about/activitydays.html – and on the noticeboard in the main car park.  They are also listed in our twice yearly newsletter which will be coming out over the next week or so.

Let us know if you have any queries!

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Stones

There is something extraordinary about large stones.  In millennia past there would have been vast stones scattered across the landscape, strewn by the surging forces of water and ice which have long since receded.  Over time, however, these stones would have been broken up and moved by those clearing the fields for farming, and claiming the stone for building.  Seeing a huge stone now is a magical experience – and such experiences provoke us to pause, to wonder, to feel the power of nature.  They slow us down in a delightful way.

At Sun Rising we have today set two such stones in place.  The larger is around 5′ tall, the round one behind it slightly smaller but still over a tonne in weight.  They stand directly on the sight line from the main car park, along the track, through the roundhouse and beyond.  The last section of that, over grass, is a path we’ll be mowing, encouraging visitors to wander up to the stones and pause.

Tyr's Stone, looking South, at Sun Rising Natural Burial Ground and Nature Reserve

Tyr’s Stone, looking South, at Sun Rising

The local quarries from which this honey-coloured Hornton stone has been dug for some centuries once employed a third of the area’s working men.  Living on starvation wages, labouring in harsh conditions year-round, this stone not only draws our minds to the beauty of nature but it also acknowledges all those men, sons, husbands, brothers, whose hard lives were so grounded in this landscape.  I hope the peace found at Sun Rising in some way touches their memory.

 

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Stars, Bats and Gold Spots

On Sunday last we held a moth night here at Sun Rising and what a beautiful event it turned out to be.  There are regular surveys of moths at the site, run by local enthusiast Alan Prior, but only once a year do we open these up to the public.  Around 25 attending the event, some staying until the early hours of the morning.

The sky wasn’t ideal for moths – not quite enough cloud to bring them down to the light boxes – but that meant it was a glorious night for star gazing.  With barely a whisper of wind, and the temperature staying in the mid teens, there were bats flying – we estimated up to 40 individual pipistrelles in one area.  A barn owl was out hunting, and I heard a tawny owl in the distance.  Hares and rabbits were seen too.

Gold Spot Moth recorded at Sun Rising Moth Night 2017

Gold Spot Moth recorded at Sun Rising Moth Night 2017

As for the moths, some 1259 were counted in the light traps, of some 78 different species.  Along with Alan, we had the comprehensive knowledge of Scott Hackett, John Finlay and Peter Smith on hand, and those attending were given the chance to learn a huge amount about these little seen – and seldom appreciated – beautiful creatures.  A big thank you to all who made it such a great event.

 

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Baling for Redwings

The cutting of the wildflower meadow is always a marking point of the turning tides of the year.  There are of course, almost certainly, warm and tranquil days ahead, September offering golden evenings and lazy moments in the sunshine, but the summer has become harvest and is now clearly moving towards autumn.

At Sun Rising, the long golden grasses and seedheads of the wildflower meadow are now mostly cut.  The woodland burial areas and plantations of young trees are tidied and the saplings mulched.  The meadow is now cut and, where a month ago there was the floriferous profusion of summer colours there is short grass and stubble.  It’ll green up again over the coming month, but stay short now until next spring.

We’d like to thank all the lovely volunteers who came on Sunday to help out with the raking.  We’d like to thank Michael Gibbs who came with his marvellous 1969 Ford tractor to cut the meadow and bale it.  We’d like to thank Colin Locke for lending us his trailer.  20 bales of delicious (apparently) wildflower hay was delivered to Redwings Horse Sanctuary yesterday, which it is a pleasure to support.

Staff at Redwings Horse Sanctuary with Sun Rising Volunteer Robin dropping off the Hay Bales

Staff at Redwings Horse Sanctuary with Sun Rising Volunteer Robin dropping off the Hay Bales

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Raking and Mulching

The work of clearing and tidying for autumn has now begun, and on Sunday morning two dozen wonderful individuals headed over to Sun Rising to help out with the tasks.

The Volunteers for the Woodland Burial Areas, August 2017

The Volunteers for the Woodland Burial Areas, August 2017

It was the woodland burial areas that we were focusing on.  All the grasses and flowers had been strimmed through the week, and the job was to rake up the hay and use it to mulch around the saplings.  As you can see (below), we had one volunteer who did most of the important work all by himself …

Showing everyone how to do it ...

Showing everyone how to do it …

Thank you to each and every one who came, not just for the great work accomplished, but for wonderful conversation, support and care, the delicious lunch shared and everything else that made the day so hugely worthwhile.

Next week we’ll be doing the meadow burial areas, and the wildflower meadow itself will be cut as soon as we have three days of clear dry weather ahead.

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Precious Seeds

There comes a point each year when the wildflower meadow begins to look tatty.  Only a few weeks ago, it was a rich burst of pinks, purples and lilacs, with splashes of yellow, but now the majority of the flowers have gone to seed.  The question arises, as it does each year: when shall we cut it?

Common Blue in the Seeding Wildflower Meadow

Common Blue in the Seeding Wildflower Meadow

To my eyes it is still extraordinarily beautiful: every flat round seedhead of oxeye daisy is full of new life, every little ball of knapweed seed, every spike of plantain, every pod of vetchling and trefoil, every plume of meadow foxtail.  There are pockets full of little round bedstraw and quaking grass seedheads.  There are tufts of thistledown and fat fingers of yellow rattle.  While some of these will find space to add to the wildflower meadow itself, many will be shaken off over the grassland, extending the beauty next year.

Amidst the soft creams and countless hues of rich to dusty brown, there are still the occasional flowers: pale lilac field scabious and yellow meadow vetchling, the last of the knapweeds and cranesbills.  And more wonderfully still, it is humming with life.  There are carder bees and bumblebees, grasshoppers and crickets, voles and shrews, and – when the sun breaks through the clouds – countless butterflies, dragonflies and day-flying moths.

The common blues and gatekeepers are the most common butterflies, fluttering amidst the seedheads.  You will also spot six spot burnet moths resting on the last knapweed flowers.  With such beauty amidst the seeds, we can’t possibly mow yet.

Common Blue on Meadow Vetchling

Common Blue on Meadow Vetchling

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Green Flag Award

We are very pleased to announce that we have once again been awarded a Green Flag for the natural burial ground and nature reserve.  This is very special to us: the Green Flag has a very high standard, and the high marks we were given last time have been significantly raised with this year’s award.

Green Flag 2017

Our Green Flag 2017-18

The judges inspecting the site carefully consider every aspect of the project, looking at ecology, sustainability, public engagement and management, from what seeds are sown to how we recycle.  The Green Flag is a valuable way of ensuring that what we are doing is as good as it can be – for us, for the planet, for every family and visitor, and for all those who have been laid to rest here amidst the trees and wildflowers.

In the picture above, managers Emma and David Restall Orr (on the right) are holding up the flag together with trustees and members of The Friends of Sun Rising.  We all look as we should do after a long and rewarding Nature Watch Day, recording butterflies and moths, plants and birds, beetles and dragonflies at the site.

The flag itself is not something that we will be flying from a flagpole, as it would seem a little out of keeping with the gentle feel of the place, but we will have a plaque made.

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