On Sunday 30 April, Sun Rising Natural Burial Ground and Nature Reserve will be on BBC’s ‘Countryfile’. The programme is aired at 7 pm, and more information can be found here : http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08pnvmg.
We expect to be no more than a few minutes in a full programme about Warwickshire. Television is always a risk, but ‘Countryfile’ seems to be a much loved programme that strives to be positive, so we hope it will be fine!
Cowslips at Sun Rising
We’re in the thick of our yellow season at Sun Rising, with the daffodils, primroses and lesser celandine having given way to cowslips, and the dandelions are in full glory. When they go to seed, it’ll be buttercups … And in the surrounding countryside, the oilseed rape is in full flower. The bees are loving it!
In the back of my mind, I recall young Dickon in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden calling daffodils ‘daffodumdillies’. It’s a word that has stayed in my mind – it is so full of spring sunshine, energy and appreciation. As I’ve not read the book in forty years my memory may be wrong, but what is certain is how strong the daffodil is in our English consciousness, how powerful it is as a signal of spring, of the sun returning, of hope and new life.
As a nature reserve, the only daffodils allowed at Sun Rising are the native Narcissus pseudonarcissus, the Lent lily. These have pale yellow petals with a darker yellow trumpet, fine grey-green leaves, and in height they are usually no more than 6 – 8″.
Lent Lilies beneath Memorial Trees
As a burial ground, it’s hard to stop families planting daffodil bulbs. We supply many hundreds each October, but some cultivars still creep in – sometimes large blousy daffs, sometimes the beautiful little golden ones. Sadly, to keep the integrity of the nature reserve, we do remove them, and this is a task for late March and early April. This year we’ve been more fastidious than previously, and for the first year we have removed every bulb that flowers to show it is not the native Lent lily. It is wonderful to look around and see nothing but the wild daffodils.
And in October, ever cultivar removed will be replaced with one of the beautiful native ones … As the years go by, there’ll be more and more, as spring comes, with all its promise of new beginnings.
As the days grow warmer and longer, some of the creatures who have been hibernating at Sun Rising are waking. Here’s a beautiful picture taken by David of a small tortoiseshell on goat willow catkins, taken by the pond. This butterfly is in great condition after its winter sleep.
Small Tortoiseshell on Goat Willow
The air doesn’t quite smell of spring yet, but we’re almost there …
At Sun Rising we have now installed the first drafts of our habitat interpretation boards.
If you were to walk around the nature reserve, you would find eight at the moment, and another handful are planned to go up towards the end of the year. They cover the established wildflower meadow, young woodland, grassland, hedgerow, the wildlife pond, ruderal borders, the birdfeeders, and the margin of tussocky plants and grasses. These are key habitats within the nature reserve.
Habitat Interpretation Board : Birdfeeders
Our aim is to create boards that are informative, both about the particular habitat and about how we manage that habitat as part of the nature reserve. There are photographs, all taken at Sun Rising, of plants, birds, butterflies, moths, mammals, that may be found there.
We are hoping that families, friends and other visitors will have a wander around, look at the pictures, read the text, and give us feedback. Are they in the right places and easy to read? Can you find any errors?
If you have a chance, do have a look and let us know what you think. Once we have had a good amount of feedback, we will transform these drafts into long term boards.
Our events for 2017 are just starting to take form. We’ve posted a page here for you to pop some dates into your diary! http://sunrisingburialground.co.uk/about/activitydays.html
You’ll see a couple of Nature Watch days this year, and a Moth Night in August. We have our annual Open Day in June, and this year there’ll be Roll of Remembrance too, when the names of all who are buried here are read aloud.
Dates and further information will continue to develop, and full details will be given in our March newsletter in a month’s time. Let us know if you’ve any queries.
Robin amidst Lichen
Many ask why we named the burial ground Sun Rising. Our answer is, of course, that it is a local name: the part of the Edge Hills escarpment behind us is called Sun Rising Hill, and the name felt appropriate, suggesting the promise of dawn after the long dark night of grief, the promise of spring after the cold of winter.
In reality, we have so many wonderful sunsets at Sun Rising, but very seldom do we have the special light of sun rise – the hill being so high that, by the time the sun breaks its horizon, it is already broad daylight. However, now and then, in winter, the light that creeps over the hill is golden. Here’s a view of the roundhouse on a day of thick frost, just as the sun is breaking over the hill. The teasels (out of focus in the foreground) are still offering the occasional seed to interested goldfinches, but these will soon be cleared.
The Golden Light of the Sun Breaking Sun Rising Hill
The first snowdrops are now flowering at Sun Rising. Most are little white droplets, but the sturdiest are opening their petals. If you look carefully, you’ll see primroses in flower as well, and the catkins on hazel and silver birch. A new year of growth is just beginning.
A rather beautiful creature has been seen at Sun Rising over the last few weeks of the Christmas period: a perfect white dove. This little fellow has brought real delight, with many families telling me wonderful stories – of the dove sitting on the top of the roundhouse, or landing by a grave, or on the path before them. In many ways, on cold grey difficult days, such a sight can seem magical, a sign of peace, a miracle.
White Dove on the Roundhouse
You can see the dove puffed up here in the photograph, trying to keep out the cold. Of course, this is not a wild bird. There are a good few organisations that offer ‘dove release’ for special occasions; some use trained homing pigeons, strong birds in good condition which, when released, circle two or three times to get their bearings before heading straight home. Others, however, are not so reputable. This lovely white bird is the only survivor of three that were released at Sun Rising before Christmas, and I’m amazed that he is still alive. Our birdfeeders are certainly helping, and perhaps the good will of all those who have seen him at Sun Rising, giving thanks for his calm quiet presence.
Committing to an outdoor event at any time of year is a risk, but to organise one for mid winter is what, I think, we might call typical English madness. We have had carolling events in biting cold, and streaming rain, on Sunday last we were blessed with a chilly day which was calm and dry. As a result, a good many ventured out to join us; we estimate 180 – 200 people came on the day.
Carolling at Sun Rising
Thank you so much to Rebecca Knight and Leamington-based choir, Morning Chorus, who led the singing, and to everyone who lent their voices to the mix. Thank you too to everyone who contributed to the raffle, tombola and refreshments stall, and to everyone who bought tickets (we had plenty of lovely prizes), mulled wine, cake and mince pies. We raised over £600 all told for The Friends of Sun Rising.
We shall be open on Christmas Day, with tea, coffee and nibbles from 10 am until 12.30 or so, for those with a loved one laid to rest at Sun Rising, who may feel in need of a little warmth on what can be a very difficult day.
The transition into winter has crept in slowly this year, perhaps because the dry cold of November allowed autumn’s leaves to remain on the trees longer than usual. Now, however, there’s no denying it: winter is here. After clear starry nights, the white of deep frost remains, lingering throughout the day in areas the sun doesn’t reach. Not long after three in the afternoon, the silence of dusk descends over the landscape.
Frosty Leaves in Young Woodland
At Sun Rising we’ve been tree planting. Over half of our memorial trees have now been planted, and a new copse planted near the top car park. The frosty ground has meant it hasn’t been too muddy, and beneath the top few inches of cold ground the soil is perfect for planting.
On clear winter days like these it is easy to find beautiful moments: frosty leaves, the fieldfare eating rose hips, the dunnocks and wrens visible in the bare hedgerows where they’ve been hidden all summer. The trick will be to continue finding those beautiful moments when the clouds return and the days become damp and grey …
Fungi is one of nature’s celebrations that I have not even begun to study. While it is possible to have an idea that a mushroom is this or that, I know enough to be fairly sure I’ll be wrong most of the time … At Sun Rising at the moment, there are a good number of different kinds of fungi, at different stages of emergence and decay. There are tiny pink caps, and thick hand-sized caps, there are patches of fiery orange mushrooms and brackets on old wood and deep in the cracks in the soil.
This photo is not of the most dramatic I have come across, but with the rose petals it is a picture that moves me. I lifted the bouquet, an offering of love on a grave, the blooms wilted in the frost, and underneath the mushrooms almost blinked at me in the sudden sunshine. Just beautiful.
Autumn Mushrooms and Rose Petals