Figure of Eight and Other Amazing Numbers

Our last moth survey for 2018 took place on 20 October, our lovely nocturnal moth-ers staying up half the night trapping, recording and releasing the late season flyers, between cups of hot tea.  With many thanks to Alan Prior and his team, we now have the figures for the year.

Over 13 000 moths have been counted at Sun Rising since Alan began surveying in 2014.  And of those many thousands, there are 473 different species, from the tiny little grass moths to the great big hawkmoths.  Even with such great numbers, though, the news isn’t easy: generally moth numbers are still reducing around the country.  On 20 October, the Figure of Eight was found, an increasingly rare autumn moth, which gives hope that Sun Rising is offering a haven for creatures that are struggling elsewhere.

I know some don’t much like moths – they flutter around in the darkness, seemingly clumsily.  But up close they are an absolute delight.  Who wouldn’t fall for a furry little orange fellow like this, the feathered thorn, photographed at Sun Rising last year … ?

The Feathered Thorn Moth, photographed at Sun Rising (Alan Prior)

The Feathered Thorn Moth, photographed at Sun Rising (Alan Prior)

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Wheels for Wobblies

Last week we took delivery of our first Tramper – an off-road mobility scooter.  Not only will it allow me to get around the site where otherwise I needed a car, but it can be available for others whose mobility is limited.

Our new Tramper off-road mobility scooter at the Reflect bench

Our new Tramper off-road mobility scooter at the Reflect bench

Whether visiting a loved one laid to rest here, or coming for a funeral, with enough notice and preparation, we can have the Tramper onsite for you.  We’ll give a short lesson in how to use it, and then leave you to explore.  If the person needing it can’t manage to operate it, it is also possible for someone to walk slowly alongside and operate it for them.

It doesn’t take away the bumps, and it isn’t foolproof, but if driven gently and slowly it can take all the way to the far side of the nature reserve those who haven’t managed to get there before.  For those who are a little wobbly on their legs, as I am, this extra help is a real joy.  Pausing for a quiet moment, with a very different view before us, a very different perspective on the landscape, can be so enormously valuable.

 

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Autumn Colour

The most beautiful trees and shrubs at Sun Rising at the moment are the wild service tree and the guelder rose.  Both have leaves that quickly transformed from green to the richest burgundy reds.  Yet, without the background of pale yellow birch, the golden maple, the soft olive oak, these glorious wine colours wouldn’t be so amazing.

Autumn Colours

Autumn Colours

This view is taken from the roundhouse, looking over Liliana’s Wood towards Sun Rising Hill.  The next period of high winds will take the last of the leaves, so if you have a chance to pop over soon, please do.

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Muddy Work

If a wildlife pond is to remain a pond, once a year it is necessary to take out a good deal of the vegetation, not only from the pond itself but from the inflow channels as well.  If we don’t, within just a couple of years, the pond would become a marshy area with no clear water, and soon after that it would become so clogged with plants it would start to dry out completely.

Wildlife ponds are a crucial part of a healthy ecosystem.  During this long summer of drought, the pond at Sun Rising was one of very few in the local landscape that retained any water.  The level dropped by some six feet, but the remaining 3 – 4 foot of water was a lifesaver to vast numbers of visiting wildlife.  You could see from the footprints at the water’s edge just how many birds and mammals were coming to drink, let alone the bees, bats and other creatures.

Yesterday, however, was the clearing day.  Here’s a photos taken after the bulrushes, bur reed, pondweed and other vegetation was cut back.  You can imagine what a muddy job it was, and we thank the three wonderful volunteers who came to help out: well done!  This cut vegetation will remain on the pond’s edge for a few days, allowing little creatures who were pulled out with it to creep, crawl and slither back into the water.  We’ll then clear it, putting it the compost heap behind the pond bank.

The Wildlife Pond just after the vegetation was cut

The Wildlife Pond just after the vegetation was cut

Check our Instagram page for more pictures, including one of the very muddy lads who helped … https://www.instagram.com/sunrisingnaturalburial/.  Click on the photo there and you can swipe through more pictures.  You may like follow us on Instagram while you’re at it!

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New Roof and Autumn Tasks

The roundhouse roof is now finished.  It feels as if it fits beautifully.  The colour will soften and darken over the next few months, and before long it will feel as if it’s been there since the beginning …

The Completed Roundhouse Roof

The Completed Roundhouse Roof

We are busy with autumn tasks: cutting back the season’s growth.  The pond will be cleared in a few weeks’ time, which is always a job that sings of the approach of winter.  We are about to put in our order for bulbs – so if you’d like any, do get in touch before next week.

If you have a chance, do pop over to Sun Rising soon.  The autumn colours are proving better than expected: the rose hips and may haws are vibrant at the moment.  The leaves of the viburnum, dogwood, wild service and maple, are all beginning to turn, from tired green to rich coppers, burgundy and bronze.

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The Roundhouse Roof

This is a photograph that says so much about Sun Rising at the moment … The wildflower meadow cut and baled, with pockets left long for wildlife to hide away in, and that golden autumnal light against the darkness of stormy skies.

The Roundhouse Before Tiling

The Roundhouse Before the Tiles

After twelve years of striving to keep the green roof going on the roundhouse, we have decided to let it go.  The wet years were too wet for the sedum, the dry years too dry for the moss, and in between the birds were able to pull it apart, taking the felt underneath as nesting material.  This photograph shows the green sedum mats removed, the roof newly lined and fresh batons in place.  The next step is tacking in each and every one of the very many cedar shingles – two nails for shingle.

Local builder, Jon Williams, who is doing the work, is doing a wonderful job.  It’s not a bad place to work: now and then I watch him pausing to grin at the hares playing, the clouds shaping the skies over the hills, or just to breathe in the peace.

It should be finished by the end of this week.  The reddish colour of the wood tiles, which beautifully glow in the autumn colours, will soften and darken over the winter.  We hope you like it.

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Feeding the Horses (and Donkeys)

As mentioned in the previous blog, hay cut and baled in the summer is usually used for winter fodder for farm livestock.  At Sun Rising, our hay is taken to the local horse rescue centre, Redwings at Oxhill.  This feels very much in keeping with our ethics.

Cut late in the season, it’s rich with wildflower seedheads, and so much better for animals than hay made solely with grasses.  Where it’s a bit too chewy for the horses at Redwings, we’re told, the donkeys are more than happy to polish it off.

With another year’s haymaking over, we’d like to give a big thank you to Michael who has kindly cut the hay for the last few years, using his wonderful old tractor (with Ben, the dog).  And thanks to Chris and Jamie, our gravediggers, who helped take the hay up to Redwings.  As we donate the hay, instead of selling it, these kind folk have equally given their time without charging.  Thanks too to Tom, Helen, and all at Redwings for their valuable work.

Jamie, Tom, David and Chris, with our Bales at Redwings

Jamie, Tom, David and Chris, with our Bales at Redwings

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Haymaking

There’s nothing like a warm September day for haymaking.  If we could do it the old-fashioned way, we would – with scythes, haycocks and plenty of cider!  We get pretty close, in that a good amount is cut bit by bit, patch by patch, ensuring wildlife has a chance to move out of the way.  Then the main meadow is cut with an old tractor, rowed and baled, this work being done by local farmer Michael Gibbs, to whom we are enormously grateful!

Wildflower Meadow Mown and Baled

Wildflower Meadow Mown and Baled

This year, although the meadow went to seed a good few weeks’ earlier than usual, we were able to leave the mowing later than we usually do.  In part, this was because the lack of rain meant the dried vegetation remained standing, where rain and wind would have flattened it, making it look untidy.  In part, however, it was a determination to leave it as long as we could, allowing the wildlife, mammals, birds, butterflies, moths and other insects, to make the most of it before it was cut.

For the benefit of these little creatures, it may seem better not to cut at all.  However, managing a wildflower meadow means that it is essential to mow, and remove the ‘arisings’ (the cut vegetation, the hay).  Where they are left to fall, matt and mulch into the ground, they gradually improve the fertility of the soil.  Because the wildflowers we are striving to nurture prefer a poor soil, leaving it unmown would mean fewer flowers, and fewer species of flowers, each year.

A ‘meadow’ is defined as grassland that it is cut once a year, traditionally the hay being used as winter fodder for livestock.  After the mowing, those animals (usually cows) would be put onto the land to graze the late summer and autumn grasses, and taken off between November and February depending on weather and soil.  From spring onwards, the meadow would be left to grow another crop of hay to be mown in August.

Our hay bales are indeed used as winter fodder, but not for farm livestock – they are taken off to Redwings horse rescue sanctuary at Oxhill.  More of that in my next post …

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Golden Rainbow

A golden glow on the fields, for me, so clearly identifies both the British countryside and the time of year. The last few days have felt like autumn, for the first time this year – the hedgerows are bright with rose hips, may haws, sloes on the blackthorn, and blackberries on the bramble.  The first leaves are turning, and thankfully, gloriously, we have had some rain.  Not enough for the soil to ease and soften, but enough for rainbows and a whisper of hope.

Rainbow over Tysoe Hill

Rainbow over Tysoe Hill

This is a panorama taken of Tysoe Hill, just next to Sun Rising Hill, between delicious bursts of torrential sweet rain.

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Grasses and Seedheads

Visitors to Sun Rising who have been coming for some years will notice that we’ve not yet cut the wildflower meadow, despite it having now gone to seed.  There are areas of wild grasses, too, that in previous years would have been cut by now.   Indeed, it is around this time that we’d be holding a volunteer day, inviting you to help with raking up the hay …

This year, in the drought, everything has gone to seed early.  As a result, the seeds are generally smaller and there are fewer of them.  That’s a serious problem to the great multitude of little creatures who depend on the oily protein-rich harvest of the meadow, not least to build up fat reserves so as to survive the coming winter.  It’s one reason we are loathe to cut it before we need to: there is a great deal of life still depending on it.

Wildflowers and Grasses in Seed

Wildflowers and Grasses in Seed

Another reason is that, actually, without the heavy rains that would weigh it down, causing the stems to fall and mat, it still looks really beautiful.  In this photo you can see the edges between predominantly pale-golden grasses and the darker swathes of wildflowers.  With the trees in the dark green, late summer leaves, even grey days are lifted by the gentleness of the meadow.

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