Autumn Mists

With some moments still of beautiful sunshine, it has almost been possible to hold onto the warmth of the year, but no more.  The songs of autumn are now filling the air.  Thick mists in the early morning are sometimes barely clearing, and tiny drops of dew, mist, drizzle and rain cling to the spiders’ webs, revealing intricate designs that we otherwise would not see.

Rainy Spider's Web on Crab Apple

Rainy Spider’s Web on Crab Apple

The cherry leaves are rimmed with deep red, the field maples are turning into a thousand hues of bronze, the guelder rose, the dog wood and wild service leaves are splashed with burgundy.  In a month, the leaves will have fallen and the hedgerows and woodlands stand bare, but for the coming weeks we have the wonder of all those changing colours.

There is no bad weather, some say, just inappropriate clothing … and now is the time to adjust our clothing, pulling out the thermals and putting on layers.  Grief can weaken the immune system, leaving us vulnerable: it’s better to be too warm and have to leave a coat in the car than get chilly.  Take care.

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New Newsletter and Events

Our Sun Rising Autumn/Winter 2016 newsletter has now been published.  For those on our mailing list, it will be emailed out today or posted in the next few days.  If you prefer, it can be found here: Latest Newsletter.

You’ll see that in this edition we have news of all our winter events, including the bulb planting day, tree planting, Armistice Day, carols and Christmas Day.  Do have a look through and make a note in your diary.  As summer slips away and the damper chillier days of autumn and winter approach, it’s good to know there are worthwhile days to anticipate and share.

In the newsletter we are also asking for feedback on our new Habitat Interpretation Boards.  Have a look and let us know what you think?

Example Habitat Interpretation Board

Example Habitat Interpretation Board at Sun Rising












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Ri’s Marathon

Ri Price, who has a close family member laid to rest at Sun Rising, is a running a marathon in a few weeks, over in Berlin, and has chosen to raise money for The Friends of Sun Rising.  Thank you, Ri!  I’m hoping that her words will inspire some of our readers to sponsor her.  Here are some words from Ri :

As most of you know, I am running the Berlin Marathon on 25th September. Eek. It’s my second marathon, so I do feel a bit cheeky asking for sponsorship again but I really want to be able to help this amazing charity so I am hoping you might dig deep one more time (this is my LAST marathon!).

I promise you it is not easier the second time around, it has been a grueling training period and to give you some idea of the TORTURE I have put myself through, since April, I have run a total of 371 miles. That’s the equivalent of me running to Cologne in Germany. That’s really far! And that is 55 hours, 45 mins and 6 seconds of running with only myself for company! As you all can imagine, that’s super boring!

Anyway, enough of that, onto the important bit … I am raising money for The Friends of Sun Rising which is a charity very close to my heart and a charity that is of great support and comfort to people who have lost a loved one. At the bottom of this email, I have included a bit more information about them.

Because they are a small charity, they aren’t set up on JustGiving so I am hoping that, if you want to donate, you will be comfortable donating through their website on PayPal (you don’t need an account for this as you can pay with debit or credit card). Please can I just ask that you write “Ri marathon” in the notes to the seller section just so I can gauge how much I managed to raise for them.

Thanks so much in advance for anything you are happy to donate, it means a lot.

Oh and this is me in some serious pain after a 15 mile run…

Ri Price

Ri Price

Peas. x

A bit about The Friends of Sun Rising

When choosing where to lay a loved one to rest, the peace and beauty of a place is enormously important – knowing that this tranquillity will be safeguarded is equally crucial.

The Friends is the charity which will provide care and protection for Sun Rising Natural Burial Ground and Nature Reserve into the future.  At the point when there are no longer new burials or memorials, the natural burial company will step back, and The Friends will take over the protection and management of this special place, ensuring its legacy as a valuable nature reserve and a place held in memory of all who have been buried within it.

Until then, its task is to support the company’s vision for Sun Rising. This is achieved through volunteer days, for example, planting bulbs and trees, and fundraising events such as music recitals, shared memorial services and open days.  Primarily, however, the charity’s crucial purpose is to raise the capital it will need to manage the site in perpetuity.

Currently the charity has minimal outgoings, as in the main these are covered by the natural burial company.  As a result, almost every single penny that is donated goes towards this long-term fund that will ensure the protection and care of the burial ground and nature reserve well beyond our own lifetimes, and those of our children and grandchildren.

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Hay Making

The wildflower meadow was mown this year using a small tractor and lovely local farmer and his very beautiful collie.  Sitting in the tractor cab, whenever they reached the end and backed up to turn and head down the row, the dog would bark at the reversing wheel as if with deep indignation, as if it were a misbehaving sheep heading in the wrong direction …

Spreading, drying and baling the hay was done over last week, with the bales going off to Redwings Horse Sanctuary (website) nearby.

Wildflower Bales

Wildflower Bales

The wildflower meadow is not the only part of the site that is cut, of course, and over the last two weeks we’ve been cutting and raking seeding grass and wildflowers from woodland and meadow areas around Sun Rising.  On Saturday we had a wonderful collection of volunteers to help us – thank you to each and every one of them!

There was raking and mulching the trees with the grasses, and spreading the wildflower hay over meadow graves and grassy areas.  It was a lovely clear day of blue skies and passing clouds, and the breeze not only helped keep the workers cool but aided with spreading the seeding wildflowers as well …

Spreading Hay

Spreading Hay

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Hare Lapel Pins

Our new Friends of Sun Rising lapel pins have arrived, and they’re very lovely indeed.  Showing the beautiful hare on the meadow with the sun behind, designed by Tim Howe, these are now on sale in aid of The Friends.

The Friends of Sun Rising Hare Lapel Pin

The Friends of Sun Rising Hare Lapel Pin

The price is £3 – and if you want me to send you one or more, add £1 for postage and packing.  They are 3 cm wide, in hard enamel, stamped copper, with a proper clasp at the back.

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Pink, Gold and Green

Great willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum) is one of those wayside and ruderal plants that many don’t even notice.  From late July and into August in this part of the world it lines the country lanes, especially where ditches retain water through the summer.  You can see it too around ponds, where it is a favourite of moths like the elephant hawkmoth, and butterflies land to find its nectar.

At a time when the long grasses are drying, the fields are gold with wheat or barley, the hay meadows mown to straw stubble, the great willowherb offers a beautiful brightness.  With hedgerows and woodland now a dark green, the colours are even more exquisite.

Great Willowherb, the Roundhouse and Sun Rising Hill

Great Willowherb, the Roundhouse and Sun Rising Hill

Over the next few weeks, when the weather allows, we shall be mowing the wildflower meadow and burial areas.  Where we can, we’ll be leaving plants that are still in flower – such as the willowherb, the field scabious, devil’s bit scabious, the musk mallow and cranesbill.  The last pinks of the wild summer are precious …

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After such a cloudy and chilly summer so far, a few hot days can be hard to adjust to, but the heat does cause us to pause.  Like snow, it seems to cover the landscape, stilling it into a different sort of silence.  At some times, it seems to me that folk do stop to talk, with and without words, in a sharing of wonder.

Magpie meets hare, then they go on their way

Magpie meets hare, then they go on their way

The cloud and cool will return by the end of the week, or so those with an overview say.  Until then, let us make the most of the stillness where we can, and those unusual and perhaps unexpected conversations.

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The Hay Cut

There are occasions over the course of a year, managing a nature reserve and natural burial ground, that push against my instincts.  But the development of a nature reserve is about management: however much I would like to do so, we aren’t rewilding.

For rewilding to be of real value (i.e. letting an area revert to its own natural state), you need more than 16 acres, you need time, and you need it not to be a natural burial ground.  Here at Sun Rising, if we were to do nothing, the land would quickly become a tussocky scrub of blackthorn, hogweed, dock and thistle.  The sycamore, ash and birch seedlings would creep in after a while, and given a little longer, it would turn into a tatty sort of woodland.  In fifty years, it would no doubt be wonderful, but it would just be woodland, and very few of our families with loved ones laid to rest here would thank us for the difficult decades in between …

As a nature reserve, rather than rewilding, we are creating, and nurturing, different habitats in order to maximise biodiversity, providing a haven for as wide a range of local flora and fauna as we can.  Furthermore, we are doing that gently, sensibly, in order to ensure that each step of the way, its future is sustainable.  That takes management.

The Hay Cut, with Sunflowers by a Memorial Tree

The Hay Cut, with Sunflowers by a Memorial Tree

And one of the hardest moments of the year is when the main area of grassland is cut for hay.  The diversity of grasses is improving, with meadow barley, crested dogstail, bents, yorkshire fog, cocks foot, bromes, meadow-grasses, sweet vernal grass, false oat-grass, timothy, rye, and probably more.  The sky larks have nested and fledged, but there are very many other creatures living and breeding in grasses that are now up to 5 foot tall.  But if we didn’t mow, the heavy seedheads would encourage the stems to fall in the rain, it would mat and rot, increasing the soil fertility, and …

So we cut the grass.  In fact, it was cut on Sunday, and will be turned, then baled over the next few days.  I am still holding my breath, but the stubble will green again and new grass starts to grow, and slowly I’ll start to breathe again.

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Ghosts at Sun Rising

Last week, hundreds of ghosts were seen at Sun Rising : ghost moths!  These are beautiful little creatures, Hepialus humuli, the males are white, getting their name from their habit of hovering over grasses at dusk.  The females are a rich creamy yellow.  This video shows their mating dance, but – unlike in the video – at Sun Rising there were clouds of them!

As a result, we’ve had to be careful that we don’t disturb the area until they’ve completed this part of their cycle of life.  Once they’ve mated, the moths’ eggs are dry and drop down to the ground, at which point mowing the grass would not be a problem.  The larvae, once they emerge, stay underground, feeding on the roots of grasses and plants.

Male Ghost Moth (photo taken at Sun Rising by Alan Prior)

Male Ghost Moth (photo taken at Sun Rising by Alan Prior)

Moths have some wonderfully peculiar names.  You might be equally surprised to know that in the same moth survey, a shark was found, a sallow kitten, a heart and dart, and a large nutmeg.  In fact, the list describes 75 species, with over 500 moths coming to the moth traps during the night.

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Jazz in the Roundhouse

On Saturday 18 June, we held our annual Open Day at Sun Rising, but this was a special one, marking our tenth anniversary.

It was a beautiful, warm, dry day (if rather cloudy), and around 150 attended, to meander about the burial ground and nature reserve, to visit loved ones laid to rest, but also to sit and absorb the jazz.  The Hot Tone Rhythm Boys from Wiltshire gave us a few hours of beautiful mellow traditional jazz.  Have a listen …

The refreshments stall was bedecked with strawberries, cakes and scones for cream teas.  The raffle had some fabulous prizes, and everywhere there were folk with smaller prizes won on the tombola.  Almost everything was donated, and totting up the takings afterwards it looks as if we have raised over £1000 for The Friends of Sun Rising.

Anniversary Cake

Anniversary Cake with thanks to the family who donated it

Thank you to everyone who came, every volunteer who helped out, everyone who gave a prize or something for the tea stall, and thank you to the band for a beautiful sound!

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