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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Roll of Remembrance

Every two years here at Sun Rising we have our Roll of Remembrance.  This is beautiful occasion when the names of all those buried, and all those remembered with a plaque or tree, are read aloud.  This year, with the harp playing in the background, there were nearly 800 names, every one an individual whose name evokes a flood of memories.  It was a glorious sunny day, with a whisper of a breeze, and the tea stall was laded with cakes, cordials and tea.

The Roll of Remembrance 2017

The Roll of Remembrance 2017

I’d like to thank everyone who attended, everyone who contributed – our readers and harpist, those who donated cakes, those who served at the tea stall and helped with parking, those who sold cards and calendars, those who helped set up and take down, and of course all those who brought along their good selves to listen, watch and add to the peaceful, supportive, respectful community of the day.

We raised almost £350 in aid of The Friends just from the teas!

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The Friends Wall Calendar

The Friends of Sun Rising 2018 wall calendar is now in production.  This is an A3 wall calendar, with a photograph per month, each picture taken at Sun Rising and donated to the project. The calendars will be sold in aid of The Friends: they are £10 each and will be available at events.  It’s a short print run, and a second printing will open happen if we have enough orders to make it worthwhile.  Let us know if you’re interested! Check out the page on the website : 2018 Calendar.

Friends of Sun Rising Calendar (Back Cover)

Friends of Sun Rising 2018 Calendar (Back Cover)


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English Bluebells

The bluebells are now starting to flower here at Sun Rising, a sure sign that summer is a hop, skip and a jump away.  With the first of the hawthorn blossom, the bird cherries in flower, the air is filled their sweet warm scent.

English Bluebells

English Bluebells

Bluebells are, of course, also problematic.  The English bluebell, above, is a deep purple-blue, the bell flowers tending to fall to one side giving the stems their iconic droop.  They also have that wonderful fragrance.  At Sun Rising, most of the bluebells are English.

However, the majority in our gardens are now Spanish bluebells: these can be larger, the splay of the bells being wider, the colour more of a pale lilac, the stems standing up straight, the leaves thicker and broader.  They are also invasive.  They not only take over a good deal of ground, but they hybridise with the English bluebell, gradually wiping it out.  The real frustration is that most bluebell bulbs sold now are either Spanish or hybrids (labelled as English) …

Needless to say, at Sun Rising we are doing our best to keep to English bluebells, which means over the past week and the weeks to come, we will be removing any bluebells that turn out to be Spanish.  We’ve noted the graves that we’ve removed them from, and in October will plant some native English ones instead.

Our plea is, please, do not plant bluebell bulbs unless you are positive they are English – you may have to wait a few years for them to flower, and then it will be disappointing if they then need to be removed.  At our Planting Day in October, we will have plenty of English bluebell bulbs to share, which of course will be available to those who can’t make the day itself.   If you have any queries, let us know!

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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 :

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

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!

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Lent Lilies

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

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.

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Waking After Winter

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

Small Tortoiseshell on Goat Willow

The air doesn’t quite smell of spring yet, but we’re almost there …

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