Habitats at Sun Rising
As a nature reserve, Sun Rising is being developed as a patchwork of habitats, each one being of benefit to a different range of species - different plants, trees, insects, spiders, butterflies and moths, lichens and fungi, birds, bats, amphibians and mammals.
Beginning with an open field of nothing but rye grass, we are creating native deciduous woodland and shrub blocks. We are extending, enriching and preserving species-rich hedgerows. We are creating meadows of wildflowers and native grasses, areas of tussock grassland, mown verges, grassy paths and rides. There is a pond and wetland area. Even the stony tracks and car parks are managed for plants, invertibrates and reptiles, as are the stone roundhouse and wooden cabin.
The development of some areas is very much involved with the natural burial ground. For example, we have planted hundreds of trees as memorial trees on graves, which are growing into woodland copses and corridors. Further trees and shrubs have been planted near graves in order to add further the habitat and buffer the burial area from the lane. The areas first planted in 2006-7 are now transforming into rich young woodland ecosystems, with bluebells establishing beneath the canopy.
While some areas of the old rye grass have been removed, the soil sown with specialist seed to create wildflower meadow, bare earth is also exposed with each burial, and this self-seeds beautifully, allowing the wildflowers to spread naturally. Tussock habitat, where taller grasses and flowers are not mown for a number of years, creates opportunities for little mammals, moths and other creatures, enticing owls and others that feed on them. Short mown grass is as important for some species, however, as long grass is for others: tiny speedwells can be found on the verges, and little insects and the birds that feed on them.
Water is essential for life and the loss of so many field ponds over the last 50 years has led to a drastic decline in our amphibian population. It's not just frogs, toads and newts that rely on field ponds, though - birds, mammals, insects and wetland and aquatic plants also need them.
Dug out in 2010, the pond is situated in a low lying area of the burial ground. The pond has been designed to maximise its wildlife value, with deep water areas for breeding toads and shallower shelves for the emergent vegetation that dragonflies and other insects rely upon. Fed by a seasonal brook and our field drainage system, and naturally lined with our heavy clay soil, the water-level will rise and fall, but as yet it has never dried out.