Corncockle

Nature Watch

The Nature Watch on 11 August was a glorious day, with sunshine and soft breezes, and a steady flow of amateurs and enthusiasts visiting, helping to record everything that was seen on the day.  The butterflies are now around, having been noticeably absent for much of this cold wet summer, but many were recorded, including the Small Copper, Peacock, Small Heath, Meadow Brown, Ringlet and Common Blue.  The flower lists are growing, with a good deal more Betony evident in the wildflower meadow this year than in previous summers, and other new plants for the list, including Musk Mallow, Prickly Lettuce and Corncockle.

Corncockle

Corncockle

In a few weeks we’ll be scything down the meadow and preparing for the autumn.  At this time the wildflowers are all drying, going to seed, and although it can look untidy compared with a well kept garden, these are precious weeks in the cycle of the burial ground, when the wind spreads the wild seeds across bare earth.  I sit quietly and hope that next year this self-seeding will bring even more delight and healing to all who visit the site.

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Knapweed and Bedstraw

Nature Watch 11 August

Just before the wildflower meadow goes to seed, the soft purples of the knapweed are beautiful against the white bedstraw and yarrow.

Knapweed and Bedstraw

Knapweed and Bedstraw

There are butterflies all over the meadow now, and with some sun-blessed days ahead, we are hoping for a glorious Nature Watch this Saturday, 11 August.  We’ll be at the burial ground from 2 pm – 8 pm, and all are welcome to come – experts and amateurs, adults and children.

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Paths through Woodland Burial Area

Open Weekend and Summer Days

Our Open Weekend was quite a mix in the end.  On Saturday, with cool breezes, bursts of rain and moments of soft sunshine, not many stopped by at the burial ground, but Sunday was a different story.  The sun gently shone and the air was completely calm, with wonderful patterns of clouds tumbling and drifting past overhead, and a steady flow of visitors arrived, walking the site and sitting in our marquee enjoying tea and cake.  Our violin recital, given by professional violinist Steve Bingham, was a real delight, music playing over the meadows as families listened, shared picnics, and enjoyed the calm of the afternoon. Thank you so much to all our volunteers and to Steve and his family!

Last summer the drought meant that we barely mowed at all throughout the entire season, but this year we are mowing regularly.  As a result, the paths look far more distinct through the areas of long grass – it all looks beautifully tidy, for a day or so after the mower has been around, but a few days later the grass and flowers are pushing through once more!

It isn’t only the grass that’s growing.  Our saplings have grown more this past month than in the last 18 months of drought.  How glorious to watch the little trees pushing out leaves and stretching into new wood growth.  The roses too are splendid in bloom, both around the Roundhouse and in the hedges and upon graves.  It is well worth taking a few hours to come and visit ..

Paths through Woodland Burial Area

Paths through Woodland Burial Area

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Chaffinch in the Bird Cherry

Chaffinch and Cherry

So much is later this year because of the drought and the cold rain, but after the beautiful cowslips the wildflower meadow at Sun Rising is beginning to fill out, with leaves spreading and the first hints of flower buds.  This time last year, it was a profusion of colour, but this year we must be a little more patient.

There is blossom, however, on the hawthorn, the cherries, and even on the older crab apple trees, which is wonderful to see.  When we plant a little sapling, to see it find its roots in the soil and grow to be strong enough, and big enough, to blossom, is a real delight, especially for families watching the trees planted in honour of loved ones.

We are still not seeing many green finches, after last year’s reduction in their numbers.  There are plenty of chaffinches, however, glorious in the mating colours, and singing out into the warm summer air.  This photo is of a male chaffinch on the bird cherry by the gate.

Chaffinch in the Bird Cherry

Chaffinch in the Bird Cherry

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Spring Rain Clouds

Spring Rain

Oh how we needed rain … and now we have it!  With the few days of warmth and the ground now soaked with rain, the trees at Sun Rising are drawing in the water with a shimmering delight.  All last summer many of our saplings barely grew an inch or more, yet in the past few weeks, every moment of warm sunshine has inspired them to push out their new leaves and grow!

Much more rain and we’ll be holding our breath though.  Here’s a beautifully dramatic photo taken by my colleague at the burial ground, Bruce Chatterton, on his phone.

Spring Rain Clouds

Spring Rain Clouds

With Sun Rising Hill rising so sharply behind the site, it isn’t unusual to have such wild cloud formations, but it’s often hard to capture them.  On the day this was taken (yesterday : Sunday 6 May), we had a break from the rain, in fact.  Today it has returned, leaving the fields once again vibrant and lush with green growth, the air sparkling with life.

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Daffodils

Spring’s Yellows

Spring’s colour is yellow, and at Sun Rising the winter’s snowdrops have now all given way to the beautiful rich blooms of the daffodils.  The first cowslips are coming through in the meadow and some early primroses, together with the first dandelions.  With the pale green of tender new leaves, the first being the hawthorn in the hedgerows and the cherry trees on graves, there is such an uplifting sense of new light, a new cycle, new life.

Daffodils

Daffodils

The warmth of this week is, of course, a delight in many ways, but we desperately need rain.  When it comes, the earth will soak it up with such a thirst.

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Misty Roundhouse

Winter’s Touch

Another absolutely windless day at the burial ground again today, with the softest cold mist.  The temperature was below freezing, and patches of snow still lie on the grass and the paths after the snowfalls and flurries earlier in the week.  There is something very holding, somehow magically tender, about Sun Rising when it is like this.  The photo here gives an inkling of the feeling.

Misty Roundhouse

Misty Roundhouse

More snow is due to fall over the coming days, which will again no doubt blanket the burial ground in soft silence.  If only it weren’t so cold …

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Sunset over Sun Rising

Skies

With Sun Rising Hill behind us, and the beauty of rural Warwickshire spreading out before us, the skies above the burial ground are seldom without interest.  The ridge of the hill lifts and changes the winds, influencing the clouds whether they are sweeping towards it or coming off the high Cotwolds towards the plains.  For me, these wide open skies, with such beautiful patterns and colours of cloud, are one of the really special elements of the site, inspiring the soul, lifting me when I’m low.

This photo was taken on my mobile phone, so the quality is not brilliant, but it gives an inkling of what the sunset was expressing a few days ago.  I hope by posting it here, it offers a little of that inspiration to others.

Sunset over Sun Rising

Sunset over Sun Rising

At this time of year, I feel sure that winter sunsets are the most beautiful of the year, but in six months I shall be equally sure that the summer’s sunsets are the best!

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Feeder Full of Sparrows

More Sparrows

It was a delight to spend time with a few of the OWLS over the weekend, volunteers from the Oxhill environmental group : http://www.oxhill-owls.org.uk. We’ve had some terribly cold days, and the day we met was one such day – a wild easterly wind biting our faces but not dimming our shared enthusiasm for the flora and fauna of this beautiful part of central England.

As well as the first snowdrops bravely flowering in the cold wind, the busy chirruping of the tree sparrows on the feeders was wonderfully cheering too.  It was great for our OWLS visitors to see the abundance of tree sparrows at the burial ground.  Here is a shot that has been typical for almost a year.

Feeder Full of Sparrows

Feeder Full of Sparrows

It is our hope that next year the population of great tits and greenfinches will recover.  The numbers are significantly down on from previous years.  With our bird feeder volunteers filling up our industrial sized feeders twice a week, we are doing all we can to give them a fighting chance.

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Tree Sparrow

Making a Corridor

Freelance environmental consltant Tim Marlow has been dropping by the burial ground over the last few months, considering the connections between the environmental programme at Upton Estate at the top of Sun Rising hill and the Biodiversity Action Plan folk at Oxhill (OWLS): the burial ground creates part of a corridor between the two.

Tim has taken some beautiful photographs, including this sparrow. We’ve had more tree sparrows at the site this past year than ever before. Just exquisite.

Tree Sparrow

Tree Sparrow at Sun Rising

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