New Interpretation Board at Sun Rising, 2019

New Interpretation Board

In the process of creating a nature reserve and natural burial ground, over a number of acres and a number of years, it is inevitable that ideas will change. The first design map, imagining what the site would look like, was drawn up in 2005: it was a beautiful possible landscape, with curves and loops, copses and parkland trees.  Yet, immediately we started to work on the land, the land began to teach us.  It didn’t take long before we were simplifying our ideas, learning every step of the way.

Since the first version was put in place by the main car park, in 2006, the interpretation board has been updated and replaced once, in 2012.  However, over the past year or so, when showing visitors around the site, I’ve had to explain how its map was in fact sadly out of date. I was – I promised them – in the process of designing the new one. It is a relief to be able to announce that it is now in place.

New Interpretation Board at Sun Rising, 2019

New Interpretation Board at Sun Rising, 2019

The design, slightly altered, is just as simple, but the map shows more detail.  You can now see just where the areas of wildflower meadow are, and will be, as you can with the woodland, hedgerows and copses. You can also see where we will be leaving a wide grassy ride.  The cairn, Tyr’s stone, the butterfly stones and other features are identified.  Some of the established paths are on there, although others will be added.

You’ll notice that the north-eastern corner is not complete.  In years to come, what is now the top car park will become the main entrance, and we are still in the process of designing exactly how that will be.  When our ideas are clearer, we’ll be showing you the plans and asking for your feedback.  And when those plans start coming into being, of course, it’ll be time for a new interpretation board!

Until then, I look at the photograph above.  The wildflower meadow is mown, but for small pockets for little creatures to hide in.  The trees are a dark dull green, some leaves starting to turn and fall.  The sky is pale.  It’s a dreary autumn day in the heart of England, damp and chilly.  But even on such a day, the map shows hope and promise: of wildflower meadows in full bloom, butterflies, bees, and the skylark in full song.  It won’t be long – winter is before us, but summer will return …

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Main Car Park Resurfaced with Gold Gravel

Introducing the Crunch

When we first created the main car park and laid the stone tracks at Sun Rising, the question of what material to use was a key issue.  We decided to go with the most local stone: Hornton ironstone, from the quarries just up the hill.  This would bring to the natural burial ground the rich red-gold of our Cotswold stone, minimise any necessary miles of haulage, and keep business local.  It was a little chunky for a while, but with vehicles driving over it, with frost and sun, the stone gently broke down, creating a perfect surface.  Most of the tracks through the site have also reached – or are on the way to reaching – that state too.

The main car park, however, gets too much use.  Instead of remaining perfect, the ironstone started to break down to the point where, in wet weather, it was getting muddy with puddles.  In icy weather, it could be slippery.  A further coating of small stone was a short-term fix, these breaking down into dust all too quickly.  Last winter, although the land desperately needed rain, the dry weather helped us get through without too many problems.  A solution needed to be found.

Main Car Park Resurfaced with Gold Gravel

Main Car Park Resurfaced with Gold Gravel

Over the past few days we have resurfaced with a ‘gold’ gravel, again from a local quarry.  Our hope is that this will remedy the situation with regard to those cold and wet weather problems of mud, puddles and ice.  We hope you like the look of it too: it is lighter than the ironstone, but not too bright, and over time the ironstone dust should darken it further.

We are aware, however, that there are a few setbacks to gravel.  Although it is not thick, it can be harder to walk on for those with limited mobility and tricky for wheelchairs: please let us know if you need help.  Heavy vehicles can leave ridges, but we’ll keep an eye on this and rake when and where we need to do so.  Finally, and what we were hoping to avoid, there is a crunch.  Cars and feet are no longer quiet as they were on ironstone.

However, that crunch does create a marked difference: when you walk through the gate into the burial ground, you walk from gravel to ironstone.  As such, you go from noise to a quiet underfoot. It’s a quiet that somehow amplifies the peace of the nature reserve.  In that respect, it’s rather wonderful.

If you have any queries, or concerns, do let us know.

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Andrena haemorrhoa

The Coming and Going of Bees

Many visitors will have noticed that our honeybee hives are no longer at Sun Rising.  It was a difficult decision but a mixture of weather and the abundance of oilseed rape crops locally was making the normally happy bees rather tetchy.  Then a handful of people were stung, so we have had them taken offsite.  There is always a balancing with bee hives in places where there is public access, and the balance just slightly tipped.

Although we’re sorry to have no honeybees, we do have a huge variety of wild bees, all busy getting on with the job of pollenating the flowers and topping up on energy for their own benefits.  There are bumblebees, mining bees, carder bees and many more.  This one is an orange-tailed early mining bee, Andrena Haemorrhoa, covered in dandelion pollen.  They are only seen through spring and early summer, being the first of the mining bees to emerge from its underground nest. 

Andrena haemorrhoa

Orange-tailed Mining Bee on a Dandelion

We’re talking with our beekeeper to look at options with the honeybees.  It’ll be lovely to have them back.  When the oilseed rape has gone, and they’re feeding on the wildflowers, it is possible we’ll have a few hives return.  We’ll let you know.  

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Snowdrops in February Sunshine at Sun Rising Natural Burial Ground and Nature Reserve

Our New Website

On 21 February we were proud to publish our new Sun Rising website.  The old site had been designed back in 2006, and although we had regular positive comments about it, the reality was that it was starting to look and feel out of date.  Instead of trying to get a new feel ourselves, we engaged an excellent young web designer called Niki Peach (well, younger than we are!), who listened to our brief and came up with a design that beautifully presents all we do here at Sun Rising.  She made it wonderfully easy for us to share so many more of out photos too.  Thank you, Niki!

Snowdrops in February Sunshine at Sun Rising Natural Burial Ground and Nature Reserve

Snowdrops in February Sunshine

Do have a good look around the site, explore the gallery, and other pages.  If there are hiccoughs, please forgive us – there are a few snitches and glitches that are still being smoothed out.

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Wreaths Dismantled and Sorted, 6 January 2019

New Year Tidy

Laying a wreath on the grave of a loved one at Christmas is a tradition that many families want to share.  It’s a heart-felt gift, a sharing of the festive season, with that special person who won’t physically be present.  It’s one of the little things can help with the experience of loss, easing the pain of this difficult time of year. At Sun Rising we have done what we can to encourage families to lay wreaths that are in keeping with the nature reserve: no glitter and oasis, painted leaves, wires and plastics!  This year florists Jacqui (Hope and Glory Flowers) and Jayne (Vale Garden Flowers) offered beautiful, simple, natural, ethical and wholly biodegradable wreaths for sale, with a proportion of the takings going to The Friends of Sun Rising.

Wreaths Dismantled and Sorted, 6 January 2019

Wreaths Dismantled and Sorted, 6 January 2019

When 6 January arrives each year, it is time to clear them all away.  In the past, this has been a long, cold, disheartening job, with far too much rubbish that we’ve had to send to landfill.  This year, with some welcome helpers (see Jacqui with me in the picture above), we cleared and dismantled over 80 wreaths.  You can see all those frames on the right, made of straw, wood and moss (no wires) which can be re-used.  The bag at the back is all the evergreen and woody material that will go into a brushpile: a habitat onsite that will be used by small mammals and invertebrates.  Some of it will then be burned next autumn.  On the left, the bag is compost: flowers and soft greenery that can go on our compost heap.  The bag at the front is rubbish that has to go to landfill: wreaths constructed of wire, oasis, painted cones, plastic berries and so on.  Let’s see if next year we can reduce it even further! Next job: looking out for the first snowdrops.  There are primroses in flower, peaking out through the tatty winter grass.  It won’t be long.

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

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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The Completed Roundhouse Roof

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 Before Tiling

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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Growing Beds at Hope and Glory Flowers

Flower Miles

For some years the media have been talking about ‘food miles’, encouraging us to buy food that has been locally grown, locally produced, locally made.  It’s a good way of reducing carbon emissions and other ways that we consume and pollute our beautiful planet.   Eating locally and seasonally available food means no hothouses too.  It’s time to think the same way about flowers …

Jacqui Franklin, an artisan florist with 20 years experience, has started growing her own flowers just up the hill from Sun Rising.  As well as supplying florists further afield, Jacqui’s flowers are available at Tysoe Post Office.  For families who would like to lay a few cut flowers on a new grave or by a memorial plaque here at Sun Rising, on those special occasions, this is wonderfully local …

Growing Beds at Hope and Glory Flowers

Growing Beds at Hope and Glory Flowers

Under the name Hope and Glory Flowers, Jacqui is working with husband Alan, whose landscaping business ProGardens has helped us out at Sun Rising with end-of-season mowing for the last few years. Jacqui can be reached on hopeandgloryflowerco@gmail.com.  Hope and Glory are part of Flowers from the Farm, a national movement supporting small British flower growers, reducing ‘flower miles’ and the carbon footprint of the cut flower industry.

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The Sun Rising Tea Towel (autumn/winter)

Cakes and Tea Towels

First of all, a big thank you to all who came along to our Cake Sale last weekend.  We raised £180 for The Friends of Sun Rising, and as importantly it was a lovely opportunity to people to meet and talk.  Thanks to all who donated cakes and helped out on the day.

The Sun Rising Tea Towel (autumn/winter)

The Sun Rising Tea Towel (autumn/winter)

As those who came along on Saturday will have found out, our new Sun Rising tea towel is now printed and available to buy.  The beautiful artwork is by Philip Bannister, and it’s all organic cotton.  They are £10 each, with all profit going to The Friends.  If you would like a tea towel or two sent by post, get in touch and I’ll let you know the postage and packing.  We are hoping Philip will do one for us with a spring/summer theme as well …

Tea towels will be on sale at our Open Day on Saturday 9 June, when there’ll be a string quartet playing in the roundhouse between 3 and 5 pm.  Do come along on the day – put it in the diary, and I’ll post more information about it in the coming week!

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