Rich Building the Hibernaculum


What a wonderful word: hibernaculum.  A hibernaculum is basically a winter residence, or somewhere where a creature can find shelter to hibernate, and at Sun Rising the creatures we are looking to help in this respect are the newts …

Which is why our new hibernaculum has been built by the pond.  Rich, Tim and David put it together using old bricks, essentially heaped in a pile, leaving nooks and crannies big enough for the little creatures to creep in and feel safe enough to snooze all winter.  The heap is covered in turf, to keep it warm and further protected.

Here’s the pile of bricks …

Rich Building the Hibernaculum

Rich Building the Hibernaculum

and the completed residence …

Tim with the Completed Hibernaculum

Tim with the Completed Hibernaculum

Although you are welcome to find it, please don’t investigate too closely.  When the little creatures have found their way in, they certainly don’t want to be disturbed.

The Wildlife Pond - before work began

Pond Work

What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon in late November than up to your waist in muddy water?  Volunteers Tim and Richard, alongside Sun Rising manager David, were working on the wildlife pond last Sunday, in gloves and waders, and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying it.  Here’s the pond before the work began,  and then with Rich and Tim in the cold muddy water.

The Wildlife Pond - before work began

The Wildlife Pond – before work began

Rich and Tim Clearing the Wildlife Pond

Rich and Tim – clearing the pond

If a wildlife pond were left to its own cycles, it wouldn’t take long before the vegetation would take over, leaving no open water at all.  In nature, such ponds come and go, but at the nature reserve we want to maintain the pond and its habitat.  In order to do so, it is necessary to clear some of the bulrushes, bur-reed and broad-leaved pondweed each year.  This is done in late autumn, when the water is cold and many creatures have started their hibernation.

The harvested vegetation is left on the pond bank for a week or so, allowing any little pond creatures that were inadvertently removed at the same time to slide and wriggle their way back into the water.  These include newts, dragonfly larva, tiny shrimps and water beetles.  The vegetation will then be taken to the compost heap.  Here’s a photo of the pond cleared for the year.

The Wildlife Pond -  after the work was done

The Wildlife Pond – after the work was done

Thanks so much to Tim and Rich for their hard work!  Until next year …

December Moth, photographed at Sun Rising Natural Burial Ground and Nature Reserve, 14 November 2017

Winter Moths

What might be called a ‘weather window’ happened upon us earlier this week: the wind paused and the temperatures rose, offering a perfect opportunity for two events at Sun Rising.

The first was a last minute moth survey, and being later in the year than we’ve managed before, it was an exciting chance for our friendly mothers (moth-ers) to find moths not recorded at Sun Rising before.

In the event 19 species were recorded, most of these being new for the site.  They included the December Moth – isn’t it a beautiful creature, with its black fur and golden markings?

December Moth, photographed at Sun Rising Natural Burial Ground and Nature Reserve, 14 November 2017

December Moth, photographed at Sun Rising Natural Burial Ground and Nature Reserve, 14 November 2017

A late common darter dragonfly was also found, roosting near the pond.

The other event was that we were able to complete the sowing of Michael’s Meadow, the new area of wildflower meadow between the roundhouse and the pond.  It’s up to nature now …

Planting up the Butterfly Bank

The Butterfly Bank

On Sunday, 5 November, a sturdy dozen volunteers helped us weed and plant up the butterfly bank.  It was a beautiful day, with periods of golden sunshine but a chilly sharp wind, and a huge amount was achieved.  Thank you so much to all our volunteers, those with muscles, those with gardening skill, those with resilience and those with cake!

It’s a challenging project: the bank is windswept and can be dry, and over the few years of its development we’ve tried a number of approaches.  Our aim is to populate it with plants useful to a few key butterflies, especially the small blue which is struggling to survive.  It was just the western third of the bank that was our focus on Sunday.  Clearing the grass, thistles, and a few dandelions, we planted out dozens of little pots of kidney vetch, birdsfoot trefoil, rock rose and cinquefoils, most of them grown from seed.  We then laid out some stones along the bank (although many more are needed) – specifically for the butterflies to bask in the sun and show off their incredible beauty.

Planting up the Butterfly Bank

Planting up the Butterfly Bank

Thanks to the volunteers who also helped plant more daffodils, prepare the hedge bank for seeding, and build and burn the brush in a beautiful bonfire.

Michael's Meadow Ploughed and Harrowed

Creating Wildflower Meadow

Here at Sun Rising the development of a new area of wildflower meadow is now underway.  This new area will add another acre and a half of wildflower meadow to the nature reserve, making an enormous contribution towards the ecological importance of the site.

At the moment, the area has been ploughed and harrowed, and we’re waiting for some perfect damp still days in which to sow the seed.  That’s a long and painstaking job to be done by hand.  Then all we can do is wait …

Michael's Meadow Ploughed and Harrowed

Michael’s Meadow Ploughed and Harrowed

We’re using a special seed mix, customised specifically for Sun Rising, which means this area will have a slightly different feel from the wildflower areas that area already established.  However, it could take a few years to get there: the seeds that will germinate first will be the arable weeds that have been sitting quietly in the soil waiting for a chance to come through, the charlock, fool’s parsley, fat hen, thistles, willowherb and the like.  Once it settles down, though, this view from the pond, looking up towards Sun Rising Hill, will be absolutely glorious!

SVWAG Talk Poster

Wildlife Hospital Talk

This is a post to support a trio of local charities: Stour Valley Wildlife Action Group, who are hosting a talk about the Vale Wildlife Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre, in aid of Shipston Home Nursing.  Here’s the information …

SVWAG Talk Poster

SVWAG Talk Poster

Do head along if you can.  Not only will it be interesting, but all in a good cause.

The 50+ Festival

On Saturday this week, 30 September, we are at the 50+Festival in Stratford upon Avon: An A-Z Guide to the Second Half of Life.

Organised by Engage, this is an ‘Information Day at Stratford-upon-Avon’s first Festival for those from 50 to 100+. There’s a lot going on in our town and surrounding area for people from 50 to 100+ but it’s not always easy to discover who’s doing what and where. If you’d like to expand your horizons, learn a new skill or hobby, volunteer or simply acquaint yourself with what’s going on that might be of interest, this is the Fair for you! 60 or so exhibitors, workshops and talks and a great café too. Easy, free parking and disabled access. Come along with family and friends – or make new ones over a cuppa – and add oomph, gaiety and a sense of purpose to your life. No need to book – just turn up on the day.’

The event is in the Levi Fox Hall at King Edward VI School, Chapel Lane, Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 6HB.

Do come along and have a look at what’s on offer.  Come and find us, and say hello.  We’d love to see you there.

It begins a week of activities and opportunities.  Check the website at

Autumn and Winter Events

A  note to let you know that our autumn and winter events have now been posted on the website – and on the noticeboard in the main car park.  They are also listed in our twice yearly newsletter which will be coming out over the next week or so. Let us know if you have any queries!

Tyr's Stone, looking South, at Sun Rising Natural Burial Ground and Nature Reserve


There is something extraordinary about large stones.  In millennia past there would have been vast stones scattered across the landscape, strewn by the surging forces of water and ice which have long since receded.  Over time, however, these stones would have been broken up and moved by those clearing the fields for farming, and claiming the stone for building.  Seeing a huge stone now is a magical experience – and such experiences provoke us to pause, to wonder, to feel the power of nature.  They slow us down in a delightful way.

At Sun Rising we have today set two such stones in place.  The larger is around 5′ tall, the round one behind it slightly smaller but still over a tonne in weight.  They stand directly on the sight line from the main car park, along the track, through the roundhouse and beyond.  The last section of that, over grass, is a path we’ll be mowing, encouraging visitors to wander up to the stones and pause.

Tyr's Stone, looking South, at Sun Rising Natural Burial Ground and Nature Reserve

Tyr’s Stone, looking South, at Sun Rising

The local quarries from which this honey-coloured Hornton stone has been dug for some centuries once employed a third of the area’s working men.  Living on starvation wages, labouring in harsh conditions year-round, this stone not only draws our minds to the beauty of nature but it also acknowledges all those men, sons, husbands, brothers, whose hard lives were so grounded in this landscape.  I hope the peace found at Sun Rising in some way touches their memory.