Winter 2009

As I write this the snow has almost gone. It must have looked lovely at its best in the sunshine a couple of weeks ago, but I was unable to get there due to the ungritted and treacherous access road. Unfortunately that meant an opportunity lost to catch a good photo for Christmas cards!

We have spent a lot of time this winter trekking up and down each row, looking at each tree and shrub, assessing its needs and doing the necessary. Many thanks to Evelyn for the hours she has given to help. Still some way to go, but spring will be here soon and the sap rising. Mostly the shrubs wanted to be relieved of their constraining rabbit guard and sometimes the stems had grown around the bamboo cane. All we could do in those situations was to relieve the plant as best as we could. A great number of trees now are pruned to their final shape because they have grown so tall and strong. The bamboo canes in that situation were fulfilling no purpose and often the rabbit guard was stretched beyond any usefulness.

On the other hand some of the trees and shrubs, even in the first field planted, have hardly grown above their guards. However, they are still alive so there is still hope. If they don’t buck up they’ll soon be shaded out by the other trees.

While we were working it was a grand opportunity to observe wildlife. On the really cold and bitter days there was little activity when every living thing hid away somewhere. By contrast there was a wall of birdsong and calls and I could identify skylark, robin, blackbird, chaffinch, green woodpecker, buzzard, pheasant and tree sparrow. A goldcrest took us by surprise as we had a coffee break: what a treat for us. We regularly disturbed snipe on Square Pond. A heron flew down onto the open ground and inspected the scrapes for morsels to eat. It must have been a hungry time for all the birds, marked by the daytime forays of the barn owl.

There were definitely deer around. Sad to see the damage they’ve done in places, but no plant has yet been killed by them. I reported before that there were 3 deer (probably red deer) and we recently identified two does and a buck with small antlers. What joy when Toby the dog found and retrieved an antler this winter. It is 22cm long and is rough at the base. According to my book that makes it a roe deer’s and the timing of the cast is appropriate. But roe deer are far smaller than the three we saw running silently away. Maybe we have deer visitors of more than one species?