Beginning of August 2003

Weeds, weeds, weeds and drought! What a nightmare! And yet the baby trees are still fighting to live. It is not reasonable to water the plants, although we have thought up tactics for a time of sheer desperation. However, despite the unwillingness of the Heavens to open upon Gimswood, there are only a handful of plants that have succumbed. They may live in dormancy until next spring, so should not yet be counted as dead. Some that apparently are dead at the top are sprouting out from the roots, so Nature is still trying its best. ture is still trying its best.

The mulching exercises have proven interesting. At the April report I was discounting wood chippings and praising mulch mats. In the longer run it turns out that it is better the other way around. Where wood chips surrounded the plants there definitely are fewer weeds. The mulch mats were being moved with monotonous frequency and we came to the conclusion that foxes were the likely culprit, looking for grubs. I have no intention of pegging mulch mats down, so they are now discounted as a sensible method.

Weed control has centred on mechanical methods: mowing with a tractor between the rows and strimming between the plants. It has been hard work, but as yet we have not had to resort to weedkiller……..

Mike from the RSPB has now made three surveys. I await his final report before I post a definitive species list. He was delighted to announce that the tree sparrows have fledglings, so the family has grown!

Another visitor has been David from the County Ecology Department. Almost as we entered the first field a brown hare leapt up and ran only a few feet away from us. David’s aim was to see the hay meadow wild flowers, but he also admired the ponds on the way round. When he examined the fish fry he doubted that they were fish, so I am now more hopeful.

A hay cut has been taken from the hay meadows and the sheep are now eating what is called the “aftermath”. The ancient crack willow that was damaged in winds last autumn has now been pollarded. It has a lot of dry rot in it, but the cambium growth is doing well. The tree will last a good many more years, and meanwhile will be providing a home to numerous tiny creatures, which in turn will feed the birds. A wonderful habitat just on its own!