old country lawn

Monday, 16 May 2016

Two new Wildlife Walks coming up soon:  the first comprised of the Malvern Wildlife group led by Peter Garner, at 2pm on Tuesday 24th May, here at Old Country Farm, WR13 5PS. We will likely wander through the orchards, just coming into blossom, and maybe hear Redstarts and even Lesser-Spots!  Peter will also be considering plants and insects along with the birds of this place, so there will be plenty to marvel at before we return to the farmhouse for refreshments (free, but donations to charity appreciated).

Next, a morning walk around the farm on Saturday, June 4th, at 10.45 am, with Ledbury Naturalists and Worcester Wildlife Trust.  By then, the meadow near the old sand pit should be nearly at its best, the only truly 'unimproved' flowering meadow on the farm.  On the way we may pass beside the large lake remaining from the gravel pits, and maybe glimpse woodpeckers on 'our' side on the dense wet woodland left over from the original sand pit.  I am hoping recent work done here cataloguing fungi in the orchard will be described too.

Please bring stout footwear or wellingtons for the walks, the ground is overgrown and uneven in places, with some steps. We do have parking areas but try to limit the number of cars if you can.

I look forward to seeing you all there!

Monday, 4 May 2015

Monday May 4th, 2015

News of Wildlife walks for this summer - on Saturday 27th June we are having another
 'Baps and Bats' evening, when David Lee will be leading us around the farm buildings and yards and helping us to identify flying bats with his machines.  I look forward to hearing the amazingly addictive up and down sound made by lesser Horse-shoe bats!  We'll meet an hour or so before that, probably around 9pm, for a barbequed snack cooked by Will, meat from Legges lovely shop of course.  Food and event free but donations to local nature charity welcomed.  Please bring a torch and warm clothing, also remember there may be gnats flying!

Before then there's another chance to meet Ben MacDonald (of the BBC One Programme)  who'll be leading a walk through the orchards looking at his ongoing nest-box project and we'll be hearing about his earnest and dogged pursuit of the Lesser-spotted Woodpecker! (and other rare beauties).  The walk will take place on Sunday June 7th, at 2.30pm.  Bring rugged footwear as the grass is uneven. there will be refreshments (free like the walk) after Ben's walk.

Work has been ongoing in the orchards this winter, with many days spent removing mistletoe from apple trees, some of which have been saved by this action.  There are many dead or dying apple trees, mostly relatively recent hybrids, which can't cope with the damp conditions, so we are beginning to replant with older varieties of pears. Unfortunately there are not enough working winters in the year!

Blossom is just coming up to full strength (cider apples are often late flowerers) but very few bees.  We now have much-sprayed new cider orchards belonging to a neighbour on one boundary.

Redstarts are now here, swallows and cuckoo too, a reed-warbler by the sewage ponds, and a duck who nested beneath a rosemary bush outside my kitchen has already hatched her 5 ducklings and taken them off to the pond.  Exciting spring days!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Going Batty in the Woodland!

Anyone walking in our woods last Saturday night might have thought that filming was going on, of a macabre outdoor operating theatre;  serious people with protective clothing and rubber gloves stood around, headlamps glowing, lighting up the tiny specimens which they passed between them, under the gaze of a group of awestruck bystanders.  The experts handled their fragile captives efficiently and kindly, measuring dimensions, recording sex and physical attributes, and attatching minute identification tags.  At first the only remarks to be heard were 'look at that nipple!' or 'this is a big one' and the shrill squeaks and, in one case, screams of the feistier specimens, snapping and showing their sharp teeth and idiosyncratic ears.  This dramatic scenario was explained clearly and entertainingly by David Lee, whose tremendous enthusiasm and knowledge of the subject kept his audience rapt and amused for a good couple of hours.  67 bats from our batboxes had been processed, comprising Bechsteins (with many breeding females),Pipistrelles, and, a first for us here, one large Noctule, who screeched and grumbled throughout, before shuffling grumpily back up his tree and then gracefully winging away.

A wonderful evening's walk and talk, evidence of the dedication of a very special group of people belonging to the Herefordshire Mammal Group.
Unfortunately heavy rain at 10pm meant that the Harp traps had to be taken down, so we don't know what else we might have discovered - but we plan to hold more such evening walks next year.

Monday, 4 August 2014

News about a new Walk to be held here at Old Country Farm, led by
Denise Foster
Bat Co-ordinator, Herefordshire Mammal Group

Old Country Wood is hosting a Bat Experience Evening being run by the Herefordshire Mammal Group (HMG) on Saturday 9th August (19.30 pm till late).  Old Country Wood has a long term bat box scheme of 100 boxes scattered around the wood.  These boxes are currently being used by one of the UK’s rarest bats, Bechstein’s Bats.  A box check during the day will hopefully seek out one or two individuals for us to see in the hand in the evening.   HMG will then be placing traps around the wood to catch other bat species, starting at sunset which is 20.45 hrs.  This bat research  is part of a Herefordshire Woodland Bat Project comparing deciduous woodlands with plantations to determine what species favour each type of woodland and to gauge the amount of bat activity within each wood.    All bats caught will be identified and various biometrics taken for the project.  This is a good opportunity to  experience bats close up which is out of range for most people.

This event is weather permitting.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Next wildlife walk on Saturday June 28th at 2.30pm is 'The breeding habits of Bird of Traditional Orchards'.

  This walk promises to be very interesting indeed and will be led by Ben MacDonald, who has been visiting these orchards for several years to observe and monitor our breeding birds.  Ben is a natural history film-maker, working currently for the BBC's Natural History Unit, having recently worked on Springwatch, The One Show, and various other programmes.  He is extremely excited about our spotted flycatcher population this year!  Please come along for this walk and talk and find out more about the teeming wildlife in our orchards!
Refreshments will be provided after the walk.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

A small but enthusiastic group showed up for Gerald's fascinating talk on the botany of marginal areas recently.  We were well supplied with a plant list of 90 different plants, and succeeded in spotting a good many of these, including 'Town Hall Clock', Pignut, Wood-dock, Goldilocks, Mouse-ear Chickweed and Marsh Orchid.  Gerald's erudite researches and humorous style kept us all enthralled so that two hours passed very quickly.  Many thanks also to the members of Ledbury Naturalists and documenters from Bringsty Common for their contributions.  It was quite magical after all the recent cold and rainy weather to dawdle home  through the beautiful 'back meadow', a patch of unspoilt grassland near the old sand-pit, a place thats full of wild-flowers thanks in part to the current management regime.  We all now await Gerald's new book with some impatience!

The next walk is on Thursday evening, 5th June, 6.45 (its going to be fine!) and will be looking at Moths and their habitat.  This is something not to be missed!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Farm Walks Programme for 2014

Gerald Dawe begins this season's walks programme with 'Botany on the edge', a look at edges, hedges and margins.  I look forward to another helping of Gerald's entertaining humour and knowledge.  The walk is to be held on Saturday 31st May at 2.30pm, with refreshments to follow .

Peter Garner and Tony Simpson will present 'Moths and other Insects and their associated plants' on Thursday June 5th at 6.45pm, a new topic for us when hopefully the evening will provide plenty of airborne examples to examine.

Ben MacDonald, our frequently visiting ornithologist, is to give a walk and talk on the weekend of June 28-29, in which I have no doubt he will speak about his work in our traditional orchards monitoring and observing woodpeckers and other birds, providing them with nest-boxes and subsequently filming them. Exact time of this event to be announced.

In early July we will be holding another 'Bat evening', when we will tour the farm buildings an neighbouring fields with our friendly experts and their machines which translate the bats' calls.
This is a popular event and I can testify that the amazing sound of the Lesser Horseshoe Bat in particular is quite addictive! Will's barbequed sausages are also rather nice!

On 9th August we shall be hosting a day organised by Dave Lee and Denise Foster explaining their work monitoring Bats, to which the public is invited.  This is a rare chance to see not only some interesting mammals and their habitat but to learn from some very dedicated and knowledgeable people. The details will be put up on the blog in due course.