Wildflowers

If you are wondering what a wildflower meadow looks like – here is one we made earlier…

This is at Berrybanks, and Linda and myself spent a couple of hours puling up nettles. This area was dense scrubby habitat a few years ago and we cleared a lot of the scrub and put down a wildflower seed mix. It is now open and full of all sorts of wildflowers and grasses.

This has brought in loads of insects and birds.

DSC_0455The only butterflies seen was a couple of speckled woods. The rest of them were probably waiting for the sun to come up over the tree shade.

DSC_0426The wild strawberry is playing host to a good number of dragonflies. Plenty of blue ones and a black one. Too quick for my phone camera though.

The drain is working again but there is something blocking it. It seems to be something plastic but a poor choice of footwear stopped me getting down to have a better look.

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And lastly a little video clip to bring it all to life.

Already looking forward to next week.

Paul

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Our first bloody-nosed beetle sighting

The bloody-nosed beetle is a bit of a rarity in Warwickshire. Luckily we have a thriving colony.

Sadie, Linda, Louise and myself put on our wildlife superhero outfits today and got down to the path with the intention of clearing all the nettle growth from under the benches.

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I discovered a “zoom” function on my phone’s camera but what I didn’t realise was the focus went completely out of the window. I will be replacing these photos ASAP…

DSC_0414We also topped up the bird seed and fat ball feeders. The bird-feeders were incredibly busy with mature and newly fledged blue tits and great tits on them constantly.

DSC_0402A cheeky grey squirrel tried its hardest to get to the food, but didn’t quite have the nerve to try and jump from the tree. It was a close call though and just reinforces our need to have a ten foot air-space around the feeders. However, anything more than this leaves the feeding birds at risk of attack from sparrow hawks.

Great work today from everyone and good to keep the balance of a working path and public amenity open, whilst working with and encouraging the flora and fauna.

From July we have the opportunity to flip our weekday workdays back to a Monday. It makes no difference to me, but I know that a Wednesday does clash with other people’s commitments.

Paul

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Nicely dodged the thunderstorms

Our workday was nicely wedged between two thunderstorms, and you could feel the heavy air as we worked, boy was it humid.

Four wildlife warriors made it today. Mick W, Arron, Mick D and myself.

Our first job was to clear the overgrown steps down to the reservoir. This was just cutting back nettles and cleavers. We threw the cuttings back into the scrub so any insect larvae or eggs will survive. A couple of the steps need a small repair, but it is all functional again.

DSC_0367The steps lead down to the network of paths around Cawston wood and a stream that allows us to water our wildflower bed.

DSC_0358 DSC_0361There are 30 different wildflowers starting to come up and I am looking forward to seeing them flower and then seed. We will need to give the area a very heavy rake in the summer to create bare ground, so the seeds can find the soil and germinate.

Bizarrely, if you go down the steps there is a nature-made buttercup meadow.

DSC_0370 If we could just transfer this up onto the greenway… haha!!!

We do have a number of wildflowers with the dominant ones being bird’s-eye speedwell and buttercup so we can encourage these as much as possible.

We just need to create the correct conditions for this to spread, which means getting rid of the scrub, nettle and other invasive weeds. We also need to introduce yellow rattle to slow the vigorous growth of the grass.

We spent the rest of the day just cutting back any bramble that looked like it was about to make a run for it across the path, and trying to untangle any that was growing amongst the wildflowers.

Loads of walkers and cyclists coming past today. It’s great to see the path getting so much use.

I have done as much research as is humanly possible to get us a mini wildflower meadow established. I have run the plans past people with excellent wildlife knowledge and they think it is workable, but I am winging it a bit, so if anyone can offer any insight, please be my guest. Remember though, we cannot use any vehicles and we absolutely will not use any form of weed-killer.

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/paul-hayden-hart to contribute to our seed fund.

And lastly, here is the guide from our seed supplier.

Paul

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Workday and a bit of a plan.

We had a training session last Saturday with Sustrans. I updated the facebook page and will just pull that update onto here because it forms the main thrust of our winter work schedule.

“Sow new seeds on the banks where nettles are, after clearing the nettles and dead vegetation underneath.

Don’t leave grass cuttings on the path – collect as we mow or rake afterwards.

Every wildflower is important. Be aware of what is already there.

Aim to clear as much scrub as possible (in the winter) to allow grass and wildflowers to grow (Sustrans want 100% more scrub cleared and open ground according to David from Sustrans).

We can work down to the A45.

Don’t mow until everything has flowered – difficult because we want to maintain a path as well as a wildflower haven. This is why we are getting the width so wildflowers can grow between the mown path and the shrubbery on the edges.

Rake the thatch off the grass but we don’t really need to do much else to get new seeds to set.

Work out what needs doing in the winter, whilst everything is in bloom in the summer.

We have a lot of Bloody Nosed Beatles so make something of this asset.

Get some signs made explaining what we are doing and who we are, as a group”.

So today’s workday was done with the above in mind.

First we watered our wildflower bed. This is supposed to be a hub that will flower and then seed the local area. With the scrub clearance that is planned for the winter, this will not be enough.

We then just found bare earth patches and sowed a little bit of seed and raked it over.

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This will be the last bit of sowing seed for this side of summer. The rest of our time will be just cutting back anything that is growing across the path, monitoring and recording flora and fauna, and litter.

With the scrub clearance plan for the winter, we obviously need something to grow in place of the removed scrub. If we leave it we will probably just get nettles. What I want is a wildflower meadow, so I have set up a plan to seed the areas that we clear, with a limestone liking wildflower and grass mix.

I have set up a crowdfund to get the funds together to pay for the seeds.

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/paul-hayden-hart

Thanks all who have already contributed.

This is the area that we want to change from scrub to wildflower meadow.

This is probably our most ambitious winter works schedule so far, We did have this area totally cleared a few years ago so the scrub is all pretty new. But to get a load of wildflowers and decent grasses growing will be fantastic for wildlife and biodiversity, and for the mental health of us humans. We all need a beautiful place to sit at, and a picnic table is a bit of a bonus and will help us reconnect with nature, make some like-minded friends and just be at one with oneself.

Paul

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Wildflower Meadow

Great day to be outside and a nice and relaxed workday. Marcus, Mick, Aaron and myself were certainly enjoying the sunshine.

It was important to get our wildflower beds watered and keep the bird-feeders topped up. Plenty to do. Aaron and Marcus did a great job of clipping back anything that was encroaching onto the path or around the benches.

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We sourced the water from the stream that runs under the greenway and meanders towards Cawston Reservoir, which you can just see in the distance in the photo below.

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In the autumn we are going to take back the bramble right to the edge of the path, both before and after the bridge. As our wildflowers flower and then go to seed, we are going rake the grass really hard to remove the thatch, and also get a golf club and create a load of divots. This is to give the seeds every change of getting down into the soil and germinating next year. The area is perfect for wildflowers because it is flat, on top of the embankment and in full sun.

Here is a little clip of our wildflower seedlings. I have three youtube subscribers already and am quite looking forwards to my BAFTA nomination next year.

We have a long long way to go, but if we do all the right things, this bed of wildflowers will spread and add to the already varied wildflower habitat that already exists.

The butterflies and bees will love this area and it will be fantastic to sit at one of the benches and just enjoy the scents and colours.

Butterflies seen today and recorded on iRecord: Brimstone, Speckled Wood, Peacock, Orange-tip, Small White, Large White and maybe a Green-veined White.

Thanks all,

Paul

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Wildflower Seeds

Today didn’t really go to plan. After watching scores of youtube clips on how to sow our seeds, I really thought it would be easy. They sure make it look easy. But no, it was pouring with rain and had been since last night, we only had one spade, we were up against it time-wise both on the day and getting the seeds into the ground in time for them to germinate for this summer. But Aaron and myself did what we could.

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DSC_0198We found a pretty sheltered area and started to scrape the top off the ground. Eventually we had a three meter by one meter area of bare earth.

DSC_0215We mixed all of our seeds together and then mixed them with a peat-free compost for easy distribution.

DSC_0216We will just need to repeat the above a few times and then see what grows in the summer. As the wildflowers flower and then go to seed, we will need to scrape back more of the grass so the seeds can get into the soil and spread next year. We can introduce yellow rattle in the autumn. This is a lovely wildflower that is great for bees and is also semi-parasitic to grass so should keep it in check and help us get a good balance of grass and flowers.

What we are trying to do is create a wildflower meadow with the path running through the middle and the bramble becoming hedging and shelter on the edges, so we will push back the bramble a bit more in the autumn and let the grass and flowers slowly get established.

The picture in my head is a million miles away from the pictures above. It is all about helping the seeds to get into the ground and germinate this year and next.

These are the seeds, kindly given to us by Sustrans Greener Greenways.

DSC_0196I added some field poppies, really just to commemorate the 1918 one hundred year anniversary. The seeds in the other packs are, bird’s foot trefoil, common knapweed, corncockle, crested dog’s-tail, hedge bedstraw, lady’s bedstraw, oxeye daisy, quaking grass, selfheal, yarrow, betony, corn chamomile, corn marigold, cowslip, foxglove, red campion, white clover, wild carrot, musk mallow, salad barnet, wild basil, wild marjoram, bladder campion, great mullein, campion, garlic mustard, nettle-leaved bellflower, St John’s wort, ragged robin and upright hedge-parsley.

Bit of a tough one today and really winging it. Hopefully we are on the right lines.

Paul

 

 

 

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Our wild strawberry has got, err, a bit wild..

Great day today with Marcus, Linda, Mick and myself. We raked off the banks at Berrybanks and created habitat piles for all sorts of insects and small mammals.

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It’s all about building nooks and crannies for insects to burrow in to and create a home.

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The wild strawberry has totally owned this bank and will be so good for butterflies and bees. Not bad seeing as we only planted it two years ago.

Wildflower finds:

Fungi finds:

All in all, a pretty good day.

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Next one is Wednesday 2nd May at Potsford Dam. We are sowing 22 square meters of wildflower seeds to create a haven for butterflies and bees. Bring a spade to scrape off the top and a rake to till the ground.

Great day today. Friendships being forged and a community space being made.

Paul

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