Leading the 2017 Winter Birds walk in Hillhouse Wood – and meeting a real life ‘Wood Monster’

Over the years this particular walk has been one of the more variable in terms of the numbers who turn up – spending a few hours watching birds in a biting wind on a cold winter’s day is not always the most inviting prospect.  So I was glad to see that the forecast for this year’s walk was for relatively balmy spring-like weather.  My optimistic view was reinforced by the amount of noisily busy bird behaviour we had observed on the previous day’s work party.

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Jan 2016 700

We have germination, but only for one of the four species

Richard had recommended that I hold a few seeds back, to use in germination trials.  This is arguably a posh way to describe sowing them in seed trays and seeing what happens.  Once sown, the trays were to be left outside (with covers) so that their situation broadly matched that of the seeds in the trial plots.  Continue reading

Stage 2 700

Putting in the plot marker pegs – a bit of a challenge, but we triumph in the end

I’m aware that I left you all in suspense at the end of the last post about the NRF meadow establishment trial, by mentioning that all did not go smoothly with the plot markers.  I had bought markers that had been recommended as the best by an experienced trial manager.  These are Feno Markers, supplied by M&P Survey Equipment Ltd, who had been kind enough to give us a ‘charity discount’ off the price, for which we are very grateful. Continue reading


Sowing the first seed for the Naturetale RF meadow trial – now we truly are up and running

We had intended to cultivate the appropriate plots and sow the seed in early November.  But Duncan felt that the soil at the trial site, which is very clayey, was too dry to form an acceptable tilth.  He was worried that it would remain in clods.  So we agreed to wait until some rain had fallen.  Luckily we did not have to wait for too long, and so we agreed to do it on 18 November. Continue reading

Measuring and mixing the seed for the meadow establishment trial

Potentially far more challenging than preparing the sand was splitting the four species of seed into the right amounts for each plot, and then mixing these with each other and the sand.  With 30,000 Meadow saxifrage seeds weighing a whopping 0.6 gram I was worried about a) how to measure this out appropriately, and b) avoiding a sneeze and losing the whole lot.  With our most sensitive scales weighing a minimum of 1 gram (but see later), this wouldn’t be done by weight.  It would have to be by sight.  At least the other three species would be straightforward, as each plot requires 1.5 grams, 3 grams and 5 grams respectively.

Or so I thought.  Continue reading

Marking out the Naturetale Restoration Foundation meadow trial plots – sort of

About ten days before we planned to cultivate the plots and sow the seed I met Duncan, our contractor, at the trial site to mark out the plots.  Armed with a measuring wheel, a very long tape measure, lots of stakes and a thumper, we planned our strategy.  Or, rather, Duncan did. Here he is, working out his cunning plan. Continue reading

Getting practical Part 3 – Preparing the plot marker pegs

Richard’s colleague had provided contact information of a stockist of the plot marker pegs, whose website had a lot of detail.  Their sales department was also helpful, so I was able to work out exactly what to buy.  They were a bit pricier than I had hoped, but the stockist (M & P Survey Equipment) kindly provided us with a charity discount, which helped.  Having looked in the box that arrived here, I’m hoping that Duncan and his men are good at puzzles, because it looks a bit like a Meccano set in there.  My job was to paint the numbers 1 through to 12 on the surface marker plates, so that in future years we know where each plot is.  I have used a Humbrol paint on the aluminium marker plates – at least I hope I’ve painted on the right bits. Continue reading

Getting practical part 2 – Measuring out the sand (is nothing simple?)

So now we knew how much sand we would need, and thus what size of containers we would need.  Duncan and I had decided that I would bring 12 ready mixed containers to the trial site on the day of the sowing, so these needed to be both water proof and secure.  I was hoping to use plastic food containers – but what size?  Continue reading

After the planning, it’s time to get practical. (Always a danger when I’m involved). Part 1, finding out how much sand we’ll need

When Duncan, our contractor, and I met to plan our charity’s wildflower meadow establishment trial we agreed that the next actions were down to me.  These were to prepare the seed sowing mixes, and to buy the plot marker pegs.

The sowing mixes will be comprised of just the right amount of each of the four species of seed, mixed into just the right amount of kiln dried sand.  Which, of course, begs a number of questions: Continue reading

This year’s Autumn Fruits walk beats the weather – but Abigail and James steal the show

On 16 October I ran the fourth (I think) Autumn Fruits nature walk around and through Hillhouse Wood, near West Bergholt.  The fact that I am able to make this statement is a slight surprise, because the previous evening’s weather forecast had heavy rain bang on the time of the walk, and light rain for an hour either side.  On which basis I had anticipated being on my own. Continue reading