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Review of 2016 - 2017

Martin completed his chain saw course in late autumn 2016 and was keen to tidy up the great oak that had partially dropped its huge branches. He and Mark winched and sawed while the ground was dry enough. Martin spent winter and spring 2017 working on the old wall that travels right through the reserve but is very ruinous. Having laid the overlying hedge fully revealing the tumble down wall it was just crying out to be restored.

The cattle grazed all the fields through winter then 2017 began with a lovely spring with glorious weather in April and May, in fact, we had a draught! The hedgerows flowered well and there was a good set of hawthorn fruit. Likewise the orchard, which gave a good supply of apples and damsons for the first time in 2016, flowered well and was well pollinated in the good weather. The bees got off to a good start and the honeybees brought in plenty of stores which sustained them through the subsequent dismally wet summer.

The hay meadow was grazed through the autumn and winter of 2016 instead of taking a hay crop in the summer. The Shetland Cattle thrive on the herbs, particularly plantain which they make a bee line for and consume first. In late spring and summer 2017 the hay meadow stood out for miles around as a yellow block of flowers. Buttercup was a bit too dominant perhaps because of the struggle getting the 2015 hay crop dry with too much tractor compression of the ground. However there was also a vast amount of yellow rattle and red clover before vetches, hawkbit and knapweeds became dominant in late summer. The wonderful thing about managing land for flowers and bees is that the bees arrive in force if the forage is there; there were days when the whole meadow buzzed. As in the past we had a resident roe deer with twin fawns and best of all, for the first time a hare and leverets. With the current plan to graze the meadow rather than trying to take a hay crop the meadow remains as a standing crop until the cattle arrive in September providing good cover for wildlife and flowers late into the season for bees then hoverflies. The ponies spent part of the summer here grazing to encourage the finer grasses, sadly the constant rain and wet ground meant the land became poached so Yitka and Briar left us earlier than we had planned.

The courses were well subscribed; they provide most of our financial income for the reserve management. Payment for bee talks provide the remainder of our income and we received a donation from local artist Kate Bentley http://katebentley.co.uk/ which allowed us to buy additional electric fencing. Once again we hosted a scything course run by Steve Tomlin https://stevetomlincrafts.wordpress.com/learn-to-scythe/ meanwhile we scythed the coarse grass between the orchard trees and either mulched the trees or fed the cut grass to the ponies.