Review of 2019 - 2020

2019 started and ended with the Shetland cattle coming to spend the winter with us. We have not brought machinery on to the land to take a hay crop for 4 years now; the cattle come at the end of summer with calves at heel and begin by grazing off the hay meadow. This gives them highly nutritious forage while they have calves to feed and tramples seed into the ground and we avoid compressing the soil with tractors. Once the calves have gone home the mums stay with us until the following spring grazing their way round the land. We benefit from working beside them and, on dark winter evenings after work, getting outside to check them and enjoy their company for a while. In recent years we have kept a couple of steers through the summer to do very targeted grazing for us and help us keep a patchy sward to support invertebrate populations.

We seem to spend every winter replacing fence posts nowadays, this year was no exception. The hedges we laid 10+ years ago are huge now with good crops of autumn fruit so we do a low level of cutting to keep them thick. We have our share of ash die back sadly and with climate change and stormy weather we always have tree work to do, clearing up fallen timber if it cannot be left where it fell to provide dead wood. The wood we planted in Clerk’s Paddock looks very mature now and is shading out and competing for nutrients with the nettles that grew so well where there had once been cattle feeders. The orchard also looks very mature now with good crops of damsons and apples, when not replacing fence posts we spend our time renewing and modifying fruit tree guards.

Barley Meadow has progressed greatly over the last few years, in 2007 we only had flower rich field margins but with 10 years of electric fencing up to the flower margin and grazing so that the seeds then fall and are trampled into the grazed field centre we are now half way down the field with good flowers, good butterflies and good numbers of bumblebees. Late summer and autumn 2020 we have worked hard to extend areas of red clover and hawkbit.

Bee courses were popular again in 2019 but from the end of March 2020 talks and courses were all cancelled because of Covid 19, this means we have lost almost all our income to fund the reserve this year. Julia has done fortnightly webinars for Cumbia Wildlife Trust’s ‘Get Cumbria Buzzing’ project so learning to deliver information via the internet has been useful. We do not charge wildlife organisations for teaching sessions. Zoom talk bookings for winter 2020/2021 are increasing now.

Most memorably spring 2020 was amazing, we were both homeworking and we kept ourselves sane by taking a picnic lunch into the fields most days, checking the animals and getting a brief chance to enjoy the fabulous weather. The ponies, Briar and Yitka came to provide tight and targeted grazing and we exercised them in the evenings after work. We had memorable numbers of butterflies with Julia’s carefully guarded field edge nettle patch hosting Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterfly eggs and caterpillars in their hundreds and with Pearl Bordered Fritillaries on the land for the first time.