Hosted a friend for lunch this week and afterwards took a stroll over our field. Our guest is a retired forester turned ecologist so it was a privilege and delight to have him help us understand more about the flora and fauna we have and how best to preserve and encourage it. The top half of our field consists of crags, with rushes and rough grazing for sheep. Mini cliff faces are lichen covered and sprout Rowan in places while smaller horizontal cracks in the rock nourish ferns. Things get really interesting in the lower end where a thin Spring seeping into shallow stone troughs betray iron sediment at its lip. A diving beetle in the water, while a massive frog leaps away into the dense waving mass of what my companion identifies as less pond sedge. His attention is caught by the glossy leaves of a willow that straddles the pole and barb fence between our property and North Farm’s. It is a bay willow, one of a number in our damp hollow, along with alder and sallow. North Farm have had a pond excavated, using water from the burn that runs out of the forest here, carving its winding course through their hough. The shooting of duck, along with pheasants bred in the neighbouring woodland, provides extra farm income. The environment here is rich with insect life. Day flying moths and ringlet butterflies much in evidence, dancing before our eyes over the dense mass of tall bog plants. There are also attractive looking mini cicadas – green leafhoppers – amongst other unidentified small insects. The dozen or so of Southridge’s newly sheared hoggs currently grazing the field have found their way down here for water and foraging, but not to the extent that they unduly inhibit or damage the structure. Returning uphill we walk by the thin lateral strip of ungrazed grassland between wall and fence and find various meadow flowers – foxglove, yarrow, tormentil, vetch, sorrel, birdsfoot trefoil etc – thriving amongst the grasses in this protected zone. Back below the crags, looking for potential rabbit incursion, we stumble upon the remains of an underground wasp nest, grey papery wisps all that remains from a comprehensive wipe out by badgers. We speculate where their sett may be and wonder in turn if any hedgehogs in the area have been predated too. My friend is impressed with what he’s seen today and says he will come back in future and compile a proper report on our four acre field. That we really look forward to!

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