Wight Conservation - Diary

MAY 2008
CONSERVATION, FARMING and COUNTRYSIDE DIARY

The great news to report is that Wight Conservation is one of the four national finalists in the Nature for Farming Award, which is a new conservation award.  The lead organiser is the RSPB, proactively backed by BBC Countryfile Magazine and supported by Butterfly Conservation and Plant Life.  It differs from all other conservation awards as it covers such a wide spectra of habitats and species.

The seven regions from England, Scotland and Wales had over 300 entries between them.  Regional finalists were selected from which a short list of four were selected for the final judges which will be you, the general public, between now and September.  It is a very exciting time.  We have to keep Wight Conservation to the forefront of the competition and this involves numerous press, interview and photograph opportunities.

Entry forms will be in the July issues of the RSPB magazine and BBC Countryfile Magazine but you are free to vote on line – www.rspb.org.uk/farmvote.

If you like and believe in what we are trying to achieve, your support is not only needed but will be much appreciated.  Please, therefore, vote now!

Spring is a most wonderful time of the year and really makes life worth living.  Churches celebrate Christ’s resurrection at Easter, now spring resurrects the countryside - new foliage, bright colours, wild flowers, bird song and new calves all combine to make it a joy to be alive.

The wild flowers have been magnificent, in particular the Cowslips as the photographs show.
Cowslips are special on Wight Conservation’s estate and we are learning how to create the best habitat for them. Cattle are removed from the cowslip fields early in February before the flowers emerge, thus saving them from being grazed.
The flowers shed their seeds in August and care is taken not to disturb the stems beforehand.
When hay-making the sensitive areas in August, we make it in rotational tranches leading away from the Cowslip areas and down from the prevailing wind.

Another success story this year is the successional area and scrub we are creating next to Chillingwood.

An oak sapling emerging
The land is difficult to farm, well away from the main estate and rents for grassland are now ridiculously low. We have, however, received an environmental grant to leave the fields ungrazed and allow the natural flora and scrub to regenerate. There will be only a minimum of interference to ensure that it does not get too much out of control. Chillingwood is rich in butterflies and the flora in these fields is a good feeding ground for them.
Of equal interest are the dozens of oak saplings where acorns have been planted in the field by Jays.

Calving unfortunately has been difficult.  Last summer our great stock bull, Ruairidh of Glengarnock, felt his age in the changeable weather and simply did not have the energy or the fitness to do his job.  First of all was the exceptional April and early May hot weather which left the cattle short of energy for breeding.  They lost their winter coats early and so were not prepared for the deluge of rain which followed almost consistently for about six weeks in June and July.  Rory became really disheartened and failed in his task.  The result is that his herd, which contains most of our female show animals, has largely missed calving this year.

On the bright side, however, is our show record.  At the Surrey County Show in Guildford our two year old bull, Iasgair 2nd of Mottistone, won the Breed Championship and our two year heifer, Tanya of Mottistone, followed up by winning the Breed Championship at the South of England Show.  They were preceded at Oban in February when Ruairidh 2nd of Mottistone, our two year old bull, also won the Championship.  I doubt we will ever repeat having three Breed Champions from the same crop of calves.  In addition, Ruairidh of Mottistone gained second place against stiff competition at the Drymen Show in Scotland.

The annual Isle of Wight Walking Festival takes place in the first two weeks of May, the peak being the Walk the Wight where thousands participate
in walking the Island from one end to the other, raising money for the Mountbatten Hospice at Newport.  There are dozens of supporting walks held during the fortnight and John Paton organises an annual outing from Wroxall Cross Farm.  This year’s theme was farming and conservation. To our surprise, despite the Walk the Wight on the same day, we had 20 participants and a really good walk ensued.
It was really gratifying that so many people showed such a keen interest in what we are trying to achieve.

We are now reeling from the results of the heavy rain we experienced late May, some five inches in just a few days.  With the following sunshine, the vegetation has shot up to such an extent that it is difficult to keep control of it either by grazing or management.  The plus point is that no farmers should be short of hay this winter.

Thistle control before and after weed wiping

Spring flowers in Wroxall Copse

A lovely veteran ash in need of crown reduction to prolong its life

We now look forward to the display of wild flora in late June and July, together with the wonderful array of butterflies.  To see the countryside so rich in natural beauty is a good reward for all our efforts.

Please don’t forget to vote for the farm in the Nature for Farming Award!  www.rspb.org.uk/farmvote

Previous Entries: September 2005;   October 2005;  November 2005;  December 2005;  January 2006;  February 2006;  March 2006;  April 2006;  May 2006;  June/July 2006;  August/September 2006;  End of Year 2006; April 2008

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