Day was dry and fine. Ideal conditions for Stephen here with the harrow discs, breaking down the large ploughing for suitability to plant oats and sunflowers in a strip round the Kale. This will provide good autumn and winter food for birds.
Pond life in first pond now showing well
View of Natterjack scrapes with Crifell in the background. The electric fence now in position to stop depredation of the marshland cattle, due to be introduced in the next few days.
Nice illustration of the "home meadow" as we call it, and pond. The cattle are first placed in the home meadow to acclimatise them for release on to the marsh for the Summer. They have been undercover all winter and exposure on the marsh is quite difficult for them to face.
Here are some of the grazier's herd already showing curiosity about the marsh. In a few days time the gate will be opened and they will dash out excitedly. For the first couple of days they will range up and down the marsh exploring the whole area. They will eventually settle down and find shelter areas for windy days and the best grazing areas, having the full range of 2 miles of estuary saltings. Some will fatten up nicely into 'saltmarsh grazed beef' - yum yum! Apart from some income, the cattle are also a grazing management tool in preparation for next winter's geese.
‘A Spring in my Step’ – The raised bog walk to Rogersceugh, 11th April 2010
Another great day. Decided today was the day we would do the big walk from the hide on the lonning to Rogersceugh - photographing and noting all the salient features along the way; structures, walkways, engineering features such as dams, pools and sluices … all very easy to talk about but very hard work to create!
I have been along previously over the years but this was Judith’s first venture on to the trail and she was going to be involved in a great deal of photography. The following items are a very brief selection of the main points of interest: -
Starting at the very far end of the lonning from North Plain, with the hide of which we are all very proud. It sits comfortably overlooking presently flooded fields sporting a good variety of duck and wader – a specially commissioned structure and now frequented by rapidly increasing numbers of people. We unofficially call it the ‘club house’ - everybody from the enthusiastic first time family to the hardy expert birder draped with digiscopes and high-end binoculars – conversation by all means when it seems suitable, silence where indicated.
View of hide from wet meadows
We are then invited to follow the well marked path to the first bower – a seat within a splendidly woven willow structure …all very sustainable and eco-friendly, which overlooks one of the corner ponds.
Then on to the birch woodland passing a very important feature: the main sluice which controls the wetland water level – bearing in mind that the adjacent farmland must not be allowed to flood.
Sluice controlling water levels in wet meadows
Sluice outfall showing lowered level of water for adjacent farmland
Walking along the woodland track we arrive at the second bower with sylvan glade and pool where one might rest and contemplate the meaning of life while watching woodland fauna.
Onward, onward, out of the wood towards the raised bog with wonderful structures protecting the pathway from flooding, and dammed pools where one can only speculate what lies within their brown and peaty depths.
Now for the Big One, the newly constructed boardwalk across the raised bog, once dreaded by man and beast – unwalkable for at least half the year. Now can be safely traversed by all, admiring on the way pools, large ponds and wonderfully illustrated information boards, explaining succinctly all the features that one may chance upon. A triumph of sustainable bogland engineering, at huge effort and considerable expense – future generations please note!
This area was once ravaged by runnels and small peat workings but now safely dammed, waters contained within raised levels, vistas opened up – believe me, this was heavy engineering of ultra-difficult terrain. One can all the while take in the scenery - distant views of the faraway hills and estuaries through the warm haze that always seems to surround such lovely heath-type land. Lulled by the exotic aroma from nearby bog myrtle patches. Crush a few leaves in your hand and you could fall instantly asleep. The ‘old folk’ who used to know a thing or two, would make up myrtle pillows to aid deep sleep and good breathing. I digress!
Dammed pool Runnels and pool runoff
Old Peat workings Bogland vistas
Bogland carpet information board Bog Myrtle catkins
'Lily' Pool overlooked by seat Replica Seed Drill seat
Heading ever onwards to the drumlin in the middle of the common, on which is situated the old farm of Rogersceugh – it would be fair to assume that there would have been human habitation on this hill since before recorded history! It’s likely that the Emperor Hadrian would have had a trip or two up there himself, to get the lie of the land.
Reed Buntings seen flitting around the trees here
Fenced pathway all the way up the hill End of the path
On arrival at the farm there is an open barn information and all-weather picnic spot, where one can gaze across the whole of the Solway Plain. There is indeed a feel of Mount Olympus about the place – ‘Lord of all you survey’ type quotes come to mind, as you consume the contents of your lunch pack. It is in fact only 24 metres above sea level. With the thought that the return journey will be all downhill for tired tiny feet, back to the carpark at North Plain, only 3 Km away,
Road to Rogersceugh Farm Information board in barn
View from drumlin View from Rogersceugh towards the old shepherd's cottage
On return we guarantee you will feel you’ve had a good day in this unique landscape!
For an area like this it goes without saying that stout outdoor wear is a common-sense idea – no high heels please. There are no facilities for broken ankles here!
Day dawned a bit unpromising - high pressure gloom over us and a cold north easterly. It must be that erupting volcano in Iceland causing it all - it has covered my car in pumice powder already!
On arrival at the farm things started to look up though: half a dozen cars lined up in the carpark denotes likely activity with the Thursday work party. So we head on down to the wetlands and sure enough, encounter them busy planting phragmites along the pathway round the flooded meadow. We are reliably informed that a 40% success rate would be reasonable to expect. it's a cold job today with that wind cutting across the wetland but the thought of elevenes and lunch later in the hide keeps them going.
Marjorie Hutchins, leader of the West Coast RSPB group. The Campfield Volunteer Workparty is comprised mostly from this group.
Other members of the work party on the reed planting project.
Some of these volunteers have been coming here on work parties for the last fourteen years
Reeds that have been planted against the fence to act as a screen
Heading on towards the woodland we encounter Dave Blackledge (Warden) doing careful planting round the outfall and sluice valve area.
Then on into the wood, finding Stephen Paisley (Estate Worker) and two further volunteers, working on the ""Sylvan Glade Bower" weaving further willow fronds and honeysuckle into the structure. One feels that a quote from Wordsworth or Keats would be appropriate - but I don't have the learning, so I'll pass!
Neil Hutchins trying out the Bower seat for size - it seems to be holding under the weight - Dave appears a little anxious though!
We take our leave of the workparty and return, encountering a vehicle with survey-type logos written on it. Later finding out that it is to do with Natural England who are carrying out a massive terrain and hydrological survey of the whole area. Have noted their vehicle around the area for a while now.
Goodness me! Is there no end to today? Arriving back amongst the farm buildings we find a man up a ladder with electronic equipment. So with our newshound instincts thoroughly aroused and press pass at the ready, we approach same and elicit that he is a consultant doing a preliminary bat survey. Asking politely if he 'Batman' would mind us taking a photo of him. Seems an affable fellow and agrees to pose. Not wishing to impose too much on his valuable time though, we have a brief but illuminating conversation about bat identification - time is money!
We return home thoroughly exhausted by our morning's activity !!!
Beautiful sunshine this morning. We set out to see what was happening on the farm.
Found the first action by the Natterjack Pools on the marsh front. Stephen can be seen here with the tractor setting up poles and wire to protect the pools from the grazing cattle which are to arrive soon.
Stephen then informed us that if we hurried we would just be in time to see ploughing in the Kale field, in preparation for sowing this year's oats and sunflowers - last year being a great success, the Kale being left to go through it's full growing sequence and seed this coming year. The fields sown this last year had proved to be a life saver for many birds in the area.
On the way along we passed work that had taken place to make an embankment to a ditch as containment of winter water levels. It also serves as a good viewing point along the length of that ditch from the path.
Looking through the screen to the second pool new Spring growth of the yellow Flag Iris was showing well.
Walked on to the hide at the end of the lonning and were greeted with the sight of three Hares infront of us, cavorting and being generally playful as Hares are wont to do.
Plenty of butterflies out this morning and also bumble bees who appear to appreciate the willow catkins. On returning, the tractor had, by now, moved on to a further field of bird seed crop out towards the Moss - performing the same task there. As the weather is drying up conditions are right for good deep ploughing. The wardens have to be opportunist here as the Reserve land is generally wet.
The morning dawned perfect... wall to wall sunshine - no wind! We don't often get this sort of weather on the Solway. We decided to walk down the lonning to the the flooded meadows at the end, taking the digiscope, tripod and all with us - but got no further than the first pool on the right. We were immediately put to work by feeding Teal and Lapwings - all very tranquil and relatively near. Pairs of Teal were dabbling about in the flooded areas and the Lapwing were making use of the recently dredged up small islands. After having spent a most enjoyable hour watching and photographing, decided we had enough material and returned home for lunch.
The lonning itself produced two butterflies: a peacock and a small tortoiseshell - rather tattered specimens having just emerged from hibernation. Here's a note on bushcraft for those interested. If a butterfly, sitting in the sunshine, refuses to open it's wings - cast a shadow with your hand just slowly and gently to simulate a passing cloud. Wings should obligingly open!