Raking the Meadow

Haking Rakers

A note of thanks to all our lovely volunteer rakers this year.  Following problems with the machinery, our raking days were a little scattered, but we did manage to catch a group of you in this lovely photograph.  Thank you!  There is still more mowing and raking to get done, so I’ll thank those who are yet to join us too!

Raking the Meadow

Volunteers Raking the Wildflower Meadow at Sun Rising August 2014

Although it sounds like the most perfectly natural state, in actual fact keeping a wildflower meadow as a wildflower meadow takes a good deal of management.  Left to its own natural processes, after the flowering, the plants would go to seed, then die back.  Falling so they lie on the earth, the vegetation would matt in the damp, rotting, like a compost heap, all the rich nutrients of their growth going back into the soil.

Wildflowers, though, need a soil with low fertility. If the soil became richer in the areas where we are growing wildflowers, instead of that beautiful display of betony, selfheal, knapweeds, mallow, trefoils, and so on, we’d begin to get the richer grasses once again colonising the land.  Furthermore, without mowing, we’d soon get blackthorn, hawthorn, maple and birch seedlings.  Within a few years it would look like scrub land, and within ten it would be on the way to woodland.

In order to maintain a nature reserve as a patchwork of diferent habitats, offering the richest potential biodiversity to the broadest array of wild flora and fauna, we must manage the land carefully.  We mow the long growth of summer in the wildflower meadows, raking off the arisings to compost them them elsewhere.  That compost can then be used to help plant trees in areas where the soil fertility can afford to be higher.

Carols at Sun Rising

Carols at Sun Rising

On Sunday 15 December we held a concert of carols and winter songs at Sun Rising, which turned out to be a wonderful event, despite a burst of rain in the middle!  The choir was organised by Felix Mindham (whose mother and brother are laid to rest at Sun Rising), and wonderfully led by Cathie Zara, with singers from two local choirs: Low Wimmin Singing and The Leamington Plotters.

Among the songs and carols were old favourites that everyone could sing along to, together with less familiar arrangements, and a few new songs, finishing up with The Twelve Days of Christmas.  Here’s the choir with their Twelve Days cards.

Carols at Sun Rising

Carols at Sun Rising

With 50 – 60 people coming on the day, the warmed mince pies and mulled wined disappeared quickly, as did the array of greenery for winter wreaths provided by local florist Amanda Luther.  As a fundraising event for The Friends, we’ve yet to declare an exact figure, but we believe we took around £60 after expenses.

Very many thanks to everyone who contributed to and supported the event, with energy and organisation, bringing voices and enthusiasm.  Let us know what you thought of it!

After the Haycut

Mowing the Meadow

There is something so paradoxical about this period of harvest.  At Sun Rising, to some, the wildflowers might now look tatty, going to seed, without the colours of early summer, but in other ways their heavy load of dark seed is so precious.  Long grasses may look messy in our gardens, but at the nature reserve the wild grasses, now dry and golden, picking up the slightest movement of the breeze, are a beautiful expression of the natural world.  As the combine harvesters rumble through the fields of wheat and barley, we too have been cutting, mowing the meadows and strimming down the year’s growth.  Some of the hay has been strewn over new graves, helping the gentle processes of spreading the seeds.  So, though we may feel a sorrow as the summer comes to its end, there is beauty too, in areas now cut short and tidy, in the first turning of the young saplings’ leaves, the guelder rose turning burgundy red, the bramble berries full of promise.

Mowing is always a wonderful time for the community of Sun Rising too, when volunteers come and help with the raking, many of whom have loved ones laid to rest beneath the grasses and knapweed, the teasels and clover.  This year we had a lovely crowd once again, not just bringing muscles and determination, but respect, love and care, not to forget the exquisite chocolate brownies.  Thank you to each and every one.

The photo here (with thanks to Eric Lown) is taken towards the end of the day when the main wildflower meadows are all done.

After the Haycut

After the Haycut

The last burial areas, the war memorial, the pond and around the hedges, will continue to be cut over the coming month.

Christmas Morning Mince Pies

Christmas Morning

Sun Rising is always a wonderful place to be on Christmas Day.  This year, with a break in the rain and the weather mild and still (we even had a rainbow), there was a steady stream of visitors, come to spend time with loved ones in the peace and beauty of the nature reserve.  I spend a few hours in the Roundhouse, with thermoses of hot tea and coffee, and mince pies warming on the brazier, for those who would like something.  Many of course return home or go on to family for the day, but some have a day alone.  Either way, it is good to share a little time at Sun Rising.

Christmas Morning Mince Pies

Christmas Morning Mince Pies

From all of us at Sun Rising, we wish you blessings for the new year.  May it be filled with a growing peace.

Newsletter and Activity Days

The Autumn/Winter 2012 Newsletter fro Sun Rising is now complete, the PDF posted on our webpage at :  https://sunrising.co.uk/visiting/newsletters.html.  All those who are on our email mailing list will receive a note letting them know it is up and ready to download and read.  Postal recipients should have their printed copies by the end of this week.

In line with the Newsletter, we have also updated our News and Activity Days pages.  Do have a look, come along to join us for an event, or let us know if there is anything we can help with.

 

Corncockle

Nature Watch

The Nature Watch on 11 August was a glorious day, with sunshine and soft breezes, and a steady flow of amateurs and enthusiasts visiting, helping to record everything that was seen on the day.  The butterflies are now around, having been noticeably absent for much of this cold wet summer, but many were recorded, including the Small Copper, Peacock, Small Heath, Meadow Brown, Ringlet and Common Blue.  The flower lists are growing, with a good deal more Betony evident in the wildflower meadow this year than in previous summers, and other new plants for the list, including Musk Mallow, Prickly Lettuce and Corncockle.

Corncockle

Corncockle

In a few weeks we’ll be scything down the meadow and preparing for the autumn.  At this time the wildflowers are all drying, going to seed, and although it can look untidy compared with a well kept garden, these are precious weeks in the cycle of the burial ground, when the wind spreads the wild seeds across bare earth.  I sit quietly and hope that next year this self-seeding will bring even more delight and healing to all who visit the site.

Creativity Day

Creativity

Thank you so much to all who attended our Creativity Day at the beginning of August : florists and families alike, bringing flowers and seedheads, willow, corn, beads and ribbons.  The most beautiful arrangements were made, some taken home and some left on the graves of loved ones at Sun Rising.  It was such a success, we are hoping to do it again next year!

Creativity Day

Creativity Day

 

Knapweed and Bedstraw

Nature Watch 11 August

Just before the wildflower meadow goes to seed, the soft purples of the knapweed are beautiful against the white bedstraw and yarrow.

Knapweed and Bedstraw

Knapweed and Bedstraw

There are butterflies all over the meadow now, and with some sun-blessed days ahead, we are hoping for a glorious Nature Watch this Saturday, 11 August.  We’ll be at the burial ground from 2 pm – 8 pm, and all are welcome to come – experts and amateurs, adults and children.

Paths through Woodland Burial Area

Open Weekend and Summer Days

Our Open Weekend was quite a mix in the end.  On Saturday, with cool breezes, bursts of rain and moments of soft sunshine, not many stopped by at the burial ground, but Sunday was a different story.  The sun gently shone and the air was completely calm, with wonderful patterns of clouds tumbling and drifting past overhead, and a steady flow of visitors arrived, walking the site and sitting in our marquee enjoying tea and cake.  Our violin recital, given by professional violinist Steve Bingham, was a real delight, music playing over the meadows as families listened, shared picnics, and enjoyed the calm of the afternoon. Thank you so much to all our volunteers and to Steve and his family!

Last summer the drought meant that we barely mowed at all throughout the entire season, but this year we are mowing regularly.  As a result, the paths look far more distinct through the areas of long grass – it all looks beautifully tidy, for a day or so after the mower has been around, but a few days later the grass and flowers are pushing through once more!

It isn’t only the grass that’s growing.  Our saplings have grown more this past month than in the last 18 months of drought.  How glorious to watch the little trees pushing out leaves and stretching into new wood growth.  The roses too are splendid in bloom, both around the Roundhouse and in the hedges and upon graves.  It is well worth taking a few hours to come and visit ..

Paths through Woodland Burial Area

Paths through Woodland Burial Area

Remembrance Sunday

Today was Remembrance Sunday.

I sit by the fire at home as I type, and think of the men I love – none of whom have been conscripted, none of whom have had to go to war and fight.  Although my father felt the worst of the blitz in London’s East End, his home razed by the bombing one night, he was a child.  There are very many families locally who were horribly affected by the destruction of Coventry in WW2, and so many youngsters moving through Kineton CAD and local regiments who have seen dreadful conflict, but in the rural tranquility of South Warwickshire it is easy to forget.

Today we stood at the war memorial in Tysoe for the laying of the poppy wreaths and prayers, and I gave thanks again for the relative peace of our lives.  How many generations over centuries have had the luxury of not losing fathers, husbands and sons in the chaos of war?  So few.  Unlike through so many centuries past, not every family is in that position today  – and it feels so important to acknowledge those families who are losing loved ones now.

In order not to clash with the village event, we laid our wreath at the war memorial at Sun Rising on Thursday, 11 November.  For five minutes or so at 11 am, four of us stood in silence and paid our respects.  It was a beautiful moment.  The stone cairn memorial felt raw in its newness compared with the lichen-covered stone of the old village memorials.  But in many ways that is a reflection of Sun Rising and nature’s strength : in early December we shall plant a few dozen trees in a horseshoe around the memorial, guelder rose, dog rose and silver birch.  And in the spring, when the earth at the cairn’s base greens with wild flowers and grasses, and the trees come into bud, my heart will lift again.

A friend was at the burial ground when I arrived after the village memorial service was done.  A helicopter pilot in the army, he had driven up to Sun Rising on his motorbike to sit with his thoughts and feelings in the quiet of the place, to remember, at 11 am.  Before he left, we hugged, and tears silently touched his cheeks, this strong man, this soldier.  And I felt such gratitude again.

We planted two new honeysuckle to climb the beams of the Roundhouse (Lonicera periclymenum) today, as across the other side of the burial ground a family interred the ashes of a loved one, a few others visiting graves to share thoughts and tears, and I crept into the car to warm my aching fingers.  Tears in my eyes, I tried and failed to count the birds on the big seed feeder near the car park.  Flying in and out so quickly, there must have been nearly 30, little coal tits and bluetits sneaking in, feathers puffed up in the cold air, sparrows with their elegant confidence, chaffinches hiding amidst the rose hips and sloes in the hedge, greenfinches bickering, even goldfinches, some looking for the last of the seeds in the teasel heads.  Life – so much life!

It seems appropriate for the first posting on our blog to be on Remembrance Sunday.  So much of what we do at Sun Rising is about just that : whether we are working on the development of the nature reserve, helping a family arrange a funeral or cope with bereavement, or just cleaning the notice boards, we are remembering, with love and with thanks, all those who have gone before us.  In Binyon’s words … At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.