Cowslips before the Roundhouse

Spring Yellows

At this time of year we are moving between washes of yellow at Sun Rising.  After the primroses and daffodils come the lesser celandine and cowslips.  The dandelions are about to come into flower, and as they go to seed a week or so later, the buttercups will flood the meadow.

Cowslips before the Roundhouse

Cowslips before the Roundhouse

With snow flurries, hail storms, frosty mornings, biting rain, all interspersed with brilliant sunshine, this April has been an amazing month – but we’re longing for summer’s warmth. If you visit Sun Rising at this time, do look out for wood anemones, bluebells, silver birch catkins, and the reddish new leaves of the guelder rose.

bereavement advice, natural burials

Spring Tasks

There are plenty of tasks in a nature reserve burial ground that need attention in the spring.  There is the compost heap to be turned, allowing last year’s floral tributes to compost in the warmth of the summer, and ensuring we have a lovely soil for tree planting in December – a few of you will have seen us, filthy in the midst of the job!

Another job is dealing with the algae in the pond.  While algae is a good food source for pond creatures, it can become invasive, and it looks rather ugly.  Last year, we had very little, but this winter has left us with a little too much, so we’re trying a new system with barley straw.  We’ve used straw before, but not in this way, so we’ll see how it does.  As the barley rots, it starts a microbial reaction releasing hydrogen peroxide, which inhibits the growth of the algae.  It does need some warmth, so won’t do much while the water is still cold, but as the spring sunshine warms, hopefully the pond will start to clear.

Barley Straw in the Pond

Barley Straw in the Pond

In a week or so we’ll be mowing paths and verges – not just so that visitors are able to walk through the reserve, but also to create that particular habitat that requires short grass.  The mowers work a little like controlled grazing animals!

Early Spring Bird Cherry

Spring Leaves

With the meadow now sprinkled with lemon-yellow cowslips, and clumps of daffodils, lesser celandine, and the first of the daffodils, it is lovely to see the first leaves coming out in the hedge and woodlands too.  Along the hedgerows at Sun Rising, the hawthorn is coming into leaf at the same time as the blackthorn’s snow-white flowers.  And in the woodland the first hazel leaf-buds are bursting open, but the bird cherries are just ahead, bringing that soft yet brilliant green into the midst of the otherwise grey-bare branches.

Early Spring Bird Cherry

Bird Cherry coming into Leaf

This bird cherry tree coming into leaf is some eight years old in the woodland burial area we call Liliana’s Wood.  Its colour is just beautiful against the leafless hedge behind.

Stones around a Wild Strawberry on the Butterfly Bank

Butterfly Bank

Our butterfly bank got off to a poor start last year, but this year we are hoping for better results.  Wildflower seed sown should be germinating within the next month, and we’ve been preparing, clearing grass and thistles to allow for some more bare ground, and most importantly, rescuing little plants that are present, that will be most valuable to butterflies – such as the creeping cinquefoil, cranesbill, vetches, birdsfoot trefoil and wild strawberry.  Putting some of our Cotswold stone around the plants not only helps us protect them from encroaching grass and thistles, but provides warm spots for butterflies to pause and bask in the sunshine.

Stones around a Wild Strawberry on the Butterfly Bank

Stones around a Wild Strawberry on the Butterfly Bank

Daffodils and Birch

Our Spring-Summer Newsletter

Our Sun Rising Spring-Summer newsletter has just been published online.  Those on our email mailing list will receive news of it digitally, and those on our list for postal copies will receive theirs over the next few days.  It can be found online here : Spring-Summer Newsletter.

There are a few dates to put in your diary : Saturday 18 June is our Open Day, after which we will be holding a celebration of our tenth anniversary with mellow jazz, cream teas, a raffle, and a scavenger hunt for the children.

On Saturday 25 June, we have our bioblitz – a nature watch when we hope to record every single species we can find at the burial ground and nature reserve.  Open to all, we hope there will be experts, amateurs, and families looking for a lovely day out.  Do come along for a day exploring nature.

Daffodils and Birch

Daffodils and Birch

With the newsletter published in mid March each year, sending it out is another indicator for us that spring is fully with us.  Although the wind can still be chilly, the burial ground is bright with daffodils, primroses and the first cowslips.  Bumblebees are creeping out, and when the sun shines there are other little flies in the air, which is good news for the birds as they start to nest.

Cock Pheasant Displaying

Signs of Spring

In such a mild winter as this, seeing signs of spring pulls us in two ways.   There is a relief to feel that this dull wet winter may be coming to its end, but a concern too that we’ve barely had winter at all.  For those creatures who are starting to court and nest, or come into bud, or emerge from what has been a patchy hibernation, there is the concern that there may be a freeze still to come.

The snowdrops now coming into flower at Sun Rising must lift the spirits though, for whatever nature throws in terms of harsh cold weather now, these little creatures will be just fine.  There are primroses in flower too, and the native wild ones have their own natural antifreeze which means they will survive.   I’m not so sure about the occasional cowslip that has started flowering …

The birds are more of a concern too, and I am glad of the very cold days hoping that they will dissuade the great tits, and others that tend to nest early, even though that cold is biting into my own bones.  In gardens, where it is generally warmer, you may well be seeing pigeons cooing at each other, and the little tits and finches bright in their courting colours.  At Sun Rising the temperature is lower, but we are still seeing a few birds mistaking this for March.  A couple of pheasants at Sun Rising today were courting: the hen doesn’t seem that impressed with the cock’s display in this photo.

Cock Pheasant Displaying

Cock Pheasant Displaying

Frosty Woodland Burial Area

Frosty Saplings

After such a mild December, it was pure delight to have a comprehensive hoar frost at Sun Rising a few days ago.  The trees had been starting to think of waking, the maple bark glowing, the rose buds swelling – and then came the frost, and everything sighed and went back to sleep.

Frosty Woodland Burial Area

Frosty Woodland Burial Area

We are back to milder days now, although the wind can feel cold, but those few days of frost have thankfully put spring back on hold.

New Owl Box

Owls

The burial ground, along with most of our British Isles, is sodden, the earth saturated, and each new burst of rain laying more water on the ground.  This morning, though, we have blue skies and sunshine after the first proper frost in a long while – the breezy sunshine will help dry the soil, and the frost will help to break it up.

Some visitors may have seen Brian with his digger on site over the last few days: he has been putting in some more drainage where the car parks and tracks have been too wet, hopefully making it easier for visitors when the next period of extended rain returns.

To lift our souls, I felt it was time to put out a positive note, and realised the last blog post was months ago.  Here is a photograph of our local owl team, linked to SVWAG (Stour Valley Wildlife Action Group), who have just replaced our older barn owl box with a beautiful new one, and in the photo the family who generously sponsored the replacement.

New Owl Box

New Owl Box

Clearing the Pond

The Changing Pond

Ponds are fascinating places.  A wildlife pond, unlined and naturally fed, will often dry up during periods without rain, which mean that its inhabitants, both flora and fauna, need to be extremely adaptable.  Furthermore, the plantlife in a healthy pond will naturally keep growing until it overwhelms the entire pond, changing the ecosystem entirely.  At Sun Rising, the pond is deep enough to retain water, even through long months of drought, which means it remains an invaluable source of water for wildlife locally.  And as a nature reserve, we are maintaining the pond as a pond – which means that now and then, as the plants grow and spread, they need to be reduced.

Clearing the Pond

Clearing the Pond

This year was the first time that was necessary, but it will be a task to be done every few years from here on.  With thanks to Tim, who volunteered with rather leaky waders, on Sunday the work was done, with a good proportion of the pondweed harvested out.  Plants removed will remain on the pond edge for a while allowing the little creatures to slip, slide and crawl back into the water.  As a wonderful source of nitrogen, it will then be added to the compost heap.

Growing Memorial Trees

Bulb Planting

On Sunday we had our annual bulb planting day at Sun Rising, and what a beautiful warm autumn day we were given.  It was calm, with barely a bluster of wind, and some sixty people drifted through over the course of two or three hours, planting over a twelve hundred bulbs, on and around graves, around the pond, along pathways and beneath memorial trees.  Let’s hope a good number come through, lifting our hearts at the other side of winter.

Meanwhile, the leaf colours are still getting richer.

Growing Memorial Trees

Growing Memorial Trees