The Friends of Sun Rising Hare Lapel Pin

Hare Lapel Pins

Our new Friends of Sun Rising lapel pins have arrived, and they’re very lovely indeed.  Showing the beautiful hare on the meadow with the sun behind, designed by Tim Howe, these are now on sale in aid of The Friends.

The Friends of Sun Rising Hare Lapel Pin

The Friends of Sun Rising Hare Lapel Pin

The price is £3 – and if you want me to send you one or more, add £1 for postage and packing.  They are 3 cm wide, in hard enamel, stamped copper, with a proper clasp at the back.

Great Willowherb, the Roundhouse and Sun Rising Hill

Pink, Gold and Green

Great willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum) is one of those wayside and ruderal plants that many don’t even notice.  From late July and into August in this part of the world it lines the country lanes, especially where ditches retain water through the summer.  You can see it too around ponds, where it is a favourite of moths like the elephant hawkmoth, and butterflies land to find its nectar.

At a time when the long grasses are drying, the fields are gold with wheat or barley, the hay meadows mown to straw stubble, the great willowherb offers a beautiful brightness.  With hedgerows and woodland now a dark green, the colours are even more exquisite.

Great Willowherb, the Roundhouse and Sun Rising Hill

Great Willowherb, the Roundhouse and Sun Rising Hill

Over the next few weeks, when the weather allows, we shall be mowing the wildflower meadow and burial areas.  Where we can, we’ll be leaving plants that are still in flower – such as the willowherb, the field scabious, devil’s bit scabious, the musk mallow and cranesbill.  The last pinks of the wild summer are precious …

Magpie meets hare, then they go on their way

Conversations

After such a cloudy and chilly summer so far, a few hot days can be hard to adjust to, but the heat does cause us to pause.  Like snow, it seems to cover the landscape, stilling it into a different sort of silence.  At some times, it seems to me that folk do stop to talk, with and without words, in a sharing of wonder.

Magpie meets hare, then they go on their way

Magpie meets hare, then they go on their way

The cloud and cool will return by the end of the week, or so those with an overview say.  Until then, let us make the most of the stillness where we can, and those unusual and perhaps unexpected conversations.

The Hay Cut, with Sunflowers by a Memorial Tree

The Hay Cut

There are occasions over the course of a year, managing a nature reserve and natural burial ground, that push against my instincts.  But the development of a nature reserve is about management: however much I would like to do so, we aren’t rewilding.

For rewilding to be of real value (i.e. letting an area revert to its own natural state), you need more than 16 acres, you need time, and you need it not to be a natural burial ground.  Here at Sun Rising, if we were to do nothing, the land would quickly become a tussocky scrub of blackthorn, hogweed, dock and thistle.  The sycamore, ash and birch seedlings would creep in after a while, and given a little longer, it would turn into a tatty sort of woodland.  In fifty years, it would no doubt be wonderful, but it would just be woodland, and very few of our families with loved ones laid to rest here would thank us for the difficult decades in between …

As a nature reserve, rather than rewilding, we are creating, and nurturing, different habitats in order to maximise biodiversity, providing a haven for as wide a range of local flora and fauna as we can.  Furthermore, we are doing that gently, sensibly, in order to ensure that each step of the way, its future is sustainable.  That takes management.

The Hay Cut, with Sunflowers by a Memorial Tree

The Hay Cut, with Sunflowers by a Memorial Tree

And one of the hardest moments of the year is when the main area of grassland is cut for hay.  The diversity of grasses is improving, with meadow barley, crested dogstail, bents, yorkshire fog, cocks foot, bromes, meadow-grasses, sweet vernal grass, false oat-grass, timothy, rye, and probably more.  The sky larks have nested and fledged, but there are very many other creatures living and breeding in grasses that are now up to 5 foot tall.  But if we didn’t mow, the heavy seedheads would encourage the stems to fall in the rain, it would mat and rot, increasing the soil fertility, and …

So we cut the grass.  In fact, it was cut on Sunday, and will be turned, then baled over the next few days.  I am still holding my breath, but the stubble will green again and new grass starts to grow, and slowly I’ll start to breathe again.

Male Ghost Moth (photo taken at Sun Rising by Alan Prior)

Ghosts at Sun Rising

Last week, hundreds of ghosts were seen at Sun Rising : ghost moths!  These are beautiful little creatures, Hepialus humuli, the males are white, getting their name from their habit of hovering over grasses at dusk.  The females are a rich creamy yellow.  This video shows their mating dance, but – unlike in the video – at Sun Rising there were clouds of them!

As a result, we’ve had to be careful that we don’t disturb the area until they’ve completed this part of their cycle of life.  Once they’ve mated, the moths’ eggs are dry and drop down to the ground, at which point mowing the grass would not be a problem.  The larvae, once they emerge, stay underground, feeding on the roots of grasses and plants.

Male Ghost Moth (photo taken at Sun Rising by Alan Prior)

Male Ghost Moth (photo taken at Sun Rising by Alan Prior)

Moths have some wonderfully peculiar names.  You might be equally surprised to know that in the same moth survey, a shark was found, a sallow kitten, a heart and dart, and a large nutmeg.  In fact, the list describes 75 species, with over 500 moths coming to the moth traps during the night.

Anniversary Cake

Jazz in the Roundhouse

On Saturday 18 June, we held our annual Open Day at Sun Rising, but this was a special one, marking our tenth anniversary.

It was a beautiful, warm, dry day (if rather cloudy), and around 150 attended, to meander about the burial ground and nature reserve, to visit loved ones laid to rest, but also to sit and absorb the jazz.  The Hot Tone Rhythm Boys from Wiltshire gave us a few hours of beautiful mellow traditional jazz.  Have a listen …

The refreshments stall was bedecked with strawberries, cakes and scones for cream teas.  The raffle had some fabulous prizes, and everywhere there were folk with smaller prizes won on the tombola.  Almost everything was donated, and totting up the takings afterwards it looks as if we have raised over £1000 for The Friends of Sun Rising.

Anniversary Cake

Anniversary Cake with thanks to the family who donated it

Thank you to everyone who came, every volunteer who helped out, everyone who gave a prize or something for the tea stall, and thank you to the band for a beautiful sound!

Buttercups and foxtails with young memorial trees behind

Serenity

The view through grasses has such a profound effect – taking the time to sit on the ground, or lie, and look at the world from the perspective of being 2 foot tall.  Is it about childhood days of careless ease?  Or something far deeper, I wonder.

When the grasses and flowers are growing high, I find myself often pausing and breathing in the view from that level.  Right now, across the wildflower meadow, it is foxtails and buttercups, the former somehow bringing a soft-focus to it all.

Buttercups and foxtails with young memorial trees behind

Buttercups and foxtails with young memorial trees behind

In a week or so the oxeye daisies will burst into flower and it will be quite a different feel. We hope to see you at our Open Day, and – if your knees will allow you to find that child’s eye view – you can judge for yourself.

The Greens of Summer

A Thousand Greens

After the many hues of grey that colour our winter, then the very many different yellows that bring our landscape to life in spring, we are now moving into the season of green.

The meadow at Sun Rising is so brilliantly rich with golden buttercups, and the first pinks are arriving in the shape of ragged robin, red campion, common vetch, the wild colombine, red clover, the seeds of the foxtails and quaking grass, the sorrels, and now the first dog roses to bloom … Yet, with the trees now in leaf, all but the last of the old ash, it is the greens which fill the soul.

The Greens of Summer

The Greens of Summer

When the days are cloudy and the winds northerly, as they have been today, and may well be all week, we can still pause and breath in deeply the greens of England’s summer.

Open Day and Smooth Jazz poster

Open Day and Smooth Jazz

A note for your diary …. On Saturday 18 June, we shall be holding our annual open day, but this year – to celebrate our tenth anniversary – we have the Hot Tone Rhythm Boys, a professional jazz trio, who will give us a couple of hours of wonderful mellow jazz.

Open Day and Smooth Jazz poster

Open Day and Smooth Jazz poster

At the Open Day, 11 am – 3 pm, there will be staff and volunteers on hand if you would like a tour of the natural burial ground and nature reserve, or you would be free to meander at your own pace, then come and ask questions.  There will also be an opportunity to sit down and talk through ideas, concerns and wishes with regard to funerals, for yourself or a loved one, looking at affordable, personal, graceful funerals.

At 3 pm, we then have the Hot Tone Rhythm Boys playing in the roundhouse, and families are welcome to bring chairs or rugs, sit on benches or wander, while the smooth jazz lifts what we hope will be a lovely summer’s afternoon.

There will be a tea stall, with teas, coffee, cordials, and cream teas with scones, jam and clotted cream, and maybe even strawberries.  We have a raffle on the day, with an amazing first prize : a 3 course meal for 4 at The Castle Inn, Edge Hill, including drinks, to the value of £200.  There are other great raffle prizes, and a tombola too.  There’s even a scavenger hunt for the children, with a prize for everyone who completes the course.  And it’s all in aid of The Friends of Sun Rising.

Do come and join us.  Or call if you have any queries.

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.