Grass and trees

One way and another, there’s been a lot of grasswork this week. At the Almshouses, I have been reseeding some of the badly damaged areas which have been ravaged by Jackdaws. The birds have a habit of finding a mossy spot – of which there are plenty – and then working away at its edges, gradually enlarging the bare patch in all directions. The Jackdaws’ attacks have been compounded by the presence of too much moss – the product of shade, and (I suspect) over-zealous mowing in the past. The shade problem has been alleviated by the work done on the large Yew tree over the winter, which is now allowing a lot more light through to one side of the ‘quad’ garden. 

Anyway, much raking to get out moss (at least, the moss the Jackdaws hadn’t already pulled up) and thatch; then more raking of the exposed earth to get it ready for sowing; then seeding; and finally a top-dressing of lawn sand and topsoil mixed and sieved. 

A similar process has been followed at The Farm, where some areas are badly shaded and damp, and consequently more moss than grass. Timing is important, as the grass seed needs moisture to germinate – the work needs to be done just ahead of a wet day or so. Fortunately, this week obliged with some useful overnight rain to do the watering.

The ‘tree men’ have been dealing with some overgrown Willows at The Farm. These trees, along the side of river, have not been pollarded for the best part of a decade, so the tree surgeon estimated. Their trunks are badly cracked and fissured, and some support a lush ecology of ferns, moss and ivy growing among the dead material lodged within the cracks. 

They needed their tops taking out, and this was done last week. It’s made a huge difference to this part of the grounds – opening it up completely. It looks a bit stark for the moment. I am reminded of Paul Nash’s painting of the Western Front, “We are Making a New World” (1918) – which in many ways is an appropriate view of the tree work, as much as Nash’s intended irony. 

Sadly, this ground is far too wet to be cultivated, and floods to create temporary ponds whenever the river is high. There is a healthy patch of Flag Irises here as well. But it can be managed, at least, so as not to become simply a wilderness. Nettles flourish here, which is both a sign of the soil’s fertility, and also good for some butterflies – Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Red Admiral. It’s early for most butterflies as yet, though Brimstones are already visible as is the odd Tortoiseshell. I think we can leave plenty of nettles to encourage the butterflies, whilst still keeping control. 

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