Thursday 27 May 2010

A stroll on the wild side ...

I grew up being told that our rainfall was plentiful, we had lakes, reservoirs, ponds, green grass, lots of trees, fields of rainbows .. yellows, blues, greens, creams, interspersed with white daisies and red poppies .... and yet 40 – 50 years later as soon as it doesn’t rain for a few days, here in the South East, we have a drought.

When I went to see The Silent Pianist speak .. I had a walk around Arlington Reservoir (above) built for water storage, so that in the year 2010 I can have a shower! Good thing too. So here’s a brief summary of works, facts, pictures of some of the plants and wildlife, some history and a general stroll around the park.

It’s a lovely circular trail of about 1 ½ miles (4 km) and takes approximately an hour – perfect for a leisurely walk on a summer’s day. Construction began in 1969, with the spoil being spread across the site creating a beautiful rolling landscape around its circular shape. The underlying weald clay gives a natural water tight base, so when a meander in the Cuckmere River was cut off all that was needed was a concrete faced earth dam.
Ox-Eye – with sprig of cowparsley – a typical meadow flower

A full size reconstruction of a woolly mammoth, at Ipswich Museum, UK
During excavations several interesting animal remains were found including a mammoth tusk, a bison horn and the skull of a woolly rhinoceros dating from 250,000 years ago. Some facts about the reservoir ... the kind of eclectic details many of us enjoy reading:

Area: 49 hectares, or the total of 121 English football pitches
Maximum depth of reservoir: 11.3 metres (12.3 yards)
Capacity: 3,500 million litres, or 11,665million soft drink cans
Recorded bird species = 173
Recorded butterfly species = 35

Marbled White - it is thought that Red Fescue grass is essential in their diet

A couple of conservation thoughts:
A water butt can collect up to 85,000 litres of (free) rainwater per annum
Using mulch and bark on your garden can reduce evaporation by up to 75%

There are reed beds protecting the banks from erosion, while providing nesting and feed habitats for many birds including wagtails, warblers, kingfishers and wildfowl. The grasslands are managed as wildflower meadows where we are able to see the Common Spotted Orchid, Ox-eyes, Common Milkwort, Cowslips, Grass Chalkland Vetch, Hairy Mallow, Meadow Buttercups, with various grasses including Red Fescue and Meadow Foxtail.
Common Spotted Orchid
Red Fescue grass below

Sections of these grasslands are cut in the autumn on a two-year rotation, when the clippings are removed, because if they are left the soil fertility will build up tending to favour a few coarse grasses and disadvantage the colourful wildflowers. There are hay meadows – these rough grasslands create an ideal habitat for the small mammals, the favoured food of the barn owls nesting nearby.

The surrounding woodland contain coppiced hazel trees (underwood), interspersed with oak and ash; the native tree theme was continued within the reservoir when 30,000 trees were planted – oaks, birch, wild cherry, hazel and hawthorn. The hedges are created using a traditional technique known as “hedge-laying”. All this diversity attracts nightingales, green woodpeckers, chiffchaff, hedgehogs, voles, shrews, mice, speckled wood butterflies, the marbled white .. as well as painted ladies and the peacock butterfly.
May blossom
Northern Shoveler – a dabbling duck

There’s an Osprey Hide, particularly valuable from March to October when the rainbow trout are beloved by the migrating ospreys, and a Bird Sanctuary where many bird species can be seen including great crested grebe, Canada geese, kingfishers as well as the thousands of birds migrating either during summer or autumn, including pochard, widgeon, mallard and shoveler. Three ponds have been dug which attract all kinds of wildlife from birds like heron, to the smallest microscopic organisms.

School groups come out to the Reserve using its nature trail, while the pond-dipping platform provides a perfect stage to view the large number of aquatic insects, such as dragonfly nymphs, pond skaters, water boatmen as well as amphibians like frogs and newts.
A bluebell glade and an avenue of horsechestnut trees - pictures I took on that balmy evening

The wonderful thing is the Reserve has been designed for all .. school children, picnickers, trout fishermen, bird watchers, walkers .. in this tranquil position nestling in the Cuckmere River valley while providing that necessary haven for wildlife ... trees, plants, flowers, insects, amphibians, small reptiles, birds et al .. what more could one want – oh yes – some sun and that’s exactly what I got when I visited.

Dear Mr Postman my surprise my mother was awake enough to watch the State Opening of Parliament on Tuesday .. I’m not sure how much she saw, but it made a change. She still can’t hear, which is rather frustrating .. but we cannot do much about it as the bad cold-cough is still around. She’s still with it though – one of the carers had been home to Glasgow and Marie’s return brought a “oh hello Mrs Glasgow” .. that’s what my mother calls her! I’m not sure if Ma knew she’d been away as such .. but it’s good we still get some reaction! When she does talk – she talks slowly .. as though I can’t hear!!!, but she chatters away to herself sometimes ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Betsy Wuebker said...

Hi Hilary - It's so wonderful to have our wilder places among those that are not so, isn't it. What a lovely area for all to enjoy. Loved the photo of the "common" orchid. Can an orchid ever be common??? It reminds me of foxglove or delphinium. Beautiful!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Betsy .. isn't it .. this is a gentle wild place - definitely not the jungle, rainforest, or dark forests! Glad you liked the photo of the common orchid - I guess in days of classification it was more often found than others .. but no they can't be common!

I nearly put foxgloves in .. but having seen them at our Chelsea Flower Show, as well as delphiniums .. I might do it later.

Bye for now and thanks for being here - Hilary

Mark said...

This looks a wonderful place to spend a day. Thanks for sharing all the wonders of this reserve.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mark .. absolutely right .. no worries, just peaceful, lovely sun and pretty views, beautiful flora and fauna .. what more could a girl want for a brief few hours. It is just very peaceful and tranquil there ..

Good to see you - Hilary

Davina said...

I enjoy going exploring with you Hilary. I appreciate how much you put into your posts. I bet you'd make a wonderful tour guide. "A stroll on the wild side"... but very peaceful side of the wild side. The idea of this is relaxing.

Mandy Allen said...

Hi Hilary, I wonder if you noticed a difference in the water level when you were there? Certainly here in NOrfolk we have seen a lowering of water levels in general in streams, rivers, ponds and reservoirs.

Your pictures and dialogue are a joy to follow.

Enjoy the journey.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Davina .. I seem to remember spiders and lovely talk .. for your explorations and island hikes .. this 'toddle' doesn't quite match up .. but was a really quieting day - just what I needed .. away from it all.

I'm just glad you enjoy what you read and see - that gives me pleasure .. yes a peaceful stroll .. and relaxing.

Thanks for the tour guide comment .. I just enjoy find things out and imparting them .. good to see you - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mandy .. I hate to say it .. but I hardly leave Eastbourne (while my Ma is here) .. so I don’t pay much attention to water levels – though in the normal course of life .. I would be. So actually I can’t answer your question & I live right by the sea (well quarter of a mile away) .. I’m going past a dew pond next week .. so I’ll keep an eye open and let you know. Certainly the ground was rock hard .. it had been squelchy, but the mud had dried solid .. so was quite uncomfortable in places to walk – I hadn’t come with the right shoes .. because my intention was going to the two talks, but with my Ma sleeping I 'went the extra mile' and had a walk!

Haven’t been much help really have?! But something to watch out for .. the Cuckmere River goes up and down hugely – even though it’s only a few miles long and has a drop of only 200 feet ... but there’s a wonderful ox-bow valley – which I linked across to .... I wasn’t very good with photos then – but ox-bows have always fascinated me .. one day I must do another post on them.

Just delighted to see – thank you for being here .. you too have a good weekend .. Hilary

Sara said...

Hilary -- I agree with Davina about you being an excellent tour guide! I always enjoy the places you take us.

This one was especially nice as it seems so peaceful. I could imagine just sitting in the grass and watching the birds and the plants. I appreciated that shared so many of both in your pictures.

Thanks for sharing this lovely sojourn with me:~)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sara .. that's wonderful .. as I follow both - yours & Davina'a - as to places to visit - life to see .. so wonderful everywhere.

It is peaceful - exaclty as you say .. amongst the buzzing of the insects, the singing of the birds, the sound of the branches moving .. it was great & I took some pics and grabbed more - so it's good to hear you appreciate them.

It's been a pleasure sharing with you - one day we'll do it in person - have a good Friday .. Hilary ..

Patricia said...

What a wonderful place to explore and wander and what a lovely job you did to share it with us...Thank you.

We just lost one of our Reserves to the wildlife, people were interfering too much in the wetlands and salmon areas - turned it back into a delta without human access.

R.S. Mallari (SpK) said...

If I had the chance I will walk the trail with pen and a notebook, surely lots of things can inspire me to write lots of poetry out there. It surely looks like a writer's paradise.

Liara Covert said...

Hilary, I also grew up to sense water and other aspects of nature are plentiful, that beauty also abides inside each of us. This pespective nurtures an innate sense of abundance. We are reminded we are what we think about and far more.

How easy it is for people to allow themselves to be conditioned to believe in scarcity. The media and other external sources bombard the mind with messages we do not have enough, that we lack or are somehow needy. People become territorial, possessive of resources or abuse what they are given and are not always aware of the impetus behind their own behaviour.

Wilma Ham said...

I agree, what is happening with the water that all of a sudden we have droughts? However if they solve the issue in the way they have with your reservoir, it is not too bad, let them worry about catching water. Good on you for picking a sunny day, blue bunny will be proud of you.
I am sorry that your Ma still can't hear, absolutely annoying as it must be hard to connect. As always, love to you and your mother, xox Wilma

Vered said...

Your descriptions are so lively, I feel as if I'm there!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Patricia .. thanks .. glad you enjoyed a few of the photos and descriptions. Sorry to hear you’ve lost one of yours .. but for wildlife I guess it’s better? Freedom of the Delta for them. People are terrible – they don’t think before they ‘do’ things .. or go off track .. it’s such a pity – spoils it for everyone. Looks like the authorities might have made the right decision .. even if it deprives you of one of your local areas. Sad .. but I expect there are others nearby? Enjoy the weekend .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi RS .. thanks for visiting .. yes – you’d love the grassy banks to lie on watching wildlife from a worm’s point of view gathering lots of thoughts and ideas, or while sitting on one of the benches around the park .. you could watch the birds swoop and swirl over the water, twitter in the bushes and trees and sing high above you .. on a balmy summer’s day .. triggering lots of happy poems .. Good to see you - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. what you say makes so much sense .. we should allow ourselves to be with nature more often and realise where we came from.

I agree too many people believe what they hear and read in the media – without evaluating or thinking about alternatives. If we shared more .. and were aware of others that would make a difference, and let our minds think - rather than absorb the messages put out as sound bites.

Thanks Liara .. we definitely need to pay attention to what you’ve written .. Have a good weekend - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Wilma .. yes – your recent posts on scarcity from a different point of view make us think. Rather foolishly what I didn’t put there .. is the fact that they’re desperately looking to get another area drowned because we need another reservoir to cope with the increasing demands.

I was lucky the day was beautiful .. and Hardwick at my Ma’s, and Jannie’s Blue Bunny enjoyed the tales of the woods and banks when I got back! It is a nuisance this hearing lark .. I hope it clears soon .. but we can only wait. Thanks so much for your thought and love to us both .. Hilary - & have a good weekend ..

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Vered .. wonderful to see you here and so pleased you enjoyed 'your walk' around with me .. it's a gentle place! Have a lovely weekend with the family - Hilary

Unknown said...

Hi Hilary,

It looks like lovely place! My favorite picture is the bird one. As Vered says your article is so visual that I felt walking there.

Thank you for your sharing.

Shaw Funami
Fill the Missing Link

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Shaw .. it certainly is .. yes -the dabbling duck .. I love the description .. dabbling duck! And glad you could feel you're walking with me ..that would be fun .. and delighted you enjoyed the post ..

Have a great weekend .. all the best Hilary

Joanne said...

I'm a walker, and what a beautiful place this looks like for a long stroll. Walking through a place like this would be truly transporting. It's nice that it seems so thoroughly planned and maintained, for everyone's enjoyment (including the wildlife). What a gem of a spot.

Chris Edgar said...

Hi Hilary -- I love the rich spectrum of colors in these photos -- it seems like you've picked a picture with a different tone for each animal or plant you wanted to show. Or did that all happen unconsciously? Anyway, thanks for this.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Joanne .. it is a beautiful place to walk without being stressed - the Downs can be quite a hard walk .. if one's not used to it .. but with the information points letting us know what's here .. we can live with the today - or dream back to the bison, woolly mammoth and rhinoceros times .. giants of the grasslands! It has been well planned and is well maintained for all ..

Great to see you here .. have a lovely walk over the weekend .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Chris .. thanks for that .. I just select pictures I like .. that sort give an overall pleasing effect - so thanks for picking that up - I appreciate the comment. However it is unconscious as such .. just happens & I'm usually lucky with what I find ..

I like to be able to visualise things .. and often go off searching if I'm not sure what it is .. so I try and give as much information as I can with the pictures - makes it simpler all round!

Have a lovely weekend - all the best Hilary

Megan "JoyGirl!" Bord said...

Wow, that sounds lovely and makes me wish I could visit it. A green woodpecker? I hadn't heard of one before reading your post. And that butterfly you featured a picture of... My gosh, it looks lovely!

I really enjoyed the comparisons you used, too, to give us a feel for how much water that reservoir holds (11M cans of soda... wow!).

And of course I laughed when I saw that Canadian geese can be found in the UK. We have loads of them in NYS, too, and I chuckle whenever I think, "Then doesn't that make them British geese? Or New York geese?!"

Happy weekend, Hilary, and thanks for this wonderful information!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Megan - you're welcome anytime! Green woodpeckers .. lots of different ones - so many variations - we forget sadly. The butterfly too - I could have done others .. but I love this picture .. just so appropriately named.

The Reservoir has a couple of boards with the info on .. so that was useful to see and note .. I know 11m cans .. just seems so strange!

Nope - just Canadian geese ..the name comes from "New Latin" used between 1500 - 1900 approx .. when Linnaeus (1700s) was stamping binomial nomenclature onto all species .. and exploration of the world was taking off - it was probably realised that Canadian geese were native to the arctic regions, especially north america - hence its name ..

Interesting this naming lark .. when we look at them?!

Delighted to see you .. and that I've given you some happy thoughts .. you too .. have a lovely long weekend .. Hilary

Marketing Unscrambled, Home edition said...

Hello Hilary,

What a beautiful place to visit. Thank you for sharing it with us. Have a great day.

Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dan and Deanna .. glad you like it .. it is peaceful and lovely .. you too have a good weekend .. Hilary

J.D. Meier said...

I can't imagine planting 30,000 trees ... but I sure like the results for forests and woodlands.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi JD .. I suppose 30,000 trees doesn't go very far, as such .. sufficient for this pretty small park, - they're all native species .. so some are smaller varieties. As you say .. it's great for the biodiversity in the area.

Good to see you - thanks - Hilary