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Taking stock in times of seasonal change

Emmy Wurmli, Engagament Leader, takes us through a blissful account of wildlife on The Farm as we slowly move into winter.

At this time of year I try to remember to slow down a little and lean into the changes that the natural world is going through. Taking time to revel in the glorious richness of the low-level sunlight as it picks out a vibrancy of colours across the hedgerows and fields during those golden hours, the glow of the rainbow chard stalks lined up across the field, the hawthorn berries abundant in the hedgerows and the full spectrum of autumn leaves in all their splendor.

We are blessed to have frequent reminders to pause and look up every time another flock of geese honks overhead on route to or from Chew Valley Lake. The skies have now brought new visitors in exchange for the screaming swifts and swallows which have left our shores for warmer climates. Many of our resident birds are beginning to flock-up for the winter months, and we are eagerly anticipating the first arrivals of fieldfare and redwing drawn to The Farm in part by the windfall apples.

Charms of goldfinches have been bouncing around between teasel heads; whilst a myriad of other birds flock their way through the standing seed heads that remain in the tail-end of the crops and marginal areas of our fields. The buzzards have been calling overhead and kestrel is almost a daily visitor, striking lucky over our fields as small mammals forage the gleanings of the crops and abundance of seeds now strikingly dominating the landscape as much of the greenery dies back - sped up by the arrival of our first proper frost of the season.

All of this abundance is made possible by the careful management of the land here - from allowing our hedgerows to grow up and thrive, producing nesting sites, shelter and abundance of food in the run up to the leaner months, to mindfully scything the marginal areas on rotation, ensuring that there are always patches of long grass and bramble creating a diversity of habitat for the wild beings which call this farm home. 

There is plenty that you can do at home to mirror these nature-friendly farming practices - and the good news is, many of the best options involve less work! Resist the urge to 'tidy' your garden too much - leaving areas of long, tussocky grass, wild, over-grown patches, leaving dead stems and seed heads standing through the winter not only allows birds and small mammals to feast on the seeds, but also provide safe sheltered spaces for many invertebrates to over winter. If you have a pond, remember to break the ice in prolonged periods of cold (or leave a ball bobbing on the surface to prevent it freezing over) as access to water is always vital and often not that easy for our wildlife to find.

On a personal level, as we see our lives reflected in the natural world around us, it is a poignant time to consider what are the 'seeds worth saving' from this passing season which we want to store safely through the darker months, ready to nourish them into flourishing with the returning of spring...perhaps something to ponder with a cup of tea as you watch the birds flock to your freshly topped-up bird feeder in delight?!
By Emmy Wúrmli, Engagement Leader

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