Now for another catch up on what we’ve been doing over the summer…
We had the scythe mowers’ evening sessions on Tuesday nights – helping mowers to get some more practice in their mowing techniques. Plus, during the following days, the Ranger Team (ie me and a few volunteers: Jayne, Shane, Peter, Neil, John and Jim) moved the mown green hay to other areas of species poor grassland so that the seed could fall out and hopefully expand the flower rich meadows at Wimpole. Below are some photos from the mowing sessions up at the Folly.
After mowing in Folly Field we moved on to the botanically species rich Victoria East Avenue; this meadow is more reminiscent of a wood meadow and has both MG5 grassland species and W8 woodland species with some wetland species along the wet ditches. All the hay was then taken away green and spread up at the Folly to encourage the knapweeds, yellow rattle and the like.
Well, after doing a fair bit of work, our trusty Massey Ferguson 390 tractor coughed and spluttered… what was wrong? It was the fuel again. Those plastic fuel tanks seem to attract water via condensation inside, plus all the gunk that had built up over the years finally blocked the filter pump. What a horrible job! I hate getting diesel on me, it stinks and seems to spread everywhere you touch. One new pump had to be bought (because you can’t buy the weeny little, cheap-as-chips, nothing to it filter separately, you can only get it when you buy the pump), about an hour’s work and… brrrrmmmmm she burst into life again (and, at over 30 years old that’s not bad considering it’s the same engine, gearbox and the rest to boot, can’t say the same for the new fangled electronic rubbish produced today).
Ragwort season! God there seemed to be loads of it this year. We pulled out most of the common ragwort in the hay meadows as this flowers a week or two earlier than the downy ragwort which prefers chalky grasslands. I don’t think the latter is so poisonous and just as well as it’s very hard to eradicate by pulling alone.
Another job that had to be done was to remove all the endless treated timber that seems to find its way to Cobbs Wood Farm. Not something you can burn as it contains some quite nasty preservative chemicals involving arsenic or the like (although these have now been banned I’m led to believe). We loaded it into a skip brought in especially for the timber because, if it is separated from other refuse, it only costs about £50 per ton which is half the normal cost.
One of our oak throne seats with a tremendous view of the Rhee valley
Once again there have been a few sightings of the wasp spider, this one in the photograph had a lovely web. Apparently the spider builds a spiral orb web at dawn or dusk, commonly in long grass a little above ground level, taking it approximately an hour. The prominent zigzag shape called the stabilimentum, or web decoration, featured at the centre of the orb is of uncertain function, though it may be to attract insects.
When a prey item is first caught in the web, Argiope bruennichi will quickly immobilise its prey by wrapping it in silk. The prey is then bitten and then injected with a paralysing venom and a protein-dissolving enzyme.