Roll up, roll up!

The autumn mists are starting to roll in here in Pevensey and we’ve been treated to some delicious warm golden days as the nights draw in. Autumn is not only the time for harvest, but also the time of regeneration as seeds tuck into the soil and wait for the spring. It’s also time to finally roll up the carpet on our test patch, roll out the seeds and give you an update!

Last Friday we were able to complete the cycle of our human intervention to see if we can introduce new species of wildflower and grasses to Anderida Park via our test patch, and it gives me great delight to report in of our progress.

What a relief to roll up and remove the carpet as this stage had lasted longer than intended, but what a triumph for our community that is didn’t suffer human or natural intervention and was simply left alone to do its job. The carpet is now off to a new home…… a vegetable patch in Eastbourne!

As you can see from the picture we experienced some die back. Not as much as I had expected but we gave it a bit of a thin out and raked it over to remove the dead grass and loosen the soil to reveal the bare earth needed.

We then carefully scattered the ‘Weald Native Origin Seed’ donated to the project by Agrifactors (Southern) Limited and the seed we harvested back in August (see previous post.) Some inquisitive walkers came over to chat to us about the project so we asked them to join us in scattering the seeds.

The large russet seed pod pictured above is a Common Spotted Orchid which was our ‘gold dust’ in the trial. Orchids are notoriously slow and may take as long as four years to show themselves….. and that’s only if symbiotic fungus is present in the soil as it is the fungus that provide the sugar needed for germination and initial growth to take place. So this really is our ‘wild card.’

Once the seed was scattered it was followed by some vigorous stomping to push the seed into the soil.

Now it is over to nature and we will be checking back in spring – we have to be prepared there are good seasons and bad so we have fingers crossed for a good season.

Once again I would like to thank  Agrifactors (Southern) Limited for their donation, my mentor Keith Datchler, my husband Paul and our spontaneous volunteers for their assistance.

Thank you for reading this post and I look forward to giving you an update in spring.

Sharon x

‘Deepening our connections to nature and each other through creativity’

In connection to the seasons flow you may also like……..

Nimble Fingers and Enthusiasm!

It’s time for a little update on the Anderida Park wildflower meadow trial.

On the 27th August a small group of us gathered to hand harvest some wild flower seed on a beautifully hot summer’s day. Before the meeting I WhatsApped Keith to ask him what we would need, “Nimble fingers and enthusiasm!” Love it………

On arrival at Keith’s wild flower meadow and after quick introductions we got stuck straight into the identification of the flowers and grasses to pick. Having recorded the species in our meadow patch before cutting and covering up I was immediately struck by the abundance of biodiversity in Keith’s meadow; it was phenomenal how many different wild flowers and grasses we had at our feet and the field was literally buzzing and fluttering with insect activity. It was a joy to hear Keith’s extensive knowledge and passion for the subject and it quickly became apparent how all the different species work differently for the soil and wildlife – a magical web of symbiotic interdependence.

I collected samples and scribbled down the names as we surveyed the area so we had a visual reference, then we got to work collecting the seed heads and popping them into paper bags.

Everything we collected is now being dried and will be added to some ‘Weald Native Origin Seed’ donated to the project by Agrifactors (Southern) Limited. Keith explained, ” this is the belts and braces approach as commercial seed has a higher success rate due to the correct processing techniques.” Seeds are very sensitive to heat and humidity.

So the next step is to sow the seed in the coming month. Autumn is the optimum period for seed sowing. Visiting Keith’s meadow we were given a glimpse of the possibility in our own project and it truly was inspiring.

Once again I must thank Keith and his gorgeous wife Fiona for their hospitality and sharing of knowledge. We had such a beautiful morning of learning and doing; it really was the prefect way to spend a Friday morning and we all came away with renewed hope and enthusiasm for assisting nature. Also my thanks to Bryony (plus her little ones) Denise and my husband Paul for your help with seed collection and supporting this project.

Thank you for reading this post and I look forward to keeping you updated.

Sharon x

‘Deepening our connections to nature and each other through creativity’

Seeds collected:
Devil’s Bit Scabious, Dyer’s Green Weed, Tufted Vetch, Sneezewort, Grass Vetchling, Selfheal, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Ribwort Plaintain, Yarrow, Yellow Rattle, Sweet Vernal, Agrimony, Cat’s Tail Grass, Oxeye Daisy, Knapweed, Crested Dog Grass, Grass Vetchling, Meadow Sweet, Hawkbit, Bethenny and Common Spotted Orchid.

N.B We are leaving the carpet on for a bit longer than originally thought, we hope to be sowing the seeds in the next couple of weeks.

You may also like (creative connection between myself and Keith) ……….

Testing, Testing……. Anderida Park Wild Flower Meadow Project Trial

This is a very exciting blog post!

Earlier in the year I listened to a ‘Roots and All’ podcast with my friend meadow expert Keith Datchler being interviewed about wild flower meadows. Not only was I puffed up in pride to hear him speak but I was also inspired by his beautiful wisdom, insights and challenge to explore how I personally could do my bit for biodiversity.

Unless you have been hiding under a rock I believe we are all now familiar with the narrative “No bees, no food.” Our intensive agricultural practices, obsession with tidiness and use of chemicals are destroying the habitat for bees and other vital pollinators that we rely on for our food production. Yeah right….we’ve shot ourselves in the foot!

While things can feel very stark at the moment the tide could be on the turn; with increased awareness and understanding we are slowly unpicking thoughts and practices. ‘No Mow May‘ has been a triumph for example. On a local facebook page one wingeing post about ‘the untidiness’ of the grass verges was met by a tidal wave of positivity from the community in support of this initiative. It’s a delight to hear people comment how “beautiful it looks” and how they are noticing more bees and butterflies and they are appreciating the profusion of wild flowers.

So on a grey winter’s day I had the brainwave to turn our little patch of lawn into a wild flower meadow…..then my thoughts side-stepped……as it often does! I had a vision of trying this on a larger scale and that’s when the ‘Dog Walkers’ Field,’ ‘Meadow’ or its given name ‘Anderida Park’ came to mind. While this filed is already doing a brilliant job for nature, with increased biodiversity could we help nature even more?

Anderida Park

We are so blessed in Westham and Pevensey as a local community to have this space on our doorsteps. We are in a precious historical area with our Pevensey Castle as the jewel in the crown but it can feel very pressured to live here with the increased traffic and the creep of new housing estates gobbling up all but the last few remaining fields that divide us from our neighbouring village Stonecross. Anderida Park has become a sanctuary to so many of us and is a haven for wildlife. Sometime you can hear hunting owls at night as they look for little rodents in the deep grass, and the black poplar trees are famed for their magical baubles of mistletoe.

Anderida Park is managed by Pevensey Parish Council and after chatting to Keith he agreed to come and have a look at the site to see if a wild flower meadow would be viable, and in tangent I started communication with the parish council to see if they would be open to the idea. At present Anderida Park does have wild flowers such as red clover, buttercups, and common vetch but it’s primarily a grass meadow. If we are able to introduce more flowers there is a chance we can attract different pollinators and in turn their predators such as birds.

Keith Datchler and my husband Paul

We then had a second site meeting, this time with parish council representatives. Keith suggested we run a trial to test the viability, which the Parish Council agreed to. So on the 17th July we got to work on our 10′ x 10′ patch at the west end of the field not far from the railway crossing. Before we cut the grass I took a record of all the species in the test area.

Ordinarily we would have just covered the area with old carpet to kill back some of the grass to expose bare soil which is much better for the seed. As we are a little late in the season we decided to cut the grass first. We popped the grass cutting in the hedgerow which will be appreciated by creatures such as slow worms.

We shall be introducing some locally harvested wild flower meadow seeds before autumn and then we sit back and see what happens! We have had to keep this very small and in house this year, but if it is a success we will be looking at how we can expand the project and involve the community. The folk who stopped and chatted to us while we worked were equally excited by this opportunity and shared the vision for more wild flowers……. we even had offers to volunteer! This is very much a project of patience and goodwill and let’s hope we get some good luck along the way. I will be posting updates here and forwarding to Pevensey Parish Council.

So to wrap this blog up I need to say some very big thank yous……

Firstly thank you to Keith Datchler for your inspiration, guidance and practical support to get this test patch underway.
Secondly thank you to Pevensey Parish Council for taking up this opportunity, with special thanks to Cllr Shirley Mackinnon and Clerk Sarah Mosedale for being so positive and providing practical support…… such as carpets and posters!

If you would like to hear the podcast that inspired me:

Roots and All Podcast

Thank you for reading and supporting The Gossamer Threads Project.

Sharon x

‘Deepening our connections to nature and each other through creativity’

You may also like……….

Filmed near Anderida Park