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’

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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.

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A Call for Action Through Song

Last Friday I was lucky enough to get a ticket to see Sam Lee and his band as part of the Charleston ‘Festival of the Garden.’ Sam was not only performing but also promoting his debut novel ‘The Nightingale, Notes on a songbird’ which I’ve been eager to get in my hands.

It was all a magical turn of events that led me to this beautiful evening. My storytelling colleague and I had booked a rehearsal for our ‘Planet Aviary’ story and she needed to get to Charleston afterwards. I offered her a lift and then when I found out why she was visiting…..well, I just had to gatecrash and somehow managed to get a ticket for a sold out event!

What a perfect ending to our ‘Aviary’ exploration.

It was my first time seeing Sam live in the flesh! I am a bit of a latecomer to his work. I first saw him perform in an online festival called ‘The Pillow Fort Folk Festival’ last year during lock-down where we were invited to hunker down in our own pillow forts at home. Like many folk I made some amazing musical discoveries during this period through the generosity of event organisers and contributors. Sam lit up our screens that evening with his wonderful stories of folk song collecting, tales of meeting gypsy song keeper legends and wooing us into ancient times with his soulful voice and the deep visceral connection he has to the songs of our past, making them part of our now.

The weather has been chaotic and wild down here on the South Coast but we were charmed on Friday night. We were all basking in the joy of being outside on a summer’s evening in a beautiful country setting surrounded by beaming faces without masks! It was an intoxicating atmosphere. The deprivation we have felt for not having experienced live music, the joy and exuberance of the performers to be ‘back,’ the peace we found to be in a magical world of riding the thermals of music and stories in a collective experience. Sam and his band were brilliant honouring the nightingale and creating a metaphorical campfire for the telling of stories and the sharing of new material unheard by the public before. We truly felt spoilt.

But….all is not well and Sam Lee enlightened us. In fact as I write this my nose is prickling as I try to hold back the tears. The climate emergency is escalating and with it he warned that we may not be hearing our avian songbird stars on our own shores in as little as 30 years. “The nightingale is the canary in the mine!” It’s already a challenge to hear a cuckoo, nightingale or turtle dove and through the smiles and joy of the evening I was hit hard by this devastating fact.

Many of us agree so much was taken for granted pre-pandemic and it seems we have been doing the same with our songbirds. Some folk are waking up to the crisis, the ones that already blaze bright for nature and tread lightly on this world, blaze even brighter with more fury as they activate and initiate practical solutions, but others are riding through life blissfully unaware or remain unconnected to the potential loss at hand. Performers such as Sam Lee are so vital for the message. Mary Poppins style – “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,”  strengthening my conviction that creativity infused with knowledge may be an opportunity to tip some thinking, shift change or offer an opportunity for deeper connection and understanding or at the very least appreciation.

In May I was blessed with a double whammy to hear both a cuckoo and a nightingale sing at the same time, which I managed to capture on my field recorder during a visit to Knepp re-wilding project. I honestly felt so lucky considering it was daytime, and the rarity of both birds, but then Knepp has been doing everything in their power for nature. The last time I heard a nightingale sing was in the middle of the night as I lay in semi-dreamland…  was in the mid 90s and one of those experiences that marked my soul. This recent encounter inspired a ‘Postcard’ so I’m able to share the sweet magic of these birds with you.

So what next?

I for one will be seeking out the nightingale every year from now on, and never again can I have such a drought from his song while I have the privilege to be able to hear it. I am going to pledge my continued support for Knepp, the RSPB and artists such as Sam Lee – check out The Nest Collective and his events including concerts with the nightingales!

Do you want to join me?

Sam Lee’s book is absolutely beautiful and everything I had hoped for. The perfect companion to prepare for finding and being with nightingales during their serenading season, beautiful illustrations and every obvious and less obvious connection we have to this beautiful elusive bird with his golden voice.

Thank you for reading,

S x

To purchase ‘The Nightingale, Notes on a songbird’ by Sam Lee