By Rob Rowe (February 2020)
Small birds flock through the alder searching for seeds and insects. Siskins their tiny crossed tails silhouetted against the grey sky, long-tailed tits acrobatting their way through the branches. A tree creeper curling mouse-like up the trunk. Blue tit and great tit. Overhead across the sky, a pair of ravens cavort on the wind.
Hazel released from decades of grazing send up new shoots with abundance. Each bush sending a bundle, the height of a person. Purple budded alder too, though not so high. Blackthorn suckers creeping out from the hedges and wood edges. Old bracket fungi worn by frost and rain. Like part of an artist’s palette the bright scarlet elfcup, one of the first of this year’s fungi, crops side by side with its relative the orange peel fungus. Some eaten, perhaps by mouse or slug?
After two very rough weekends there is some substantial damage. On the eastern border a large mature oak lies roots up, splayed into the neighbours field. 3oo years of growth blown out in an instant. The huge champion oak that stands proud on the riverbank has lost a couple of large limbs. They lie in the river and have taken a cherry from the opposite bank with them. They partially dam the river and an old hawthorn does likewise downstream. They seem to be showing us what needs to be done. The river rises and falls rapidly here as a response to rain. Slow the flow here and other folk downstream should be grateful.
A tideline of debris in the field shows where it rose from its deep channel and burst its banks. More than six months since the grass was cut or grazed and the ground now has a vertical dimension to it and the vole population has exploded. Many of their holes and tunnels seemed to have acted like drains or plug holes in this last deluge. The predator population should respond. Barn and tawny owls are here, with their pellets full of tiny bones, seen under the old pollard oaks. Hopefully kestrel too.