Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Christmas Dinner

Christmas can be an expensive time and this year it has been particularly so. We haven't spent a lot on presents and I even managed to keep the catering down to fairly sensible proportions but I have spent loads on bird food. It has been so very cold and snowy for such a long time. How could I look out my warm and cosy living room window, while tucking into my second box of chocolates, and watch birds like this poor crow wading through the snow late in the day. Of course I have had to put out copious amounts of food for the garden wildlife.

On some days it has been like Piccadilly Circus with birds coming and going from the feeders. They have all got on very well with each other except for the pigeons. They haven't been aggressive with the other birds, just amongst themselves and I have seen some awful bullying going on. One pigeon repeatedly stood on another one pecking savagely at it. Then it would fly away only to return a few moments later to lay into the same bird again. I didn't know pigeons could be so nasty but I guess in extreme weather it's everyone for themselves.

Friendly Robin has been bobbing around outside the patio doors each morning, waiting for his breakfast. He seems to be surviving his second winter very well and looks fat, healthy and happy (not surprising with the gourmet food he's been dining on:)

A good number of pheasants have now made themselves at home in the garden thus avoiding the Boxing day shoot:)))) They are so intelligent as birds go and quick to become tame. If they see a movement from within the house they run over to the window making little chirping noises. Needless to say I have a big tub of grain at the ready to throw out the window for them. One of them has also found the small bird's bird table and regularly wedges herself in it to finish off anything that friendly robin has left behind. How can anyone enjoy shooting these lovely birds or any other living thing come to that.

As well as being expensive with food it has also been a busy Christmas as, with snow on the ground, the ponies have needed hay every day as well as having the ice removed from their trough and their water topped up. The hay and water have to be carried over to them so it is heavy work and time consuming but very rewarding when we are greeted with a whinny of welcome from a hungry pony and a lovely way to start Christmas morning:))))))

We also have some additional sheep to check. They are on a site in a beautiful nearby valley. It is quite a walk to get to them but their hay and water is in the wonky barn so we haven't needed to carry it to them. The site they are on goes steeply up the side of the valley and was very slippery in the snow but thankfully most of the snow thawed last night so today's visit was easier. I am looking forward to seeing what wild flowers and butterflies there are at this site in the summer. It also looks like there are some good place for reptiles too.

Finally, I was looking in 'Culpepper's Complete Herbal' (a Christmas present to myself) and found that back in 1653, when his book was first published, Dr Culpepper suggests Holly berries to, 'purge the body of gross and clammy phlegm'....yuk...I wouldn't recommend it though, if you are one of the many suffering with a bad cough this Christmas, as I think Holly berries may be poisonous. On the other hand if you are suffering with a bad case of, 'worms that breed in the ear' you should be ok with a dose of I love this book but I am so pleased I didn't live in the 1600's:)))))
Happy New Year to everyone.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Oh No, Snow!

In my last post I mentioned that I hoped we wouldn't get as much snow as last year as it made checking the ponies such hard we are, one month later, with even more snow than last year! It has been snowing for the last three days depositing around one and a half feet of the white stuff. The ponies don't seem to mind though. They have icicles hanging off their coats, manes and tails and the snow comes above their knees but despite a supply of good fresh hay they prefer to dip their noses into the snow...

...and eat the grass underneath.

They don't seem to have any trouble wading through the deep snow to get around...

...however, I do and after three days of doing the mile walk to and from their field up to my knees in snow, my legs ache and I feel exhausted.

The scenery has been incredible though and I have taken so many photos but sadly I can't show them all. The one below is of the snowy valley as we walked back home yesterday. It was totally silent and very beautiful.

This next photo was taken of our little house (bottom right) when we were nearly home. We had popped into the local store and bought chocolate bars to have with steaming cups of coffee when we got was lovely and as I am sure I must have burned thousands of calories on the hike to and from the ponies, I didn't feel guilty at all :)))

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Rufus and Tavey Return

I recently joined an organised walk looking at the stories attached to various plants. The walk took us into the SSSI that had been grazed by the ponies when we their stock checkers. The very knowledgeable lady taking the walk was amazed at the difference the ponies had made and was really excited to find that there were now lots of chalk grassland indicators that were clearly visible. It shows that conservation grazing works and is worthwhile.

During the summer the ponies have been grazing a completely different area that was too far away for us to be their checkers and although we visited them occasionally we still really missed them. However, last week they returned to the original area of SSSI near to us and we are again back to checking them:))) Tavey hasn't changed much but Rufus, the younger one (the grey) has grown such a lot and has lost his baby stature. He also seems a lot more confident and relaxed. It is such a pleasure to check on them and it is also very good exercise for us as the field is on a hill. I hope that we don't have quite such a snowy winter as last year though, as that made it very hard work.
We still also check on a flock of 20 sheep that are conservation grazing on the top of the North Downs. It has been quite a struggle over the last few weeks as they have been in a field covered in brambles and surrounded by Hawthorns. As the picture below shows, they liked to rest under the Hawthorns, but, as we need to check that they were all there and all well, we have had to scramble through the hawthorn bushes to chase them out to see them properly, so, along with brambles catching us round our legs, we have been returning covered in scratches. I'm pleased to say they have now just been moved to a much nicer field, so we managed to do today's check a lot quicker and without a scratch on us.

Below is a picture of my favourite sheep. We call him Rambo as he is a big, strong, handsome Jacob breeding ram but his real name is Ramekins which to me sounds sissy and doesn't do him justice. Although he is so powerful he is very friendly and gentle and loves me to give him a good scratch round the base of his horns. He has just gone on loan to the City of London to do what he does best with some of their conservation grazing ewes so I won't see him for a while but I'm sure he will have a good time:)
There are a few other Jacobs in the flock we check but the rest are all Beulah Speckled Face
An interesting fact about sheep is that they only have teeth on the bottom at the front of their mouths and then only eight. They are quite picky eaters and tear the grass by trapping it between the bottom teeth and the hard plate on the top of there mouth. They do have teeth top and bottom at the back of their mouths for chewing the cud but those eight teeth at the front are very important as without them they can't eat.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Rats, Cats and Pheasants

A few weeks back I mentioned my predicament with a rodent problem we were having in the garden, in particular, what to do about a rather cute baby rat who was eating my bird food. In an effort to discourage ratty I bought a metal feeding pole that I could move around the garden in an attempt to make it more difficult for the rat to find the food. Silly me, as if a rat could be that easily fooled and as the picture shows, he easily managed to climb the pole and help himself to the bird food.

A fox had already polished off cute baby rat's parents but, unfortunately, it didn't take long before cute baby rat became a big fat daddy rat himself and so our rodent problem increased once again. That was until a neighbouring cat found our garden. I got up one morning, a few days ago, to find him sitting on our patio with one dead rat at his feet, 10 mins later there was another, 20 mins later he walked past carrying a third in his mouth, then later in the day he left us a fourth. Since then, despite keeping guard for hours, in all weathers, he hasn't caught anymore.

I can't help feeling sorry for the rats but, on the other hand, it had got to the point where we felt we couldn't leave any doors or windows open in the house as they were nesting so close by. I also can't help admiring the cat's determination and acute senses..most of the time that the cat (don't know his name) was keeping guard he just looked like he was snoozing, with eyes tightly closed, but his ears gave it away as they kept twitching showing he was listening for any sound and very successfully it would seem.

At least without the rats around it has left the fallen bird food free for the pheasants who have returned to the garden for the winter. I have to admit that I have also started throwing food out for them as, if I can keep them over our side of the valley, they won't get caught up in the pheasant shoots. This year, so far, we have two males and five females visiting regularly. Usually, if there is more than one male, they are constantly fighting but these two males are very peaceful chaps...

...unlike two of the females who seem to hate each other and are forever squabbling.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Nothing Exciting

I can't believe it is a whole month since I last posted anything on my blog so here is a quick round up of whats been going on.

I have now finished off my reptile survey and all 20 refuges have been removed leaving the site clear for the return of the ponies...I am so looking forward to having them back:-) I have been quite pleased with the results of the survey having seen lots of slow worms, common lizards and their off-spring but unfortunately no snakes. The lizard in the picture decided to sit on top of one of the refuges instead of underneath.

We have continued to help with the Old Surrey Downs Project and have recently assisted with the separating of the lambs and ewes. Neither seemed especially bothered at being separated from each other although I found it quite sad. The lambs are now being distributed to the various sites for conservation grazing and we have given the ewes that will be put with the ram a bit of an m.o.t. and they are now enjoying some good grazing to prepare them for another pregnancy.

The garden has been producing an abundance of fruit and veg but, as usual, too much to keep up with so we've given lots away. It has been a particularly good year for our apples so those that were less than perfect have been thrown over the fence into the field for any wild animals to enjoy. This picture shows a young roe deer tucking in to them

We always seem to get this glut of vegetables around this time and then nothing for the winter/spring so this year we have bought a small poly tunnel for the veg plot in the hope that we can actually manage to grow some things over the winter months ready for spring, although, apart from cabbages, I'm not sure what else to try at the moment.

Lastly little Ginger guinea pig had to be put to sleep a couple of weeks ago. He was the surprise package from Gemma one of the other guinea pigs shortly after we had got them. We went to bed with two guinea pigs and woke up to find three. He was a lovely 2" bundle of ginger fluff but grew rapidly to become a very handsome and cheeky piggy. Luckily Gemma, the only guinea pig left now, doesn't seem upset at being alone so I don't feel we need to get another one to keep her company but I will really miss him as he was such a big character.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Great Fly Past

Last Sunday we went to the Battle of Britain 70th Anniversary open air Concert at Chartwell, the home of Sir Winston Churchill. We settled ourselves on the hill, just below the terrace, overlooking the beautiful lake and bandstand. The concert began with some readings and in the far distance there was the familiar hum of a Sptifire and Hurricane who were due to do a fly past...but they were beaten to it as a group of about 15 geese flew over us in perfect 'V' formation. The crowd cheered and clapped them and the geese circled round and then flew over us again and then off into the distance leaving the sky clear for the aircraft. It was a wonderful moment and I just wish I had had my camera ready.

The concert was quite moving. Most of the audience were my age and I couldn't help thinking that we were all there because our parents had been lucky enough to survive the war. When a life is lost to war (or anything) the generations that could have followed are also sad.

It is a natural thing to fight for supremacy and the good of the herd and all animals seem to do it. The difference with humans is that we involve so many innocent people in our battles, while mostly, in the animal world, it is just the leaders and leader wanabees that fight and the pack/herd will meekly follow whoever wins, so there is a lot less carnage, but I am very grateful to my parent's generation who all gave up so much for our freedom.
This coming weekend it is the Banstead (Surrey) Countryside Day so if anyone is in the area on Sunday (12th) call in...the entrance is free. It is being held next to the car park in Holly Lane from 10.30am to 4.30pm and should be good...if the weather stays dry:-)

Monday, 30 August 2010

Pony Visit

It has been a week of doing lots of horsey things.

Firstly we eventually found the time to visit Rufus and Tavey on their new site that they are busy conservation grazing and I am pleased to say that it is beautiful. It is quite an open enclosure with a lovely sunny slope covered with lots of sweet smelling wild herbs, like marjoram, basil and thyme. Both ponies have put on a healthy amount of weight which will set them up nicely for the winter and both look very happy. Better still there is a lovely country pub at the end of the footpath which is a good place to round off a visit to them. Unfortunately the site quite a long way away so we are not able to be their stock checkers while they are there but hopefully they will be coming back to our area again in the autumn.

My next horsey caper was to have a go at western riding. Ever since seeing Monty Roberts (horse whisperer) riding western at one of his demonstrations I have been wanting to have a go. I like the fact that they only have the lightest contact with the horse's mouth and they don't constantly keep nudging the horse in then ribs which must be so annoying for a horse. I was very nervous as I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to control my English riding habits and that I would confuse the horse but I needn't have worried and by the end of the lesson I was happily weaving in and out of cones.

My last horsey activity was to visit the Edenbridge and Oxted Agricultural show. We go most years but this time The Old Surrey Downs Project had a stand which we were helping with. Luckily the stand was in a good position where I could look over to see what was happening in the main arena and we also had some time off so we were able to watch some of the horsey classes in other arenas. My favourite was the lead rein class..such cute ponies and children..very Thelwell.

Amongst all this week's activities I have managed to get over to Rufus and Tavey's old site where I am helping with a survey of the reptiles there. I have put out 25 reptile refuges (bits of roofing felt or metal that reptiles like to go under for warmth and to keep dry) and wanted to check what was under them. There were several common lizards and some slow worms including the one in the picture below that is clearly pregnant and ready to pop any day:-)))

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Embrace your Weeds

This is a picture of the field just the other side of our garden fence. You can now see why we are fighting a losing battle with weeds in the garden. I would like to complain to the farmer but I am worried that he may use a herbicide which would get rid of the invasive weeds but would also destroy the orchids and other chalk downland flowers that are now appearing after years of it being set-aside land so instead I try to embrace the weeds as wild flowers...which I suppose they are really:-)

I find that if I zoom in on the weeds the photos often show that they are actually very beautiful plants. Here are some examples of self sown incomers to our garden:

One advantage of lots of weeds is that the insects like them and this in turn attracts the birds. I am pleased to say that friendly Robin has raised his/her brood and is back to following me around the garden. The first picture was taken before the breeding season and the second after. She looks a bit the worse for wear in the second picture but then raising offspring can do that to you (you should see my before and after pictures...not a pretty

When all the garden work gets a bit too much to enjoy it is lovely to be able to go up on to the North Downs to do the stock check of the sheep but, unfortunately, the last time we went we found one of the sheep had been attacked by a dog. Poor thing was in a sorry state and as a consequence the flock have been taken back to the farm so that the injured one can be treated and the others checked for bites. This leaves us with no stock to check as the ponies are still grazing another site quite a long way from us. I think we are going to be given 16 sheep to check on another site but it isn't quite as nice as it adjoins rather a rough estate and is notorious for vandalism and dog attacks. I have heard that Lamas and Alpacas are good at protecting sheep from dogs...maybe I should suggest that The Old Surrey Downs Project should get some of them:)

Saturday, 14 August 2010

More Comings and Goings

I have just realised that it is nearly 2 months since I have posted anything on my blog. My excuse is that I've been busy, although, on looking back, I can't think what has been sooo time consuming:-) So to summarise what has been going on:

The ponies on the SSSI have now been moved to another site to allow the land to recover before the winter. Rufus (the baby) took 3 hours to load into the trailer so I am pleased to say I wasn't involved. Their new site, which is another area of chalk downland, is a fair distance away but I have been told they are very happy as there is better grazing there. Hopefully they will be back in the winter.

I am pleased to say that the Bee Orchids (referred to in my previous post) survived the pony's hooves along with plenty of Pyramid and Common Spotted Orchids. These all finished finished flowering a few weeks ago and it is now covered with a carpet of wild Marjoram, giving a wonderful scent as we walk through it and lots of butterflies.

Since the ponies have gone I have put down 25 reptile refuges on their old site to see what reptiles there are following the scrub clearance and grazing. So far there have been a lot of slow worms and a few and common lizards. It will be interesting to see which will breed this year.

We still have the sheep to stock check and we have also become a lot more involved with all the sheep that are owned by the Old Surrey Downs. We are now proficient human sheep dogs and (if the sheep are willing) can flip them on to their backs and give them a wonderful pedicure. If they are not willing they flip us on to our backs :-))))

In the garden, the Lavender seedlings are now strong little plants and most have been planted to form lavender hedges alongside the paths (can't wait for next year when they all come into flower...the bees will love them). Otherwise there is the usual selection of weeds, perennial sweet peas, roses and a glut of runner beans and courgettes.

We have recently returned from a lovely holiday in the lakes and mountains of Italy to find that we have some new neighbours. I am not sure they are really welcome though, as it is a family of rats. They are incredibly cute as they gobble up the fall out from the bird feeder but as they are quite close to the house and ponds and knowing how fast they reproduce I don't think we can let them stay. I am not quite sure, at the moment, how we will get rid of them, because, as I am sure you will understand from the photo of baby rat, there is no way I could kill them.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Comings and Goings

With every walk there are now new wild flowers popping up everywhere. It is becoming hard to walk in the pony field as there are so many Orchids coming up, including a group of the very attractive Bee Orchids. They are growing quite close to the water trough so I wonder how long it will be before eight big hooves manage to squash them. We have tried to protect them by covering them with a tripod made of sticks but Tavey seemed to think we had put it there for him to scratch himself on:-)

Another of the 'comings' are the butterflies and moths. Now when we walk through the long grass and wild flowers in the field behind us, masses of Cinnabar Moths, Small Skippers, Blues and some others that I have yet to identify, fly up chasing each other around. Magical. There seem to be far more than in previous years which is surprising when we had such a long cold winter.

Something that worryingly seems to have gone though, are the Bees. We had loads in the early spring when all the Crocuses were 'a buzz' with them but I haven't seen any for several weeks.

Lastly and very sadly another thing that has gone is our lovely old cat, Lizzy, who had to be put to sleep yesterday. She was rather a 'one person cat' and I was that person. Right from being a kitten she would follow me around and sit with me so I will miss her such a lot. However, she was nearly twenty and, apart from losing her tail when a car ran over it, she has had had a really good long life and was loved very much, which is great considering she was born to a young stray and spent her first few weeks of life living under a bush in an old ladies garden. Now she is at rest with her brother and sister in our back garden where she loved to watch the world go by whilst basking in the sunshine.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

I Like Lichen

I have always found lichen to be interesting although I have never spent much time finding out about them, so I was pleased to find that lichens were the subject of the first activity of the Open University short course that I am doing. There are many interesting facts but here are a couple:
  • Although looking like one organism, lichen is made up of two interdependent organisms. The main part is a fungus and within the fungus there is either photosynthetic algae or cyanobacteria. The fungus protects and stops the algae drying out while absorbing the products of the algae's photosynthesis.
  • In 2005 the European Space Agency exposed 2 different types of lichen to open space for 15 days and despite being exposed to the vacuum of space, cosmic radiation, full spectrum uv light and intense temperatures, the lichens survived and on return to earth were still able to photosynthesise.

In my garden we have a lot of trouble with a vast amount of lichen colonising on our apple tree. I have yet to find out if the lichen are causing branches to die off or if a dying branch just provides a more attractive habitat for the lichen but as you can see from this photo, some branches are covered in it and not looking too healthy.

While I have been wandering around my garden looking for different types of lichen I have also come across some bugs which I haven't seen before. The first was a Roesel's Bush-cricket but unfortunately he hopped off before I could take his photograph. The second bug, which was crawling around the cornflowers, was more obliging (just) and thanks to the Natural History Museum's bug forum, I have found out it is a Agapanthia Villosoviridescens. Apparently the larvae live in the storks of thistles so no doubt another benefit of adjoining a field of weeds that like to spread their seeds and other bits into our garden (one has to try and find positives:-) Anyway, rather a cute beetle with very striking antennae.

Besides searching for lichen, my husband and I have been busy cutting down some of the Hawthorn which is re-growing in the pony sssi area, as it is reducing the grazing area and shading out some of the wildflowers. Although it is a very scratchy job it is also enjoyable as the ponies come over to keep an eye on us and investigate our belongings...Rufus even managed to pick up my water bottle and give it a good shake...wish I had my camera ready as it looked very funny. There is also plenty of interesting wildlife like a Grizzled Skipper, loads of Twayblade and this newly emerged Man Orchid although this picture doesn't really show it properly.

There were also a few interesting passers by who stopped for a chat. One person was a riding instructor that taught me to ride when I was about 9 yrs old and another was an incredibly knowledgeable reptile expert. He was very interested to know where I had seen the common lizard last week and logged it in his GPS. He also told be about the best places for putting down refuges for the reptiles and said he will drop some off for us, along with some more information on reptiles. He was the sort of chap that one could learn so much from and it was such a pleasure to meet him.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Sunny Sunday

At this time of the year I just want to be constantly walking around the countryside, as everyday seems to bring something new, especially when the weather is warm and sunny.

In the SSSI land grazed by the ponies, over the last few days, I have seen three slow worms and a cute common lizard that was sun bathing on a choice piece of fairly fresh horse's dung..mmm..lovely and warm:-) Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me.

Today, as the weather was so warm, I decided to forget the usual Sunday gardening torture and go for a long walk, checking out some of the fields around us. There were masses of moths and butterflies. I rather liked this White Ermine moth and thought it looked quite trendy sporting its musical notes on its back...

Another butterfly that caught my eye was this beautiful Green Hairstreak. The photo doesn't do it justice as the emerald green of its wings shone amazingly as it flew around. It's the first time I have seen one of these around here.

In the area of SSSI land nearest to us, that has been rather mashed up by heavy machinery clearing the scrub, I was pleased to see some Birdsfoot-trefoil making an appearance again as the whole area used to be covered in it. It shows things are beginning to recover so hopefully there will be more Orchids this year (still no sign of the lizards though).

Another flower that I rather like that is growing in lots of places on the ground disturbed by the heavy machinery is the Scarlet Pimpernel, although very common I think it is so pretty.

Besides my long enjoyable walk, I have managed to fit in some other useful things today. I have cleaned the filters on the fish ponds and thinned out the pond weed, all the while being watched by the beady eyes of several frogs. I have also put together a rose arch which is currently on the living room floor waiting for a strong man to help me lift it outside. There were too many red ants wanting a nibble of my ankles to build it outside. I think we are gradually being taken over by red ants but I don't like killing them so I just try to avoid them, although, every time I go out, they seem to come running over to me as fast as their little legs will carry them...I can almost hear them shouting, "Hooray it's dinner!" :-)

Monday, 17 May 2010

Ginger's Op.

In my post dated 30th April I wrote about Ginger guinea pig needing an expensive operation to remove a bladder stone. Today was operation day but although the stone is still showing up on x-rays, when the vet opened Ginger up, she was unable to locate it, so he's been through all that trauma for nothing. Tomorrow pictures of the x-rays (£800 worth!) are being sent to a specialist to see if he can say where the stone is (thankfully we are not being charged for all these additional cost). Even if the specialist can locate it more accurately I am not sure it is fair to put Ginger through yet another operation, although he doesn't seem too bad after this one, just very hungry. I really don't know what to do for the best.

As I am writing this I am half watching a fox that is acting very strangely... one minute it is at the top of the field but the next time I look up it is at the bottom, then it is back up at the top again and so on. Very odd. I think I will forgo my game of chess with the computer and watch it for a while through the binoculars.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Painful Pastime

When looking at other bloggers descriptions and photos of their beautiful gardens they conjure up images of warm sunny Sundays pottering in the garden, pulling out a little weed here and another there, whilst enjoying a peace and quiet only broken by birdsong. If only that is what it was like in my garden.

I love my garden...when I don't need to do anything in it, but, as we adjoin a field that has been 'set aside' for at least the last ten years, every weed growing out there also spreads into our garden and it ends up as a battle against weeds (odd how the pretty wildflowers that grow in the field never end up in our garden).

Anyway, as soon as I step outside, firstly the sun goes in, then there is usually a mass evacuation of aeroplanes from the airport flying overhead, meanwhile all the neighbours start their lawn mowers and strimmers and every child in the locality will find something to cry about. Maybe they have been stung by one of the extra large stinging nettles that seem to grow in our area and constantly manage to generate a sting that penetrates even my extra thick gardening gloves or maybe they too have been attacked by the abundance of cleavers that wrap themselves around ones limbs leaving a horrible itchy rash or were they attacked by the dastardly vicious red ants that lurk under every flower pot just waiting for a leg to run up before they start biting their victim with gusto. Gardening is a painful business.

I wish all weeds were like Forget-me-nots..up they come every year, flower beautifully, are easy to pull up when they have finished flowering and without having to do anything more, up they come the following year just as beautiful and they do not inflict any pain or injury. That's the sort of plant I like:-)

There are some good things about gardening though. I like the way my friendly Robin follows me around and puts his head on one side when I mumble curses after a weed has inflicted another dose of pain and I like discovering Slow Worms hiding in sunny parts of the garden soaking up the warmth and I actually rather like snails as long as they keep away from my vegetables and Sweet peas.

I also like finding signs that the foxes and badgers are still visiting the garden, although, today I found a very gone off hens egg that some creature had left in the flower bed. Unfortunately I stuck my trowel in it before I realized what it was so just to add to my painful Sunday gardening experience, the rest of the time was spent trying not to breathe the very smelly odour that emanated from the egg..even the Robin found it too much and flew away:-)

Saturday, 8 May 2010

It's Just As Well..

It is just as well that so many baby fish survived the harsh winter in our ponds because this Heron has become a frequent visitor to a nearby tree and I suspect has already had a few 'fishy take-aways'......

It is also just as well that since Christmas I have been dosing up on vitamins, cutting down on fats and generally trying to get fitter as during some volunteer work with the Old Surrey Downs Project on Thursday and Friday, I twice found myself running across a field in the process of rounding up sheep. Considering I haven't run anywhere (not even for the bus) for many years, I was rather pleased with myself and found it quite liberating...a bit like being a child again. I now have this ridiculous urge to run around in the field behind us, a bit Julie Andrews like in the opening scene of the Sound of's lucky for the neighbours I can't sing:-))

It's also just as well that the ponies don't seem to like eating Orchid leaves as plenty are now coming up in their field, especially Common Spotted and Twayblades. I can't wait for the flowering season to start. The ponies have done a really good job with their conservation grazing although there is a lot of Hawthorn that is growing up again. I wonder if this will be cut down or whether they will put some other type of grazing animal in, like goats, that may eat more of it than the ponies.

And lastly, it's just as well we have a new computer as my legs ache after all that running around after sheep, so I can now have a lazy day trying to beat the computer at chess:-)