The first job of the New Year was to get over to Saltbox SSSI to dig up the Ragwort. Although Ragwort is the host plant for the Cinnabar Moth, it is, unfortunately, also very toxic to grazing animals and eventually the effects can kill them. Horses are particularly sensitive to the plant if eaten and for this reason one is obliged by Defra's Code of Practice, to remove it if there are grazing animals near by.
We thought we had cleared the Ragwort from Saltbox in the summer but, worryingly, not only are there plants still flowering and producing seed heads (each plant can produce 150,000 seeds!!) but there are new plants growing and beginning to send up new flower heads. They are in a sheltered part of the field so with the mild weather they have just kept growing. I dread to think what it will be like next Spring/Summer if we don't get some proper winter weather soon.
...and also noticed that the Cuckoo Pint is shooting up.
It is so mild that I haven't really been able to do my new country boots justice which I had bought on the big side to accommodate thick socks to keep my feet warm this winter. When I first got them they seemed too lovely to use in the country (see pic below).
However it hasn't taken me long to christen them and they are now covered in mud after walking across the fields to do a livestock check of the Herdwicks that we had moved from Chapel Bank to Tatsfield last week.
When we arrive to do the livestock check, the sheep seemed very interested in something going on over the other side of the fence, but when I looked I couldn't see anything unusual. We moved them on to check that none were showing signs of lameness and then went off to check the fences. By the time we had finished they were back staring over the fence...
Very peculiar I thought...then, suddenly, a big lorry drove past very fast and the sheep all ran and I realised they had been looking at the traffic going past. Although they are used to the sound of traffic, I don't think they have been in a situation where they could really see the traffic but at the point in the field where they were looking it was quite a bit higher than the road and so gave them a birds-eye view of all the vehicles speeding along this little country lane. They obviously found it very entertaining:)
Daffodils in the snow at Petworth Park
9 hours ago