I righted a sheep…

There are no big prairies here in the UK, in fact here in Northumberland it is generally a landscape of modestly sized fields with sheep grazing and open upland at higher elevation even though these animals bring little monetary gain unless you are recognised assisted hill status.

Its quite easy to find ridge and furrow bullock ploughing from 150 years ago, in fact theres some parts that are substantially mediaeval, with touches of Roman roads and even incredibly, “I could take you there myself” (to make a quote from a well known film of seventy years ago) as Neolithic in one or two locations as indicated on the OS map, itself a thing of great beauty. Luckily in Northumberland there is upland that has escaped ‘improvement’ (a subject close to near all farmers hearts) ie how to improve and in times past importantly improve your chances of survival which matters a great deal, in times past of hoping a surplus to barter and perhaps generate a few coins in your purse. It would be stupid to expect a farmer to think otherwise, the balance at the bank account or held in the purse or the lack of it is a mighty driving force. We can look at say China and see until 1960 it was still very much a hand to mouth existence, small scale (despite Maos collectivisation) and fundamentally precarious. Even today from what I see theres hardly a square foot of land that is ever wasted.

And so, a couple of evenings ago at one of my locations to park and wander down country lanes I notice a sheep stuck on its side say 300 yds away (land around Gorf_ _letch, Morpeth, Northumberland) but hesitating at being too reactive when it is hoped the animal can right itself, its only twenty minutes later I think its time to act, to get across the fields and possibly put the sheep back onto its feet.

In reality the animal is of very little weight, but the fleece is very bulky and cumbersome once the poor thing is on its side, the natural extent of the a sheeps legs is also a hindrance, unable to curl up under and hence of no aid in righting itself. By the worn nature of the grass and accumulated faeces etc I’d say she had been stuck more than a couple of hours, more like all afternoon. Several times over the years I have released sheep from barbed wire or brambles or being stuck and unable to right themselves, that is why in the car I always have scissors and wire cutters.

Job quick done, a second or two at most to right the sheep, I stayed ten minutes to make sure she coped, apart from a RH back leg seeming a bit lame she hobbled on to search the field for her offspring, moving methodically among the jumble to locate her own.

Curiously in the same location perhaps two years ago I found a sheep carcase that must have lain for weeks unbeknown to the idiotic, malfunctioning would-be pretend small holders that insist on keeping animals but know bugger all. This vexes me a great deal. Police, County Council and Ministry were alerted. In addition I found a dead lamb well away from its mother three or four years ago, we can blame the same offending would-be small holders, it leaked from a field of excruciatingly untended unrepaired fencing. Useless tw#ts – yes. Its called effort, you have to make it!

A beautiful location, lots of memories, the evening light is incredible; with my beagle on the grassy bank we would sit to catch the evening light, I know where to find marsh marigold, where diatoms are easiest to collect, recording birdsong and all are many many happy memories whatever the weather.

nooks and crannies …

… these are the things we have lost that insects, bees and butterflies crave as their winter locations, our slick modernity offers them nothing. No tree is allowed to weather and decay as nature intended, offering a multitude of opportunities for new insects and molds and organisms to appear on the altered now declining tree, a home for bats perhaps; a tree or at least some trees surely must be allowed to follow its natural cycle that can offer a new feast and home to so many living things. In the liability culture and ‘tidy’ malaise that seems to be taken up by everyone from municipal gardeners to householders all must be cut down, levelled and rendered sterile, all trees young, exemplified by the dreaded ‘rowan’ of municipal planting. Likewise our habitations and structures offer next to nothing for the tinier members of the natural world.

So what do I do to counter this ignorance of ecology, this ignorance of the living world? I allow things to decline and rot, I create jumbles of prunings in quiet areas of my garden, I stack same length cut limbs and branches from small trees say eighteen or twenty four inches long topped with roofing felt and a couple of bricks at many places at the perimeter of my garden. I allow bees to take over the various nest boxes if they so wish, which reminds me I’d better get another birdbox made and installed this weekend.

Each autumn I often can find say six nests dotted around this medium size semi-urban garden and also know each nest box generally produces two clutches a year; my garden is alive with the sound of garden songbirds, all it needs is common sense and to read a little to pick up the basics, all gardens should be like mine! But how many people nowadays enjoy the contents of an instructional or non-fiction book, especially kids, so much lost!

A great thrill a few years ago was seeing the queen bee fly in her flightless workers one by one piggy back into the commandeered dry and waterproof birdbox I’d made myself, theres lots of thing I make myself, its my particular mindset and approach to life, its the way I was brought up.

For bee and insect and butterfly overwintering I sometimes wrap up bundles of umbellifer stems with string and place them in unvisited parts of wherever. I specifically allow leaf litter to remain, essential for healthy worms and soil, the latter being much more complex and beautiful than most people realise, likewise the blackbird for instance craves to turn over a mature long established leaf layer. Daily I feed birds at my own garden and the location for my list below.

A location nearby which was once a pit heap wsaste ie spoil heap, then a waste infill site is now reclaimed and wooded and since moving here thirty years ago I’ve introduced two dozen native north British species over the last twenty years plus, at 7th May 2021, this is all done to help insects and therefore bird life.

  • honeysuckle
  • foxglove (wild collected seed)
  • bluebells
  • teasel (from an old pit site a mile away)
  • common spotted orchid (from a nearby pit yard two miles away)
  • round leaved orchid (from motorway services)
  • cranesbill
  • avens (geum) from Beacon Hill (now being much over-exploited by greedy holiday lets)
  • red campion (silene) from Wooler
  • cowslip (from the motorway verge at the Seaham turn-off, relevant to my wife Christine)
  • primrose
  • dog violet
  • ragged robin
  • cow parsley
  • pignut
  • angelica
  • wild carrot
  • milk parsley
  • unwittingly … thatching reed
  • yellow flag iris ( lots and as botanists say ‘successful’)
  • common polypody (ie a common fern, at the stonework of the outfall, my wifes ashes etc)
  • round leaved mint
  • sweet chestnut from seed (failed, too much shade)
  • wood sorrel (failed, I think doomed to failure anyway)
  • goatsbeard … now gone due to overzealous cutting of verges, lets collect more seed this summer etc
  • snowdrop seed five years ago and waiting
  • blue whelted thistle
  • knapweed (very useful for hoverflies)
  • marsh marigold – latest addition May 2021 – I’m sure will thrive.
  • enchanters nightshade
  • my wifes ashes

So far a list of thirty items!

And I’m sure theres more but cannot recall; each of the above would be a deliberate effort with wild collected material. I shall try again with the round leaved mint, I know of a roadside location where I can obtain complete rooted material, its wonderful for bees, as is the glorious, valuable and much unappreciated knapweed. Likewise I need to get back over to the donor pit yard for the common spotted, ten years ago I had hundreds and now much dwindled to a couple of dozen. I would have thought the reclaimed / disturbed land would suit them.

All done by me and cost nowt …. no app no screen no signal !!! Its what my Dad would call ‘good with his hands’.

copyright climate-change-briefing.com 2021