Moths, Wormeries and Cowslips – 23rd April 20222
Saturday 23rd April 2022 was a bright spring morning with a chill in the air. A group of people gathered at Mark and Fiona’s house, just off Shaft Road above Monkton Combe, to first enjoy a coffee and a chocolate croissant before going outside to inspect the moth trap that had been set the night before. There was some excitement as we waited to see what had been caught. In fact on this occasion we only caught 4 moths (as it was early in the season and it had been a cold and cloudy night). Later in the season we should be able to catch many more as we did last year. However the beauty and detail of the moths we caught was a sheer delight and we were intrigued by the various names that described them: (pictured below) Muslin Moth (we found the male as it was grey rather than white), Common Quaker, Hebrew Character and the larger Brindled Beauty Moth, with a beautiful pattern that I would have been happy to be made into a shirt pattern to wear out on a special occasion.
We then inspected the wormery and composting tumblers and learned more about good composting – essential for any good garden and a great way to use all that vegetable and fruit waste together with cardboard (and more) to make quality compost.
By now the sun was emerging from the clouds. Birds were singing in the trees and Simon identified various species as they sung and flew. Gold finches with their characteristic chatter, a robin with his mellow song, a wren with its shrill call. It turned out to be a beautiful spring day. We then wandered around the garden to see various sustainable and wildlife friendly ways to do the gardening. Mulch, much, mulch was one lesson that I learned – to be able to conserve water and to cut back on unwanted growth!
We inspected various spring flowers: primroses now fading, bugle, borage, garlic mustard (some being enjoyed by cabbage bugs) and much more besides. It was lovely to see the trees flowering and coming into leaf – the oak before the ash (we’re in for a splash). Often tree flowers are not very obvious to us – but very much appreciated by many birds in the hungry gap before the spring really takes off. Great to see so many patches and corners where wildlife can flourish, including a pond with newts, and dry-stone walls.
This is a big garden where a lot of fruit and veg are grown but Mark and Fiona manage to use NO pesticides or herbicides at all. They have also taken the attitude that wildflowers are wildflowers (not weeds) and attract bees and other pollinators, so they avoid over-tidiness on the gravel paths and allow flowers to grow through.
We then headed down the drung (a path with a wall either side) towards Monkton Combe to visit the arboretum and meadow being created by David and Diana. We didn’t spot any of the adders that live in the cracks of the dry-stone wall on this occasion, but it is also a good place for slow worms and lizards to hide. We looked across the valley at the wonderful view above the village. Much conversation and laughter was shared as we enjoyed the company of others just appreciating the beauty of nature on a lovely spring day. Many trees had been planted from tiny saplings and now growing well so the arboretum is really taking shape. There is an avenue of beech trees, also rowan, hornbeam, wild cherry, 2 walnut trees, oak trees and much more. The meadow was progressing well thanks to yellow rattle, which suppresses the growth of grasses by drawing out water and nutrients and allows other wild flowers to grow. There was a rich habitat of wildflowers including the snake’s head fritillary and cowslips still flowering. Soon the purple pyramid orchids will appear and hopefully some bee orchids too.
This was a very special morning. A special thanks to Ann Stuart, the founder of Wild About Bath who led the day, sharing her knowledge and keeping us on time! Also thanks to Simon Stuart for wildlife observations. And of course, thanks to Mark and Fiona Womersley and to David and Diana Le Tall for sharing their gardens and their knowledge with us all.
I’m feeling even more Wild About Bath – Let’s get even Wilder!
By Mark Bagott
25th April 2022