Monday, 2 March 2015

The hebridean inhabitants of Hauxley

Winter’s grip is loosening. The ground is still sodden, and scabbed over with dead flower stems and grass blades barely green from the cold but the air is full of bird song. The little birds have kicked off, finches  and buntings, tree sparrows and wrens. Work is well underway at Hauxley too, on the new straw build hide. The burning down of the old hide turned out to be a blessing. It was a beautiful wooden building, substantial and snug. I still treasure the strange grand opening breakfast as the great and the good of respectable Northumberland squeezed into its main room for scrambled eggs and bacon. With so many more people coming to Hauxley it rapidly became obvious that a bigger building would be better with classrooms and a cafe so that the bacon and eggs were not a one off.

The western edge of the reserve has been enlarged too now, following a land purchase and a flock of pretty Hebridean sheep are now at work grazing, or they would be if they did not follow any passer- by in the hope of a feed. They have the deepest brown wool, fluffed up akin to a Cruft’s poodle and propelled on delicate legs so that from a distance they appear to be animated woollen bobbles that have come adrift from a hat. The new land is largely stark grassland, but like so much nature conservation think ten or twenty years ahead. New woodland and scrub will form a rich fringe to the reserve and hopefully saline grassland can take over the inundated edges. Room for some new ponds too, perhaps larger, permanent ones in contrast to the shallow flashes and pools that already ring the car park. A mix is best. The winter flashes around the car park area riot of summer flowers but some deeper ponds would be good for submerged species such as Potamogeton pondweeds. Meantime the JCB started work levelling and preparing the brow where the old hide was incinerated. You can check progress on the Wildlife Trust’s special straw build Facebook group; the videos may by students from Hirst Park Middle school are a joy. Here’s the link

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