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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Harvest Time

This morning has turned out dry and cloudy and the forecast says mostly sunny and 10 per cent chance of precipitation!
I hope its correct because I have just arranged for a local farmer to come and take a hay cut on our wild flower meadow.
Last year for various reasons the cut wasn't made till October. Benefits were that butterflies and the Great Green Bush cricket were left alone. Just what effect the date of the cut makes on our insects I'm not sure. Visually of course its more attractive to walk round the uncut field than a field of stubble.
Two years ago I arranged for a 10 metre wide strip to be left to allow Meadow Browns and Common Blue butterflies to enjoy the grass. For the following two years it has been quite clear that the leaving the grass uncut created in the 10 metre strip a more dense grass growth that elsewhere.
Yellow Rattle has spread over most of the 4 acres and patches of Knapweed, Ladies Bedstraw, Perforate St Johns Wort, Field Scabious, all  appear to be spreading.
This morning before the cut I've been round helping to spread those patches by taking seeds still on the plants and casting it around generally in the same area but increasing the coverage.  That after all is what the cutting machines do and it will be interesting to see if I've have helped or not.

But whilst I'm writing this Blog, we have a problem, with the hay cut. The contractor has been to the field and because of the narrow lane he cant get his very long machinery in though the gate. So back to square one and more telephone calls are already taking place. Watch this space.
In the mean time here are some Burnet moths on a scabious flower in our meadow.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Confused about Government Policy ?

I thought I would try to be non party political in my Blog but today it seems difficult to steer a neutral path through Govt statements.

In my last post I started to look at the new draft planning proposals and I more than ever hope they are draft and a long way from being final! Issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government. ( a Dept I am sure I've never heard off before and their web site doesn't look like a normal Govt site at all. Is there something fishy about this?)
Here is a link to the planning doc, click here 


Today by chance I came across a news statement by another department of the Govt. This time the Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs. Visit by clicking here..


The former (DCLG) says:
Clause  13. Under the sub heading:-  "The presumption in favour of sustainable development".
"The  Government is committed to ensuring that the planning system does everything it can to support sustainable economic growth. A positive planning system is essential because , without growth, a sustainable future can not be achieved."

Clause 14. "At the heart of the planning system is a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which should be seen as a golden thread running through plan making and decision taking."


The latter statement  ( DEFRA) issued  on 19th Aug 2011says:  "New strategy to save and protect England's Wildlife"
Launching Biodiversity 2020, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:

"Our wildlife is not only something that we should value because its nice to look at. Nature underpins our very existence, giving us clean air to breath, clean water to drink and healthy food to eat.
This strategy sets out how we will stop the loss of species and habitats, so that this generation can be the first to leave our natural environment in a better state than they found it."


I much prefer to follow the lead given by DEFRA than that by DCLG!

PS.  I'll try to add some wildlife photos in my next Blog!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Draft National Planning Policy Framework

 I received an email the other day from someone monitoring planning and environmental issues and thought you might like to see some of it.

( click here to go to Government web site )


Hello all

I’m sorry to do this to you , but I need to talk to you all about planning. No, wait – don’t run off, it’s not boring stuff, I promise – it’s pretty important, actually. And I need your help. Stick with me, it won’t take more than 3 minutes unless you trot off to make a cup of tea halfway through.  

I’ve been waiting a while for something called a National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to be produced by the department for Communities and Local Government (CLG). In the run up to its release, the NPPF was touted as a document to promote “sustainable development”, and consolidate the raft of existing national planning guidance into an easy to use, simple, 60-something pages. Great – every sane person out there will agree the planning system would benefit from a bit of simplification. So the NPPF in principle seemed a good thing, and we planning folk waited excitedly to see what, post-Lawton, post-NEWP, would emerge…

…and we waited…

…and then on 25th July, just minutes before all the MPs trotted off on their jollies, the draft NPPF was quietly slipped out into the world, and a consultation launched to find out what we all think of it. Excellent timing.

It takes a staunchly, unabashedly, pro-growth stance, and places the pursuit of economic prosperity above the other “pillars” of sustainability. So much for Lawton. A sample quote will give you a flavour of what I mean: “The Government is committed to ensuring that the planning system does everything it can to support sustainable economic growth. A positive planning system is essential because, without growth, a sustainable future cannot be achieved. Planning must operate to encourage growth and not act as an impediment. Therefore, significant weight should be placed on the need to support economic growth through the planning system.” It goes on like this for quite a while, and while you’re reading the various chapters you notice you’re chewing your finger to keep yourself from pouring forth a diatribe of frustration (you can experience this for yourself if you feel like it – I have attached the NPPF for those of you with an inclination towards masochism).
There are some cracking elements to the NPPF, with the potential to be good and strong…if only it wasn’t for the erosion of their punch by the weight and predominance placed on economic growth! Sadly there’s a great deal in the NPPF to be nail-chewing about.
To put it simply, this document will make it harder to…
·          defend good sites
·          defend sites with potential
·          defend species that don’t have statutory protection
·          achieve ecological enhancements
…simply because ecological concerns are placed well beneath the pursuit and delivery of growth.

I won’t bore you with anymore than this – read it yourself and find out, or don’t. It’s your choice, but I will just say that planning affects us all – it shapes places, it shapes our environment, it lends or erodes quality from the areas we live. If we want an environment rich in wildlife for everyone, we have a lot to be concerned about in this NPPF, because wildlife will be consigned to national parks and not much else. It’s hard to convey in an email how worried I am by this. The NPPF is a once in a generation thing: it’ll be here for 20 years or more. At the moment, it reads like a developer’s charter, and I for one don’t want us stuck with that.

For those of you with the time and willpower, who want to read the NPPF, I would welcome your thoughts on it.
Comments should reach me by 26th August.
A final response will be sent to CLG by 16th October.


When someone appears on my Blog as a follower I am always curious to find out a bit about them. Why choose my Blog to follow , what do they Blog about and what are their interests etc.
The newest arrival is a Blog called Sunflower Haven based in Connecticut US.( URL  Ignoring any thoughts that this might not be the sort of Blog I would want to know about I checked it out so to speak.
This is all just first impressions but does lead to something interesting.
This blog covers hand made jewelry and not especially of interest to me but  it does have posts on the subject of Bugs and photographs which are of interest.
Also I noticed the Blogs Sunflower Haven follows and one is called Bug Eric and this turns out to be a
pprofessional writer and entomologist.  His Blog says: 
The Blogger is Eric R. Eaton,  a professional writer and entomologist, principal author of the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. Eric says that he  has built a loyal following as a volunteer for,, and

I'll leave you to follow up on this if you are as curious as I am. Eric's Blog looks very interesting to me, is full of some very attractive insects with good photographs and if he lived in Somerset I would be more than  interested in hearing one of his talks.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Monsters in my new pond

There be monsters about in Somerset.
Just 60 days since we filled our new garden pond with fresh rain water and I've just noticed something stirring in the silt lying on a shelf in the pond. We have only a couple of flowering plants and some floating oxyginating plants some water boatmen and black beetles and not much else. Or so I thought.
Having tried my hand at pond dipping for the first time I managed to collect an odd looking monster, very hairy and quite scary looking for anyone who doesn't like spiders for instance.
So using my friends in the Wildlife Trust and getting the best photo I could manage I have been informed that I have a dragonfly nymph, probably the Broad-bodied Chaser variety.
To back up my discovery here is my photograph.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Barcroft Hall, Somerset

This is a large private estate in Somerset which has attracted quite a bit of media coverage lately because the owner has created a 2 acre wild flower meadow out of old derelict farm land over the last two years or so. Abandoned buildings have been removed and the land worked on to make it suitable for planting wildflower seeds. This summer and up to the end of August visitors are invited to walk round the field on pathways kept for the purpose to admire this remarkable collection.

I visited last weekend and was surprised to see so many plants still in flower and more so the range of plants. There are some non native plants.
As a visual spectacle it certainly has the wow factor in big measure.

I recommend you visit before it is all over for this year.

Click here for a link. If that doesn't work use this URL:

This is the first year for this project and next year may be different and without in any way detracting from this achievement there may be ways in which it can be made even more interesting and wildlife friendly. I should add the conservationist have a wide rang of views on what they consider good practice so my views may not be the only way to go. I think you have to see it for yourself and then we can comment. Bearing in mind that if it wasn't for the private owner there would not be anything except derelict farm buildings to comment on.

For your interest here is a list of some of the flower growing on the field but not necessarily in flower for your visit in August:

Details taken from the Barcroft web site  ( any errors in transcribing the list especially in spelling will be mine!)

Ammobium alatum    Winged everlasting

Brachyscome iberidifolia   Swan River daisy

Calendula arvensis    Calendula

Chrysanthemum carinatum   Chrysanthemum

Cladanthus arabicus   Palm Springs daisy

Clarkia amoena     Farewell to spring

Collinsia bicolor    Chinese houses

Consolida regalis   Forking larkspur

Convolvulus tricolor  Morning glory

Coreopsis basalis      Golden Mane

Coreopsis tinctoria    Plains Coreopsis

Cosmos bipinnatus      Cosmos

Cosmos sulphureus      Sulphur Cosmos

Cynoglossum amabile    Chinese forgrt-me-not

Daucus carota          Wild carrot

Delphinium ajacis      Wild dephinium

Didiscus caerulea      Silver scabious

Echium vulgare         Viper’s bugloss

Eschscholtzia californica    Californian poppy

Gaillardia aristata     Blanket Flower

Gaillardia pulchella    Indian blanket

Gilia capitata       Blue field gilia

Gilia tricolor       Birds eye gilia

Gypsophila muralis     Baby’s breath

Helichrysum monstrosum    Dwarf everlasting flower

Helipterum roseum       Paper flower

Iberis amara         Dwarf candytuft

Iberis umbellata       Candytuft

Delphinium consolida     Larkspur

Lasthenia Californica     California goldfields

Lavatera Trimestris     Rose mallow

Leontodon hispidus      Rough hawkbit

Linaria maroccana      Spurred snapdragon

Linum grandiflorum     Scarlet flax

Linum usitatissimum     Blue flax

Lomas inodora         Yellow ageratum

Nemophila menziesii    Baby blue eyes

Origanum majorana      Origano

Nolana paradoxa        Wild bird

Papaver rhoeas        Poppy

Phacelia Campanularia   Californian bluebell

Phacelia Tanacetifolia   Lacy phacelia

Ratibida columnifera     Prairie coneflowers

Scabiosa columbaria      Scabious

Silene vulgaris      Catchfly

Tolpis barbata      Umbrella milkwort

Ursinia anethoides     Ursinia

Venidium fastuosum    Cape daisy

Viscaria occulta     Blue angel

Agrostemma githago    Corncockle

Chrysanthemum segetum  Corn marigold

Xeranthemum annuum    Everlasting flower

Zinnia elegans     Zinnia

Anthemis Arvensis    Corn Chamomile

Ammi majus      Queen Anne’s lace

Centaurea cyanus    Cornflower

Clarkia unguiculata    Mountain Garland

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


One of the posts on this Blog which attracts the most searches is any reference to bats.
Not being a bat expert I usually visit the Somerset Bat Group web site or contact its members.
We recently arranged to go on a walk to inspect bat boxes and attempt to identify the species found flying by using detectors.

As well as learning a little more about bats I was surprised to find out that bat detector devices are used to search for grass hoppers and crickets!

Their web site gives details of their walks and events and has a photo gallery.

Their home page is at this link. Click here. 

Their photo gallery is here. 

One of the items on my " to do " list is to arrange a bat survey around our meadow and hedges. I also need to organise a moth count as well.

Hope this helps.

This is one animal I don't get to photograph!