Thursday, 15 August 2013

One Year On...

August 13th marked my one year anniversary here at Mottisfont - hard to believe I have been here a full year and seen a full cycle of seasons across our sites - where does the time go?

August has also brought us into a slightly cooler climate than we have had of late and with it I have started to notice the signs of the impending Autumn – the swallows and swifts are starting to gather on the phone lines to discuss their migration and some of the Acer tree’s in the garden are showing the first tints of autumn colour.  However there is still plenty around to enforce the late summer; the Chalkhill blue butterflies on Stockbridge Down are out in their thousands on a sunny day – you can’t blink without disturbing a cloud of them which then consequently flutters around your head until you feel you are walking in some kind of butterfly daze.  It is also heart-warming to see the sheer quantity of fruits and nuts that are heavy on every tree and bush at the moment.  Blackberries, Sloes, Apples, Plums, Chestnuts, Walnuts, Beechnuts, Hazelnuts – everything seems to be weighed down with the weight of its produce and, after the rubbish harvest of last year this is a huge relief to see.  Birds, mammals, bees, invertebrates – all will benefit and be able to feast upon the rich crop of fruits which they suffered from a lack of last year.  And of course it means more fruit crumble, roasted chestnuts, Sloe Gin and Cider for us!

Sitting at my desk tapping away the other day, I kept hearing a high pitch ‘kee-ing’ noise from outside the window.  It sounded like the kind of cry that young birds give when their parent bird returns to the nest with food and they are all squeaking and twittering for edible attention.  Hearing this call continue off and on for a few minutes I scrambled up to the window and stuck my head out, looking round for what I thought must be a nest site somewhere nearby and spotted the source of the noise.  Sitting on the rooftop to my left was a very fluffy young Kestrel, which had obviously fledged not too long before.  It was hunched up against the slight windy drizzle, which was making its baby feathers fluff up in a funny bouffant effect and every-time one of the adult birds flew over it would give its baby ‘feed-me-feed-me-feed-me-feed-me-feed-me’ cry.  I watched it for a good few minutes until it got itself out of its sulk and took off to find itself food instead of relying on mum and dad who were clearly relishing the fact the kids had flown the nest and they could have their own time back again…I’m pretty sure this strikes parallels with all species including humans!

The slightly grumpy teenage Kestrel.

In the garden of Mottisfont stands the Beech Circle, an aptly named circle of Beech trees.  Within this circle, a new art structure is being created by artist Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva in conjunction with one of our countryside volunteers and retired Mottisfont forester, John Surplice.  The work consists of five dead Oak trees that John has chosen from around our woodlands and cleaned and stripped down to their natural form.  John has an expert hobby of cleaning out dead wood features, removing all the rot and grime and dirt to reveal the fantastic shapes, pattern and structures that lie underneath.  Some of his sculpture works have taken years to complete and have been sold internationally. These Oak trees have been turned upside down with their root systems cleaned in this way and they have been put into the ground in a circle within the Beech circle with their roots stretching skyward.  They are looking fantastically striking and have had gold gilding put on them by Elpida as part of the project.

Drilling the holes for the Oak sculptures - a scene that i thought was straight out of the film Armageddon with Bruce Willis drilling down through a huge Comet, in order to plant a nuclear bomb, blow it up and save mankind from extinction ("I have NEVER missed a depth that I have aimed for!!").  A definate exact parallel.

The tree's in situ.

The Millennium Orchard in Hatt Lane is looking brilliant at the moment, with all the boughs heavily laden with fruits to make up for the bad fruiting season last year.
The Orchard was planted in the year 2000 to celebrate the new millennium.  It consists of tree species that were popular in each of the centuries of the last millennium – so you can literally go and eat a piece of history!
 It is also home to a new feature that has been created, demonstrating the most innovative use of old river boarding that I've yet come across.  Back in the Spring the countryside volunteers were removing the old rotten river boarding from the edge of our river beat on the Oakley.  Instead of just throwing it away, it caught the artistic eye of Ed who pointed out the amazing patterns that had been created by the eroding flow of the water around the posts.  The water had brought out the grain of the wood and eroded the parts of the post that were in the main flow, whilst the bottom bits in the river bed had remained untouched, giving a striking spear headed effect.  Ed and Keith, who both look after the Millennium orchard decided to clean these posts up and erect them as a feature in the Orchard.  They have just completed this work today and as you can see from the photo, they make quite an arresting sight.  Based on the quantity, Keith and Ed have named them ‘The Twelve’ (although the River Apostles was also a fond nickname!).

'The Twelve' (plus Keith and Ed)

The Orchard is open to the public and is right by the estate trail, so go and have a peek, crunch an apple and enjoy the tranquillity of the place – also keep an eye on the mass of walnuts on the tree in there which are yet to ripen (but save some for the Mottisfont Kitchen).

No comments:

Post a Comment