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Country Diary- Life in the time of Covid 19

In the country it initially seems that little has changed. Farming goes on, cultivating, drilling, spraying etc- all are continuing apace with everyone trying to play catch up in the aftermath of the saturated winter we endured. Today I was working in the wood at Flea Barn, in Winston Green, thinning out trees to allow more light into the woodland floor and encourage regrowth. The day before I was spraying around newly planted hedging plants to reduce the weeds and promote growth. Prior to that I finished laying my last hedge of the season. A conservation hedge around a wood, that will provide a snugger roost for the pheasants and more shelter for the farmland birds. Covid 19 does not stop the need to farm, be that for the benefit of we humans or the wildlife to thrive and survive

So far so normal. However Ed Nesling and I, the owner of Flea Barn, should have met with Dr Roger Draycott too yesterday. Roger is the head of research at the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT). We were due to discuss where wild flower blocks and margins would be sown. We were to look at new cover crops and mixes that would provide shelter and year round food for game and farmland birds. We were to hatch a plan as to how we could improve the habitat here for the red list species- grey partridge, nightingale and turtle dove. Rather than getting our expert advice- Ed and I will have to rely upon our own experience and knowledge thanks to Covid 19.

We were also due to meet up with an advisor from the Woodland Trust. Flea Barn will soon have new woodland planted, our aim is to create a working coppice, chestnut, hazel and willow to produce stakes and binders for hedgelaying, spars for thatching, canes for garden structures, poles for river mending- the list goes on. In time the woodland will mature, it will be worked in the most sustainable way possible and it will be a home to wildlife. We will now merely have to pace out the woodland plan ourself, dreams will stay on paper for now thanks to Covid 19.

However not all is doom and gloom thanks to Covid 19. Dramatically fewer cars on the road has led to a marked downturn in roadkill of wildlife. Insects are awaking and hatching, they no longer have to run the gauntlet of cars either. A thought came to me that with Spain, Italy and Malta on lockdown, migratory turtle doves and cuckoos who once were shot with impunity in those countries en passage to Britain can now fly from Africa to our shores in safety.

A final request. Now is nesting season. Dogs and birds that nest on the ground or low down in a hedge do not mix. Grey Partridges, Lapwing, Stone Curlew, Yellow hammer, Wren, and a host of others deserve your respect. Keep dogs under control and protect our wildlife as you take your exercise. It may just be that Covid 19 proves to be a bonus for wildlife, it would be a pity if an unruly dog spoiled one of the glimmers of positivity in these strange times.



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