Joy Warren reflects on her experiences with nature at Claver Hill community food project – located behind Central High School on the Ridge.
Caroline and I stood under our umbrellas in June 2013, elegantly sipping wine and toasting our newly purchased land, Claver Hill. There was plenty of ‘nature’, but not the kind you would write poems about. It was boggy and weedy, with no meadow flower in sight.
Now, November 2015, we sit around the embers of our bonfire. It is still light so a group of us stroll off to see our sole chicory flower and a few are surprised to learn that this was the source of chicory essence – used to supplement coffee in the war. It is not supposed to grow here according to the books, but we hope this jacaranda blue member of the dandelion family will appear again next year.
On the way back we found our first hedgehog. Sleeping? No, dead as a doornail! I turned it over with my foot and a scavenger beetle scurried away – big, black and scarlet striped. I shall be planting a vine next week and traditionally we would have buried a dead animal under it. Having no pigs or sheep I guess the hedgehog will have to do! After all, the name means hedge pig.
The arable field was home to hundreds of lapwings when we moved in and we were afraid that mowing our knee-high green manure would destroy their nests. But they do not nest in such long grass. We still hear them calling from adjacent fields so we assume that they still thrive.
Robins, starlings, blackbirds, wrens, all the usual suspects abound. But to see a charm of 150 goldfinches in the hay field was a delicious surprise!
One day I was coughing madly in the poly tunnel when I heard an echo of my coughs outside. Investigation revealed a pair of pheasants!
At first we were enchanted to see our roe deer visitors but delight faded as we saw how much damage they do. They have killed hundreds of willows by stripping the bark when cleaning the velvet from their antlers. They are partial to many of our vegetables (especially beetroot tops) and I saw red when I went to pick our autumn raspberries. Or rather, I saw no red as the blighters had eaten the whole crop!
How can we find a way to protect our produce?
Claver Hill runs workdays every Sunday from 1pm onwards. Money and volunteers are always welcome!